Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Basic video editing in i-movie

 When you have done your filming the real fun begins

I’m going to show you how I edit short video films in i-movie so that you can too.  The first thing to remember is that i-movie is an amateur editing package, albeit a very powerful one.  For that reason it has a number of features (called gimmicks) we need to avoid.  Look out for these as we go along.

The first step is to get your video onto the computer following the instructions that come with your camera.  It will be stored in a video file somewhere.  Find where it is so you can import it into the editing programme i-movie.

Opening i-movie

Next, you have to get the files into i-movie so you can edit them to make a film.  First, open i-movie and create a new event. To do this you go to File at the top of the page and then click on new event.  Label it with a name linked to the film you are going to make so you can recognize it.

Importing your video

Now go back to file and click on import movies.  You will get an explorer page, find the video files and select the ones you want to use (usually all the ones you filmed for the video you are going to make).  Then click Import.

It will take some time for the files to be copied to the new event you have created in i-movie.  Once that is done, thumbnails of the individual video clips will appear in the event library in the bottom half of the screen.  Its simplest if you adjust the time slider at the bottom of the event library to All so you get one thumbnail per clip.  As you move the slider to the left you get an increasingly long filmstrip of thumbnails for each clip.  This is helpful for fine editing later on but not at the start.

Setting up a project

Next create a new project by going to File and selecting new project. 
·      Label the project with the name of the video you are going to make where it says project name. 
·      Leave the aspect ration on the default of 16:9. 
·      Use the no theme option, The other options are gimmicks to be avoided.
·      Do not click the box to automatically add any transitions, this is another gimmick to avoid.
·      Click create.

An empty field will appear in the top half of your i-movie screen.  You are now ready to begin.  The process you are going to follow is to move the clips you want to use for your film from the event library in the bottom half of the screen into the project sequence in the left hand side of the top half of the screen.  The right hand side is a preview screen that shows you what you are working on.  You move your cursor (the arrow controlled by your mouse or mouse pad) over the clip you want to work on and the clip shows in the preview screen.  To play through the clip from wherever the cursor is you press the space bar.  You press it again to stop the video playback.

Making a film

Making a video film from individual clips is like stringing beads onto a thread to make a necklace.  The film shows one clip at a time in the sequence you chose.  The sequence is your story line.  Usually you want to tell your story by starting at the beginning and moving through it in a logical way to the end.  You build the film in the project sequence area in the top quarter of your screen from the library of clips you have stored in the event library in the bottom half of your screen.

You can move the clips about in the project sequence to change the order in which they appear in the film.  You do not have to stick to the order in which they were filmed.  However, unless you are aiming at a surreal effect you do need to create a sequence which makes sense to your viewer and which seems natural.

You can trim each clip to leave out the parts you don’t need for your film.  You can do this roughly when you select what to take from the event library and you do fine editing by cutting the clips once you have them in the project sequence. I do a rough cut when I select from the event library and then I trim the clips in the project sequence to leave the exact part I need for the film.

As a rule you should be aiming to make your film as short as possible.  This is a hard part of editing because what you filmed will be much more interesting to you than it will be to almost all of your audience.  You may be happy to watch 30 seconds of a clip showing the countryside flashing past through the window of a train, your audience will be bored after 5 seconds.  What is more your audience will not usually care which 5 seconds of your 30 second clip you chose to keep.  You will need to choose a smooth section, one that is representative of the whole clip unless there is a particular part of the clip you want to show because its important for the story you are telling. 

I typically film more than an hour of video for a small project and import it all into the event library.  I select from the event library to start out with 30 minutes or more of clips in my project sequence and then try to edit them down to less than 5 minutes.  For each clip and each part of the clip I ask the question “do I really need this for my story?”  Once I have finished editing down I often ask someone else to watch my rough film and they tell me what more I can cut out (it is usually a lot).

Splitting the clips to make them manageable

One thing that can help is to subdivide the clip particularly if you are going to manipulate the audio in different parts of it (more about that later) or if you are going to insert other visual clips or still pictures.  You subdivide the clip by selecting it by using your cursor so that the part you want as a separate clip it is outlined in yellow, then going to edit and clicking split clip.  This only works in the project sequence, not in the event library. 

Transferring clips and moving them about

In the event library you can select parts of a clip and transfer them to the project sequence without using split clip whereas in the project sequence you can only move whole clips.  You can only transfer from the event library clips or parts you have selected that are outlined in yellow.  You can delete clips or parts from the project sequence by selecting using your cursor them so they are outlined in yellow and then using your delete command.

Working with the soundtrack (audio)

One of the unexpected things about video is that the audio is as important as the visuals, if not more so.  Film is often a soundtrack that carries the story  illustrated with moving pictures.  Sound is also useful to help keep the story moving smoothly from one moving picture to the next.  After getting the clip sequence right the sound editing is the next most important thing in film making.

The audio can help the flow from one clip to another.  It is also useful to help make the film even shorter by making the sound (the audio) from one clip start before the visual or continue after or run under a sequence of visual clips.  If you make the sound start before the visual you lead into the new part of the story.  If you keep the audio going you can link that part of the story with the next.  You can also show visual clips of what someone is describing or referring to instead of the film just being the person’s face as they talk.  This helps to compress the length of your film.  You can also run the audio during the title and credit boards.

It is easy to manipulate the audio in i-movie.  You select the clip so that it is outlined in yellow, go to the edit option and select detach audio.  The audio appears as a purple bar below the visual thumbnail.  You can now cut down the visual part of the clip and the audio will extend to run under the thumbnail of the adjacent clip.  Be careful if you have visual links with the audio in the clip, such as someone’s lips moving as their voice is heard on the audio.  You have to keep the audio and visual synchronised.  This lining up of what you see and what you hear is lost as soon as you move the detached audio in relation to the visual of the clip and once lost its very difficult to line it up again.  You must do any splitting of the clip before you detach the audio and remember that once you have detached the audio you cannot reattach it later.  However, if you do mess up at any time, don’t worry, you can replace the corrupted clip with a copy from the event library and start again.

You can use detached audio clips as separate sound and dispense with the visual part of the clip altogether.  To do this you have to move the audio clip away from its visual before deleting the visual.  You will see there is a small arrow that tethers the audio to the visual.  Be careful to move the audio so that it is tethered to a different visual otherwise the audio will be deleted along with the visual.

Each clip whether it is audio and visual together or separate audio or visual clips can be adjusted for volume, colour and other aspects of playback.  The control is accessed by clicking on the small box at the beginning of the clip.  Within the control menu you can make a lot of fine tuning adjustments but beware the amount of work you can create for yourself.  As your film is made up of a sequence of clips you have to make the changes in each of the individual clips you want to alter.

Recap of the basic steps and key tools in i-movie

So to recap the basic steps and tools you have to edit your video clips into a video film.  There is a simple process of putting the clips into the sequence that tells your story.  You can break big clips into smaller, more manageable ones using split clip.  You can deal with the sound separately by using detach audio. 


The other important tools you have in i-movie are title bars that let you put a board at the beginning and end of the film to carry title and credits.  You use the same commands within the film to add sub titles.  This is a very important tool because it lets you sub-title your film with a translation if people in the film are speaking in a different language from the one your audience understands or if the audio is not clear.

You access this from the Title option halfway down on the right hand side of the i-movie screen.  These appear as blue bars above the visual thumbnails to onto which they will be superimposed.  You click on them to select them and then you can introduce or change the script in the title bar.  There is a comprehensive formatting palette available to change font and style of the script.

You can also insert still pictures from your photo library using the camera option and import sound from your i-tunes library using the musical note option. 

Still pictures have a thumbnail just like a video clip.  They have a control that allows you to adjust how they appear just like visual and audio clips.  The default has an irritating gimmick called Ken Burns that moves the still about and zooms gently in and out.  Go to the control box for the clip in the bottom left hand corner, click on cropping, Ken Burns and Rotation and select Fit to switch the gimmick off.  You can also crop your still pictures and change where they are centered.


Music or sound tracks are just like detached audio tracks and can be moved around independently once they have been inserted in the film.  You have to comply with copyright law so if you are using music that is copyrighted you must have permission before you include it in any film you are going to make public (by posting it on YouTube or Vimeo for instance).

More gimmicks

You can also add transitions between visual clips.  I’ll urge you not to use these because I like simple gimmick free videos so I don’t use them.  If you do want to use them the control is next to the title board control but use them sparingly and save them from very special moments, unless you want the amateur look.

Finishing your film

When you drag the title selection to make a title board at the beginning or end of your film you will get an option to select a colour or pattern for the board.  My advice is to keep it simple with black or a single colour fill.  You get a board that is 4 seconds.  You can make this longer or shorter by clicking on the blue title bar and adjusting the settings.  You can also drag the end of the title bar over the clip next to it so the title or credits appear on the visual as well as the board.

Saving, exporting and uploading your finished film

When your film editing is finished the final thing to do is save it and then it is ready to be uploaded to an internet site such as YouTube, uploaded to Dropbox, Vimeo or an FTP site from which colleagues and friends can download it or shared with colleagues and friends as a digital file.  You can export it straight to YouTube but its important to save it first as you cannot get it back from YouTube to share in other ways.

To save your finished film, go to share and select export movie.  You then have options for the size of movie file you will create and you can nominate what to call the file and where to store it.

All that remains is to wait for the reactions from your audience and to get on with planning your next film.

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