iMovie: A Free Green Screen App for iPad

As much as I enjoy using Green Screen by DoInk, there are still teachers that find it hard to get paid apps approved, or to raise enough money to put a paid app on all the devices that they want it on. Consequently, I still get a lot of questions about the best free green screen app for the iPad. Up until today, there weren’t a lot of options, but a recent update to iMovie has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

Using Green Screen on iMovie for iPad

To use green screen effects in iMovie, make sure that the app is updated to the latest version. Your iPad also needs to be capable of running iOS 11.4 or later. Once you have that taken care of, follow the directions below:

  1. Record your green screen video with the iPad camera app
  2. Open a new movie project in iMovie
  3. Select the image(s) or video(s) you want for your background media, and then tap Create Movie
  4. Next, tap Photos or Video to browse for your green screen footage
  5. Tap on the clip you want to add, and then tap the three dot menu that appears
  6. Select Green/Blue screen. Your clip is added as a layer above your background
  7. Repeat as necessary, changing your background media as required

How to Fine Tune Green Screen Effects in iMovie

By default, images that are added to iMovie projects will pan and zoom around the screen thanks to the Ken Burns effect. This can be a great effect, but it is a little disorientating in a green screen video. You can disable this effect by tapping on the background image in your timeline, and then tapping the Ken Burns option in the preview window to disable the effect.

If your green screen effect is not quite as sharp as you might want, or you see a halo around your subject, tap on your green screen footage in the timeline, and then tap the sliders in the top right-hand corner of the preview window. This lets you increase or decrease the strength of the chroma key effect, and is similar to how you fine tune green screen effects in iMovie for Mac.

If the lighting was not great when you filmed your green screen footage, or your green screen did not fill the whole of your frame, you can crop out unwanted areas with the crop tool. Simply tap on the green screen footage in the timeline, then tap the crop tool in the preview window and adjust the corners of the frame to mask out the areas you don’t need to include.

More New Features in iMovie for iPad

While the addition of green screen was a standout feature in the latest update for iMovie for iPad, it wasn’t the only new feature that was added. Here is a list of some of the other notable changes from the latest update:

  • Choose from 80 new soundtracks in genres including pop, chill, and sentimental that automatically adjust to match the length of your movie
  • Drop in still images with transparent backgrounds to use as logos or custom graphics on top of your video
  • Add photos as overlays to create picture-in-picture and split-screen effects
  • Choose to hide the border that surrounds picture-in-picture and split-screen effects
  • Instantly return to the edit screen of your project when switching back to iMovie from other applications
  • ClassKit support lets students deliver video assignments to teachers using the Schoolwork app
  • Resolves an issue that could lead to a black viewer when previewing your video fullscreen on an external display

The music tracks are really impressive. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen or heard a video online and instantly recognized it as an iMovie video because of the limited choice of copyright-free audio tracks that were available in previous versions of the app.

The new soundtracks are longer and much higher quality. They are sorted by genre and will automatically adjust to match the length of your movie. This feature already exists in the Windows Photos app editor, but it is a welcome inclusion in iMovie because it gives your video a much more professional feel.

Green Screen in the Classroom

So, if you have been on a quest for a free green screen app for iPads, your search could end here. iMovie doesn’t have all the features or flexibility of a dedicated app like Green Screen by DoInk, but it has other advantages like the ability to add titles, music, transitions and more. This has the potential to add complexity to classroom projects, but with practice, iMovie can be as easy to use as just about any other video editing app.

If you decide to try it out, I would love to hear how you get on. You can leave a comment below or connect with me on Twitter: @jonathanwylie.

Green Screen Tips from Teachers on Twitter

green screen twitter tips.png

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of helping many different teachers use green screen effects in their classrooms. This summer I get the opportunity to do it again at ISTE 2018 in Chicago with my colleague Gina Rogers (@grogers1010). Although my presentations and workshops have evolved over the years, they typically include three elements:

  • Why green screen is so popular in schools
  • How to create successful green screen projects
  • What other teachers are doing with green screens in their classrooms

Often, I find that I get a lot of inspiration from teachers on Twitter. So, in this post I wanted to share some of my favorite examples from tweets I have seen that illustrate great educational uses of green screens. As you scroll through, click on any of the images below to see the original tweet and play any associated media.

Continue reading “Green Screen Tips from Teachers on Twitter”

iPad Screen Recording Tips for Educators

ipad screen recording.png

The addition of screen recording in iOS 11 was a great feature for teachers and tech enthusiasts who wanted to show people how you can master the power of the iPad. However, it’s also a great way for students to show what they know. If your iPad is up to date, it doesn’t need any additional software, or devices, because this new recording ability is built-in to iOS 11. Screen recording on the iPad is a little different from screencasting on other devices, so in this post I am going to run through a few of my top tips for success when recording your iPad. Are you ready?

Continue reading “iPad Screen Recording Tips for Educators”

Is This The Windows Movie Maker Replacement You’ve Been Waiting For?


This year has not been a great year for multimedia software. Google ended support for YouTube’s free online video editor, and Microsoft did the same with the popular Windows Live Movie Maker. Although there are plenty of other options for both sets of users, people did get kind of attached to these video editors and not everyone is ready to pay for an alternative, (or switch to a Mac). While Google has yet to make any real attempt to replace the YouTube Editor, Microsoft has just added video editing features to the latest version of the Windows 10 Photos app. So, is this the Windows Movie Maker replacement you have been waiting for? It depends.

Continue reading “Is This The Windows Movie Maker Replacement You’ve Been Waiting For?”

How to Record Your iPad Screen in iOS 11

record screen in ios 11.png

One of the features that educators have been most looking forward to in iOS 11 is screen recording. There are lots of ways to record your iPad screen, and I’ve written about some of those in the past, but native iOS screen recording is likely going to be the most convenient option for most people. However, it’s somewhat hidden in Settings, so here’s a quick guide on how to set it up and start recording your own iPad screencasts.

Continue reading “How to Record Your iPad Screen in iOS 11”

Getting Creative With Video in the Classroom

walmart receipt.png

While watching the Oscars tonight, I was intrigued to see a promotion that Walmart was running to celebrate the craft of film making. I don’t normally pay a lot of attention to  commercials, but these ads managed to catch my attention, and I think that they have some interesting potential for teachers who are looking to add some creativity to video projects in their classroom.

Walmart contacted four award-winning directors, Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, Neighbors), Antoine Fuqua (Southpaw, The Magnificent Seven), and Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner). They sent each of them a receipt with the same six items and challenged them to make a one minute movie that was centered around the six items on the receipt. You can learn more here, but take a look at the videos below to see what these talented directors came up with…

Continue reading “Getting Creative With Video in the Classroom”

The One App I Can’t Live Without

app you cant live without

Recently, at the #iPadU conference, I was challenged to think about the one app I couldn’t live without. This was harder than I thought it might be. I mean, there are a lot of apps I really like, but are there any that I couldn’t live without, or at least be able to find some kind of passable replacement for? After some consideration, I decided that there was such an app, and that it really was quite unique in what it offers students, teachers and just about everyone else. That app, is the Camera app.

In many ways it is more than just an app, because it is now an essential hardware feature, but many people forget that when the iPad was first introduced in April 2010, there was no camera. Even today, there are those that still laud the introduction of the original iPad as a new era for computing, but for me, the iPad 2 was far more important than the one that came before it. When the iPad 2 was announced a year later, it had a two cameras – one on the front and one on the back.  The addition of these cameras opened up a whole new world for what was actually possible with an iPad, and quickly turned this mobile tablet from a consumption device to a creation device. It transformed the iPad into something infinitely more appealing and opened the doors for developers to create some amazing apps. Continue reading “The One App I Can’t Live Without”

How (and Why) to Compress Video on iPads & iPhones

compress video ipad

Do your videos take a long time to upload to YouTube? Does the iOS Mail app refuse to send your large videos? If so, you should consider a video compression app for your iPad or iPhone. The job of a video compressor is to make your file sizes smaller so that they are easier to work with or share with other people.  Today I am going to show you one that I use and give you some tips on how to get the most out of it.

Why Use a Video Compression App?

Today there are lots of reasons why you might want to compress a video that you have on your iPhone or iPad. Smaller videos are easier to share with others whether that is via YouTube or simply to upload as a student assignment via Showbie or an LMS. Storage space is another good example of why you might want to compress videos. If you have a 16GB iPad (or iPhone) then free space is increasingly a problem. Compressing a video lets you keep a more friendly file-sized version on your device so that you can backup or remove the original. In schools, this can be a common problem.

If students are working on a shared video project, or filming with multiple devices, smaller video files are easier to transfer from one device to another via AirDrop or cloud services. They are also more email friendly because you can usually reduce them below the maximum file size limits found in most email services.

Video Compression Apps for the iPad & iPhone

The app I have been using for compressing video on an iPad or iPhone is called Video Compressor – Just Set the Target Size! It’s a free app and a useful one to keep on your iOS device for those times when you really need it. Best of all, the app is really easy to use. Simply select the video you want to compress, and move the slider to select the file size you would like to achieve, (also shown as a percentage reduction). Compressed videos are saved to the Camera Roll alongside the original video. This means you effectively have two copies of the same video, but the file size of one will be significantly smaller than the other.

Compress Video - Just Set the Target Size

The Downsides of Using a Video Compression App

Of course, everything has a downside. When you compress a video you are making a compromise between quality and file size. The more you compress a video, the more artifacts you will see on the final product. This means a video that has been compressed a lot could appear fuzzy or grainy when viewed full screen or on high resolution screens. So, it is a bit like limbo dancing. You have to think about how low can you go before things start to get out of control! 🙂

Often this comes down to trial and error as you work between what file size you need versus how much resolution you need. However, it could also come down to what your end goal is. For instance, is your goal to share an HD video at the highest quality, or are you just looking to share a first cut with an instructor or peer in order to get their feedback on your early edit? This is an important distinction to make, but the results you get from compressing a video may be better than you think if you are judicious with your use of the Target Size slider.

Should You Compress Videos?

At the end of the day, it comes down to what your needs are and how important it is to have the full resolution in your final videos. If you use services like Google Photos to back up your media, you are already compressing your photos and videos to a smaller file size if you opted for unlimited online storage, (like most people do). Google says that if your video is 1080p or less, it will look “close to the original” when uploaded to Google Photos. Ultimately that is what I aim for if I ever have to compress an iPad or iPhone video, but 720p is very usable too, especially if YouTube is the final destination.

Of course,  a good way to avoid compressing videos is editing. When you edit video on the iPad you have the chance to cut down the length of your videos, which will in turn cut down the file size of your videos. Shoot short, and edit tight. Nobody really wants to watch a ten minute video so if you can, try to aim for two to three minutes at the most on your finished, edited project. Otherwise, compression is a valid option. I don’t compress videos often, but when I do, this is the app I use.

Splice by GoPro: A Great Free Video Editor for iPads

splice ipad

While preparing a workshop for teachers on iPad movie making, I was reviewing my top picks for free iPad video editors. One of my early favorites, the Clips Video Editor, is apparently no longer available because the developers got bought out by Google and their apps have been removed from the App Store. So, as I looked for a replacement I came across Splice. This app has been around for a while but I was pleased to see it now includes a iPad version and a much improved user interface. The app was recently acquired by GoPro, but can be used to edit any video footage on your iOS device.

Splice lets you create videos, or photo slideshows, with no time limits, ads or watermarks. It also has an impressive list of editing features that include:

  • Trim, cut, crop photos and videos
  • Choose from a selection of lens filters for special effects
  • An impressive library of free soundtracks and sound effects
  • The ability to record your own voiceover narration
  • The option to overlay and mix multiple audio tracks
  • Ken Burns pan and zoom effect
  • Control over video playback speed – slow motion or super fast!
  • A collection of professional looking video transitions
  • Text overlays for photos or videos

splice ipad

The interface may take a little getting used to, but I found it pretty intuitive and easy to learn. It is different from iMovie, but different in a good way. Everything feels very modern and fresh. There is a great built-in, searchable help menu that can be used to find the features you want, but it is largely text based. A few screenshots here would add a lot to the usefulness of the help screens.

Finished videos can be shared in a number of ways. There is built-in support for direct uploads to YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, but you can also save to the camera roll or activate the “Open in” app picker to choose another app like Drive or Dropbox. However, perhaps most interesting is the ability to share via a link. When you choose this option, your video will be uploaded to GoPro’s servers and you will be given a link to the video that you can share with others. Only those with the link can access the video, and no account or login is required in order to share your video this way. Here’s a link to my sample Splice video. (Note: You can turn the GoPro outro on or off as required. In this case I chose to leave it on).

splice video editor

Any drawbacks? GoPro state that some features require newer devices and the latest version of iOS. As yet, I have not been able to uncover what those are, but no doubt time will tell. There are no themes like you might find in iMovie, and you can’t adjust how long text appears on a video clip. Once you add it, the text is there for the whole clip, just like it is in iMovie, unless you split the clip and only add text to the part you need. Finally, when in landscape mode, the narration button is harder to find than it should be. You need to tap Audio tab and then scroll up with one finger to reveal the additional audio track on the timeline.

Otherwise, if you are looking for a free video editor for your iPad, Splice by GoPro is well worth a look because it’s a powerful video editor that works really well on the iPad. I will definitely use it more in the future because I love the design of the app and the way everything is laid out. Below is a sample video that I put together in Splice with Creative Commons Zero video clips sourced from www.pixabay.com.