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How to export a video on iMovie on Mac and iOS

Once your masterpiece is finished, you'll want to show it off to the world.
June 8, 2022

When it comes to straightforward high-quality video editors that don’t require a manual to figure things out, iMovie is hard to beat. The Apple-only app is capable of your basic video editing needs if Adobe Premiere Pro‘s price tag brings tears to your eyes. Once you’ve got your video project finished, you will want to export it from iMovie to show it off to the world. Here’s how to do it.

Read more: How to become a video editor online


To export a video in iMovie on a Mac, click the icon at the top-right, which looks like a square with an upwards-pointing arrow. One of the options will be to export the movie file. On an iPhone, tap the Share button and choose Save Video.


How to export a video in iMovie on Mac

Once you have finished your video, and you want to export it, look to the top-right of the iMovie interface. You will see an icon which is a square with an upwards arrow inside it.

imovie export button

You’ll get four options. To export the file to your Mac as a MOV file, click Export File. You can optionally choose Save Current Frame if you only want to export a section of the movie. The YouTube & Facebook option requires you to be logged into those accounts via your Mac machine.

imovie export options

After clicking Export File, you will be asked to specify a few things. First, give your file a proper name (although you can always stick with the default My Movie name and change it later.) You can also choose whether or not you want a video, only the video (without sound), or only the audio (without visuals).

The resolution and the quality are the important ones to decide, as they will determine the eventual size of the file and how long the exporting process will take. Available resolutions will depend on the video quality, and Quality can go up to as high as Pro-Res. Going that high though will significantly increase the file size.

imovie file presets

Click Next… and the video file will be exported to the hard-drive folder destination of your choice. You will see a small progress meter at the top-right of the iMovie interface, so you will always know how much longer you have to wait.

How to export a video in iMovie on iOS

You will most likely be using iMovie on your iPhone, since that is where most of your videos will be. To export your video from iMovie, tap Done in the top-left corner when you have finished editing it.

ios imovie

Now tap the Share icon at the bottom.

ios imovie share button

In the Share menu options, select Save Video to save it to your Photo Library. You can also send it to cloud storage or to other installed video editors such as LumaFusion.

ios imovie share menu

The exporting process will now start and you will receive a success message when it is finished.

ios export movie success


If iMovie refuses to export your file, check to see if you have any hard-drive space left. Apple recommends a bare minimum of 25GB of space. They also suggest turning off Time Machine if you have it running. Just remember to switch it back on afterward.

It depends on the resolution you chose. The higher the resolution, the longer it will take. It also depends on how old your machine is, and how many simultaneous programs you have running.

The best way to export an iMovie file is by using the lowest resolution possible. You can get most movie files at 4K resolution, but ask yourself if you really need it that big. The bigger the file, the longer it will take to export, and the more likely it is iMovie will ultimately freeze. Export the file at various resolutions and compare them.

There are two possible options. One is that the device is running too many simultaneous programs, forcing iMovie to slow down and ultimately shut down. Try shutting down all non-essential programs. Secondly, try exporting the file at a lower resolution. So instead of 4K, try 1080p. You’ll likely not notice the difference. If all else fails, reinstall iMovie, but remember to backup your movie files first.

iMovie files are exported as MOV files by default. If you would like the file to be an MP4 or another format such as AVI, you will have to use a file conversion tool, such as Handbrake.