Create a music video with iMovie '11

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Perhaps you or a musician friend have a song, and you need a music video to help promote it and your band. Or maybe your son or daughter wants to create a video for a song they wrote and recorded. The good news is, you don’t need a mega-budget: just some creativity, a quality camera, friends and family (for potential extras), and iMovie ’11 to edit your masterpiece.


There are a multitude of story options when it comes to music videos—this is where you get to let your creativity run wild. Some include ‘live on stage,’ where you have the band play in front of friends; a solo video of the singer on the beach or in a park; the band performing in a studio; and many more. You can have fun with it and write a short film that plays with the themes of the song, or make it as simple as just hanging out at home playing music.


The author shooting the Back to a Perfect World music video.

For the music videos, producers can use a variety of cameras, including a professional Panasonic AF100, DSLRs that shoot HD video, small GoPro cameras, and even iPhones. If you have access to high-end cameras, that’s wonderful, but affordable HD DSLRs sell for as low as $500, if not lower, as new models come out and old ones drop in price.

You can shoot a music video anywhere using a variety of high-quality, reasonably priced consumer DSLRs or dedicated camcorders.

In addition, many point-and-shoot cameras shoot HD video now, and did I mention the iPhone, plus other camera phones? Many of these cameras shoot in high-quality 720p and 1080p high definition video at 30 frames per second (fps), and the footage is gorgeous.


If you opt for the “live on stage” option, it’s a great idea to get as many friends and family as possible for the video, so the band has a sell-out crowd. Lighting is important, so ensure you’re not shooting in absolute darkness.

If you’re shooting outside, ensure the sun is behind you, not the talent, otherwise, they’ll appear shadowed and the background too bright. Shooting between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. isn’t a good idea, since the sun is directly overhead. Have someone standing by with the song ready for playback, so the singer and band can lipsync and play along, and make sure you’re capturing the live sound.

If you have more than one camera, you’ll be able to do fewer takes of the song, but don’t worry if you’re limited to one or two cameras. The band may have to play through the song more than a few times, but you’ll be able to get all sorts of angles of each member, their instruments, and the audience.

In shooting and directing this video on assignment from Macworld, I adopted a hybrid outdoor-studio approach with singer-songwriter Cooper Getschal, who agreed to perform his song, Back to a Perfect World (written by D. Cooper Getschal and Harriet Schock; Silver Beach Productions).

When shooting outside, make sure the sun is behind you, lighting up your talent.


There are two schools of thought when it comes to editing a music video; in many professional NLE programs, such as Final Cut Pro X, editors will use a special option, or third-party software like PluralEyes, to sync the song with the “live sound” captured when the video was shot. Then they delete the live sound and cut to the song itself. Another option is to cut the video with the “live sound,” or scratch audio track, intact, then sync the final cut to the high quality version of the song. Either method works well.

Click on the Audio Waveforms button, so you can ‘see’ the sound.

Regardless of how you choose to edit, syncing the song with the scratch audio in iMovie ’11 is very easy. Drag the song onto the video clip, which will create a separate audio track. Dropping it into the timeline will set it as background audio. Next, turn on the audio wave forms button, which will give you a visual representation of the sound. From here, it’s easy to sync the audio of the song to the video clips with scratch audio. To test if it’s synced up, hit play, and if there’s no echo, it’s perfect; then simply delete the scratch audio track from the video clips.

There’s no right or wrong way to edit your music video; you’ve probably heard of MTV-style editing, which means quick cuts, going to new shots and angles in a rapid-fire style, perfect for upbeat songs. Or maybe it’s just a simple setup with a singer and guitar on a beach and in a park playing a beautiful song, and holding shots longer and adding dissolves is more appropriate for the song. As far as graphics go, I tend to shy away from them, except a small credit to the band (or singer), the song name and website. But for your production, you can add some flashy graphics with the templates found in iMovie ’11, if you want.


Once your music video is completed, you can easily share it on YouTube and Vimeo, or create a QuickTime movie to share anywhere, including Facebook. Just select the Share option in iMovie ’11 and choose what you’d like to do. You can even create a Final Cut XML, which can be imported into Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut offers many professional tools and a familiar interface, which give you even more editing options.

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