From VHS to DVD

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Edit Your Movie

Once you've imported all your clips, you can use iMovie's editing tools to slim down and enhance your original footage. This is your opportunity to go beyond simply preserving old footage, and to take a fresh look at the recorded events. With the help of titles, transitions, chapter markers, music, photos, and more, the possibilities for editing are almost limitless. Here are a few pointers to consider as you work:

Limit Bad Video Analog video tends to contain a lot of noise -- faint snowy fuzz that degrades picture quality. Video noise makes your movie look bad, and it encodes poorly -- causing the footage on your finished DVD to look blocky. It's especially troublesome in low-light scenes, such as shots taken indoors or around a campfire.

When importing your video, use an S-Video cable and a VCR that's in good condition, to minimize these encoding artifacts. If your footage contains a lot of dark, noisy scenes, limit the length of video on a DVD to under one hour, so iDVD can encode the footage at a higher bit rate and minimize compression.

Split Your Clips The first thing you'll want to do when editing is remove any bad footage -- jerky camera movements, out-of-focus shots, and so on.

In iMovie 4, you can adjust the beginning or ending of a clip simply by dragging its edges inward. Later, if you decide you want to regain some of that footage, you can pull the edges of the clip outward to restore them.

To remove a bad shot from the middle of a clip -- or to edit clips in earlier versions of iMovie -- drag the clip to iMovie's timeline, position the playhead at the beginning of the offending shot, and then choose Split Video Clip At Playhead from the Edit menu. (This command is also useful for breaking up one long clip into several smaller ones.) Next, move the playhead to the last frame you want to remove and choose the command again. You should now have a single clip that contains just the unwanted shot. To send it to the cutting room floor, select it and press the delete key. Deleted scenes remain in the Trash until you empty it. However, if you think you might need the cut scene later, switch back to the clip viewer (Command-E) and drag the scene to an empty spot in the Clips pane instead of deleting it.

Add a Soundtrack Let's face it: most home videos sound as though they'd been recorded through a tin can. You can fix that by adding a new soundtrack that complements the action.

If your video's original sound consisted of nothing but wind and room noise, consider removing the sound completely and playing a song from your iTunes library instead. To mute an entire video track in iMovie, deselect the box to the right of the video track in iMovie's timeline. To mute or adjust the volume of individual clips, select the clips in the timeline and then reposition the volume slider.

Narration and commentary add a wonderful historical perspective to your old home videos. To record narration, use iMovie's Audio pane (see "Sound Practices"). If your movie features kids who are teenagers today, for example, you might want to have them comment on the footage as it plays. Let them talk about their memories of the event and about what went on behind the scenes. You could also narrate the video yourself, talking about what it was like taking a couple of colicky kids on a cross-country road trip. (For tips on recording narration, see "Sweeten Your Sound," Digital Hub, December 2003.)

Sprinkle in Photos Do you have some old photos of the same event you captured on videotape? Why not add these shots to your video footage to help expand the narrative? To use old photos, scan them into your Mac, add them to iPhoto, and then import them into iMovie from the Photos pane. You can give your photos a sense of motion by using iMovie's Ken Burns effect, which mimics the documentary trick of slowly panning across a photo while zooming in or out.

Old photos can also provide a nice backdrop for iMovie titles or iDVD menus. If you have a lot of photos that complement the video, you might want to include them on the DVD as a slide show.

Add Titles and Transitions Titles and transitions give your movie professional polish and help ease viewers between disjointed scenes. If you come across dialogue that's hard to understand, create subtitles. To make sure your titles won't get cut off when played on a television, deselect the QT Margins option in iMovie's Titles pane.

Create Chapter Markers For videos that are more than a few minutes long, consider adding chapter markers via iMovie's iDVD pane. Later on, when you go to burn your DVD, iDVD will use these chapter markers to create a submenu that lets viewers quickly jump to specific scenes.

Add a chapter marker whenever a key scene begins. For a vacation video, you might add a marker at the beginning of each new destination. For a video that presents several years' worth of birthday parties, add a marker (and a title) at the beginning of each party. Your final DVD will be easier to navigate, and it will be more enjoyable to watch multiple times.

Save Some Stills Many of iDVD's menu themes contain drop zones -- special areas into which you can drag photos or movies to customize your menu designs. If your video contains one particular scene that's representative of the entire movie -- for example, a kid blowing out birthday candles -- save a still from that scene to use in a drop zone.

To do so, position iMovie's playhead at the frame you'd like to save. Next, choose Save Frame As from the File menu and specify a name for the frame. Use the default JPEG format.

Save a Scene You can also place a snippet of video in an iDVD drop zone -- to show the entire candle-blowing incident, for example. To use a scene from your movie in a drop zone, first save your finished iMovie project. Isolate the footage you want in its own clip, and then choose Share from the File menu. Click on the QuickTime button, and choose the Full Quality DV option. Be sure to turn on the Share Selected Clips Only option. Then click on Share and give the new movie a name.

Close the iMovie project without saving your changes. (This step preserves the clip in its original, unsplit form.) Once you're in iDVD, simply drag the short movie you just created into the drop zone.

Sound Practices

By recording narration in iMovie, you can add new perspective to an old video. iMovie 4 includes some audio improvements that make recording narration even easier. The first of these is an audio-waveform view. When you turn on the Show Audio Track Waveforms option in iMovie's preference pane, iMovie displays the audio track as a waveform -- giving you visual representation of the rise and fall of the recorded dialogue. This helps you better match up your narration with the action on screen. In this project, for example, I was able to synchronize the transition between two different scenes a with a pause in the narration.

To eliminate competing dialogue, you may also want to lower the volume from your video track while the narration is playing. To do this, select the clip in the timeline and then click on the Edit Volume option b. You'll notice a thin horizontal line running through your clip. Click on the line at the point where your narration begins C, and drag the control point down to lower the volume. Repeat this process (but drag the control point up) at the end of the narration to return the clip's volume to its original level.

What's on the Menu? When you click on Add Chapter in iMovie's iDVD panel, you can mark where important scenes begin (top). iDVD then uses these markers to create a submenu offering instant access to each scene (bottom).
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