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Unlocking iMovie '09 & '11

Although the newest iMovie audio features are great, some of you may still want access to the rubberband tool. Reader William Pytlik, like many, finds GarageBand cumbersome for simple audio edits. He passed on the following advice for using iMovieHD to edit audio instead of GarageBand:

To me the most significant issue with iMovie 08 is lack of manipulating multiple sound tracks. My solution is somewhat time consuming, but it does work.

I first create my video project in iMovie 08 and export it (under Share). This creates a .m4v file. I then import this file into iMovieHD -- drag and drop does not work here -- use File then Import... I really don't care about quality of the video since all I'm looking for is to be able to edit audio against a timeline.

I create the sound track using the iMovieHD capabilities and export the soundtrack ( not the video) using File, Export... Compress Movie for: Expert Settings, Share, Export: Sound to AIFF. The .aif file can be dragged and dropped (it works here) into the Project window. Obviously one should wait as long as possible to do this because changes to the video may require that the audio be changed as well.

Hallelujah! Apple has substantially updated iMovie. Here is a full list of improvements:

iMovie 7.1

There are quite a lot of improvements, including multiple clip selection, manual audio fades, and still frame creation. I will be covering the improvements over the next week here on Unlocking.

PS - You are best off updating through Software Update. If you need to use the standalone updater, be sure to upgrade all of your other iLife applications as well. There is also an iLife update that you need to run before updating iMovie.

(Warning: If you use this tip, be sure not to use it on clips that have already been added to a project. This tip changes the names of clips, which will break projects that use them. Thanks to Mgarbowski for sharing this in the comments below.)

If you have old analog footage you want to import into iMovie, there are a lot of options for doing so. Most import methods work like MiniDV cameras, where you import the footage directly into iMovie. The problem is that analog footage imported this way doesn't come with timecodes that tell iMovie when the footage was filmed. As a result, iMovie assumes the date of the footage is the current date.

This makes for a confusing Event library. If you view your footage by date, the stuff you really filmed in 1994 actually shows up as being from 2007. iMovie doesn't provide an easy way to change this. But there is a way, and it doesn't require you to change creation dates in the Terminal, or other complicated procedures. It just involves changing some file names. Here is how you change the date of DV event footage.

The Basics
Although MiniDV footage has a timecode embedded in the file, iMovie uses filenames to organize footage by date. (This is because iMovie is creating new files when it imports DV footage, not copying existing files off of a camera. Other cameras' footage is sorted by the creation date of the files stored on the camera. I explain this more at the bottom of this post.) Presumably, when iMovie imports footage it looks for a timecode. If one exists, it names the imported DV clip with the timecode. If an embedded timecode doesn't exist--like with analog footage--it will use the current date to name the footage. Here is a list of some timecode-named clips

Here is where the footage exists in the Event library.

Because iMovie uses the names to evaluate the dates of the footage, this means that if you just change the names of footage to reflect the correct date, iMovie will change the date it uses to display the footage in the Event library.

Here is our list of clips again, but the dates were all changed to 1908.

Here is how they appear now in iMovie.

Everytime your change the names, iMovie will regenerate the thumbnails for the newly named footage. It doesn't delete the old thumbnail files, but you can delete the old ones yourself. They reside in the iMovie Thumbnails folder inside a given event folder. You can delete all of the thumbnails that use the old names you changed.

Other interesting behavior occurs if you have multiple dates in a single event. iMovie will group them into the year of the most recent footage. If I have footage from 1908 and 2006 in the same event, they will be listed under 2006.

Here is the renamed footage.

Here is how it appears in iMovie. Notice the date range listed under the clips.

If you split this event using the "Split Event Before Selected Clip option in the File menu--one event for the 1908 footage and one for the 2006 footage--iMovie will then display them under the proper years, respectively.

The Code
The timecode names are easy to interpret. Here is what a sample filename means:

clip-2006-07-15 19;19;56.dv

The "clip-" is just part of the naming convention, and doesn't effect the name.

The "2006" refers to the year.

The "07" refers to the month.

The "15" refers to the day.

The 19;19;56 refers to the hour, minute, and second of the footage's beginning.

To change the name, just select the file in the Finder and hit enter. The text of the name will be highlighted and ready for your to change to the date you see fit.

The Exception
This entire description works with DV footage, but I can't speak for other video formats as I don't have a wide range of cameras to play with. I do know that iMovie uses the file creation date for clips downloaded from still cameras. Replacing a name like "MVI_0186.AVI" with a timecode name like "clip-2006-07-15 19;19;56.AVI" doesn't change the date of the footage in the Event library. Still, footage like this may not need to have its date changed. I imagine that changing the creation date with some advanced tools would have the desired effect, but that is another topic for another day...

New feature time! We have How To's (the long ones) and Quick Tips (the short ones) but we need another category. See, I have a list of reader-contributed tips that deserve sharing. To make sure no one thinks I came up with these great tips, we are giving them their own category. I'll be posting more of these over the coming weeks and months.

The tip today comes from Karel Gillissen. He figured out that you can add images over top of video clips. Mix in some transparency, and you get masks!

Karel has taken his tip to a whole new level and posted videos of how the process works. To keep his .Mac account from getting kicked too hard, I have posted his walkthrough below. He shows how he creates the mask using Photoshop Elements, then how he adds it over top of a video clip. (Just drag and drop! I love it!) Check it out, because this is a very cool trick.

Karel then shows us that with video masks you can do all kinds of cool things. Duck hunt, anyone?

Titles work really well in iMovie '08. Previous versions of iMovie had to render titles when you added them, taking a lot more time than the instant placement you get in '08. But there is more to iMovie '08 titles than just the speed.

Moving titles
First, you can place titles wherever you want in your movie with pinpoint accuracy. Once a title has been placed in your movie--represented by a blue flag running above your clip, you can drag that title to any point in the movie. This is even true of titles "over black". In iMovie HD, you'd have to split a clip at the point you wanted a title to enter, then add the title to the second half of the split clip.

Lengthening titles
Another really nice feature of '08 is the ability to lengthen or shorten a title quickly. Simply grab the end of a blue title flag by clicking on the end with your mouse and drag the title to lengthen or shorten it. In iMovie HD, you'd have to select the rendered title footage and readjust and rerender the title, guessing at the right length with each render. This new way is much faster and easier.

Spanning titles

By either moving a title or lengthening a title, you can get a title to stretch across multiple clips. In the case of lengthening, you'll notice that you can drag the end so it runs across as many clips as you like, with no rendering! (You just can't span a title across another title.) Very handy and much faster and more accurate than iMovie HD.

The full screen preview in iMovie '08 is excellent. Here are a few quick tips on drawing out all of its power.

You can enter full screen mode either by selecting the "Play Full Screen" from the View menu, or by clicking the full screen button below your project or event footage.

The button you want is the darkened rectangle with the arrow inside it. There are two of these, one under your project and the other under your Event Browser.

Once you are in full screen mode, you will immediately notice that if you move your mouse around, a clip navigation shows up across the bottom of the screen.
(Click to enlarge.)

This navigation bar will ignore your mouse movements until you click on it. Once you have clicked on it, dragging your mouse across the bar will scrub just like it does when in the normal iMovie window.

If you have scrubbed to a given point in full screen mode, and want to begin normal playback from that point, just hit the space bar. (Clicking a second time on the navigation bar does not disable the scrubbing ability.) Alternatively, you can move your mouse cursor straight up so it no longer runs across the clips in the navigation bar, then move your cursor over to click the play button.

One other really nice feature is being able to restrict full screen playback to the correct resolution of your footage. Because most of us are editing footage that is lower resolution than our computer displays, a full screen preview will make your footage look worse because it upscales it to fill the screen. If you want to see what your footage looks like in its natural dimensions, go into the iMovie preferences and select "Actual Size" from the drop-down menu selecting full screen playback size.

Now your footage will display at its actual quality.

The more I delve into iMovie '08, the more hidden gems I find. If you have found any hidden gems, please send them my way or share them in the comments.

This one is Back in Action. Ignore everything below and go here.

Time for another MIA. I actually get Google traffic on this issue, so I figured I'd do my civic duty and give those people a quick answer: You cannot select multiple clips in iMovie '08. You can select an entire clip and a subset of a clip, but multiple clips are out.

What do you do if you have a lot of individual clips to add to a project? Here's a handy way, the fastest way I know to add clips to a project.

1. Enable the advanced editing tools in the preferences. (I describe those tools in this post: How to use the advanced editing tools.)
2. Select the "Edit" tool in the middle toolbar. It looks like a page with a star in it.
3. Option-click all the clips you want to add to your project.

Like magic, all the clips you click will be added with each click. Be warned that this is really super fast. You might end up adding footage you don't want in your project, especially because it will add an entire clip, even if it's two hours long. (Heck, that's what Undo is for.) If you were in the habit in iMovie HD of Shift-clicking clips and dropping them all together into your project, this is just as fast. We'll see more of the Option key in an upcoming Quick Tip.

Love it or hate it, the iMovie HD interface was always the same. The preview window was always large, often larger than necessary. The clips pane was always three clips wide, which meant for a lot of scrolling if you had too many clips. If you had a large project in your timeline, the only way to see it all was to shrink it to the point it was useless to try to make accurate edits to it.

The funny thing is, I thought I loved it. I always knew where I was and what I was doing. The reality is, I just didn't know things could be different, or, for that matter, better. When I first got into the iMovie '08 interface I felt like someone moved all the rooms around in my house. Just like how I can stumble into the bathroom in the middle of the night, I could move around in iMovie HD without putting much thought into it. In iMovie '08, I was stumbling into walls.

Then I started playing around, and that's when it hit me: I can put stuff just about wherever I want it. It's like moving the door to the bathroom right next to my bed (or even better, next to my three-year-old's bed) then putting it back when I am done. Talk about power. Here is how you customize your interface.

There are going to be a lot of full-size window captures for this one, so when you see an iMovie window, click on it to get the full view.

The default
This window is what most of you are now seeing in iMovie '08:

This really isn't a bad way to start. What you should notice if you are coming from iMovie HD is that your preview window is really small, much smaller than you are accustomed to. But think about it, did you really need to see your footage that closely? Probably not, especially because there was always the full screen preview. (It was like ordering food in America. "Did you want that extra large or super extra large?") When scrubbing through your rough footage, smaller is better because...

Now you can see more of your footage at once. Notice how the Event Browser takes up a full two thirds of the window. All the more room to see where you have been and where you am going. This isn't a big deal if you have twenty minutes of footage, but what if you have 300 minutes? It makes a lot more sense to have your rough footage get the lion's share of window real estate, for now at least. Sure the project window is small as a result, but it's big enough for me to drop footage into. At the start of making my movie, that is all I need it to do.

Trading Places
So what happens when my project is getting too big for comfort? Editing a large movie in something the size of a playing card only invites frustration. There are two ways to deal with this.

If I am the kind of person that always wanted timelines to run vertically--so I can feel like I am skydiving--I can just drag on any part of the middle toolbar not occupied by a button or slider and drag that bar downward. (I could also drag it upward if I wanted more room for my source footage.) Dragging the toolbar gives me this:

Probably not the improvement you were hoping for. Method number two of granting more real estate to your project will get the job done much better. On the middle toolbar, you will see a button with facing, curved arrows. Go ahead and give it a click.

Voila. Now all that space that was dedicated to your Event Browser appears to be not so dedicated. This is the kind of room you can really use to dig into your project with transitions, additional edits, and audio tracks.

This space becomes even more useful if you use the "Trim..." feature to re-edit clips within your project. All of this and a cool animation to boot. (Can't get enough of watching your project flushed to the bottom of the window? Hold down the Shift key while you click the button. Slo-mo!)

Now you see it...
There is even more room to capture, for either my project or my source footage. What's up with those lists, either my project list or my events list? If everything I want is in a single event, and the only place it's going is into a single project, then why keep those lists in view? Click the little star-page button below either your events list or your project list.

Ahhhhhhh. Now we can really stretch out.

Of course, the same buttons will bring your lists back.

When things are big that should be small*
So what if something is big and you want it smaller? What if something is small, and you want it bigger? Let's make it happen.

The preview window, or "viewer", can be resized two ways. You probably noticed that dragging the middle bar will resize it up or down. You can also select "Viewer" in the Window menu and choose between small, medium, and large. (You can also use the Command key with "5", "6", or "7" to the same effect.)

If your clip thumbnails are too small or too big, the slider in the middle toolbar will resize them to your liking.

You can have big thumbnails,

Or itty-bitty ones.

Tiny ones obviously help you see your whole project better. Big ones will help you find the particular point in your footage more easily. The size to which you set your clips will be reflected in the print-out if you decide to print them. ("Print?" Yes, you can print.)

Finally, if the fonts in your project or events lists are too small, you can make them bigger in the iMovie preferences.

(* You earned bonus points if you knew that this section's title comes from a Jamiroquai song.)

Set it, but don't forget it.

You may be a creature of habit, but don't be needlessly stuck in just one way to view your movies. iMovie '08 wants you to shift it, swap it, and twist it around to suit the task at hand. Put this flexibility to good use by being flexible yourself. In then end, it will probably save you time and sore eyes.

I have come to realize that Unlocking needs a new feature: Missing in Action. People often come to the blog looking for a particular feature in iMovie '08 that they were used to using in iMovie HD. While I try to be very creative in finding workarounds for most features, there are a handful that are not at all possible in iMovie '08 (yet).

Today's MIA is exporting to camera. You cannot use iMovie '08 to export to a camera. I imagine this has a lot to do with the much broader camera support in iMovie '08 (a good thing!) as exporting to all of these different cameras may not even be supported across the board. Perhaps the techies-in-the-know can enlighten the rest of us in the comments.

As always, when you want a feature not currently available in iMovie '08, give Apple your feedback!