11 tips to become an Apple iMovie master


iMovie for MacOS can be intimidating for the iPhone enthusiast ($ 389 on Amazon) videographer. For a mainstream video editor, the MacOS application is quite complex. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on your way to becoming an iMovie master.

1. Crop to zoom

Your iPhone can capture videos at a resolution of 720p, 1080p, or 4K, so you have pixels to spare if you create a movie to share online (not watch on an HDTV). If you have a clip that you would have liked to zoom in on while recording, all is not lost. iMovie allows you to zoom in on part of the image. You can even use the Ken Burns Pan and Zoom Effect, but I find it better suited for photos than videos.

To zoom in on a clip, highlight the clip in your timeline, then click the crop button above the preview window at the top right. To select Crop to fill Where Ken burns and drag to select the part of the clip in the preview window that you want to crop. Click it check mark at the top right to apply your changes.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

2. Add photos with the Ken Burns effect

You can add photos to your movie to separate video clips, which can make debates a bit more interesting. To add a photo, click Photo gallery in the Libraries section along the left edge, then drag photos to the timeline just like you would a video clip.

By default, photos are four seconds long with Ken Burns processing. You can change the duration of the photo by clicking on one of its edges in the timeline and dragging it, just like you would trim a video clip. Double click on the photo in the timeline, then you can change the start and end points of the Ken Burns effect.

3. Separate the clip

If you have a clip that is too long, you might lose your audience’s interest in the end. You can split the clip into multiple clips and cut the parts you don’t want. To split a clip, right click on the point of the clip on the timeline where you want to split it and choose Separate the clip.

4. Detach audio

You can do some cool things by detaching audio from a video clip. You can continue to listen to the sound, divide a clip and insert a photo montage, for example. It will sound better than if the sound was interrupted while playing photos. To detach audio from a clip, right-click on the clip in the timeline and choose Detach audio. You will see the blue audio portion of the clip peel off to become its own green audio clip below.

5. Add a soundtrack

You can liven up the action by adding a soundtrack to your movie. Click it audio on the left and you can choose a song that you bought in iTunes or one that you created in GarageBand. Often times I will search iTunes for a song for a video. Simply drag a song onto your timeline; it will appear as a green audio track below the video. You can trim and split it just like you would a video clip.

Be warned that if you upload your movie to YouTube, your video may be cut if it contains a copyrighted song. Other video sites, however, are not as vigilant as YouTube.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

6. Adjust the audio levels

You might want to hear the sound of your video on top of the music from the soundtrack that you added. You can adjust the level of the two audio tracks to favor one over the other. Just click on the horizontal line that crosses the middle of each audio track and increase or decrease it to the desired percentage.

You can also use iMovie’s audio ducking tool to dramatically reduce the music’s audio track – useful for a clip where someone is speaking. To do this, click on the video clip in the timeline so that it appears in the preview window at the top right. Above the preview window, click the audio button, then check the box to Lower the volume of other clips. You will see the sound wave of your music track reduce to almost nothing for the duration of the selected video clip.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

7. Audio fade in and out

A transition from one video clip to the next can be shocking if the sound is loud at the end of one clip or at the start of the next. You can smoothly bring audio in and out by hovering the mouse over an audio track – detached blue or green audio tracks attached – and dragging the small round button at the start or end of the clip. Drag it towards the middle of the clip to allow audio to gradually enter or exit a clip.

8. Add transitions

Video transitions make switching between clips less jarring and more interesting, and iMovie has plenty of styles to choose from. Click it Transitions header at the top of iMovie and drag a transition between two video clips into your timeline. By default, transitions are one second long, but you can change the duration by double-clicking the transition after adding it to the timeline.

9. Who doesn’t like instant replay?

iMovie has a quick and easy instant replay tool that is ideal for videos of your kids or friends playing sports. It allows you to replay part of a video clip at normal speed or, better yet, in slow motion. To create an instant replay, press and hold R and select the range of the video clip in your timeline that you want to use for replay. Then, from the top menu, select Edit> Instant Replay and choose the replay speed: 100%, 50%, 25% or 10%. iMovie will then duplicate the clip and add it directly after the range you selected. In the Edit menu you will also find slow motion, fast forward and rewind effects.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott / CNET

10. Space bar and backslash buttons

The space bar allows you to play and pause a video clip in your timeline so that you can preview your project. Press the space bar and the clip will start playing wherever your cursor is on the clip. If you want to play a selected clip in the timeline from its starting point, you don’t need to navigate to its leftmost edge – just hit the backslash button.

11. Cancel changes

Is there something about your movie that you wish you could cover? You can! As with other applications, Command-Z will allow you to undo any previous changes you made.


About Clayton Arredondo

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