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Advanced Tips

Here are a few more fun tips to make your movies even more professional.

Split video clips at the Playhead position

If you want to apply an effect to just part of a video clip, split the video into segments, then apply the effect to one of the segments.

  1. Position the Playhead over a video clip where you want to start the effect (top-left), then from the Edit menu choose “Split Video Clip at Playhead.” Or use the keyboard shortcut Command T. A vertical dividing line appears on the clip under the Playhead.

    To split the clip into more than two parts, move the Playhead to another position in the clip, then press Command T again. Another vertical line appears in this position, dividing the clip into three segments.

    Do this as many times as you want.

  2. Select the clip segment to which you want to add an effect, then choose an effect from the Effects pane.

You can create some interesting visual effects by splitting video clips into multiple segments, then adding transitions between the segments.

Create a still frame

You can make a still frame (a static image) from any single frame of video in your movie. You might use the still frame as a title background for visual effect or to simulate a slideshow effect. One of our favorite techniques is to create a still frame of the last frame of a clip, then place the still frame after the clip, creating a freeze frame effect for the end of the clip. You can set the duration of the still frame to whatever length you want.

  1. Select a clip in the Clips Pane or in the Timeline.
  2. Position the Playhead so the frame you want is showing in the Monitor.
  3. From the Edit menu, choose “Create Still Frame.” The still image is placed in the Clips Pane.
  4. Drag the new still frame to a position in the Timeline.

The default duration for a still frame is five seconds. To change the duration, double-click the still frame clip. In the “Clip Info” window that opens, type in a new duration. Or drag an edge of the clip in either direction to increase or decrease the clip duration.

Save a single frame in another format

Occasionally you'll find that you need a copy of a single frame that you can email to someone or use as a photo in any number of ways.

  1. Select a clip in the Clips Pane or in the Timeline.
  2. Position the Playhead so the frame you want is showing in the Monitor.
  3. From the File menu, choose “Save Frame….”
  4. In the Finder sheet that drops down from iMovie's title bar, name the file, select a file format from the pop-up menu (JPEG or PICT), and choose a location in which to save the file.
  5. Click “Save.”

Reverse a clip's direction

To reverse a clip's direction, select the clip, then from the Effects pane choose the “Fast/Slow/Reverse” Effect. Click the “Reverse Direction” checkbox in the Effects pane, then click “Apply.”

Create a color clip

Create color clips to use as transitions between scenes, as backgrounds for titles or captions, as artistic elements, or to replace black color spaces between two clips.

When there's an existing blank space between two clips in the Timeline, iMovie creates a black color clip to fill the space. This clip is visible in Clip View mode. To replace the black with another color, double-click the black color clip to open the “Clip Info” window, click the Color box to choose another color, then click “Set.”

To create a new color clip: In the Timeline, drag two clips apart to create a blank space between them. iMovie automatically creates a color clip to fill the space. But the color clips are not visible in Timeline View—switch to Clip View to see and modify them.

You can use color clips as placeholders in the Timeline until you get the video footage you want for a particular scene. For instance, if you're making a music video, you may have an idea for one section of music that's 15 seconds long. Place a 15-second color clip in the spot where you need video, then edit the rest of the movie. After you've had time to record the missing scene, paste the new video in place of the color clip. This prevents clips from moving around and getting out of sync with your music soundtrack.

When you use color clips for a transition, add a “Cross Dissolve” or a “Fade In” and “Fade Out” transition to either side of the color clip to soften it.

Extract audio in paste over

You may eventually be in an editing situation where you want to replace existing video in the Timeline, but keep the audio of the original clip. For example, the original video clip may have narration you want to use, but you want to replace the video with new shots of whatever the narrator is talking about. You can replace the original video but retain its audio with a “paste over.”

  1. Make sure that “Extract audio when using 'Paste Over at Playhead'” is selected in iMovie's Preferences (page 174).
  2. Select a video clip you want to insert. Use the crop markers under the Monitor to select the specific video frames that you want to paste, then press Command C to copy the selection.
  3. Position the Playhead at the first frame of video to be replaced. If you're replacing just part of an existing video clip, use the crop markers to select the specific frames to be replaced.
  4. From the Advanced menu, choose “Paste Over at Playhead.” The audio of the pasted video is muted (set to zero), and the original clip's audio is placed in audio track 1, below the pasted video.

To do a Paste Over of a replacement video clip including the audio, uncheck “Extract audio when using 'Paste Over at Playhead'” in iMovie's Preferences.

  • The newly pasted video replaces an equal amount of existing video.
  • Any excess video longer than the selected frame range of existing video is not pasted.
  • If the pasted video is shorter than the selected frame range of video to replace, the additional frames are filled with a color clip (see the previous page).
  • Pasted-over still images expand to fill the selected frame range.

Lock an audio clip to a video clip

You may have an audio clip in one of the audio tracks that you want to start playing at a certain point in a video clip. But you want to experiment by moving the video clip around in the Timeline. You can lock the audio clip to the video clip so they move together.

  1. Place the Playhead at the point in a movie where you want the audio to start playing.
  2. Place an audio clip in the Timeline so that it lines up with the Playhead.
  3. With the audio clip selected, from the Advanced menu, choose “Lock Audio Clip at Playhead.”

To unlock the clip, first select it. Then from the Advanced menu, choose “Unlock Audio Clip.”

Use contextual menus to choose commands

Many of iMovie's menu commands are available through pop-up contextual menus, as shown above. Control-click on clips in the Clips Pane, on clips or transitions in the Timeline, on audio clips, on the Monitor, or on a blank spot in the Timeline to see what commands are available at your finger tips.

Extract audio from a clip

To extract audio from a clip, select one or more video clips in the Timeline, then go to the Advanced menu and choose “Extract Audio.” The extracted audio file is placed in the Timeline below the corresponding video clip. Yellow pins are automatically placed in the audio and video clips (on the left edges) to lock the extracted audio in sync with the video.

To restore audio to a clip, select the clip and change the Clip volume level (circled, below-right) to 100%.

Use bookmarks to mark important frames

It's often helpful to mark a certain point in the Timeline so you can find it again later. Perhaps your movie contains a clip that you want to work on later, or you've found the perfect spot to add a sound effect. iMovie includes markers called bookmarks that you can use to mark a precise point in an audio or video clip.

Position the Playhead where you want to place a bookmark, then from the Markers menu choose “Add Bookmark.” Or use Command B.

Press Command J to jump to the next bookmark in the Timeline. Or from the Markers menu, choose “Next Bookmark.”

Press Command [ to jump to the previous bookmark in the Timeline. Or from the Markers menu, choose “Previous Bookmark.”

To remove a bookmark, place the Playhead on top of it. From the Markers menu, choose “Delete Bookmark.”

To remove all bookmarks in the Timeline, go to the Markers menu and choose “Delete All Bookmarks….”

Bookmarks stay where you put them in the Timeline, even when you move clips or change their durations.

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