How to Start iMovie Projects on iPad and Finish on Mac

The iPad, especially the iPad Pro, works great for editing movies and photos. Sometimes iMovie projects that are started on an iPad need some finishing touches that are only available via iMovie on a Mac. Apple started letting editors send iMovie projects from an iOS device to another iOS device, a MacBook or a Mac desktop computer. We’ll show users how to move iMovie Projects from an iPad or iPhone to a MacBook, Mac mini or iMac.

imovie-on-ipad-pro

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We already hinted at the main reason to move the project files from an iPad or iPhone to the computer. The OS X version of iMovie offers some features the iOS version doesn’t. For example, iMovie for OS X includes more transitions and backgrounds. It’s easier to give better looking titles to a movie or add nice captions. iMovie for OS X does more than the iOS version on an iPad.

Editing video on the larger screen iPad Pro is a pleasure since it’s easier to get just the right frame to begin a clip using touch. However, some people also use a more powerful video editor like Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut can import iMovie Projects too.

How to Move iMovie Projects from iPad to Mac

imovie projects ipad

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Start by creating a project in iMovie. Open it up and tap the Projects tab at the top center of the screen. Tap on the plus button and choose either Movie or Trailer. Select a theme. Simple is usually best. Tap Create in the upper right corner.

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Find videos and media to add from the library of content along the right. Add it by tapping on the rounded arrow, which adds it to  he timeline. Use the tools in iMovie to edit your project to your liking. When it’s ready to export to the computer, tap on the Done button in the upper left corner. This takes you to the Project’s main screen. It shows a large thumbnail of the movie and the title. Tap the title to give it one. Preview it by tapping on the play icon on the bottom left of the center section of the iMovie for iOS screen. The center button just right of the play button opens the iOS sharing feature.

imovie share ipad

The sharing feature offers a few options. The simplest way to share this project with a Mac is to wait until you’re in the same place and connected to the same network. Your Apple account’s user icon will show up in one of the AirDrop circles at the top of the sharing box. Tap on it to immediately send your project to the Mac’s Downloads folder. Depending on how long the movie is, it could take anywhere from a few seconds to more than an hour. Wait patiently and make sure the iPad and the computer don’t go into sleep mode while it’s transferring, or it will quit midway through.

airdrop received on mac

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Once the transfer starts, the Mac will show a small box in the upper right corner that tells the user the Mac is receiving the iMovie project file. It also notifies the user with a sound. When it has finished the transfer, the file will show up in the Downloads folder.

import imovie ios projects

In iMovie, open the Project file using the Input iOS iMovie Projects… item from the File menu. Select the project file in the Downloads folder. Now the project is ready for any other editing.

To send the movie to Final Cut Pro X, make sure it’s open in iMovie and then choose File. Next select Send Movie To Final Cut Pro. The project opens in Final Cut Pro X. This option doesn’t show up if Final Cut Pro isn’t installed on the Mac.

Other Options

The above steps using Airdrop seem like the easiest way to send iMovie projects from an iPad or iPhone to a Mac, but other ways exist.

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imovie share icloud drive

When it’s time to share the iMovie project using the iOS sharing feature, choose iCloud Drive instead of AirDrop. The share feature asks the user to choose between sending the project file or a movie file. Choose to send the project file so you can continue editing in iMovie or import into Final Cut. It uploads the project file to iCloud Drive.

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In iMovie, choose Import iMovie iOS Projects… and find the file in iCloud Drive’s iMovie subfolder.

iCloud Drive is flaky at best. It usually works, but not always. That’s why using AirDrop works so much better.

A third option involves plugging the iPad or iPhone into the Mac using a USB to Lightning cable. Open iTunes and let it sync. The iPad may ask you to Trust the computer by tapping on the Trust button. The computer may ask you to set up sync if you haven’t connected the two devices before.

sharing with itunes

In iTunes, find the iPad icon in the upper left corner. It will show a list of Settings and things On My Device along the left hand column. Choose Apps from the Settings section. Scroll down till you see the File Sharing section. Select iMovie and you’ll see the list of iMovie projects.

Select the project you wish to export to the Mac. Scroll down to the bottom and choose Save to… on the bottom right corner of the iMovie Settings box. This opens a Finder box on the Mac. Save the project file to the Mac. I’d recommend a temporary location since you won’t need this file after you import it into iMovie.

In general the AirDrop sharing works quickly and easily with smaller video projects. Really long video projects work best with the iPad connected via the sync cable. iCloud Drive seems the least practical since the syncing feature seems so intermittent and unreliable for many people. However, it means the iMovie Project files will end up on every Mac the user owns, if it works properly.