Top Tips For How To Use iMovie On Mac

If you’ve been asking yourself “what is iMovie?” — it's Apple’s answer to a video editing program for amateurs and enthusiasts alike. There's no need to even download iMovie for Mac, as it’s already included, for free. A companion iMovie app is also available for iPhones and iPads, and makes it easy to edit on the go. 

For all of us who have hours of video clips from birthday parties, travel adventures, and other special life events, being able to create memorable movies out of them to cherish is priceless. And you don’t need anything but iMovie to turn iPhone-recorded video notes into a true attention-grabbing blockbuster. 

So with your iMovie download in hand, go through this iMovie tutorial to learn how to use iMovie like a pro. Plus, additional tips and tricks, which never hurt.

How To Use iMovie On Mac 

Before you can start with the iMovie app, you need to make sure you actually have it on your Mac and know how to launch it:

  1. Click on the iMovie icon from your Dock or Applications folder (in case your don’t see the iMovie app there, search for it in the App Store and redownload)

  2. In iMovie, choose one of the libraries (Photos for media files in that app, All Events for files from your Mac, or All Projects for the past iMovie work)

iMovie app store download

How to create a new movie project 

So with all your iPhone video clips ready to go, let’s create your new movie. To get started with a blank timeline for a new project:

  1. Open iMovie and click Create New

  2. Select Movie

create new project iMovie

The new Apple iMovie project will open. By default, there’s no predefined theme. To add a name to your movie:

  1. Click to go back to Projects

  2. Enter the project name

  3. Click OK

  4. Then double-click on your movie project to get back in

How to add video clips to your movie

It goes without saying that to play and edit your movie, you first need to include video clips it will eventually consist of! You can also use the picture in picture iMovie feature that’s useful when you want two clips to play at the same time (e.g. when you’re creating an iMovie tutorial). One clip will then appear in a smaller frame within the larger clip.

So to add a clip to your timeline:

  1. Select a file from your Libraries in the sidebar

  2. Drag the entire file onto the project timeline

How to trim a clip in iMovie

If you want to reduce the duration of the clip you’ve just added because it’s too long for what you’re trying to do, you can easily cut it at either end:

  1. Select the clip on the timeline and simply drag its corner inwards

  2. When done, click somewhere else to save the cut. Your changes remain adjustable until you click them off (you can still use the undo command though).

cut file timeline iMovie

How to split a clip easily

In the process of making a movie, quite often you’d find yourself needing to split a clip into multiple sections (e.g. when creating a timelapse). Luckily, it’s very easy to do:

  1. Hold the cursor in the place you’d the clip to split

  2. Click ⌘ + B or right-click and choose Split Clip

split clip iMovie

How to combine clips together

iMovie makes combining two separate clips into one for editing and seamless playback effortless. Just drag the clips onto the timeline and make sure they are positioned back to back.

combine clips timeline iMovie

Add transitions between clips 

If you look closely, you’ll notice that no movie just plainly changes its scenes — there’s always a smooth transition in place. How is it done? 

  1. In your iMovie app, choose Transitions in the top menu

  2. Preview a few options by clicking on them

  3. When you find the right one, drag it to position just between the clips

transition clips iMovie app Mac

How to add text to iMovie 

If you’re about to make your own iMovie tutorial, you need to know how to add text to iMovie project, such as titles or subtitles. Luckily, it’s much more simple than it sounds:

  1. While in your project, select Titles in the top bar

  2. Go through all that are available, watch previews, and pick the best one

  3. Edit the title if such option is presented

  4. Drag it onto your timeline and place in the right spot

add text iMovie

Add background music to your project 

Background music helps set the mood, define a character, mark a climax, or introduce a transition. No wonder the days of silent movies are long gone. Let’s see how to add music to iMovie to liven your project up: 

  1. With iMovie open, click Audio at the top of the app

  2. All your tracks from iTunes will be listed there. If you don’t have any music on iTunes, just upload some audio from your Mac there first. Alternatively, switch to Sound Effects in the sidebar if you’re looking for something more ambient. 

  3. Drag the audio file you like right onto the timeline and put it where you’d want the tune to start

add music iMovies iTunes

How to add a background image to your movie

Adding images to the background of your iMovie project is a breeze:

  1. Switch to Backgrounds page in the top toolbar

  2. Go through the previews of all samples

  3. When you see the perfect one, just drag it onto the project’s timeline

add background image iMovie

How to save iMovie projects

Saving progress as you go is easily the most important thing you can do. As movie projects are often quite heavy and demand lots of processing power, you’re always a glitch away from losing everything you didn’t save in time. Make sure to know how to save iMovie projects:

  1. In the iMovie window, click Share

  2. Choose File

  3. Customize the default video information

  4. Click Next

  5. Select the destination folder ➙ Save

How to export iMovie projects

To share your iMovie projects on the internet, you can export them to Youtube, iTunes, Facebook, Vimeo, or email with a simple share feature:

  1. Click the Share icon in the top-right corner of iMovie

  2. Choose where you’d like to export your movie

  3. If you just want to save your movie to Mac, choose File and follow the process from the section above

export movie iMovie

More (better) video editing options

While iMovie is an ok video-editing app to start with, since it comes right with your Mac, there are much better options out there, which can perform more customized and advanced functions for video recording and editing. For example, Capto and CameraBag Pro. 

Capto allows you to easily record the screen of your Mac to make tutorials or videos that include voiceovers and annotations. The app handles features like crop, cut, fade in and fade out of audio tracks, and many more without breaking a sweat. Plus, you can edit your screenshots too! To start with Capto:

  1. Choose whether you’re editing an image or video at the top-left corner

  2. Select one of the tools in the sidebar to activate it

Capto screen recorder

CameraBag Pro is similar to Capto, but supercharged with even more advanced features. It has recently become #2 in the Mac App of the Year according to Apple and is basically the best photo and film-editing tool around that boasts:

  • Award-winning intuitive interface

  • A library of over 200 filters created by professional photographers

  • Non-destructive edits for both photos and videos

  • The ability to batch changes and save hours of doing micro-adjustments

Camerabag Pro edit photo video Mac

Best of all, both Capto and CameraBag Pro are available to you for a free 7-day trial through Setapp, a platform with more than 150 Mac apps that inspire creativity and help you get your work done faster and better. Now that you know how to use iMovie for Mac and some other options to explore, making your first movie is going to be a no-brainer!

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