iMovie 3 Solutions: Tips, Tricks, and Special Effects

iMovie 3 Solutions: Tips, Tricks, and Special Effects

by Erica Sadun

Paperback(Book & CD-ROM)


Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Eligible for FREE SHIPPING


iMovie 3 Solutions: Tips, Tricks, and Special Effects by Erica Sadun

"This is an outstanding book for those who want to move beyond iMovie's easy, built-in effects, and learn techniques to give your videos a more professional look."
— Book Reviewer David Weeks

Create Thousand-Dollar Video Effects with iMovie and QuickTime Pro

You can do more with iMovie than you might think. You don't have to trade up to Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere to build stylish and exciting videos. iMovie 3 Solutions brings high-end visual effects to the iMovie community with easy-to-follow projects, step-by-step instructions, and companion sample videos. Whether you're a hobbyist, a budding producer, or a dedicated video prosumer, iMovie 3 Solutions will help you create unique and breathtaking videos on a budget.

Inside, noted author Erica Sadun shows you the ins and outs of iMovie video tricks, including:

• Adding logos and watermarks to your movies

• Producing exciting picture-in-picture effects

• Creating larger and more dynamic title sequences

• Combining animated elements with your iMovie footage

• Designing interactive QuickTime skins that surround your iMovie videos

• Converting your PowerPoint presentations into iMovie form

• Authoring captions and subtitles for your movies

• Building your own iMovie plug-ins

• And more!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780782142471
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 06/19/2003
Edition description: Book & CD-ROM
Pages: 260
Product dimensions: 7.98(w) x 10.16(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

Erica Sadun holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech’s Graphics, Visualization, & Usability center. She is the author of Digital Video Essentials: Shoot, Transfer, Edit, Share and Digital Photography Essentials: Point, Shoot, Enhance, Share. Her book iMovie 2 Solutions: Tips, Tricks, and Special Effects won an Excellence in Education and Instruction award at the 32nd Annual Bookbuilders West Book Show.

Read an Excerpt

iMovie 3 Solutions

By Erica Sadun

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7821-4247-8

Chapter One

Power Tips

Get the Most out of iMovie and QuickTime Pro

Added Track

There's more to iMovie and QuickTime Pro than meets the eye. Both programs offer unexpected functionality and flexibility. In this chapter, we'll dive behind the scenes and discover a few lurking secrets. You'll discover some of my favorite techniques for making the best use of your movie media-the video and sound clips that make up your movie and the project files that put them together. You'll also learn how to manipulate your clips and transfer them between iMovie and QuickTime Pro.

Reveal iMovie's Secret Files Get Started with QuickTime Pro Move between iMovie and QuickTime iMovie Power Edits

Reveal iMovie's Secret Files

You won't find much mystery in iMovie. It's a friendly and easy-to-understand program with just a few secret files. iMovie stores these files-your settings and project files-as plain text, but it takes a little fiddling to gain access. Once in, you can admire the elegance and power that lies behind the seemingly simple interface. In this section, you'll learn how to sneak past the guard and uncover those gems that iMovie hides away from view. You'll learn how iMovie projects are put together, explore iMovie preferences, and learn how to manipulate media hidden away in your iMovie project folder so you can reuse these elements for other purposes.


Whenever you save your project, iMovie adds an up-todate movie file to your top-level project folder. This "reference" movie contains links to the resources in your Media folder. To view, open the reference movie in QuickTime and press play.

Meet the Project

iMovie projects are very straightforward. In these steps, you'll navigate through the various resources that make up your iMovie project.

1. Whenever you start a new project, iMovie creates a project folder to hold all the materials associated with that project. Opening the project folder reveals a subfolder called Media and a project file. The project file has a distinct icon with a star and a "clapboard"- style top.

2. Your Media folder holds the multimedia clips associated with your project: all stills, video, audio, and special clips. These clips include the transitions, effects, and titles you have added to your project. Here's a Media folder from a fairly typical project; it includes clips, transitions, stills, and an audio track.

[A] Clip Still [B] Transition [D] Audio clip

3. TextEdit allows you to view and edit your project file. You'll find TextEdit in your OS X Applications directory. Navigate to the TextEdit icon and double-click the icon to launch the program.

4. Choose File -> Open Project ([x]-O). Navigate to your project folder and choose your project file. Click Open to open your project file in TextEdit. You'll be rewarded with an interesting and somewhat readable project description.

5. Your project file details, in plain text, how each clip is placed and used, the order frames appear in, and whether transitions and effects have been applied.

6. With the text file open in TextEdit, you can compare the text descriptions of your project file with the actual objects in iMovie. Here, you see the same clip in both the Clips Viewer and the project file. If you divide 233 frames by 30 (NTSC), you'll see that the 7-second 23-frame clip corresponds exactly.

iMovie Help

Are you new to iMovie? If you are, the built-in tutorial offers the best and easiest way to get up to speed. Select Help -> iMovie Help to begin. When the iMovie Help window appears, click Tutorial. With this tutorial, you work your way through a hands-on introduction to iMovie. The tutorial takes about one to two hours to complete, but the time is well invested. After finishing, you'll have mastered most of the skills needed to put together your own movies.

Note: Apple offers additional iMovie support at usen/imovie. Find the QuickTime support page at quicktime.

Note: Join the discussion. Visit and sign up for one of the best iMovie resources around.

Reset Your iMovie Preferences

At times, you may want to reset your copy of iMovie back to fresh out-of-the box settings. Doing so couldn't be easier. Just drag your current preferences (from the ~/Library/Preferences directory) to the Trash. The next time you launch iMovie, it will automatically create a newly initialized preferences file. Further, iMovie will display the dialog shown here that allows you to start a new project, open an existing project, or quit.

Resetting preferences also helps when iMovie tries switching country systems on you. For example, sometimes it insists on starting an NTSC project when you have a PAL camera attached. To fix this, trash your preferences, restart your computer, and launch iMovie with your PAL camera attached and powered on.

Note: Before attempting to edit your preferences, make sure you save all prior work. You may want to start a new, empty project before beginning, just to be on the safe side.

Edit Your Preferences

iMovie stores your preferences in a structured XML text-based format. Follow these steps to change preferences using TextEdit. You'll see how to set a preference you cannot change in iMovie itself.

1. Make sure iMovie isn't running, and locate your iMovie preferences file. You'll find it in the library of your home directory: ~/Library/Preferences. The file is named

2. Select the preferences file and type #-D to duplicate it. OS X names this backup copy as As a rule of thumb, always back up a preference file before you experiment.

3. Launch iMovie. Select File . Import (#-Shift-I). Navigate to any image. Click Open to import this image into iMovie.

4. Wait as iMovie renders your image with the current Ken Burns effect settings. The red bar at the top indicates iMovie's progress. Select the newly imported clip and play it. The imported image will pan and zoom as rendered. Double-clicked, the Info dialog will not allow you to change the length of your clip.

5. Quit iMovie (iMovie -> Quit iMovie, [x]-Q). Launch TextEdit. Select File -> Open ([x]-O). Navigate to your preferences file (not the copy), select it, and click Open. The preferences will appear in a new TextEdit window.

6. Your preferences file is a structured XML property list made up of key and value pairs. Keys are bracketed by the tags and . Values vary in type and can include numbers, truth values ("true" or "false"), and other data structures. Find the key labeled autoApplyPanZoomToImportedStills in your file.

7. Change the value of autoApplyPanZoomToImportedStills from to . Choose File -> Save ([x]-S).

8. Relaunch iMovie. Choose File -> Import ([x]-Shift-I). Navigate to the image chosen in step 3 and import it. This time, the image imports without the Ken Burns effect, producing a normal still clip. Confirm this by double-clicking the clip. You'll be able to set the still duration in the Clip Info window.

9. Select iMovie -> Preferences ([x]-,). Examine the options presented to you. iMovie 2 users may be dismayed: the default still length option has disappeared from iMovie 3. Quit iMovie.

10. Return to TextEdit and reopen Search for the key labeled DefaultStillDuration.

11. Change the default still duration from 5 to 8 seconds. Choose File -> Save ([x]-S) and save your changes to disk. (As of iMovie 3.0.2, you may need to edit DefaultPanZoomDuration instead to achieve the same effect.)

12. Relaunch iMovie. Select File -> Import ([x]-Shift-I). Navigate again to the image chosen in step 3. Click Open to import it. Due to the changes made to the preferences file, the new still imports with a duration of 8 seconds.

13. It takes just a few steps to apply the Ken Burns effect to your newly imported still. Select your still and drag it down to the Clips viewer.

14. Choose the Photos palette.

15. Select Start. Drag within the Preview to place the start of your zoom effect within your image. The cursor will indicate a clenched dragging hand when repositioning your picture. If desired, adjust the Zoom slider to set the level of zoom.

16. Select Finish. As you just did, set the level and position of your final zoom. Click Apply to accept your settings and apply the Ken Burns effect to your still clip.

Your iMovie Preferences File: Other Changes

iMovie does not respond the same way to all preferences file changes. For example, iMovie will usually ignore a change to the VideoStandard (PAL, NTSC, or SECAM). Other items respond better to simple edits. A little experimentation allows you to discover which items the Apple Development Team left customizable. Scan through the preference file to see which items are more easily updated with simple text edits.

Change only one item at a time to determine if your modification can be applied. Then relaunch iMovie and test the program's behavior. If iMovie uses your change, then you've discovered another user-alterable preference.

Always make sure to quit iMovie before editing the preferences file. If you forget, iMovie will overwrite those preferences you modified as the program exits.

Note: Under OS 9, the iMovie preferences file used to state, "Do not edit this unless you know what you're doing." The same warning holds true under OS X.

View Your Preferences with Property List Editor

Apple offers a number of useful developer tools for the iMovie aficionado. Property List Editor offers a convenient way to view and edit the property lists (plists) used as OS X preference files. This program is not part of the standard OS X installation. To find a copy, visit and sign up for their free ADC online program. Members may download the Mac OS X developer tools directly from the ADC member site and install them on their computer. Once installed, the Property List Editor resides in the Developer/Applications folder and acts as the default editor associated with any plist file. To view your preferences file, double-click its icon in the file browser. The Property List Editor will launch.

Ways to Disable the Ken Burns Effect

As of iMovie 3 version 3.0.2, users can disable the Ken Burns effect in the following ways:

Stop iMovie in Its Tracks Pressing Esc or [x]- alerts iMovie 3 to stop applying the Ken Burns effect during import. Unfortunately, you must wait for iMovie to acknowledge your keystrokes, a process that can sometimes prove sluggish.

Set the Zooms to 1.00 When you set the Start and Finish zoom levels to 1.00, images import as still clips. If you click any Ken Burns still, the zoom levels revert to those inherent in that clip. You must reset the Zooms to 1.00 before any further imports.

Edit the Preferences File Although scary to the novice user, editing your preferences (as shown in this project) offers the most stable solution for disabling the Ken Burns effect.

Hack the Preferences File My own iMovie Hack Pack (included on the companion CD) offers several preference-setting hacks. These include KBToggle, which toggles the Ken Burns effect on and off, and SetDefaultStillLength, which does what its name suggests. (For iMovie 3.0.2 and later, use SetDefaultPanZoomLength instead.)

Peek at Your Apple Plug-ins

OS X 10.2.1 and above offer a curious trick that lets you peek at the Apple plug-ins included in your copy of iMovie. Navigate to your Applications folder and select (but do not launch) your iMovie application. Choose File . Get Info ([x]-I). Between Languages and Ownership & Permissions, you'll find an item labeled Plug-ins. Click the triangle to expand this section and reveal the built-in plug-ins. Add and Remove buttons allow you to customize your iMovie application, directly adding and removing plug-ins.

Reuse Your Transitions

iMovie does not allow you to layer effects or transitions over your transition clips. In order to treat your transitions like other clips, you must reimport transitions from your project media folder.

1. In iMovie, open a project that includes transitions on the Timeline. Select any transition. Here you see a 4-second Cross Dissolve transition in place on the Clips Viewer.

2. Choose File -> Get Clip Info (Shift-[x]-I, or just double-click the transition) to bring up the associated Clip Info window. Make a note of the name of the media file associated with your transition.

3. Return to the Finder and locate your project folder. Open it and then open the Media folder within. Inside you'll find the materials that make up your iMovie project. This example includes two clips and the Cross Dissolve transition.

4. Return to iMovie. Select File -> Import ([x]-Shift-I). Navigate to your project folder and to the media folder within it (as in the previous step). Choose the transition clip. Click Open to reimport it into iMovie.

5. Wait as the transition reimports into your project. This may take several seconds. The new clip appears in the Clips shelf as a fully editable, manipulable clip without any of the restrictions associated with normal transitions.

6. To confirm that the new clip acts like any other, drag it to the Clips viewer and add an effect to it.

iMovie File Types

Every file, whether in OS 9.x or OS X, has a file type and file creator associated with it. This file "metadata" allows your Macintosh to associate your file with an application and open the correct program when you double-click the file icon. iMovie files use the Creator type Hway to indicate their association with the program. File types vary, however, as shown in the following table. Imported images, on the other hand, retain their original creator and type.


Sounds (AIFF, MP3, WAV, etc.) AIFF Video Clips (clips, stills, titles, effects, transitions) dvc! Project file TeXT

You can discover more about the contents of your project folder by using GetFileInfo, a utility provided in Apple's Developer Tools. (, online membership, and tool download are free). If you feel comfortable using the Unix commandline interface, GetFileInfo offers a convenient way to inspect your files and their properties. When you need to change your file attributes, Apple provides another developer utility, SetFile.

Import and Extract Sounds

iMovie allows you to import sounds in AIFF, WAV, or MP3 format-although it converts the latter two to AIFF in your Media folder. (Up-conversion to AIFF will not improve any degraded, tinny MP3 quality.) You can also import audio directly from a CD or record sounds from your microphone using the Audio palette. In addition, you can disassociate the audio from your video clips to gain direct access to the audio track for editing or other purposes. To extract audio, start by selecting all or a portion of a video clip or clips. Then invoke Advanced -> Extract Audio ([x]-J). iMovie duplicates the audio and places it in the voice track on the Timeline, in orange. If you extract just a portion of a clip's audio, iMovie automatically splits the clip as needed to preserve the unseparated portions.

Normalize Sounds

When sound quality is too low, you can "normalize" your audio-extend its dynamic range-using a sound-editing program. Follow these steps to extract and normalize an iMovie audio track.

1. Select the clip you wish to work on. Choose Advanced -> Extract Audio ([x]-J).

2. iMovie automatically switches to the Timeline display, extracts the audio, and displays it in purple. In doing so, iMovie has copied your clip's sound to a new audio clip, locked it with the start of the original video clip (note the yellow-headed pins), and muted the video clip.

3. Save your project. Launch your favorite sound editing application. (Here, I use SoundEffects, a shareware package on the companion CD that works well in Classic.) Select File -> Open and open the Voice file from your project's Media folder.

4. Examine your sound's waveform. A poor sound usually has little variation and lies very close to the centerline. When you see a fuzzy waveform, as shown here, do not expect too much in the way of clarity. You'll be able to make things louder, which will help differentiate voices, but the background noise will grow louder too.


Excerpted from iMovie 3 Solutions by Erica Sadun Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Power Tips.

Chapter 2: iMovie Stills.

Chapter 3: Overlays.

Chapter 4: Transparency.

Chapter 5: Animated Effects.

Chapter 6: Titles.

Chapter 7: iMovie Artistry.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews