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Unlocking iMovie '09 & '11

So, there I was, just meandering through the iMovie '08 preferences settings when I saw it, almost glowing at the bottom of the window:

Eureka! Could it be that all of the complaints about iMovie '08 were just one big misunderstanding? Would checking this box enable a timeline, the rubber band, and all the other missing editing features in one fell swoop? The whole world seemed to take a deep breath as I checked the box...

They weren't there...


In spite of that major letdown, I have come to appreciate the value of these tools. It's true that calling them advanced is something like calling alphabetical filing "advanced" in comparison with shoving everything in a drawer. Still, I like using them and they make editing easier when you have a lot of footage. Here is how to use the advanced editing tools.

I can only blame myself for getting so excited about that little checkbox. It clearly says (in tiny little type) that it enables the "dual mode toolbar, keyword controls, and direct trimming." And that's it. Oh well. We'll just go through each of these tools and show you how they work.

Preface: The Single Mode Toolbar
Before you ever enable the advanced editing tools, there is a lot the toolbar can already do. This is what the non-advanced toolbar looks like:

I will ignore the four buttons on the right for the purposes of this post. The four buttons on the left have different effects on the footage in your Event Browser.

The first button, the edit button, is essentially an alternative to dragging clips into your project. If you select a range of footage in your Event Browser, clicking this button will add the footage to the end of your project.
You can get the same result by pressing "E" on your keyboard. Once footage is in your project, the corresponding footage in the Event Browser will show an orange line running along the bottom.

The second button, the solid star, marks the selected footage in your Event Browser as a favorite. Fav-ed footage will have a green line running across the top. Hitting the "F" key will do the same as clicking the Favorite button. This editing tool is especially useful if you have a lot of footage to sort through, footage you may not want to use but don't want to delete entirely.

The fourth button (yes, I know I skipped the third one) with the big X is the Reject button. This is not for marking footage involving your deadbeat brother-in-law. Instead, this button is for getting rid of footage you never intend to use. (So maybe it is for your deadbeat brother-in-law.) The letter "R" or Delete key on your keyboard are alternatives to this button. Rejected footage has a red line running along the top. Rather than getting into the Reject button's further uses, I am going to refer you to another How To:

How to delete a video clip

The third button
with the empty star (see, I knew what I was doing) is the Unmark button. If you have marked Event Browser footage as a Reject or a Favorite, this button clears that away. The letter "U" will also unmark footage.

These tools beat out anything that iMovie HD had to offer in terms of sorting footage. But their power isn't limited to making little lines across your footage. In the bottom left corner of the iMovie window, you will notice this:

That pull-down menu allows you to restrict the footage you see in your Event Browser. You can see only favorite footage. You can see favorite and unmarked footage, which is another way of saying that you don't want to see rejected footage. Or you can see only the rejected footage. You can also select these different options in the View menu. There is no way to see only footage that is in your project, presumably because you can already see that footage in your project, but I hope Apple adds this view in the future because I can think of situations where it would be useful, like making changes to all of a project's source footage for use in another project.

Ready for the final cool trick? If you have one long clip with only some of it marked, you can automatically select just the marked footage by clicking on the color bar in the clip. This makes selecting marked footage a piece of cake and was a nice touch by Apple.

All of your footage markings will stay in place no matter what project you are editing, with the obvious exception that footage marked with the orange line will differ from project to project. I think it would be very cool to have project-specific favorites, but I can see how this behavior could be confusing to a user who thinks favorite footage is always a favorite. Despite that minor complaint, all of these marking tools work pretty well. And so they should, when you consider that quick sorting and editing is the central design theme behind iMovie '08.

Part I: The Dual Mode Toolbar
So all of those marking tools are available without ever enabling the Advanced Editing Tools in the preferences. Enabling them turns the marking tools up a notch with "dual mode." The advanced editing toolbar looks like this:

You'll notice two additional buttons. The key button is for keywords and will be addressed below. The arrow button is just for enabling the normal selection behavior you have already become accustomed to. This button can also be enabled with the Escape key on your keyboard.

So what is dual mode? It is basically a way to mark and edit footage by simply dragging the mouse. Think of it as a set of footage highlighters. The orange highlighter will add the footage to your project. The green one will mark it as a favorite. The red one will reject it. You also have your highlight eraser to remove red and green marks. To test this out, make sure no footage is selected in the Event Browser and click the "Favorite" button. You still scrub like normal with your mouse, but if you hold down the mouse button as you scrub, the footage you drag over will be highlighted green. Let go of the mouse button and the green line remains along the top of that footage. The "Edit", "Unmark", and "Reject" buttons all work the same way. In fact, if you really want to maximize the editing speed of iMovie '08, using the "Edit" tool in dual mode is scary-fast. Welcome to the new iMovie.

As mentioned above, you can always return to the normal clip selection behavior by hitting the escape key or clicking the arrow button. The other marking tools will work like normal as long as the arrow button is selected. Dual mode does take a little practice, especially if you are still getting accustomed to scrubbing in iMovie '08. With a little practice, however, the dual mode toolbar is worth keeping enabled all the time.

Part II: Keywording
For you grammar buffs, "keywording" is a word now. After all, Apple has added "keywording controls" to iMovie '08. This takes your marking tools to a whole new level. If you click the key button in the advanced mode toolbar, you will get this floating window:

This is where you can mark up footage with specific words or phrases of your choosing. For example, say you wanted to identify all footage that contains an annoyingly exuberant soccer mom, you could add "soccer mom" to your list of keywords and mark all footage with her in it. It's footage you don't necessarily want to reject, but it certainly isn't your favorite. This is where keywords help.

Enough of the concept. How do these actually work? You'll notice in the aforementioned window that there is an "Auto-apply" tab and an "Inspector" tab. The "Auto-apply" tab works just like our highlighter versions of the other markup tools. You select the keywords you want to apply and click-drag to highlight the appropriate footage. If you want to add keywords to your list, you enter them into the text field at the bottom of the "Keywords" window.

The "Inspector" tab only works if you have already selected a stretch of footage. If you have some footage selected, it will show you what keywords have been applied to that footage and allow you to add more keywords by checking boxes or typing in the text field at the bottom of the "Keywords" window. Whether you added keywords with the "Auto-apply" tab or the "Inspector" tab, all footage with keywords applied will have a blue bar running across the top, but just under where the green favorites and red reject bars are found. This clip has a green, a blue, and an orange bar showing it is a favorite, has a keyword, and is used in my project.

Also notice that while you cannot mark clips in your project as favorites or rejects, you can mark project clips with keywords. Doing this will also mark the corresponding footage in the event browser with the same keywords. (Remember, iMovie '08 works by referencing source footage instead of making copies of it. This is why a keyword applied in your project will also be applied to the source footage.)

You can easily see which keywords have been applied to which clips by enabling "Playhead Info" in the View menu.

Now when you scrub, it will not only show the footage timestamp, but it will also show any keywords that have been applied to that footage.

Now for the really useful part. Once you have applied keywords to various lengths of footage, you can tell iMovie to only show footage that has been marked with a specific keyword. You do this by clicking on the new magnifying glass button that showed up in the bottom left corner of your iMovie window when you enabled the advanced editing tools.

This button opens a pane in your Event Browser that lists all your keywords and allows you to show all clips with matching keywords, to not show all clips with matching keywords, or to show or not show clips with any single one of the matching keywords. This is powerful stuff for a video editor.

Two more cool little tricks before we finish discussing keywords. In the "Keywords" floating window, you may have noticed numbers next to each keyword. You can tag clips more quickly by just typing the numbers that correspond with the proper keyword. Even cooler, if you press the number Zero on your keyboard, it will clear all keywords from the selected footage. The other cool trick is that you can organize your keywords in whatever order you want by dragging the words inside the "Keywords" floating window. Notice that the number shortcuts will always be in order, no matter how you reorder your keywords.

Part III: Direct Trimming
We have discussed trimming before in the post on making frame-precise edits.

How to make frame-precise edits

This is something you can throw in your little bag of tricks for future editing purposes. Once the advanced editing tools have been enabled, you will find a new set of tiny icons showing up on project clips as you scrub through them. They are little arrows with a "+" next to them and show up in the lower corners of a clip.

By default, clicking on these plus-arrows will add one second of source footage to the beginning or end of a clip, depending on which arrow you click. If one second is too much or too little, you can change the time each click will add by adjusting the slider in the iMovie preferences titled "Extend buttons add:"

You can set the arrows to add anywhere from a half second to five seconds per click, all in half second increments.

Apple Programmers: If you are reading this, I have a feature request. Because frame-precise edits are still a bit of a challenge in this interface, these buttons would be incredibly useful if they could be set to add or subtract just a frame at a time. I don't think this is too much to ask. I'll be really good!

Conclusion: When "advanced" really means "organized"

So the advanced editing tools are more about efficient and convenient organization than anything else. I am okay with that, in spite of having my hopes of iMovie HD features pulverized like my kids sidewalk chalk under a car tire. They are useful tools, so I can forgive them their little teasings. Let's just hope that the truly advanced tools in iMovie HD show up in the near future.

7 comments: to “ How to use the advanced editing tools

  • Kenneth
    August 25, 2007 at 11:15 AM  

    Aaron, I just stumbled upon and read through your entire blog after launching iMovie 08 for the first time. Thanks so much for the work you've put into identifying iMovie 08 pitfalls and workarounds! I work in a multimedia studio where we have range of users, from FCP experts to first-time iMovie users, so I know your workarounds will come in handy when I need to troubleshoot someone else's project as well as my own! Keep up the good work! =]

  • Aaron
    August 27, 2007 at 7:08 PM  

    Glad to know it will be useful!

  • k
    September 7, 2007 at 12:38 PM  

    I haven't read the entire blog, I have to admit - but I use it like a Help, since apple hasn't seen fit to answer some questions that just about any user will find to ask.

    What have you learned about editing the playhead info? FOr some reason, my camera has misdated some of my vid, and I feel the need to correct that. Is there access to that info?

  • Greg Pinkston
    October 7, 2007 at 3:44 AM  

    I'd just like to add another compliment to the list... I found this blog through Google and have now read almost the entire thing... and bookmarked it for easy reference. This is great information, especially for someone like me who is new to iMovie. Does anyone know of other blogs like this for any of the other iLife apps?

  • C&H
    December 19, 2007 at 4:04 PM  

    Aaron, Thank you for the very helpful info. I'm trying to get a Christmas DVD done and should have just used iMovie HD 6.0.3 on my old computer (but couldn't resist my new iMac 24" screen)... So if you can help me with this I will be SO grateful. I've figured out the Keyword thing and how to view clips with the same Keywords, BUT I can't figure out an easy way to rearrange my clips for the final project. When I search for Keywords I want and then, using the magnifying glass tool, see them--I've tried to select those clips and drag them to my project and I always hang and eventually have to force quit. Is there an easier way? Basically I want to arrange my project by a series of Keywords (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.), but there are 4-5 clips for each Keyword...

  • Nick
    July 29, 2010 at 2:34 PM  

    Hey man - I'm using a 3-year old Macbook, so I'm still stuck in the terrifying world that is iMovie 08 (ugh). However, this blog is a great tool to help me figure things out and work around certain 08 faults...sooo thanks!

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    October 4, 2011 at 10:40 AM  

    Great help! I've just recently begun using iMovie '09, and while it's the easiest video editing software I've ever found, it has definitely left precious little space on my hard drive (I guess 100GB hard drives just don't cut it anymore!)
    Going through and actually deleting all the rejected clips has freed up sooo much needed space.
    Just found your site. Love it. Bookmarked it and plan on being back often.
    Thanks much!