Editing: You Don't Need to Be a Pro
Now that your footage lives on your hard drive, it's time to start editing. To build a movie, simply drag your clips, which are collected at the right side of the window, to the Timeline at the bottom. Because the clips are all split out individually, you can throw together a "rough cut"—simply position the scenes you want, left to right, in the Timeline. This editing style is called nonlinear because you don't have to adhere to the order in which you shot the footage. Did you capture a gorgeous sunrise on the last day of your vacation? Drag it to the beginning of the Timeline to start the movie with a rising dawn.
One aspect of the Timeline that I particularly like is its feedback: When you select a clip and drag it to a new location, the other clips in the Timeline shift politely out of the way, so you know exactly where the clip will end up when you release the mouse button. Each clip also includes a thumbnail image of its first frame, so even if you're working with "Clip 07," you can see what it is (you can also rename clips manually).
Once you've dragged clips to the Timeline, you've created a movie; it's as simple as that. Click the Play button to play the movie in the preview monitor. The Timeline is also malleable; you can rearrange clips at any point in the editing process.
Of course, unless you're a super-disciplined photographer, you won't want all of the footage in the Timeline, which is where iMovie's powerful clip-editing features come into play. iMovie 4 and later versions employ a technique that Apple calls direct trimming, a visual method of removing the frames you don't want to keep. Let's say you're working with a clip of a winning soccer goal that's 10 seconds in length, but you want only 5 seconds to appear in your finished movie—the important footage is the scoring of the goal itself, not the players walking downfield to regroup. In the Timeline (see Figure 2), position the mouse pointer at the right edge of the clip, hold down the mouse button, and drag to the left. The preview in the monitor displays the current frame corresponding to the mouse pointer's position. Continue dragging until you reach the frame that will be the last one in the clip—the five-second mark in this example—and then release the mouse button.
Figure 2 Direct trimming: Select the clip to edit (top), position the mouse pointer at the right edge of the clip (middle), and then drag to hide frames you don't want to display (bottom).
Now, suppose you realize later that the cut you made is too abrupt, and you want to restore some of that footage of the players walking after the goal. The frames you deleted using direct trimming aren't gone—they're only hidden. Click and drag the edge of the clip to the right to expose the footage you want. With this nondestructive editing, you won't accidentally throw away footage that you might need later.
Direct trimming is the most visually intuitive method of editing, but you can also position the playhead at a point within a clip and split it into two clips, or select a range of frames within a clip and either delete those frames or delete the footage that surrounds the selection. In short order, your lengthy rough cut gets trimmed down to a more manageable length.
iMovie also includes an intriguing feature called paste over at playhead, which is handy when you want to retain the existing audio but throw in different video. The best example is a flashback sequence: Suppose that, in our earlier example, the girl who scored the winning soccer goal is being interviewed and reminiscing about what she was thinking during that moment. As she talks, the footage of the event is pasted over the video of her interview, keeping her voice narration and displaying the winning kick. You could accomplish this effect manually, but it would take longer to set up.
The same editing techniques are used for audio. The Timeline features two audio tracks, with which you can add sound effects and music or edit the audio that accompanies the video. (Unfortunately, iMovie doesn't distinguish between stereo tracks when editing.) Visible sound waves on audio clips make it easy to trim a clip to the right moment or isolate unwanted noises and reduce their volume levels (see Figure 3).
Figure 3 Sound waves on audio clips.