Getting started with iMovie

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The Project pane

In iMovie’s top-left corner is the Project pane. This is where you drag clips to piece together your movie. It’s iMovie’s answer to the timeline. For example, for a simple movie project you might first click the Title button and drag it into the first dotted box. You could then move to the Clip Browser, select some footage from within that clip, and drag and drop it right after the title clip. Now you might choose a different event from the Event Library pane, make a selection in the Event Browser, and drag it into line. Repeat for other clips and add a title at the end.

You assemble your clips in iMovie's Project pane.

The movement between clips is quite abrupt, so to smooth them out you click the Transitions button, select an appropriate transition, and drag it between the title and the first video clip. Then you do the same kind of thing between your other clips within the Project Viewer. Just as with clips in the Clips Browser, you can play and skim the contents of the Project pane. Place your cursor at the front of the first clip, press the Mac’s spacebar to preview, and marvel at the fact that, hey, you’ve made a movie!

If you find that you just can’t get past the lack of a timeline, here’s a little hint. Click the Timeline toggle button at the top-right corner of the Project pane—the one with the three dashes. The clips will shift down to the middle of the pane, the project’s time will appear in increments along the bottom of the pane, and a scrollbar will become available below that. As with the Event Browser pane, you can choose the time increments you see using the slider at the bottom of this pane. Similarly, you can elect to show a preview of each clip’s audio track by clicking the soundwave button.

At the top left of the Project pane, you’ll see a Project Library button. Click this, and you’ll see a list of any iMovie projects you’ve created.

The toolbar

Unlike other Apple applications, iMovie plants its toolbar in the center of the window. I’ll describe how to use all of its items in a future lesson, but for now here’s the gist.

Items you'll find in iMovie's default toolbar.

Camera Import: Click this button to expose the Camera Import window. This is where you pull clips from your camera as well as perform a live capture from compatible cameras connected to your Mac (including Apple’s built-in FaceTime cameras).

Swap Events and Projects: You can swap the position of the Events and Project panes by clicking this button.

Zoom slider: Drag this slider to increase the size of thumbnails within the Events and Project panes.

Add Selected Video to Project: Rather than drag selected portions of an event into the Project pane, you can make that selection and then click this button to add the selection to the next available space in the project.

Mark Selected Video as Favorite: I’ll talk about making favorites in another lesson.

Unmark Selected Video: As I said.

Reject Selected Video: This excises a selection within a clip in the Event Browser. You might use it to trim material from the beginning or end of a clip that you know you’re not going to use.

Record a Voiceover: This brings up iMovie’s audio-recording window. Yes, you can make your own director’s track!

Crop, Rotate, and Ken Burns: As with iPhoto, you can crop and rotate bits of video. You can additionally add a pan-and-scan effect (notably used by director Ken Burns) to your clips and still images. When you click this button, controls for these features appear in the Viewer pane. I’ll discuss these options at another time.

Inspector: It’s within the Inspector that you can make fine adjustments to a clip’s video and audio tracks. You can accomplish a lot here, and we’ll go over all of it in the future.

Turn Audio Skimming On and Off: I mentioned that you can skim through events and projects by dragging your cursor over them. By default you’ll hear the effect as well as see it. If you don’t find audio skimming helpful, switch it off with this button.

Sound meter: This meter gives you an idea of how loud or soft the movie’s audio is. When it extends way into the red, your audio is too loud, possibly to the point of distortion. When barely any green shows, the audio is too quiet.

Then there are the five lower-right pane buttons, which I’ve already talked about.

And that’s the broad overview of iMovie’s interface. Once you’ve learned what goes where (and how the various panes are related), you’ll find it easy to start assembling your own movies.

Next week: Importing clips and basic project creation.

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