iMovie Lesson Four: Using Audio and Video Transitions

Welcome to Macworld's fourth iMovie lesson. So far, we've covered importing video and sound, editing your video, and editing sound and music. This article builds on those lessons, so be sure to take a look at them if you don't already have experience with iMovie.

In this fourth iMovie lesson, I'm going to show you how to liven up your movies by using audio and video transitions.

Why should you add transitions? Because a sudden change in scene can be jarring for a viewer (and that's fine if it's the intended effect!). Transitions are a way to keep viewers interested in your movie. Besides that, transitions are simply fun to play with and include in your movies. There are lots of cool new transitions in iMovie 2.0, and GeeThree's Slick Transitions provides many more.

You can take your viewer gently from one scene to another by using a Cross Dissolve, which I'll show you in this installment. The Cross Dissolve is a familiar transition, and video editors like to use it because it creates less of a distraction than snazzier effects, such as a transition that pushes the old frame from one side of the screen to the other as the new one appears. A Cross Dissolve fades the first scene out slowly while gently introducing the next scene on top of it. In this example, we'll cross-dissolve from our opening, establishing clip, to a second close-up clip. (An "establishing clip" is one that gives the viewer a sense of where they are in the story; it can present the location, time, or event.) Once the viewer has an idea of where they are in the story, they may be ready for a close-up to focus on a particular person or object.

So without further ado, here's how to place a transition between two clips. Mine are called The Plaza and Dana, Martha. The clips that you choose for this exercise should be at least two seconds long so that they are not shorter than the transition you create.

Step 1: Bring Your Clips to the Clip Viewer

Drag your clips to the Clip Viewer.

Click once on the first, or establishing, clip.

Step 2: Add a Cross Dissolve Transition

(For a complete tour of the Transitions Panel, click here ).

Click once on the Cross Dissolve transition in the Transitions menu (A).

Drag the Speed Slider (B) to the right until you see a length of about two seconds appear in the Speed Preview window. Once you release the slider, your transition will start to play in the Speed Preview window (C).

Click on the Preview button (D) to see the transition play in iMovie's large Monitor window.

Select Cross Dissolve in the menu and drag the resulting box between the first and second clips on the Timeline Viewer.

Release the mouse button and your transition will begin to render . ("Render" is a term that digital video editors use when they talk about the processing that a computer does to create or change a piece of digital video.) Rendering requires a great deal of computer-processing power and time, so be patient.

While your transition is rendering, a black progress bar will appear just below the green transition clip. When rendering is complete, the black progress bar will disappear.

Click once on the first clip (A). Now, hold down the shift key and click on the second clip (B). Press the space bar to see the transition.

Step 3: Add an Audio Fade to Your Video Transition

You can soften the effect of a scene and soundtrack change by using video transitions and audio fades together.

Place two video clips and two audio clips on the Timeline Viewer. (To learn how to bring video and audio into iMovie, see "iMovie Lesson One: Importing Video and Sound" ).

Position the first audio clip so that it ends at the beginning of the video transition (A).

Position the second audio clip so that it begins at the beginning of the video transition (B).

Lock the audio clips to the transition by choosing Lock Audio from the Advanced menu.

Click on the second audio clip and select the Fade In check box at the bottom right of the Timeline Viewer.

Now, after the first bit of audio ends, it will begin to get louder as the video transition plays. If you'd like the first song to fade out rather than end abruptly, select the audio clip, and then select the Fade Out check box.

If your sound and video don't blend the way you want them to, you can adjust the length of time it takes your music volume to increase in the Clip Info window. Just double-click on a clip to see its Clip Info.

If used correctly, transitions can make your iMovie flow beautifully from one scene to the next. In addition to fading in and out of songs, try fading in and out of video clips by using the Fade In and Out transitions.

Until next time, have fun experimenting with iMovie!

Jill Baird is an independent writer. She co-wrote My iMac, (IDG Books, 2000). In previous lives, she was a Web QA engineer and technical writer for Intuit.

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