• iMovie 3 for iOs and iPad adds automagic Storyboard and Magic Movie modes.
  • The app will guide you into making a polished, great-looking movie from your photos and videos. 
  • The built-in templates will make your movie look like everybody else’s.

iMovie on an iPad.

iMovie’s new ‘Magic Movie’ and ‘Storyboards’ options guarantee your movies will look like everyone else’s.

On the other hand, copying existing art to learn how it works has an honorable history, from art students sitting around sketching copies of paintings in galleries to YouTube videos breaking down hot songs and rebuilding them from scratch. But will iMovie’s new features help us learn, or will we just keep using the same old presets?

“I agree that there is now a greater chance of seeing videos that are too similar to each other. However, even with the risk of homogenization of videos, I still believe that these features bring more benefits than disadvantages,” iMovie user Perry Valentine told Lifewire via email. “One benefit is that more people will now be encouraged to discover or try video editing. I witnessed this firsthand when I saw some friends try to edit their travel videos for the first time using a template from Storyboards when we got together recently.”

Same Old, Same Old

iMovie is kind of great. If you just want to throw together some clips, add a title and music, and share the result, then it’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to do it. And let’s not forget that it’s free if you have a Mac, iPad, or iPhone.

“Been trying out Magic movie and storyboards for a few days, and it’s ridiculously easy to get quick projects going,” says Apple pundit and YouTuber Rene Ritchie on Twitter. “If you’re new to editing or just need to get something done super quick, give it a try.”

iMovie 3 builds on this ease of use, producing great, polished, professional-looking videos with its two new tools—Storyboards and Magic Movie. Storyboards presents you with a choice of movie type, from cooking to gaming to how-tos, makeovers, and more. You can customize the color palette, text styles, and so on, and then you get to a pre-made template, or storyboard, with slots for you to drag in your video clips. Or you can record directly into the slots.

Each clip has instructions on what you should record in it. For the cooking storyboard, that might be a close-up of ingredients or a shot of "interesting colors or textures." 

The result is—excuse the pun—a cookie-cutter video that looks much like anybody else’s. 

Magic Movie requires even less work. You know the automatically-generated "Memories" movies in your photos app? It’s that, only you get to choose which images and videos are included. You can even choose a memory from your library and let it go to work on that. Storyboards and Magic Movie are available on the iPhone and iPad, but not the Mac, although Mac iMovie can import any you’ve already made. 


These options are neat, and if all you want is a way to quickly generate a nice-looking movie from your videos and photos, then it’s fantastic. But as soon as you want even a little bit of control, iMovie gets frustrating.

iMovie Storyboard options.

If you’ve ever tried to create a movie with custom transitions between clips, or do something as simple as adding successive captions over one clip (like the opening credits in countless TV shows), you’ll know how absurdly annoying iMovie can get. If you’re happy to run on the rails that Apple provides, it’ll be a smooth ride. For anything else, you’ll quickly realize that it’s worth jumping up to a pro-level app like Adobe’s Premiere or the fantastic Lumafusion.

It’ll take a while to learn those apps, but not really any longer than it takes to try to hammer your creatively-shaped pegs into iMovie’s stubbornly dumb holes. 

But perhaps that’s missing the point. Perhaps the problem isn’t iMovie at all. Maybe it’s the perception that iMovie is anything other than a quick preset-based app for putting me-too videos up on Instagram. After all, anyone who wants to create something will surely prefer a tool that allows them to create, rather than copy. iMovie really is fantastic at what it does. It’s just that what it does is to take your unique images and videos, and make them look like everyone else’s.