How to use iMovie – The Basics of Video Editing

Hello everybody! If you saw my last post about Dim Harold, you’ll know that I like video editing and making videos. When I started my YouTube Channel this year, I needed a way to edit my videos. I found the best app I could get — iMovie. It’s free for Apple devices, and it has no watermark. You are able to do many things with it. When you create a project, you create an event. You are able to access all files from all events in one window. You are even able to access your photos in the Apple Photos App. You are also able to add audio. iMovie comes with lots of sound effects and songs, but you can also add your own audio. This audio can come from your Music app or GarageBand if you use it. Also, you can add text to your video in many styles, colors, fonts, and effects. Another major thing you could use if you like using green screens is the backgrounds section. This has many backgrounds from solid colors to curtains and oceans. Another thing in iMovie that I use a lot are transitions, like fading from one clip to another, or a page flip. In each video, photo, or noise, you can change what they sound like or look like. There are many other things in iMovie, so I’ll show you a couple. First, I’ll show you about how to make videos, and then I’ll tell you a bit about trailers.

Here, I am using a computer. iMovie will most likely look different to you if you’re using an Apple phone or tablet. You’ll still learn about iMovie and how to use it by reading this though.

Either way, iMovie is my five-star app for video editing.


Creating a new video

For those who are just starting to use iMovie, when you open it up, your screen will look like this:

To get started with a video, click on the plus sign and this little form pops up:

You’ll click “Movie.” Trailers are different. They allow you to create trailers for movies, which I’ll talk to you about later on in the article.

Once you click on “Movie,” the editor will show up. At the top, it will show the name of the video. Of course, you didn’t name it yet. Once you exit the video by clicking the “Projects” button in the top-left corner, it will ask you for the name. The default movie name is “My Movie” followed by the movie number. In my case, it’s “My Movie 29” because I have lots of videos that I named, but this is the 29th video I didn’t name.

Let’s get started with our video.

Using your media

Some people don’t even use this option as you can just drag files into iMovie. But sometimes you want to quickly access your photos, other projects, and all the clips in your movie.

Start by clicking the “My Media” tab at the top and clicking the one button under Project Media, which is the name of your movie.

Since there’s nothing in your movie yet, it will display “Import Media.”

If you click the arrow button labeled Import Media, a window will pop up.

This is a window accessing all the files that it is able to access, either from your computer or in an SD card or disk.

iMovie can only access things it is granted access to. When you install iMovie, it is very likely that it will bring up a little warning window saying something like “iMovie would like to access” followed by the name of the folder or directory.

This is how you can import any file from your computer.

Next, try clicking the “Photos” button under the “Libraries” heading.

I don’t personally use the Photos app, so nothing shows up for me here. iMovie may ask for access to your photos. You can drag any of your photos from the screen into the timeline. In iMovie, the timeline is the editing space for your movie. It is where all the video clips are organized in the order you choose.

If you click the “All Events” button, all the files from your other iMovie projects will show. If you click the iMovie Library dropdown menu, it will display a list of all your movies. If you click on each movie, you will see all the files in the specific movie you chose.

Unfortunately, iMovie does not come with a video taker. But if your device has a camera it probably has a video taker. I personally like to use Photo Booth for quick access to my computer’s camera. It’s very useful as you can drag the photos in photo booth directly into the iMovie timeline.

For good-quality videos, I use a separate camera. That is what I use for most of my YouTube videos. I just take out the SD card and put it into the computer. Right when it is in, the import window will pop up and you can choose which files from the SD card to import for use.

Audio – Part 1

Start using audio by clicking on the Audio tab. I’ll start by showing you the built-in sound effects that come with iMovie.

There are many sound effects that come with iMovie, but there aren’t as many as you might think. It may seem like a lot, yes, but sometimes I need a specific tune or a specific noise, and iMovie doesn’t have one! (To find specific ones, use the search bar above the sound effect window.) You may have to search for sounds on the internet or get an app with downloadable sound effects.

I rarely use the actual sound effects. I mostly use the “jingles.” They’re like little songs with no words that are sometimes loopable. Sometimes, they even come in sets with short versions, medium versions, and long versions. These are accessible by just scrolling down, but if you want all the jingles, simply type the word “jingles” into the search bar.

When using the sound section, it is useful that iMovie has headings for certain attributes to each noise. Each noise is sorted by name, duration/time, and genre. Instead of typing the word “ambience,” or whatever word you type to find a certain genre, you can click the “Effects” folder at the top (underlined at the top-left corner of the image above) and choose a genre.

Once you click on a specific genre, you will get a list of all noises iMovie has in that specific genre.

You may click the play button on the sound effects to hear what they sound like before dragging them into your timeline. Of course, if you put something in the timeline that you don’t want there, just click on it and then hit the delete key on your keyboard.

If you click on Music instead of Sound Effects, you will get all your files from the Music App, if you’ve ever used it. Sometimes, if you download a noise to your computer, it will appear in your Music App, depending on how you download it.

If you click GarageBand instead of Music or Sound effects, it will show you your GarageBand files. If you have none, it will show nothing, of course.

You could also detach the audio from a clip. Right-click on the video clip, and click “detach audio.” This allows you to edit only the audio and not the clip.


To use titles, click the titles tab.

There are currently 48 different title styles to choose from, and unlimited combinations of colors, fonts, and styles. Try dragging one into the timeline. You’ll notice that you can type in any of the spaces available. Try typing something in. When done, hit enter, click the timeline and click the beginning of the movie so the playhead (the yellow line with a triangle on top) is at the beginning. Then, click the space bar or the play button to play. Your text will appear in whatever style you chose.

In the following GIF, I will demonstrate dragging the title style from the browser into the timeline. Then I type “Hello everyone!” into the first box and “How are you” in the second. If you notice, I say that you don’t have to use all the text boxes given to you if you don’t want. Then, I play the 4 second video.


Start by dragging a video style into the timeline. Click into a text box and type what you want to type. You can choose which font you want and which color you want. There are other settings to choose from, too. You can click the button at the top when typing the text that says B to make the selected text bold, the I to make it italic, and the O for an outline in your text. You may also change the size of your text by clicking on the dropdown menu, or typing it in yourself.

Keep exploring the different styles for text, as most situations in a video have the perfect title! There is even a Star Wars themed title, called “Far Far Away.”


Have you watched Dim Harold on my YouTube channel? It’s made using stop-motion. Stop-motion is when you take a picture for every movement in a scene and then adding the images together. Most likely, your images will be less than a second long. If you’re not making stop-motion, images are still useful for making videos.

When you put an image in iMovie, they automatically are in the “Ken Burns” format. Ken Burns is when the image kind of zooms in. If you double-click on an image in your iMovie timeline, it will bring you to the crop setup. This has controls for cropping your image. Like I said, it starts out as Ken Burns. There are buttons at the top that say “Fit,” “Crop to fill,” and “Ken Burns.” Click which one you’d like. Fit makes it so you see the entire image no matter what, even if there’s black on the sides of the screen. Crop to fill allows you to move the image in the crop window and make the crop smaller and larger. You’ll notice that Ken Burns has two crop windows. The one that says “Start” is the beginning crop format for the image, and “End” is where it zooms in to. You can customize Ken Burns however you’d like.

In the following GIF, I will first show setting the image to fit, then crop to fill, and then Ken Burns.

Later in this article, I’ll show you how to adjust the coloring of images or videos, the brightness, and other image effects.

If you’re doing stop-motion, you definitely don’t want your images to keep zooming in. To change this, go to iMovie > Preferences.

Here, you can change the default photo duration, which is probably a good idea for those who are into stop-motion. Who wants each photo frame to be 4 seconds long? I feel like it should be something like 0.1 seconds or 0.2. But there’s also an option to change the default photo placement. If you like stop-motion, either choose fit or crop to fill. I use crop to fill. I don’t remember myself ever using “fit.” As you can see, you can also use the keyboard command ⌘, to get to preferences, which is a common keyboard shortcut to get to app preferences.

Backgrounds: Text

Backgrounds are mostly used for green screens. If you don’t have a green screen, don’t use backgrounds for that kind of thing. (Backgrounds are basically images. You can use any image as a background.) Instead, you can use them as backgrounds for your titles. iMovie just has some built-in backgrounds for your use. You’d attach a background by dragging a background into the timeline and then putting the title on top, as in the following GIF. I will show you two text styles, just for clarity.

Backgrounds: Green Screen

I will now show you how to use a green screen in iMovie. First, record yourself in front of your green screen. Next, you’ll drag a background into the timeline. You MUST drag the background down first and then drag the video on TOP of the background. Next, you’ll click on the top item, which is your video clip. Then, you can either double click on the top one, or click the double clip icon, which looks a bit like two papers on top of each other. Then, instead of “cutaway,” you’ll change the double clip setting to “Green/Blue Screen.” In this example, I’ll use a clip from a video in my YouTube channel — a video about knots.

Notice that near the end, I use an eraser tool to erase part of the background of my video clip that’s showing — it’s the wrinkles in the green screen. Then I use the “crop,” which isn’t really a crop — it just shows which parts of my video clip to show.

Get creative with this amazing tool.


Do you ever notice that some good videos have interesting transitions between video clips? If you don’t know what I mean, a clip might be before another clip, but you could add some kind of transition to it, like a page turn or a blur. Transitions are very easy to use. First, go to the transitions tab.

Here, you can see lots of different transitions. I like to use cross dissolve in my knot videos. Right now, there are 24 transitions to choose from. As usual, you drag the transition to the timeline. If you’ll notice, you can’t drag it into the timeline if there’s nothing there.

Another thing to note is that transitions take up some of your clip. If you try to change a transition’s length (I’ll show you that in a bit) to something too big, you’ll get a warning message.

Here, I had a video clip that lasted 3 seconds. I tried to make the transition last for 5 seconds, but there’s not enough media for that length.

This is true because how would you make it look like it’s actually dissolving or page turning (or whatever transition you choose) if you don’t use the clips? If it didn’t use parts of the clips then it would just be black during the transition. Usually, you should try to make your transitions 2 seconds long or less.

In the following GIF, I will show you a cross dissolve transition, a doorway, and a circle open transition.

To change the duration of a transition, double-click on the transition icon in the timeline and you’ll be able to change it.

Trimming Clips

You can trim clips, audio, and images. By that, I mean you can change their duration.

Just put your mouse at the end of a clip and drag it to how long you want your clip to be. Obviously, you can’t change it to anything longer than the clip. As you move your mouse, there’s an indicator above it telling you how long the clip would be if you stopped moving your mouse.

You may also put the playhead in the spot you’d like to trim, right-click, and then click “trim to playhead.” There’s also another thing you could do, which is the clip trimmer. Access it by right-clicking and clicking “show clip trimmer.”

That way to trim is usually used for video trimming, because you can see exactly where you are trimming it to. But if you like stop-motion, you’re using pictures. You’re usually going to have the same length for your pictures, most of the time, right? Put your mouse in the timeline, but above the pictures. Click and drag. As you drag, a box will appear. Drag it into all the images you’d like to change. Then, hit the button at the top of the video player that looks like the letter i in a circle. There’s a duration setting. Change how long you’d like them to be. Feel free to use decimal numbers as you’d need around 0.1 seconds for each picture to last.

The following GIF will probably clarify everything I said. Here, I use three images. Of course, they are the exact same image, but it still shows.

Splitting Clips

Splitting clips is a type of trimming. Sometimes you might want to split a clip in half and put something else in between the two split clips. Click the spot you’d like to start splitting. Make sure the playhead is in that spot. Then, right-click on the clip and click the “split clip” option.

You can also use the keyboard shortcut ⌘B

Time Lapse

iMovie also offers a time-lapse setting. You can make a video clip or a piece of audio fast or slow. You may also do freeze frame, which freezes a certain part of a clip. Not only can you choose to make something fast or slow, but you can choose how slow — and it’s completely your input. You could even do something like 10.46%.

First, I’ll talk to you about slow-motion. Drag your video clip into the timeline and click on it. Next, click on the time-lapse icon, which is below.

There will be a dropdown menu that says “Normal.” That is saying that your video clip is at its normal speed. Click on the dropdown menu and chose “Slow.” You’ll get a menu bar of how slow. 10% is the slowest option here, but if you hit “Custom” instead of “Slow,” you can literally type in the exact percentage for your time-lapse.

As you might have guessed, making something fast is done the same way. You may choose how fast, or you may type it in. Faster items are always over 100%.

Notice how the sound in your video will get a higher pitch if you make it faster, and a lower pitch if you make it slower. If you don’t want this, check the box that says “reverse pitch.” This makes the pitch back to normal.

If you clicked “reverse pitch,” you probably saw the “reverse” checkbox. This, of course, reverses your video clip or audio clip.

Audio – Part 2

Click the following icon:

There is an option to mute the audio, which looks like the following:

If you click it, your clip will be muted, and it will change to this:

Next to that, there’s a slider that allows you to change the volume of your video clip. If you have other audio elements playing while your video clip and your video clip’s audio is playing, you could click it and click “Lower volume of other clips.” This lowers the volume of the other clips that are playing at the same time. There is a slider next to it, which changes how much it lowers the volume of other clips.

Now, above all these buttons, click the following button:

This is a more advanced set of sound options. The first option you will see is an option to reduce background noise. Click this if there’s a lot of background noise in your clip, but I don’t suggest using it a lot. There’s also a slider that chooses how much it should reduce background noise. Don’t choose this setting and reduce background noise all the way, because your voice might sound like it came from a cheap microphone.

The next thing I’m going to show you is the equalizer. You might not even use it at all, as it is a very advanced option. It will equalize the noise in your clip, depending on which option you choose. If your sound clip is someone playing music, you could choose music enhance, because it makes the music louder and everything else quieter. Use the loudness option if your clip has loud and quiet mixed in. Most of the equalizer options are for those who know a lot about music, because there’s treble boost, bass boost, treble reduction, and things like that. If you have a lot of background noise in your clip, you could choose hum reduction.

Changing pitch, or any other effect with audio

If you have a video clip or an audio clip, you can change effects like changing the pitch, making it sound like it comes from a telephone, make it muffled, make it sound like it’s coming from different sizes of rooms, and a few more.

It’s easy to do. Just click on the audio clip or video clip and click the following button:

Now, you will be confronted with one or two options, depending on if it’s an audio clip or a video clip. If it’s a video clip, you’ll have two; if it’s an audio clip, you’ll probably have one, because the other one is grayed out. We’re not going to click “clip filter.” Instead, we’ll click “Audio Effect.”

This little window will pop up.

You now can pick whatever option you’d like. Hear each one by hovering your mouse over them. I don’t suggest using pitch changers for when people are talking, because then they’d sound weird.

Changing the clip filter

If you want to change how your videos look, you’ll have to click on the same option as last time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2020-08-02-at-9.54.21-am.png

Now, click on “Clip Filter.” A window will pop up with each clip filter available.

Click on one of them, and your video will change. You can always undo things by using the keyboard shortcut ⌘Z.

Using the Auto Fix option

iMovie has a way to make some of your videos look better. All you have to do is click on the clip you’d like to change, and hit the following button:

iMovie will fix the lighting to what it thinks is best.

Making your photos and videos greater

Did you take a video clip that is too dark or too light for the situation? Do you want less color to be assigned to your clip (or more color)? Do you want to change the temperature look of your clip? Okay, I’ll show you.

Click on the following icon:

Now, you’ll get a bunch of sliders:

The first one shows how dark and light your clip is. The ones that look like half moons show the contrast of your clip. Try moving them around. What changes? They all have to do with the brightness and contrast of your clip. The second slider — the one that looks like a rainbow — shows how much color is assigned to your clip. Drag it all the way to the left, and you’ll get black and white. Drag it all the way to the right, and you’ll get lots of color. The next one chooses the temperature of your clip. Drag it to the right, and it will have a warmer look. If you drag it to the left, it will have a cooler look.

Stabilize shaky video

iMovie can stabilize your video if it’s shaky. To do this, click the following icon after clicking on the clip you’d like to fix:

Now, click on “Stabilize shaky video.” It will sense the motion for a bit, and when it’s done, you can adjust the slider to how much you want it to stabilize.

Matching colors and skin tone

After selecting the clips you’d like to change, click on the following icon:

You will get some options to choose from.

Clicking “Auto” is the same as doing the auto fix option I told you about earlier. If you’d like to balance out the colors, you could click “Match Color,” and then select a certain part in your video to match the color with. Then, click the area of color in the video frame to match colors with. All the others are similar. Balancing the color white will balance out everything that’s white. Skin Tone balance allows you to select a color from skin and balance it out.

Making more editing space

There are some options for your preference that do not change the video in any way. These are just some interesting settings that can change your experience with iMovie. The first one is that you can make the timeline bigger and smaller. All you have to do is hover your mouse over the separation between the timeline and everything else.

You can also make the video clips smaller to the eye (but nothing really changes), or bigger to the eye, so you can see the editing in more depth.

Using Markers

Markers are very useful in iMovie. They are little purple things placed anywhere on a clip. This is what they look like:

If you’re making something to do with music, like a music video, you might want to put a marker on each beat of the song.

Place these markers by pressing the M key. You can also place one by going to Mark > Add Marker. You can even place a marker while the video is playing. It’s best to press the M key if you’re going to do it while the video is playing, because it’s hard to press Mark > Add Marker while the video is playing. To delete one, click on it, and press delete (or backspace). You could also go to Mark > Delete Marker.


Loop Playback

If while you’re editing, you want to watch it and make it loop continuously so you can keep seeing it, you can choose the loop playback setting. If your movie is long, you might not want to do it exactly like that. You might want it to play the selection only. By that I mean the selected space you selected by dragging from the top of the timeline and selecting all the clips you’d like it to play. Then, you could make it play the selection, and loop, or just one of those.

How to loop:

Use View > Loop Playback to make it loop. This will stay on until you click it again to turn it off.

How to play selection:

Use View > Play Selection. This will not stay on, of course, because you won’t always have something selected.

Other View Video Options

Here are some view options:

Play, of course, plays your video. If you have loop playback on, it will loop. Play selection is something I already told you about. You can press / to play the selection. If you want to play from the beginning, you can click \ to do it. You can use shift+cmd+F to play in full screen, but there’s already a button near the timeline that will let you do that:

That’s it for the basics of videos!


Now that I showed you the basics of making videos, I’ll show you how to make trailers, which are WAY easier, now that you understand how to make videos. Start by creating a new project.

Click “Trailer.”

Next, you’ll be greeted by a bunch of trailer samples. Hit the play button on any of them to get a sample version of what yours might look like.

Currently, I find that there are 29 different trailer styles, with unlimited combinations for intro styles, scene settings, and things like that. There are action ones, scary ones, happy ones, and more.

Once you chose which trailer style you’d like, you’ll get a screen similar to this:

Instead of a timeline, there are tabs. Fill out the “Outline” tab. There is a movie name, studio name, logo style, and all the credits.

Next comes the storyboard. If you watch your trailer without adding any scenes, you’ll get images of an outline of a person with something like “Action” printed at the bottom.

To add things, you could either use the Storyboard tab or the Shot List tab. Either way, you’ll have to go into the Storyboard tab to fill out each sentence during the trailer. Then, if you’d like the spot where you put your scenes to be organized by section (like all the action clips in a section and the group scenes in another, or if you’d like it to be organized in sequence of what happens). Of course, your clips don’t have to be exactly what it says for them to be like. By that I mean you don’t have to make the action sections have action scenes.

There will be gray boxes with a person inside them. You must drag your photos or video clips into these boxes. Notice that the boxes have a time limit inside them. If you add something longer than the time limit, it will trim it so it only shows part of the clip. If it’s too small, it will say that it cannot put the clip there.

Why? Shouldn’t you be able to make your trailer however you want? Well, iMovie wants you to have your clips at certain lengths to match the music playing while the video is going on.

Annoying? Don’t worry. You can convert your trailer to a movie, to get the timeline. That way, you can even change the music.

Convert Trailer to a Movie

Press the projects button

You will be greeted with your projects. Hover over the trailer and click the circle with the three little circles inside it.

Next to the movie name is the circle with the dots inside it.

Now, click “convert trailer to movie.”

Go into your project and you will get your trailer, but on a timeline — in video style.

Now, you have the full power of editing your video. But you won’t get all the trailer settings you had before. If you’re not sure about turning your trailer into a movie, duplicate your trailer and change one of them to a movie. You can convert a trailer to a movie, but you can’t change a movie to a trailer.

The rest of trailer making is exactly the same as creating a video. Most settings are still available to you in trailer mode. Trailer mode just guides you into making a great trailer.

Overall, iMovie is a great video editing software. Any questions or comments? Feel free to comment on this post if you have any questions about anything I explained here.

Thank you for reading this post!


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