iMovie Tips

Get Your Touch On
Apple may not feel that touchscreen computers are in its future, but they aren’t shy about adding multitouch gestures to their desktop apps for laptop users and those of us rocking a Magic Trackpad. iMovie ’11 is no exception, and features a trio of such gestures.

The first multitouch tip enables adding new media to your Project, which is done by first selecting a clip (or portion of a clip) in the Event browser and then using three fingers to swipe up on the trackpad. Just like magic, your selection is now added to the end of your project.

The second gesture allows you to expand or contract filmstrips by moving the pointer over the Event or Project browser and pinching two fingers closed to contract or pinching two fingers open to expand — a gesture that should be very familiar to users of the company’s iOS devices.

Finally, if you want to move a clip within your project to either the left or right of the clip next to it, simply select the desired clip and then swipe left or right with three fingers accordingly. Let’s see iMovie’s big brother, Final Cut Pro, do that!

Import Movies Directly from Your iPhone
Although the new desktop version of iMovie ’11 is sadly lacking in any interoperability with the stripped-down iOS version, there is one welcome iPhone-related change from iMovie ’09 — you can now plug in your iPhone and iMovie will recognize it and offer to import any movies in your Camera Roll.

This newfound ability might not have been such a big deal in the iPhone 3GS days with its low-resolution SD camera, but it’s now a must-have for the iPhone 4’s 720p HD video — especially for more ambitious projects that go beyond the scope of the mobile version of iMovie. (Note that import will also work on the 3GS, for those of you still rockin’ last year’s handset.)

Analyze This
iMovie ’09 added a very welcome Stabilization function to the program’s bag of tricks in order to help smooth out jumpy or handheld footage. That function first required a clip to be analyzed in order to perform its magic, which could be a lengthy process for longer pieces of video.

Now that Apple has added the People Finder feature to iMovie ’11, you’ll be happy to know that you can analyze clips for both Stabilization and People in one fell swoop — along with the option to do only Stabilization or only People.

iMovie analysis contextual menu

Clips that have already been analyzed for Stabilization can also now be marked for camera pans, noting when the camera moves left or right. Choose File > Analyze Video > Mark Camera Pans and now video with camera pans will be indicated with a blue line across the top of the clip, and you can even filter for those type of actions when your editing calls for it.

Viewing Your Timeline In A More Traditional Way

When iMovie ’08 was first released in mid-2007, many of us who were used to more traditional ways of editing were stymied by the way projects were now viewed in a stacked ribbon — since the dawn of non-linear editing, timelines have mostly been viewed as one seemingly endless horizontal strip. Someone at Apple must have taken note of the fact that we still haven’t quite adjusted to it three years later, so now you can take matters into your own hands.

First navigate to iMovie>Preferences and turn on Show Advanced Tools under the General tab.

In the upper right corner of the Project window, you’ll now find a new Horizontal Display button to the left of the chapter mark tool. With a stacked view in your Project, click the Horizontal Display button and you’ll now see a nice clean, all-horizontal view of your project as you edit. Click it again to go back to the classic stacked view, but only if you must!

Making iMovie ’11 More Like Final Cut

These tips aren’t new to iMovie ’11, but f you want the program to look more like the traditional view of higher-end apps like Final Cut Pro.

Switch the timeline to the bottom of the screen and your unedited media to the top by selecting Window > Swap Events and Projects (or click the Swap button positioned between the windows, to the right of the Import button). After a fancy animated switcheroo, your Event Library and media now appear at the top of the display and your timeline resides at the bottom, a view that will likely be more comfortable to seasoned editors.

The horizontal timeline view and window swap tips work best If you also happen to have a second display attached to your computer. In iMovie ’11, you can select Window > Viewer on Other Display and move your view of the edited project to its own screen, giving you the entire top (or bottom) of the iMovie display to see your newly emancipated Project timeline — and have a swanky editing setup just like the pros use.

Title Duplicate
If you spend a lot of time creating videos with iMovie, you’ll certainly appreciate some of the new version’s little niceties, many of which have been moved from the Edit menu and grouped into a new Clip menu along with the new one-step effects.

For instance, how many times have you created a project with a number of similar title cards, spending valuable time having to add a stock title each time and then editing it to match the length and font style of your previous one? Now all you need to do is select a clip (or range of frames) and choose Clip > Duplicate Last Title, edit the text to suit you and move on.

Inspecting Your Inspector
With your iMovie Preferences set up to edit a clip when you double-click on it (rather than Play the clip), the clip Inspector is always available quickly, same as in the previous iMovie ’09. But there are some cool new functions tucked away there that you may have overlooked.

iMovie '11 Inspector
In addition to now changing the speed of a clip without having to convert it first (by moving the slider or typing the speed you want as a percentage), you can now reverse it with a single click, a nifty tool which has been available on more sophisticated non-linear editors for some time.

iMovie ’11 also adds a new Rolling Shutter option which helps to cut down on wobbly or skewed video caused by the CMOS image sensor still prevalent on most consumer camcorders. Click on “Reduce motion distortion” to enable it for a clip and after your video is analyzed, use the pulldown to select an amount from None to Extra High. Apple recommends High or Extra High for footage shot with a Flip camcorder or a mobile phone that records video, which presumably includes the iPhone 4. (It did indeed look better in our quick, unscientific tests.)

Equalize Your iLife
Audio is a big focus of iMovie ’11, with most of the spotlight on the slick new audio waveform mode to adjust levels and see color-coded warnings where the sound might be too overpowering. But Apple has also beefed up audio options in the Inspector as well, including a new Equalizer.

iMovie '11 Equalizer

Open the clip in question, select the Audio tab on the Inspector and you’ll see the new Equalizer function, which you can customize entirely on your own or pick from one of nine presets, including Voice Enhance, Music Enhance and Hum Reduction, which should help tame less than dynamic audio recordings and keep annoying electrical line hums at bay.

Apple’s engineers didn’t stop there, also adding an audio Enhance mode — click on “Reduce background noise by” and adjust the slider, then listen to the results. We tried it on some clips recorded near a busy highway and it worked quite well, bringing down the unwanted background noise and making people speaking in the foreground that much more audible.

Audio Effects

While iMovie ’09 had some very capable video effects, this year’s release adds an equal number of audio effects to spice up most any production.

To get to the audio effects, select a clip. Click on the Inspector button or go to Window>Clip Adjustment in the Menu Bar.

Click on Audio Effect in the Clip tab.

In addition to specialized effects such as Robot, Cosmic and Telephone, you also have the ability to add Echo, four sizes of Room Echo and four variations of Pitch Down or Pitch Up.

Integrate with Facebook

iMovie '11 Facebook integration

Thanks to the updated iPhoto, the whole iLife ’11 benefits from deeper integration with the social network everyone loves to hate, Facebook. That integration also carries over to iMovie, where you can now choose from your online Facebook photos to import into a project, as well as the traditional iPhoto and PhotoBooth options.

Keep in mind that you’ll first need to open iPhoto ’11 and let the program sync with Facebook, which will then carry those photo albums into your iLife Media Browser and make them available to all supported programs.

Contextual Menus
Apple hasn’t forgotten about the ever-handy contextual menus in iMovie ’11; functions such as Loop Selection and the ability to both Analyze and Optimize clips have been added to adjust clips within a Project, as well as the aforementioned new Duplicate Last Title and options to Arrange Music Tracks and select your Project Theme.

Event browser clips can also now be looped or have their video analyzed — for Stabilization and People, Stabilization only, People only to to Mark Camera Pans. There is also the ability to Split Event Before Clip as well as the same shortcut to make adjustments to your Project Theme.

In addition to the contextual menus we’ve all come to love and depend on, you can launch the Inspector directly from a clip and put iMovie ’11 in Precision editor Mode by clicking on the gear that appears when you hover over a clip.

Storyboard Like a Pro
iMovie ’11 is touting a Movie Trailers mode, giving you the ability to create short, Hollywood-style previews with just a few clicks. But you can also use the animatics provided by the Movie Trailers feature to rough out your own project, and then swap them out for footage you shoot later.

iMovie Animatics

Go to Window > Maps, Backgrounds and Animatics (which used to be called just Maps & Backgrounds) and scroll down to find 16 animatics, which are essentially motion-enabled dummy clips for various camera angles, such as Closeup, Medium, Wide, Landscape and Animal.

iMovie ’11 provides a mix of clips for males or females — simply drag & drop one of them to your timeline and you’ll have a filler clip that can later be replaced with a real clip by dragging the new clip onto the animatic. Release your mouse button and click Replace, and the job is done. Animatics are a great way to organize your thoughts and plan for footage you haven’t had time to shoot, but still be able to see if your concept fits into your work-in-progress.