How to Use iMovie on Mac: Beginner’s Tutorials

iMovie is a free video editing software developed by Apple and it’s available on macOS and iOS devices. Its inception dates back to 1999, and over the years, it has become a well-known software and a popular choice among users.

Apple understands that not all individuals who create videos possess video editing skills, and some may even have no experience at all. For this reason, iMovie is developed as a user-friendly video editing program that can be utilized by the masses to create high-quality videos.

My name is Nancy and I’m a content strategist. I have a real passion for storytelling and creating visually captivating content. When it comes to making simple videos for social media, I’ve been using iMovie for several years now. iMovie was actually the first video editing program I ever used, and I’ve become quite familiar with it by experimenting and staying up to date with its latest updates.

In this post, I’m going to provide a comprehensive overview of iMovie’s essential tools and functions. You will learn everything you need to know to start your first project with confidence. Whether you’re new to video editing or just starting out with iMovie, this guide is designed to help you get started easily.

Chapter 1: Is iMovie Right for You?

Before getting into further details about using iMovie, it’s important to consider whether this video editing program is suitable for your needs. Although it comes pre-installed on all macOS and iOS devices, it may not meet the requirements of all users. It’s a good idea to ask yourself a few questions to determine if it’s the right fit for your needs:

  • What kind of videos do I want to create using iMovie?
  • What are the desired features I am looking for in a video editing software?
  • How much time and effort am I willing to put into learning iMovie’s features and tools?

iMovie offers a range of powerful tools and features that allow users to create amazing videos. However, if you are looking to create videos with advanced color grading tools and motion graphics, iMovie may not be the most suitable option. Other video editing programs like Final Cut Pro or Davinci Resolve may be worth considering since they are designed for professional-grade video editing.

Furthermore, it’s important to note if your operating system is compatible with iMovie. iMovie is exclusively available for Mac computers and is not compatible with Windows PCs. If you are using Windows, there are many iMovie alternatives that you can use instead.

Learning new software can be a time-consuming process, which is why it’s important to have a clear understanding of your goals before investing your time and effort into any video editing software. This will help ensure that the software you choose is worth your investment of time and energy.

Chapter 2: Getting Started with iMovie

If you don’t have iMovie installed on your computer, it’s available to download for free in the App Store or from the Apple website. However, in order to install the latest version of iMovie 10.3.5, you must have macOS 11.5.1 or a newer version installed on your computer. 

When you first launch iMovie, it will automatically open in the Projects view. To start a new movie project, simply click on the “Create New” button and then select “Movie“. The main menu can be found in the top bar, while the browser menu provides access to your media files, titles, backgrounds, and transitions.

The viewer section is where you’ll find all the editing tools. They’re located at the top of the screen, and you can use them to adjust different video settings, such as color, speed, and volume. You can also add visual and audio effects, and crop video clips if you need to. 

On the bottom viewer, you’ll find a set of control buttons that allow you to play, pause, and skip through your video. You’ll also find a button for recording a voiceover, which can be handy if you want to add some narration to your project. If you want to view your video in fullscreen mode, there’s a button for that too.

At the bottom of the screen, you’ll find the timeline, which is where you can add and arrange your media clips, including videos, pictures, and audio tracks. You’ll be doing most of your editing in the timeline and there are several ways to edit your clips, which we’ll cover in more detail in later chapters.

Whenever you create a new project in iMovie, it will be automatically saved in the Projects view. To access your saved projects, simply click on the Projects back button located on the left side of the toolbar. Next to each project name, you’ll see a button with three dots that opens a menu of options to manage your project. 

You can choose to open, duplicate, rename, share, or delete a project, depending on your needs. These options make it easy for you to keep your projects organized and to access them quickly whenever you need to make changes or share them with others.

Chapter 3: Importing Media

To begin creating a new project in iMovie, you’ll need to import your media files. To do this, simply click on the large Import Media button in the browser window. You can import a variety of media files such as video, audio clips, and photos from your Mac. You can also transfer media files to your Mac from an external storage device or an Apple device like an iPhone or iPad.

Once you import your media files, you will find them in the browser and iMovie Library tab located in the sidebar. The media files you import for each project are organized within Events.

Each Event serves as a container that holds the collection of video clips, photos, and other media specific to that particular project and based on the date and time the video footage was imported. This organization system keeps everything in order and makes it easy to find and use the media files you need for your project.

When you import music files into iMovie, they will appear in a green color with a waveform display, but unfortunately, you won’t be able to see their file names. Don’t worry though, you can easily preview each piece of music by playing it directly from the media browser before adding it to your project.

When you want to add a media clip to your project, you can easily drag and drop it into the timeline. If you want to insert a video clip into a specific point in the timeline, you can click on the clip in the browser, go to the Edit menu, and choose the Insert option. This will add the clip to the timeline at the position where the playhead is currently located.

To add background music, simply drag the audio clip to the background music well located below your video clips.

Chapter 4: Basic Editing Techniques

When you’re editing your video in iMovie, you’ll use two of the most basic editing techniques: trimming and splitting clips.

Trimming allows you to adjust the duration of a clip more precisely. You can use the Clip Trimmer and the Trim Selection tool to trim a clip. If you only need to make small adjustments to the beginning or end of a clip, you can just drag the edges toward the center to trim it.

If you want to remove a part of a clip, you will usually need to split it into two parts first. To do this, just move the playhead to the point where you want to make the cut and then press Command + B on your keyboard. This will split the clip into two sections, which you can then delete or rearrange on the timeline as needed.

To make your video more visually appealing, you can add transitions between split clips to smoothly transition from one scene to another.

But, if you later decide you want to merge your split clips back together, select both clips, click on the Modify tab, and choose Join Clips. It’s worth noting that you can only join clips that have previously been split.

You can try the split screen effect if you want to merge video clips into one. This effect allows you to overlay two video clips in the same frame, so they can play at the same time. There isn’t a specific tool to merge clips together, but the split screen effect can be a great option to achieve this.

If you want to use a clip again in another part of your movie, you can make a copy of it. To duplicate a clip in iMovie quickly, press Command + C to copy the clip, and then Command + V to paste it.

Chapter 5: Audio Editing

There are various audio controls and settings you can utilize when it comes to editing your audio clips. These controls help to change the volume, speed, and reduce the noise.

To adjust the volume of a clip in iMovie, you can do it right in the timeline. Just press and hold the volume control, which is a horizontal line that runs across the audio waveform, and drag it up or down to raise or lower the volume. As you make changes, you’ll see the shape and color of the waveform change, and the percentage value of the volume adjustment will be displayed.

If you want to create a smooth audio transition, adding a fade is a great option. Fading out music means gradually decreasing the volume from its maximum level to silence, which creates a natural-sounding ending. You can adjust the fade handles at the beginning and end of the audio clip. 

iMovie offers a range of audio effects and equalizer presets that you can use to improve the sound quality of your movie clips. 

Furthermore, if you need some free sound effects, the Audio and Video tab has got you covered. You’ll find a variety of sound effects organized into different folders based on a theme, which makes it easy to find and add the perfect sound to your project.

Adding background music can add an extra dimension to your movie. Background music plays along with the audio recorded in your video, as well as any sound effects or voiceovers you add to your movie. 

The best part is that audio added as background music is edited separately in its own section of the timeline. This means that any edits made to other clips in your movie won’t affect the background music.

Chapter 6: Adding Titles and Captions

Adding text to your movie can only be done by using the Titles feature. There are over 50 title styles and each style has its own layout and animation, with text positioned at the top, middle, or bottom of the screen. Whether you want to add titles, captions, or credits, there’s a style that fits your needs.

There is also an option to add characters such as emojis and arrows to your text box which can be found in the Font settings under the additional customization options.

The Title Settings allows you to adjust the font style, size, color, alignment, and even make the text bold, italicized, or outlined. One thing to keep in mind is that you can not freely move the text box around within the frame in iMovie. Instead, you can only rearrange the text clip from the timeline, not within the viewer.

Adding captions and subtitles to your videos is essential for making your content inclusive and accessible to everyone. For subtitles, it’s best to use a simple and straightforward title style, such as the Lower title style. It’s important to avoid using title styles with distracting animations at the beginning of each text clip, as this can make it difficult for the audience to read the subtitles.

Subtitles and captions are usually shown one line at a time at the bottom of the video, so you’ll have to create a new text box for each phrase or sentence. You’ll also need to adjust the duration of each text clip to synchronize with the voiceover.

Chapter 7: Visual Effects and Transitions

iMovie has a great selection of over 20 standard transitions that you can use to create smooth and seamless flow between clips. You can set iMovie to add transitions automatically, or if you prefer, you can add transitions manually by simply dragging them between two clips in the timeline.

If you want to apply the same type and duration of transition to all other transitions in your movie, simply double-click on a transition in the timeline, and in the transition controls, click on Apply to All. This will apply the chosen transition settings to all other transitions in your movie.

You can easily adjust the color of your clips using the Color Balance and Color Correction buttons located in the editor toolbar. These tools are great for fixing color imbalances, matching the color of one clip to another, and manually adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation, and color temperature. You can make these simple color adjustments by playing around with the settings until you achieve your desired effect.

Adding filters is a great way to enhance your movie and give it a unique look. Filters can add warmth or coolness to your footage, create artistic effects, or even give your movie a cinematic feel. To add a filter to your clip, simply select it in the browser or timeline and click on the Clip Filter and Audio Effects button. From there, you can choose one of the 24 clip filters available and adjust the strength of the filter using a slider located next to its name.

When it comes to creating a recognizable style and maintaining consistency in your photos, using filters can be a game-changer. It not only helps in building your brand identity but also saves time while editing your clips. With filters, you can quickly apply a consistent look to your clips, rather than spending time on individual edits. This can help you establish a visual style that resonates with your audience and helps you stand out from the crowd.

Chapter 8: Advanced Editing Techniques

When creating a video in iMovie, the default aspect ratio is 16:9, which is the standard widescreen format (landscape mode) for most video content. Social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram use a vertical format with an aspect ratio of 9:16. 

However, iMovie doesn’t have a feature to directly change the aspect ratio of your movie inside the software. But you can change the aspect ratio by cropping your video in the browser before adding it to the project timeline.

To do this, select the Cropping tool and adjust the cropping box to fit the area of the video you want to keep. Then, rotate the video clip clockwise and export it as it is. You can then use another video player like Quicktime Player to rotate the video into portrait mode. This will give your video the desired aspect ratio for social media platforms that use the vertical format.

When you want to emphasize particular elements or actions in a video and communicate a specific message to your audience, zooming in and out is a powerful storytelling technique that you can use. 

The Ken Burns effect is a great tool for achieving this effect because it can make it appear as if the camera is zooming in or out of a video clip or photo, which can help emphasize certain elements and convey specific emotions or messages to your viewers. 

Whether you’re looking to highlight product features, build suspense, or add an artistic touch, the Ken Burns effect is definitely worth exploring in your video editing process.

To create video content with a video overlay, where two clips play at the same time, such as in podcasts, sports replays, or product reviews, you can use the Picture and Picture effect. You can find this effect under the Video Overlay Settings in iMovie. 

To use this effect, you’ll need to stack one video clip on top of another in the timeline, which will activate the overlays feature and enable you to create the effect. The overlay video or image is typically positioned in a corner of the screen and is smaller in size to avoid disrupting the main video.

Chapter 9: Sharing and Exporting

Once you’re finished editing your movie, it’s time to share it with the world. When you export your video project in iMovie, it will be saved in either MOV or MP4 format.

MOV files are specifically designed for Apple devices and can be played using QuickTime Player. If you choose the highest quality option Best (ProRes), iMovie will automatically save your video as a MOV file. Keep in mind that not all media programs can support MOV files, so you may need to convert them to MP4 format before sharing your video on other platforms.

In my opinion, it’s best to save your video as an MP4 format. MP4 files are generally smaller in size, which means they take up less storage space. This can make uploading and downloading your videos faster and more convenient, especially when sharing them online.

All of your iMovie project files are stored in a folder called “iMovie Library” on your Mac. So if you ever delete or uninstall iMovie from your computer, or even update to the latest version of iMovie, your iMovie Library and media files will still be safe and sound. 

That being said, it’s always a good idea to back up your project files by moving them to different locations. This will help prevent any potential data loss in case of any computer mishaps. So, make sure to create a backup of your project files and store them in a safe place like an external hard drive or cloud storage like Google Drive or iCloud.

Chapter 10: Troubleshooting

iMovie is an easy-to-use program, but like with any software, you may run into some problems. Sometimes these issues can be related to technical problems with your Mac or because you’re still getting familiar with using iMovie.

If you’re having trouble saving your projects, it could be because your Mac doesn’t have enough storage space. You might need to delete any apps, files, or media you don’t need to free up some disk space.

A few easy ways to troubleshoot within iMovie in order to free up space is by deleting old projects, library events, and render files. You can also check if your Mac meets the system requirements for iMovie on their website. 

For instance, if you want to install the latest version of iMovie 10.3.5, you’ll need to have macOS 11.5.1 or a newer version installed on your computer.

If you encounter issues relating to sharing your videos via Email, Facebook, or Youtube, they can be impacted by various internet-related problems such as having a weak Wi-Fi signal or a slow internet connection. There are various ways to fix these and you may need to do them before trying to upload your video online.

The iMovie User Guide is a great resource to help you learn how to use various tools and features within iMovie. You can easily access it by clicking on the Help menu in iMovie. It’s always a good idea to check the user guide before diving into a new feature or tool to make sure you understand how it works.

Once you’ve tried any of these suggestions, it’s important to remember that resetting the app or your Mac can often be the easiest and most effective fix.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations on completing this guide to using iMovie! Remember, there is always a learning curve with new tools, but the more you practice, the better you will become. Don’t be afraid to explore the program and try out new features.

If you want to further develop your video editing skills, check out our more comprehensive articles on iMovie that cover a range of topics, from basic editing techniques to advanced features. These resources can help you expand your knowledge and create even more amazing videos. With dedication and practice, you’ll be creating amazing videos in no time!

Do you have other tips, suggestions, or advice for beginners on using iMovie? Let me know in the comments below.

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