Using iMovie

Note: There is a list of iMovie tutorials online at the bottom of this page that are extremely helpful. Be sure to check them out! 

iMovie is organized into 3 thematic areas, generally found at the top of the screen unless you have already opened up a project:

  • Media: Where you store your content; may have different libraries that contain different media.
  • Projects: A collection of your edited projects. Sometimes it’s useful to duplicate a project here if you’re doing a different edit on a project. When you create a new project, you’ll be prompted to choose either a Movie or Trailer project; choose Movie.
  • Theater: View movies you have exported/shared, or create a new movie or trailer here as well.

Generally, iMovie opens your last edited project. If you haven’t created a project, create one by choosing File/New Movie. iMovie will then bring you into the project view for your new project. In this project view, iMovie  is broken up into 3 distinct areas.

  • Project Media. On the left side of your screen is the media for your project. This will include your collection of media that you may have imported, as well as quick views into your iPhoto library, and any music from your iTunes library and GarageBand. iMovie arranges media into libraries, which you can find here. You can also find titles, backgrounds, and transitions in this area.
  • Media Viewer. On the right side is a media viewing area of either your the media in your timeline, or media you have selected in your project media area. The media viewer has a number of color- and audio-correction options above it, so you can perform adjustments to color, crop an image, apply a Ken Burns effect on a media clip, and a number of other helpful editing options.
  • Timeline. The bottom is your timeline of edited media; you can trim video clips in the timeline as well as adjust audio.

Moving your project or media between computers

iMovie stores all its projects by default into the username/Movies directory on your mac’s hard drive as a file aptly named “iMovie Library.” This file contains all your media in one place. As you grow your movie projects, you may want to start breaking them up into smaller projects or libraries.

Organizing your media

Generally you should create a new library for your project, as otherwise you may eventually have several project’s media in your main iMovie Library. This can become rather cumbersome to sift through several years of different project’s media.

Within your iMovie library, media is organized into events, which are organized by date. Quick screensaving real estate tip: You can hide the events names by unclicking the “Show Separate Days in Events” in the View menu.

While reviewing video clips, you may find a good section within the clip. You can favorite that portion of the clip by choosing Mark/Favorite, or hitting the F keyboard shortcut. Inversely, if you find a bad section within a clip, you can reject that portion of the clip by choosing Mark/Delete, or hitting the delete button on your keyboard. Later, you can sort your media by looking at only the clips you’ve favorited, which can be helpful when sifting through dozens of clips.

Importing your media into iMovie

Generally you can drag-and-drop your media from anywhere on your computer onto your project’s timeline, and the media will get copied to your iMovie project library.

Importing your media from the Photos app

You may have imported video or photos into the Photos app. You can easily add these into your project by these steps:

  • To import videos, click on Photos Library in the Project Media section, under Libraries, and choose the My Media tab. Select your content in a variety of ways; one way is to select Albums, then select Videos. Drag the video onto your project’s timeline.
  • To import photos, click on the Photos Library, and select the My Media tab. Select your content in a variety of ways; one way is to select Years, then locate your photo(s) to  import, and drag them onto your project’s timeline.

iMovie Keyboard shortcuts

Here’s a few that you might find useful:

Command-C and Command-V: Copy and paste clips (hopefully you know this one!)

Space bar: Plays or stops media in the timeline or event selected.

Split clip into two: Command-B: One of the most common tasks in iMovie is splitting a clip into two clips where the playhead is located.

Arrow keys: Sometimes you want to nudge the playhead left or right. The left- and right-arrow keys are the ones to use, rather than trying to use your mouse. Using the up-arrow key will take you to the beginning of the clip your playhead is on, then the end of any preceding clips or transitions; down-arrow will take you to the end of the clip, then the start of the next clip or transition in the timeline.

Animating media

You can animate media by zooming in/out of an image by choosing the Ken Burns effect. This is found by selecting the Cropping tool in the Media Viewer when the media is selected.

You can choose when the image start and end sizes from this view. Additionally, you can apply this effect to movies, though the zoomed movie may become “fuzzy” depending on your export settings.

Exporting (aka sharing) your movies

Export your edited movie by clicking on the share icon on the top right of the iMovie interface.

Or, you can choose File/Share, and choose the appropriate format.

I generally recommend choosing the File option, as it gives you several options on the video resolution (choose the largest size available if this is your final project), quality (choose High), and compression speed (choose Better Quality). This dialog box will also give you a sense of how long the video will take to export, as well as the estimated file size.

Sending movie files to people

Movie files tend to be too large to email people. We recommend using a Reed application called Filerobot, which allows sending of large files (up to 2 GB). Read more about Filerobot.

iMovie online tutorials

  • Tutorial 1
  • Tutorial 2 Uses screenshots to walk thru steps. Covers most of the common editing tasks such as adding titles, transitions, backgrounds, performing color correction, cropping images, and more.
  • Tutorial 3 Talks briefly about the whole process: storyboard, production, editing. Also covers most of the common editing tasks such as adding titles, transitions, backgrounds, performing color correction, cropping images, and more.