iMovie Lesson Three: Editing Music and Sound

In an MTV-saturated world, the combination of video and sound is so familiar to us that we take it for granted. When we like what we see and hear, we usually don't think about what it takes to make the pictures and sound work so well together. With this installment, all that will change.

In our last lesson, I showed you how to import audio into iMovie . In this third iMovie lesson, we'll do one project that will teach you multiple editing techniques. The task of taking one bit of audio and reusing it later in your movie takes advantage of quite a few basics, including extracting audio from video clips, unlocking audio clips from their video, and cutting and pasting them to a new location.

But before we do this, you should take a moment to think about what music you want to use to enhance your story. So, the next time you park yourself behind a big bowl of popcorn to watch a movie, pay special attention to the ways in which the music, sound, and video are carefully knitted together. If you want to make a little iMovie magic, you might want to take up the art of critical movie-watching, so keep an eye out for the strings and wires. Here are a few tips to consider.

  • Don't use an entire song if you don't need to. Carefully blend in other songs using fades and transitions.
  • Use the momentum of a song from a slow or quiet beginning to a fast, rising crescendo as your story builds to a high point.
  • Be aware of lyrics. People automatically associate the words of the song to the movie whether you intend for them to or not.
  • Use natural transition or end points in the video to change the music in the audio. For example, change the music when someone leaves a room, turns their head to look in a new direction or opens a door.
  • Don't overuse music. If the audio that was recorded with the video helps to tell the story, edit some music out so that the scene's audio comes through.
  • Keep it movin'. Choose upbeat songs that keep the viewer smiling or if the movie has a serious nature, change the tempo of the music to keep the viewer interested.
  • If the length of the video clip is too short to synchronize with your audio, try using a bit of slow motion to stretch the length of the video clip.
  • To slow down a video clip so that its length matches the length of the audio you want to use, click on the video clip you'd like to "stretch" A and drag the motion speed slider B toward Slower until you have the clip length that you want.

    Once you've imported your clips, you can begin to do some real editing. To learn how to import your clips, see Lesson One. Let's say you've captured a great sound bite in one video clip but you want to extract that audio from that clip and use it in another scene. For example, in your movie about little Brian's acordian recital, you'd like his rendition of "Goodnight Irene" to play during the closing credits. Here's how to move sections of audio to a different part of your movie.

    Drag the video clip you'd like to edit from the Clip Shelf to the Timeline Viewer.

    Turn the sound for the video track off by clearing the top check box to the right of the Timeline Viewer A.

    Click on the video clip that contains the sound that you want to use elsewhere. In this example it's the yellow clip, third from the left B.

    Choose Extract Audio from the Advanced menu.

    The extracted sound will appear on audio track 1 as an orange clip locked with orange push pins C to its video clip D.

    Unlock the extracted audio clip from the video clip by choosing Unlock Audio Clip from the Advanced menu, and the pushpins on the Timeline Viewer will disappear.

    Move the orange clip to its new location on audio track 1.

    Click on the audio clip to select it E.

    Press command-X to temporarily cut the extracted audio clip.

    Drag the Playhead to the beginning of the closing credits F.

    Now, press command-V to paste the audio clip to the Playhead at its new location G. (When you do this, make sure that the sound check box for the selected audio track is checked.)

    Press the space bar to hear the audio in its new location.

    Now that you've enhanced your editing skills by learning how to use slow motion, extract, unlock, and move audio clips, you have some basic techniques in your pocket that you'll be able to leverage again and again. In lesson four, you'll learn how to use some iMovie effects that will add a bit of polish and make your movies really shine. Be sure to visit the iMovie forum to find out what our readers are saying about iMovie.

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

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