How to edit a movie in iMovie

Digital Film Clapper used on set of film

How to edit a movie in iMovie

Apple has gone to great lengths to show how their new phones are advanced enough to take movie-quality videos. But once you’ve taken a few videos, how do you go about putting the different clips together to tell a story? Apple has a solution for that, too: iMovie.

Want to start editing that footage? Open iMovie and you’ll see the following: media, options, and theater. To start editing from scratch choose options, create new, and movie.

If you first want to acquaint yourself with the functionality of iMovie, creating a trailer or two might be a great way to start. To do that select options, new, create new, and trailer. The trailer option comes loaded with templates which can enable you to learn the functionality of iMovie without too much of a learning curve.

This can be especially helpful if you’re a PC user who’s trying out a Mac for the first time. No matter how intuitive software, apps, or programs are, switching from one environment to another can be a bit confusing at first.

At the start, you’ll see a stage at the bottom of the screen, clips that have been uploaded to iMovie to the left, and folder contents in the upper middle part of the interface. When working with new clips, iMovie features a handy drag and drop action that allows you to work directly off of the desktop. It basically comes down to how you prefer to work – loading your clips to the iMovie library or dragging from the desktop.

Speaking of work, let’s get started and edit video in iMovie!

Organizing Scenes on the Screen

Grab the first scene of your project, either by clicking on it from your library or dragging the video to the desktop. When the clip is in place, you can adjust the setting slider near the upper right-hand corner of the stage. This gives you a closer look at the different slides in the video.

The space bar will be your friend when looking for specific parts of a video. It acts as both the pause and play button. The clip will play in the upper right-hand portion of the iMovie window. There are a few options here: a microphone for voice overs, rewind, fast-forward, and play/pause.

Start Editing
Now that you have a basic understanding of how to load video clips in the timeline, zoom in on a clip, and play or pause the clip, it’s time to try a few simple edits. After clicking on a clip and adjusting the slider, take a look at the earliest edge of the clip. There may be some dead space that you want to get rid of at this point.

(Pro Tip: When shooting a video, it’s always nice to leave a few seconds at the start and the end to give yourself a little breathing room when it comes time to fine-tune, add transitions, add film clips and more. It’s also easier to leave room than trying to start or stop everything perfectly with a camera.)

Select the part of the video you want to get rid of by clicking it. Click command B (this is the clip trimmer), highlight the area, and delete. FYI, clicking command B enables you to split a clip from the rest of the video.

If you want to get rid of something in the middle of your iMovie project, click and command b at the start and the end of the clip, select the clip, and delete. Congratulations! You’ve made your first edit. To add other elements to the video, click the My Media button at the top left of the interface to find images, film, or more video. Simply select what you want, then drag it to where you want it to in the timeline.

Adding Features
Next to the My Media button is an Audio button. There are several effects preloaded into iMovie such as video background film, sound effects, and other noises to add to your video.

Click the Import button to bring files into your event library for a custom picture or sound you’ve already created. Click and drag the effect and place it under the part of the clip where it belongs. You can adjust the volume of the clip from the stage to make sure it doesn’t compete too much with the primary video clip.

Playing the clip a few times will help solidify where you want it to go. You can also adjust the volume of the different layers by clicking the volume icon above the playback window of the video. This will give you more exact levels than trying to do it visually from the stage.

Titles, Backgrounds, and Transitions
If you’ve ever dealt with imaging software before, such as Photoshop, being able to add a title should be pretty straightforward. By clicking the title button at the top of the screen, you can choose where the title will appear and how it acts on the screen.

You can adjust the size, the color, the font, and other text manipulations from above the playback window. When you place the title on the stage, make sure it’s above the main video so it can be seen. This is known as an overlay. Backgrounds are treated the same way and transitions are added directly into the video layer.

Saving Your Work
iMovie also autosaves your work as you go. For those of us who like to power through a task or a piece of work, this feature is a godsend. Unfortunately, it also means your mistakes or bad decisions will be saved, too. That’s why there’s an alt (or ctrl) Z keystroke.

When you’re done editing the video, click the Share button in the upper right-hand corner of the window to finish editing. You can share it to YouTube, Vimeo, or Facebook as well as saving it as a movie file. We recommend saving it as a file first and then sharing it. It’s just a more reliable process.

Take It To The Next Level

Just by reading this blog, you’ve already gained a little insight into what’s possible when editing a movie on your laptop or desktop computer with iMovie. Using simple keystrokes and preloaded effects are fine when creating a cat video for your friends. But there’s a lot more to learn if you think editing could be the career for you.

With the Film Connection Editing Workshop, you’ll learn how to edit a movie both technically as well as lyrically. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. A good editor will squeeze out a few hundred more by understanding the story and utilizing the tools at their disposal.

You’ll receive one-on-one time with a professional editor, learning what it takes to make a career in the television or film industry. Your mentor will work on advancing your editing skills in addition to helping you learn how to use those skills to move the story along coherently.

If all you want to create is the next viral meme, that’s fine. You probably don’t even need iMovie to do it. But if you feel you have an eye for editing, an incredible work ethic, and are passionate about editing, consider applying to Film Connection.

Learn the skills you need to take your idea from paper to the big screen.

Real world film education by filmmakers for filmmakers, optimized for today!