Special effects in iMovie ’11

Cliff Jospeh, Macworld UK
14 April, 2011
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One of the things that upset quite a few people when Apple rewrote iMovie back in 2008 was the fact that the program lost many of its special effects features. That version had a small selection of filter effects – such as a sepia tone or a hazy romantic glow – but these didn’t really give much scope. Thankfully, one of the key additions in iMovie ’11 is a set of one-step effects.

Most focus on time manipulation, such as the ability to speed up clips or play them in slow motion. There’s also an instant replay option that comes in handy for action shots in sports videos. These effects can’t compete with the precise key-frame controls in rivals such as Adobe’s Premiere Elements, but they’re great for adding a professional touch to your home videos.

1. On the menu There’s an entirely new pull-down menu in iMovie 11, called the Clip menu. The program’s new one-step effects are all displayed in the top section, with additional editing tools shown in the lower sections. The new effects include options such as Slow Motion, Fast Forward, Rewind and Instant Replay.

2. Quick clip You can apply the new effects to entire clips, but they tend to work best if you apply them sparingly. We’ve got an 18-second clip showing a snowboarder whizzing down a ramp and taking off, but we’ll just select a short section that shows him taking off and reaching the high point of his jump.

3. Slow motion Select the Slow Motion effect from the Clip menu. A submenu appears that allows you to slow your selection down to 50, 25 or 10 percent of its original speed. We’ll select 50 percent, but you can experiment with these settings and just undo (C-Z) to return the clip to its original speed at any time.

4. Split clip The section of video that we selected is split apart from the rest of the original clip. Its speed is also reduced by 50 percent, which means that the clip now lasts twice as long – the original selection was almost 3.6 seconds long, so it now becomes a separate clip that lasts for 7.2 seconds.

5. Fast forward We’ll use C-Z to undo the Slow Motion effect and check out the Fast Forward effect instead. You can use this to increase the speed of your selection by two, four, eight or even 20 times. This creates a new clip that is shorter than the original, but otherwise works in just the same way as Slow Motion.

6. Instant replay Another option for highlighting action scenes is Instant Replay. This is fairly self-explanatory – it just replays your selection in slow motion and slaps an Instant Replay logo on the screen to make it look like the replays you see on TV. However, there’s actually quite a lot going on here, so let’s take a closer look.

7. Lift off! We’ll select the part of the clip that shows the snowboarder at the peak of his jump. The clip will start off playing normally, but the Instant Replay effect then inserts a new clip that replays the jump in slow motion (in yellow). Once the replay clip has finished playing we jump back to the original clip.

8. Jump to it Most of these effects do indeed work in one step, as all you have to do is select the effect from the clip menu and iMovie does the work for you. However, some of the new effects do require a little more work. These are the effects that use beat markers, such as the Jump Cut option shown here.

9. Offbeat In order to use the Jump Cut effect we first need to deselect the Snap To Beats option in the View menu. If we don’t deselect this option iMovie will automatically cut our video clip when we start to add beat markers, before we’ve had a chance to apply the Jump Cut effect.

10. Action man Let’s add a bit of background music to our video clip (shown in green in the Project Browser) and then select the Clip Trimmer from the Action pop-up menu. Make sure you select the Action menu for the background music clip – which is in the top-left corner of the green highlighted area.

11. Making your mark The Clip Trimmer opens in the lower half of the screen, displaying the audio wave form for our background music. You can listen to the music playing and hit the M key on the beat of the music to place the beat markers during the snowboarder’s jump (indicated by vertical grey lines on the wave form).

12. You’ve been framed Now hit Escape to close the Clip Trimmer, and click on the main video clip so that it’s highlighted in yellow once more. Then select the Jump Cut effect and specify the number of jump frames. We found that a jump of less than 10 frames is barely noticeable, but 20 frames works quite well.

13. Jump cuts Our original clip is now split into a series of shorter clips, each starting on one of those beat markers. Each starts by jumping forward 20 frames, so that the snowboarder’s movement jumps forward in time to the music. You can fine-tune the effect at any time by adjusting the beat markers in the Clip Trimmer again.

14. Flip flop You can use beat markers with other effects too. The Special Effects option in the Clip menu displays three other effects, such as the Flip option, which flips the video image on each beat marker, creating a mirror effect so that the snowboarder suddenly appears to be travelling in the opposite direction.

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