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About QuickTime

iMovie is video editing program for Mac OS X which comes with the iLife bundle. iMovie can import most movie and picture formats, and by default will want to export the final movie as a .mv4 in one of several preset sizes suitable for different Mac devices. As a video editing package it's very basic and restricting - it doesn't allow any custom effects, custom keyframes or custom translation/rotation/scale - and so it's not something professionals use. It is, however, very easy to use, so for the average joe, it can be a great way to make basic home movies to show off your last vacation. iMovies comes with some great built in transition effects (fade out, Ken Burns, zooming, etc), and makes it very easy to create slideshows by inserting pictures and videos anywhere into your flowing timeline. Adding your own background sounds, "titles", freeze frames and playing movies at reduced speed is also quite easy. With most of these neat features, however, there are very few customization options. As a few examples:

  • you can add a few different style text overlays...... but can't just move them anywhere.
  • you can add fade effects to to the start and end of a sequence..... but you can't add your own keyframes.

Here's a summary of pros and cons of iMovie:

  • Pros: Easy to import and add videos, pictures and sound. Features some great built-in titles and effects.
  • Cons: Doesn't support custom effects. Can't add any custom keyframes or movement (translation, rotation, scale) of elements. Can't really have more than one "overlay" at a time.

iMovie Tricks

Exporting your Movie to any Size

To export a movie from iMovie 11 you can click Share > Export and it will give the option to export as a m4v file in one of the following sizes: 480x272, 640,360, 960,540, 1280x720, 1980x1080. Under "Share" there are also some options to export to YouTube, Facebook and so on.

If you wish to export as some arbitrary size you should first install QuickTime. With QuickTime 7 Pro installed you should also see an Share > Export using QuickTime option, and here you can chose between many different file formats (mov, mp4, avi, etc) and chose you own size options.

Inserting Text Titles

Adding a text title is very easy: select Window > Titles or click the text icon and find the effect you want. Many of these effects are animation, and you'll notice one is the Star Wars scroll! Once you've found a title effect you like, you can simply drag it onto the timeline and depending where you place it, it will either form its own clip or an overlay. If you place it between clips, it will prompt you to choose a background and it will be like a title sequence. If, however, you add the title in the middle of a clip it will add it as a layer over the top. Sadly you can't just move the text anywhere, so if you just want some static text to appear your best bet is to chose "Upper" and you'll have to use the spacebar, enter key and the Font menu to get the text you want in the right place. If you want to add something like an arrow, there are a few arrows under Edit > Special Character. If you double click a title you might see a couple of sub-options, but it's pretty limited in that you can't place one title over the top of another, nor can you rotate text at all.

Creating a Custom Overlay

One trick that's been discovered with iMovie is to add a transparent PNG using a well hidden "Picture in Picture" feature. This feature can help if you want to insert your own custom arrows, labels or watermark to certain frames. To do this:

  • 1) Use a drawing program like Adobe Fireworks or Adobe Photoshop to draw your desired overlay and make sure you save it to your desktop as a PNG with index transparency on (most of your background should be transparent).
    • TIP: It's best to make this the same dimensions as your movie or at least at the same aspect ratio, as it will be scaled to this aspect.
  • 2) In iMovie you will have to click: "iMovie > Preferences > General" and turn on the "Show Advanced Tools" (by default this is off).
  • 3) Drag your PNG file from your desktop straight onto the desired clip in the timeline. From the pop-up that appears select "Picture in Picture".
  • 4) Select, move and resize the "picture in picture" to its desired position. You can't animate its position, but you can change its duration and the "effect" - as long as you don't select the Ken Burns effect as this doesn't play well with transparent images.

Just like the titles, you can't have two "picture in pictures" at the same time, although interesting you can have one of each at the same time.