iMovie 6 HD fan video tutorial

Editing a fanvid with iMovie 6 in HD (or Standard Definition). Editing to the beat using iMovie’s chapter markers. Exporting your finished video out of iMovie using web-ready HD settings.

Okay, I have decided to try to put a tutorial in my vanity site, in hopes that iWeb’s interface will make it quicker to bang this thing out. We shall see how that actually works!

So I made a simple HD video with iMovie 6. To see the video, scroll down this page and do a search for “Magic and Ecstasy.” Or view it on YouTube. It’s not that great of a video, but does show how iMovie 6 can handle HD really well.

Get iMovie HD on your Mac

Old copies of iLife 06 (which contains iMovie 6) can be found on Amazon and eBay. But, this Mac Rumors forum thread gave me another idea on how to get iMovie 6 to work on my new Intel Mac Mini (running Snow Leopard!).

I had a copy of the special downloadable version of iMovie 6 that was available to iLife 08 users (because not everyone wanted to use iMovie 08 when it first came out). This version of iMovie will only work if it detects that iLife 08 is installed on your Mac. I had installed iLife 08 on an external hard drive attached to my Mini, and then installed iMovie 6. It worked great. But I wanted to have iMovie work on my main hard drive (which has iLife 09, not 08), so I saved the “plist” file for iLife 08 (found in Library/Preferences on my external hard drive) to my primary hard drive. (Also put it in Library/Preferences.) Success! iMovie 6 started up, even though I didn’t have a copy of iLife 08 installed on that particular hard drive.

If you don’t have a copy of iLife 08 (or of iMovie 6) read the above-linked Mac Rumors thread for more suggestions and ideas on how to get a copy on your Mac. (Update: I did a search on Google for iMovie 6, and found this download. I don’t know how long that link will stay active, but you can also do a Google search. Use keywords like “iMovie 6 download dmg” and see what comes up.)

Prepare the HD files.

For this tutorial I’m going to assume that you have 720p H.264 MKV files.  This FP forum thread discusses how to convert those downloaded MKV files into something that Final Cut Express or Pro can understand. (You’ll have to sign up on the forums to see the tutorial.)

To make the clips work well in iMovie, follow the tutorial, but instead of converting to Apple Intermediate Codec, convert to H.264 MOV (H.264 compression) and “Limit Data Rate” to about 4000 or above. Keep frame size at 1280x720.

It’s not recommended to make long clips when working in iMovie 6. Try to limit your clips to maybe 5 minutes or less each.

Sometimes when I make clips for iMovie I leave out the audio (choose “No Sound”) since many fan videos mute the clips’ audio anyway. But if you want the clip’s sound, choose MPEG-4 AAC and a rate of 128 kbps or above.

After you’ve made all your clips, open up iMovie 6 and set the project to be HD. (Failure to set up your project properly as HDV will make iMovie convert your glorious HD clips down to standard definition—in other words, you’ll lose all the HD quality. So please don’t skip this step—remember to set up your HD project as HDV!) In most cases, since your original HD files were 720 pixels high, you’ll set up the HD project the same way:

Select HDV 720p unless you are certain that the HD files you intend to edit are something else. (If you are editing in standard definition video, select either DV or DV Widescreen. Many movies and TV shows are in widescreen so odds are you’ll be using that, but check the aspect ratio of your source clips to make sure.) This tutorial may help you understand aspect ratio.

Importing your clips, setting up your music and timing (chapter) markers.

If you are familiar with iMovie already, you know how to import your clips. To refresh your memory, go to “File >> Import” and import a few clips at a time, or highlight a bunch of them and have iMovie import them together. It’ll take a while as iMovie imports and converts all the H.264 MOV files you’ve made into HDV, the video format iMovie uses for editing.

Set timing (chapter) markers.

I’m going to assume that you have some familiarity with the workings of iMove 6, so I won’t explain all its features here. But I wanted to cover using markers to edit to the beat of your music, because not all vidders (people who make fan videos) know how to do this in iMovie. Of course not all fan videos should necessarily be “edited to the beat,” but it can be a fun feature, so here’s a way to do it in iMovie 6:

iMovie 6 does not have true “beat markers,” but it does have chapter markers (for use when making a DVD). The limitation of these markers is that there can only be one per second. But, for lots of music videos, this is enough.

Select your music (go to the “Media” area and pick a music track from iTunes). Place the music in iMovie’s audio track. Then, switch iMovie to “timeline” mode and expand the timeline as l-o-n-g as it will go.

Click on the clock icon to go to timeline mode, and drag the timeline length (see pink arrow) to the far right so that you can more closely see the length of each clip you edit (as well as more clearly see the audio waveforms of your music).

To set the markers, press and hold both the Shift key, and the Apple (Command) key. With both these keys held down, keep your finger poised over the “M” key. Now, start playing your music from the start in iMovie. As the music plays, start to tap, tap, tap on the M key (remember, you already are holding down Shift and Apple aka Command keys) to the beat of the music. As you tap each time, a chapter marker will appear above the timeline. If you tap too frequently (more than once a second) iMovie will give you an error message about how you can’t do that.

It may take a few tries through the music track to get your rhythm down right, but soon you’ll find a “beat” in the music, and so tap, tap, tap as the music finishes playing in iMovie.

If you mess up and want to remove a marker, place the playhead over the offending marker and hold down Option, Apple (aka Control) and the M key, and the marker will disappear.

The pink arrows above point to the makers in the timeline. You’ll also notice that each clip matches up to the placement of the markers. As you edit and place clips in the timeline, you will notice that the edges of your clips will “snap” to the markers.

Sometimes, if you want to edit more precisely to the music’s timing, you can use the audio waveforms to help you figure out where a beat is in the music. Look at the  “peaks” in the waveforms to give you clues.

Laying down clips in your timeline.

There are a lot of ways to place clips in the timeline in iMovie 6. This is one way I do it.

Scroll through a clip and find the “In” and “Out” points you want to use for that clip. (The little triangle-arrow things signify “in” and “out.”) When you’ve got the “In” and “Out” just where you want, COPY the selection by holding down the Apple (Control) key and C.

You’ve got your In and Out points selected in a clip, and everything in between (symbolized by the yellow colored strip in the screenshot to the left here) will be copied and pasted into your timeline by either going to “Edit > Copy” or using the Apple+C keyboard shortcut.

You’ve copied your clip selection, now you should place it in the timeline.

I placed my playhead right at the spot I wanted to place the new clip. Then I used the keyboard shortcut Apple (Control)+P to Paste the clip in place. When I do that, voila! The clip materializes right where I wanted it, in the timeline.

The reason why I like to copy/paste clips into place (rather than dragging the clip from the Clip area of iMovie) is because I can re-use parts of each imported clip as many times as I like. (When a clip is dragged from the Clip area to the timeline, it is then removed from the listing of available clips.)

However, if you like to drag your clips to the timeline and that works better for you, that is good too!

Matching your clips to the music beat:

In this screenshot, you see that the little yellow diamond (symbolizing a marker) is farther out than the ending of my clip. Since I want to make this clip’s edge match up with the markers, I’m going to slow down the clip so it meets the marker.

First, I go to the Editing area of iMovie.

Then I go to “Video FX” and pick “Fast/Slow/Reverse.”

Then I’m going to slow down the clip, but not by a lot. I just need it to match up with that marker!

I drag the slider bar a little to the right. Then I click on “Apply.” iMovie will lengthen the clip. But did it go too far?

Yes, it sure did go too far. I can of course trim back the clip so that its edge now matches up with that marker, but I’d prefer to have it a little less slowed down. So I press the Apple (Control)+Z key, to undo what I just did.

I keep on going back and fiddling with the speed controls (Apple+Z used to undo, when I don’t go far enough or go to far) until finally I think I have it close enough.

It doesn’t match up perfectly, but that’s okay. That little bit of extra can be trimmed away, so the edge of the clip matches up with the marker placement.

(Note: You don’t have to be as picky about this as I am. I’m just showing you one way to do it.)

Now the edge of the clip is trimmed away and matches up with the marker! YAY.

Now, to edit your whole video to the beat, just match up each clip to the markers like this.

Editing to the beat with transitions.

In my little video, I had a few spots where I made a white “flash” transition match up with a snappy sound in the music. To edit to the beat with transitions requires a little different technique.

You have two clips, and you want a transition between them, and you want the transition to match up with the beat of the music. (As you see from this screenshot, the beat marker happens approximately in the middle of the transition, which is usually what you want.)

In order to get this, move the second clip so it starts before the beat marker. (How much before depends on how long your transition is going to be.) Then place your playhead between the two clips and set a transition. (Go to the Editing area, then select “Transitions.”)

For my “white flash” transition (I used “Wash In”), I chose a shorter duration for the transition.

It will take a little fiddling to get the transition timed just right and the clips placed just right, but soon you’ll get the hang of it!

Exporting your HD video out of iMovie.

You’re finished with your video, you’ve added your credits and titles, and now it’s time to get the thing out of iMovie and onto the Web!

Go to Share >> Quicktime.

Choose to export with “Expert Settings.” Click on the “Share” button.

Choose to Export as a “Quicktime Movie” but  click on the “Options” button.

Click on the “Settings button.

A new window will pop up, with all sorts of export options. Select H.264 as the Compression Type, and Restrict the Data Rate to 4000. (You can go higher than 4000 if you like.) Click OK to leave the Compression Settings area. (For regular definition video, choose a data rate of between 2000 and 3000.)

You’re back to “Movie Settings.”  Click on the “Size” button this time.

Pick 1280x720 from the drop down menu for HD.

After you’ve set your frame size, click OK to leave the “Export Size Settings” area.

Then click on the Settings button for Sound.

Since your video uses H.264 compression, choose AAC as the audio format, the Rate can be 44.100 kHz, and the Target Bit Rate can be 128 kbps or above. (I often go with 160 or 192.) You can have your settings go higher if you like.

Click OK to leave the Sound Settings area. Then click OK again to get rid of “Movie Settings.”

After you’ve set up all the video and audio and size options, click the Save button and wait for iMovie 6 to export out your fan video.

The resulting file (if it is in HD) will be rather big! But it will show up as HD in Youtube and look fabulous.

FOR EXPORTING REGULAR DEFINITION (NOT HD) video made in iMovie 6, choose “Full Quality” and then open the resulting .dv file in MPEG Streamclip to make a high quality MP4 or MOV file. (Follow this tutorial.)

If you were editing in regular definition, you should have identified and chosen the correct project aspect ratio as you were setting up your iMovie 6 video. This tutorial (linked to above on this page) explains more about aspect ratio.

You’re all done! For more details and information on editing fanvids in iMovie 6, sign up for the FoolishPassion Fan Video Forums.

This tutorial is dedicated to Damaris. Hope it is useful! :D

TUTORIAL KEYWORDS: Fan video, vidding, vidder, fanvids, fanvid, fan vid, editing an HD fan video in iMovie 6. Mac OS X, Leopard, Snow Leopard.