Making the most of iMovie's lesser-known features

maps imovie hero

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In past iMovie lessons we’ve talked about working with the application’s interface, importing media, constructing a basic movie project, creating trailers, and dealing with iMovie’s more persnickety editing features. It’s time to put a bow on the series by taking note of a few remaining features that you’ll find helpful in your moviemaking.

Adding a time stamp to your movies

Senior contributor Jeff Carlson explained how this was done in the previous version of iMovie. The technique has changed very little. To add a time stamp to your clips, follow along.

Place a clip you wish to time-stamp in the timeline and then select it. At the bottom of the Libraries pane select Titles under the Content Library heading. In the Titles area that appears, drag the Date/Time title on top of the clip you want to time-stamp. By default an 8-second time stamp will appear in the bottom-left portion of the clip. To increase its length, just drag the edge of the title bar away from the center. You can also reposition it so that it appears elsewhere in the clip.

Regrettably you still can’t change the format of the time stamp—it continues to look like something created for The X Files.

time and date imovie

You can change your clip’s time-and-date stamp using this command.

The time stamp reflects the date and time that the clip was captured rather than when you assembled your movie. You can change a clip’s date and time by selecting it in the clip browser (not in the timeline) and choosing Modify > Adjust Clip Date and Time.

About themes

iMovie 10 includes 15 themes that you can choose when creating a new movie. Each theme comes with titles and transitions designed to enhance the character of that theme. For example, when you choose the Filmstrip theme and then add a clip to the timeline, an opening title places your footage within a filmstrip view and then zooms in until your content fills the screen. When you add another clip, iMovie automatically inserts a filmstrip-like transition between the two clips.

These automatic titles and transitions make creating a movie a snap, but you needn’t accede to iMovie’s every wish. You can choose a different title or transition and still be true to the spirit of the theme. To do that just click either the Titles or Transitions heading in the Libraries pane. At the top of the resulting browser, you’ll spy titles or transitions designed specifically for that theme. For example, using our Filmstrip example, you can click Transitions to discover four choices for the current theme: Filmstrip 1, 2, 3, and 4. You can replace an automatically generated transition with one of these simply by dragging it from the browser onto the top of the existing transition in the timeline.

pick theme

Use the Movie Properties command to change a movie’s theme midproject.

Just because you’ve chosen a theme at the beginning of your project doesn’t mean that you’re committed to it. You can select a new theme at any time by choosing Window > Movie Properties (Command-J) and in the viewer clicking the resulting Settings button. Click the Theme button that appears. In the theme chooser window, you can select a new theme. When you do, the titles and transitions will change to accommodate the new theme.

Using the Sports Team theme and editor

Speaking of themes, iMovie includes the Sports theme, which has a special talent for adding player names and statistics, player photos, and team logos. It gains this information via the Sports Team Editor.

Choose Window > Sports Team Editor. By default you’ll see an entry for the Leopards. You can edit this entry by clicking it, or you can start fresh by clicking the plus (+) button to add a new team. Click the Sport pop-up menu to choose the sport the team plays: baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or volleyball.

Below the teams area is a place for the team’s players. Click the plus button to add team members. For each player you can, by default, add a number, name, position, age, height, and weight. (Adding all of this information isn’t required.) To add a player’s picture, just drag it to the Player Photo field or click the plus button in this field and navigate to the image you want to add. Likewise, to add a team logo, drag it to the Team Logo field or click the plus button and navigate to it.

You can edit much of this information. For example, if the sport your team plays isn’t listed, click the triangle next to ‘Sports’ at the bottom of the window, and then click the plus button that appears below the list that’s revealed. This action adds a New Sport field. Fill it in as you like—enter Bowling or Disc Golf, for example. To the right are four Label fields. Select each one and enter an appropriate label—Average, Shoe Color, Ball Weight, and Cocktail, for example. When you’re finished configuring your team, click Done.

sports team editor

Use the Sports Team Editor to configure information about your teams.

Now that you have your team information, you’ll want to create your sports-highlights reel. Like other themes, the Sports Team theme has its collection of transitions and titles. It offers four transitions: Sports 1, 2, 3, and 4. In Sports 1, 2, and 4 you can click the inset picture area and choose a team name (the Sports 3 transition shows two team logos) from a pop-up menu.

Sports titles include Sports Opening, Score, Team vs Team, Player Stats, Lower Third, Upper Third, and Credits. For the Team vs Team title you can choose team titles that you’ve previously entered in the Sports Team editor. You use the Player Stats title when you want to impose player information over an existing clip; just click the title and choose a player from the pop-up menu.

Mapping your movie

While exploring iMovie 10 you’ve likely seen the Maps & Backgrounds entry that appears in the Libraries pane. It holds special titles that you can use for movies of your vacations or working holidays.

When you select that entry, you see 12 items. These outline three broad categories that include animated globe maps, animated flat maps, and static flat maps. Within the three categories are four types of maps: Old World, Watercolor, Educational, and Blue Marble.

To add a map, just select Maps & Backgrounds and from the resulting browser drag a map to the timeline. Once in the timeline, select the map clip and click the Adjust button at the top of the iMovie window. A special Maps configurator appears. Here you can choose a route for your trip from two pop-up menus. For example, you might choose San Francisco from the first pop-up and Paris from the second. Alternatively you can use the Search field and enter a city, a place name (Eiffel Tower), or an airport code. Once you’ve made your selection, you can enter a display name in the field at the bottom of the menu—We Are Here or Paradise, for instance. As the clip plays, a red line will denote your journey.

imovie maps

iMovie's Old World Globe map, complete with starting point and destination.

From the Style pop-up menu to the right, you can choose a different map style. If you’ve chosen one of the globe maps, you can also enable or disable the Show Route and Cities and Zoom In options. (If you’ve selected the Blue Marble Globe map, you can additionally choose to show or hide clouds.)

The flat still maps that occupy the third row within the Maps & Backgrounds pane are for giving a broader context for a location. iMovie applies the Ken Burns effect to these maps by default, but you can change that (or change the focus of the effect).

To do so, select the map clip that you’ve added to the timeline and click the Adjust button. The Crop tool will be highlighted. Click it, and you see the crop options I discussed when I talked about iMovie’s finer editing controls. The Ken Burns option is selected. By adjusting the End frame within this effect, you can zoom in on an area you wish to focus on—Australia, for example.

Or, if you like, forget the pan-and-scan effect altogether and crop the frame to show just Australia or another location of your choosing. Note that although you can crop pretty severely, the smallest crop—one you might use to show just Tasmania, for instance—is going to be blurry. Regardless of how you want to handle these static maps, click the Check button to accept any changes you’ve made.

Go forth and make movies!

And with that and the previous five lessons under your belt, you have no excuse for being perplexed by iMovie. It’s capable of producing some wonderful results—wonderful enough, in fact, that you might be especially careful to have a camera on hand during the holidays. The footage you capture could be the basis for an excellent first project.

Next week: Mac 101 and the new Mac user

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