iMovie Tutorial for Mac – The COMPLETE Guide!

iMovie is an easy to use video editing software that can quickly be downloaded for free onto your Mac or any iOS device. 

It’s a great option for beginners who are just getting started with video editing. In the past few years, Apple has released some big updates for iMovie. So now it’s not just great for beginners but also for more advanced video editors as well!

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In this iMovie tutorial, we’ll cover everything you need to know from how to create a project right through to how to export your final video. Plus we’ll include some more advanced iMovie tips along the way to help you create better videos faster! 

Here’s everything we’ll cover in our complete iMovie video editing tutorial: 

Let’s dive in. 

How To Create A Project In iMovie

Getting started in iMovie is super easy and straight forward. Open iMovie and you’ll see any existing projects if you have them. To create a new project select Create New and then select Movie.  

When iMovie opens you can either select a current project or create a new Movie or Trailer 

When iMovie opens you can either select a current project or create a new Movie or Trailer 

Before we get started with editing, let’s get accustomed with the iMovie interface. It’ll be much easier to begin the editing process if you have a handle on where everything is located first!

iMovie Interface 

The iMovie interface is pretty intuitive and great for beginners to get used to. On the left menu bar you can access all of your files, photos and video assets. 

You can access your files in the left menu 

You can access your files in the left menu 

Above Project Media is the Projects button which is how you can switch between different projects. 

Along the top menu bar is where you will find My Media (your project files), Audio, Titles, Backgrounds and Transitions. 

In the top menu you can access My Media, Audio, Titles, Backgrounds and Transitions

In the top menu you can access My Media, Audio, Titles, Backgrounds and Transitions

On the right you’ll see the playback window. This is where you can preview your masterpiece as you edit. There are a few tools and controls above the playback window such as crop, audio and filters. 

In the top right is the Export button which will allow you to export and share. 

You can preview your video throughout the editing process in the playback window

You can preview your video throughout the editing process in the playback window

Below the playback window is the play button and skip forward & skip back buttons. In the bottom right you can Maximize your playback window to full screen. In the bottom left is the Record Voiceover button. 

There are a range of tools and controls above the playback window

There are a range of tools and controls above the playback window

Below the Maximize button is the Settings button which is where you can adjust the project settings. 

Right along the bottom is the editing timeline. This is where the magic happens. 

All of your footage, b-roll, audio, transitions and text will be dragged onto the editing timeline

All of your footage, b-roll, audio, transitions and text will be dragged onto the editing timeline

Now that we’ve covered the interface, let’s import our footage. 

How To Import Footage In iMovie

The first step of creating your video in iMovie is to import footage. Go to File, then Import Media… and select your files. You can hold down Command to select multiple files or individually select them. 

Go to File and then Import Media… to upload your footage 

Go to File and then Import Media… to upload your footage 

Press Import Selected and your files will be brought in. To access these at any time, go to the My Media

The next step is to click and drag your primary footage (your main camera angle) into the timeline.  

Click and drag your primary footage onto the editing timeline 

Click and drag your primary footage onto the editing timeline 

Before we get into editing, it’s a good idea to adjust the project settings now that you have a clip in the timeline. To do this, go to the Settings button. 

You can adjust the project settings under Settings 

You can adjust the project settings under Settings 

Under Settings, the main things you may want to change are:

  • The clip size 
  • Turn Show Waveforms on or off

If you want to zoom in and out on your timeline at any time, there’s a slide bar next to the Settings button that will allow you to do this. Or you can use these keyboard shortcuts:

  • Command + to zoom in 
  • Command – to zoom out 
Use these keyboard shortcuts to zoom in and out on the editing timeline

Use these keyboard shortcuts to zoom in and out on the editing timeline

Now that your footage is imported, it’s time to cover exactly how to edit videos with iMovie. 

How To Edit And Trim  Footage In iMovie

To start trimming down your footage, go to the start of your clip. Let’s say you want to remove the first 10 seconds of footage. 

Use the blade tool to cut clips where you want to adjust and refine the footage

Use the blade tool to cut clips where you want to adjust and refine the footage

There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Blade Tool: Click on the point you want to remove up until and press Command B on the keyboard. You’ll then have two clips. Select the one you want to remove and press Delete on the keyboard. 
  • Handle: Select the clip and use the handle to adjust the clip length. Drag it until you reach the point where you want your clip to start. 

Click the handle and drag it to adjust the footage

You can then go to the end of your footage and use the blade tool or handle to trim your footage there as well. 

It’s not just the beginning and end of your clip that you can do this. You can use these tools to remove unnecessary footage at any point throughout your clip. 

First use the blade tool to cut the footage. Then either cut the footage again so that you can delete the middle section. Or use the handle to trim your footage from where you cut it. 

You can edit the footage at any point throughout the clip by using the blade tool 

You can edit the footage at any point throughout the clip by using the blade tool 

So now use these techniques to go through and remove any mistakes or any footage that you don’t need. You want to be left with only the good footage that you’re actually going to use in your video. 

Click and drag clips to change the order on the timeline

Click and drag clips to change the order on the timeline

Once that’s done, you’ll be left with lots of little clips on your timeline. If you need to change the order of these, just click the clip and drag it to wherever you want it to go on the timeline. 

Now that your primary footage is sorted, let’s bring in any overlay footage or B-roll. 

How To Add B-Roll In iMovie

It’s super easy to add B-roll to your video.

Drag the B-roll footage from the My Media section onto your timeline. But instead of dropping it in next to your primary footage, drop it in the section above your primary footage. 

Drag the b-roll footage to the row above your primary footage on the timeline 

Drag the B-roll footage to the row above your primary footage on the timeline 

Once you’ve dragged the B-roll footage, it will automatically play instead of the primary footage. You can preview this in the playback window.  

Just like with the primary footage clips, you can click and drag the handles to adjust the length of the clip. Or you can use the blade tool to cut them. You can drag them around to different locations. 

You can adjust B-roll footage the same way you edited the primary footage

You can adjust B-roll footage the same way you edited the primary footage

Add in all of the B-roll you want in your video at this stage and make sure you’re happy with the location of each of the B-roll clips. 

Now let’s add in any titles and graphics to the video.

How To Add Titles & Text In iMovie

Go to Titles in the top menu and this will open all of the different title presets. 

Click the Titles button in the top menu to add text to your video 

Click the Titles button in the top menu to add text to your video 

If you put your mouse over each of the title options you’ll see a preview in the playback window. Some are animated, some are static – there are lots of options. 

Once you’ve decided on a title, click and drop it into the timeline. You’ll see it appears on the timeline as its own clip. You might need to zoom in on the section you placed it so that it’s easier to make any adjustments.

There are a bunch of preset text options that will preview in the playback window

There are a bunch of preset text options that will preview in the playback window

Just like the other clips, you can move it around and adjust the length by dragging the handles.

To customize the text, double click on the title clip in your timeline. Then you can change the text using the Text Editor in the playback window. You can adjust the color, size, font and alignment. 

You can customize your text using the text editor in the playback window 

You can customize your text using the text editor in the playback window 

If you’re looking for something a bit fancier in terms of your titles, Placeit is an awesome tool for this. 

So for example, you could create an epic video intro in Placeit and then upload it to iMovie. Then it’s as simple as dragging the intro onto your timeline. 

Now let’s go over how to add in transitions and effects.

How To Add Effects In iMovie

Go to Transitions in the top menu. There are lots of transitions in here like Swipe Up, Circle Open and Mosaic. 

To add transitions to your video, click the Transitions button in the top menu

To add transitions to your video, click the Transitions button in the top menu

But try not to go overboard with the transition. It’s really easy to cheapen your video with some of these. Usually we would only use Cross Dissolve, Fade To Black or Fade To White. 

Once you’ve chosen a transition, all you need to do is click and drag it to your timeline. Make sure you drop it in between two clips. Then you’ll see a little Transition icon in between the clips. 

Once a transition has been added, you’ll see the little Transition icon in between clips

If you want a transition between two clips that are both of you talking, it’s best not to include one of these preset transitions. The better option is to use a zoom cut. 

“What’s a zoom cut?”, you might be wondering. A zoom cut is where you zoom in on one of your shots to make the shots look a bit different. It gives the appearance of a second, closer camera angle which helps break up your content. 

Zoom cuts are a great way to transition between clips when you’re going from one clip of you talking to another clip of you talking 

Zoom cuts are a great way to transition between clips when you’re going from one clip of you talking to another clip of you talking 

How to Add Zoom Cuts

Select the second clip of yourself talking to camera. Press the Crop button in the top menu. This will open a crop box.

Click and drag one of the corners of the box in and then you can move the box so that it’s centered. 

To add a zoom cut, select the clip and press the Crop icon 

To add a zoom cut, select the clip and press the Crop icon 

Don’t crop the video too much as you may lose quality depending on how your footage was shot. Once you’ve cropped the shot a little bit, simply click off the shot and it will save. 

Click on the first clip and hit play so you can preview the zoom cut transition from clip one to clip two. You’ll see there’s just a slight zoom in on the second shot that gives a really nice effect. 

Adjust the crop window to be just slightly more zoomed in than the original shot

Adjust the crop window to be just slightly more zoomed in than the original shot

PRO TIP: To make this transition really effective, make sure you line up your eyes in both shots. This will allow for a seamless transition that’s easy and enjoyable to watch. 

Other iMovie Effects

There are a few other useful effects in iMovie.

If you’ve got shaky footage, there’s a pretty cool feature that can fix it. Select a clip and press the Video Stabilizer icon. Then tick the Stabilize Shaky Videos box.  

Select the Video Stabilizer button if your footage is shaky 

Select the Video Stabilizer button if your footage is shaky 

Or if you want to speed up or slow down a clip, you can do this by hitting the Speed Controller icon. 

Now let’s add music to our iMovie project.

How To Add Music In iMovie

Slide back to the beginning of your timeline. In the top menu press Audio. You might already have some music imported under Music (from iTunes), Sound Effects or GarageBand. 

Go to Audio in the top menu if you already have tracks in Music, Sounds Effects or Garageband

If not, you can import audio files into the My Media tab just like you did when importing your video files. Go to File, then Import Media… and select your audio tracks. 

Once you’ve got your track uploaded, click and drag it onto the start of your timeline. Audio files come in as green clips rather than blue – this makes it really easy to differentiate which clips are which. 

The audio clip is green so you can easily differentiate it from the video clips

The audio clip is green so you can easily differentiate it from the video clips

Just like with the other clips, you can move your clip around by dragging it and you can adjust the start and end times by dragging the handles. 

Move your mouse cursor over the end of the clip and you will see a little circle appear. Click and drag this backwards to make the music fade out until it ends. You can also do this at the beginning if you want the music to fade in slightly. 

If you want your music to fade out or fade in, drag the little circle on the audio clip

If you want your music to fade out or fade in, drag the little circle on the audio clip

Again, if you want to remove a chunk of audio simply use the blade tool to cut it and then adjust your clip that way. 

It’s a good idea to preview your video now and make any tweaks so that your video footage flows with the audio track. 

Now that your music has been added, this is the perfect time to adjust your overall audio levels. 

How To Adjust Audio In iMovie

First up, hover your mouse over the volume adjustment bar on your background music and drag the music volume down to 0%. This is so you can ensure your primary audio is set to the right volume first.

Move the volume adjustment bar to zero percent so you can adjust the primary audio first

Move the volume adjustment bar to zero percent so you can adjust the primary audio first

Select the first primary footage clip. Hover over the clip again for the volume adjustment bar. If you drag the bar up very high, parts of the audio will reach the yellow, orange or red sections. 

As a general rule, you never want your audio to go into the orange or red sections. This means it’s too loud and that the audio is distorting. 

Click and drag the volume adjustment bar until you find the ideal volume level

Click and drag the volume adjustment bar until you find the ideal volume level

You want to find the point where the volume is as high as it can be without entering the orange or red zones. If it touches the yellow zone occasionally – that’s okay. 

If you’ve filmed all of your footage at the same time, same location with the same camera and microphone, you’ll know that you probably don’t need to adjust every individual clip manually.

Don’t let any of your audio reach the orange or red sections - this is too loud! 

Don’t let any of your audio reach the orange or red sections – this is too loud! 

Of course you can go through and do this manually if some are a bit louder than others. But you can save time by applying the volume level of the first clip to all of your clips. 

To do this, select the first clip and copy it by pressing Command C. Then zoom out so you can see all of the remaining clips. 

Press Command C to copy the settings on the original clip 

Press Command C to copy the settings on the original clip 

Select them all by clicking and dragging a box over all of them. Go to Edit, then Paste Adjustments and select Volume

Go to Edit, Paste Adjustments and Volume to copy the settings onto the remaining clips

Go to Edit, Paste Adjustments and Volume to copy the settings onto the remaining clips

Once those volume levels have been applied to all clips, make sure you go through the entire video just to make sure none of the audio goes into the orange or red sections. For any of the clips that do, just manually lower the volume adjustment bar. 

How To Add Audio Effects In iMovie

There are a few audio effects that you can add to your clips in iMovie as well. One that’s really useful is the noise removal tool.

Select the clip you want to make adjustments to, go to the little Audio icon in the top menu. Tick the Reduce background noise box. 

You can remove background noise inside the Noise Removal icon 

You can remove background noise inside the Noise Removal icon 

This is also where the Equalizer settings are located. Click the Equalizer drop down menu and you’ll see a few options to choose from. You can select Voice Enhance, Bass Boost, Treble Reduce – things like that to adjust your audio. 

You can add in audio filters by going to the Filters icon in the top menu. Click the None button next to Audio Effects. A pop up box will appear with some audio effects such as Muffed, Echo Delay, Telephone and Large Room. 

There are a few different equalizer settings you can adjust in the audio tab

There are a few different equalizer settings you can adjust in the audio tab

Now that your primary audio is sorted, it’s time to bring the background music back in.

The volume of your background music is really up to you. As a general guide, we start at 20 to 30% for background music in our videos. But obviously this depends on the specific audio track, some might be louder than others. 

Once you’ve set your background music volume level, listen through your video to see if it sounds too quiet or if it’s too loud and distracting. Adjust the levels until it reaches a happy medium. 

Listen to your video with the primary audio and background music playing together so you can know for certain that everything sounds good together 

Listen to your video with the primary audio and background music playing together so you can know for certain that everything sounds good together 

PRO TIP: Go through this process using headphones as this gives the best representation of the actual volume levels. 

How To Color Grade In iMovie

The next step is to color grade or color correct your video footage. 

Select the first clip – once again, we’ll adjust the settings on the first clip and then apply it to the remaining clips. 

The first option for color grading is to select the Color Balance button 

The first option for color grading is to select the Color Balance button 

There are a couple of options from here: 

  • Color Balance: This setting does some automatic adjustments (in our experience these aren’t great but feel free to play around with it)
  • Color Correction: There are three different sliders you can adjust to make your shot look really great (this is our recommended way of color correcting in iMovie)
The more effective option for color grading is to make adjustments in the Color Correction tab

The more effective option for color grading is to make adjustments in the Color Correction tab

In the Color Correction tab, the first slider controls the overall shot brightness and contrast. If you slide the white circle to the right, it will increase the bright areas of your shot. If you slide the white circle to the left, it will darken the bright areas of your shot. 

Click and drag the White Balance bar to adjust the warmth of the shot 

Click and drag the White Balance bar to adjust the warmth of the shot 

On the other end of the brightness & contrast slider is the black circle. If you drag this circle around, it will adjust the dark areas of your shot. And if you move the circle in the middle, it will adjust the mid-tones or the overall appearance of your shot. 

There are another two slide bars in the Color Correction tab that can adjust the:

  • White balance (slider on the right): To make your shot warmer, slide the circle to the right. To make your shot cooler, slide the circle to the left. 
  • Color saturation (slider in the middle): To emphasize the colors, slide the circle to the right. To tone down the colors, slide the circle to the left. 
Adjusting the Color Saturation bar will highlight or decrease the colors in your shot 

Adjusting the Color Saturation bar will highlight or decrease the colors in your shot 

If you’d prefer to go for a different effect, you could try one of built-in clip filters. These are pretty much like Instagram filters. Go to the Filters icon. Click on the None button next to Clip Filter. A pop up box will appear with all of the different filters. 

You can experiment with these but it’s usually something we steer clear from in our videos as we prefer a more natural tone.

There are lots of filters in iMovie that you can play around with

There are lots of filters in iMovie that you can play around with

Once again, you can apply all of these adjustments to all clips by selecting the clip you made those adjustments on and pressing Command C to copy. Select the remaining clips and go to Edit, then Paste Adjustments and then press Color Correction

To copy color settings to the remaining clips go to Edit, Paste Adjustments and Color Correction

To copy color settings to the remaining clips go to Edit, Paste Adjustments and Color Correction

After you’ve finished the color correction process, your video is complete. It’s now time to export. 

How To Add Export & Share Your Videos In iMovie

To export your completed video, go to the Export button in the top right corner. Then you have a few options.

Click the export button and then Export File

Click the export button and then Export File

You can: 

  • Create an email friendly version of your video
  • Save out the current frame that’s on your screen at that point 
  • Direct export your video to YouTube and Facebook
  • Export file that save the file onto your computer 

In our process, we export the file onto the computer, check that everything looks good and then manually upload it onto YouTube and Facebook. But if one of the other options works better for you, go for it! 

Make sure you give your project a name before exporting 

Make sure you give your project a name before exporting 

If you’re going with our process, select Export File. Give the video a name. Under Format make sure Video and Audio is selected. You can adjust the Resolution and Quality. We recommend selecting High under Quality as you’ll still have good quality but the file size won’t be too large. 

Under Compress we recommend selecting Faster rather than Better Quality. This is because in our experience, when exporting with Better Quality the video isn’t actually that higher quality. So it works out better for it to be downloaded Faster

You can select Custom under Quality and manually select the quality of your video 

You can select Custom under Quality and manually select the quality of your video 

Then select Next and choose where you want the file to be saved. Press Save

In the top right corner you’ll see a Progress circle so you can see the estimated time remaining until the export is complete. 

Once your export is finished and the video is saved onto your computer, don’t forget to watch through the entire video to make sure everything looks and sounds good. 

The progress circle will give you an estimation of how much longer the export will take 

The progress circle will give you an estimation of how much longer the export will take 

PRO TIP: It’s a good idea to watch the playback on multiple devices so you know for certain it will look good no matter what your viewers are watching on! 

Now You Know How To Use iMovie For Video Editing

There you have it – the complete guide to iMovie video editing. This Apple iMovie tutorial covered everything you need to know from how to edit on iMovie to our best iMovie Mac tips and tricks. 

Now that you know exactly how to use iMovie on Mac, check out the Primal Video Method. It’s our complete playbook with everything you need to know on how to edit videos faster!


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