This is a guest post by Marc Nash
I have a beat-up 3 year old Macbook. My version of iMovie is at least 3 years out of date. I believe the latest application is part of iLife 11, and I bet the range of effects are way better now. So anything that I offer on here is likely to be even better rendered with an up-to-date application.
iMovie allows you very simply, through drag and drop and copy and paste, to either make an animated ‘slideshow’ type of video, or an actual moving image filmic one recorded on the built in webcam. Or a combination of the two. It allows you to add your book cover image, have text , sound effects and do voice-overs. And I can’t stress how simple it is. I made 3 different book related videos in 24 hours having been granted the luxury of a house empty of kids for once!
Storyboard your video from beginning to end. That means lay out in order the flow of images (including any text) on paper. This in itself is a creative process, since you need to think about the narrative of the video and how it conveys your book in the best possible way.
If you’re going to have still images and photos from your own gallery, bought in royalty free ones, or others under creative commons, you must make sure you have them all collected together in one folder for convenience and then you need to plan exactly what order to use them in your storyboard.
Although iMovie will ‘animate’ your stills images, I do recommend you also employ some video footage since this is a video after all. If you can’t film content yourself (which is my situation as I don’t even own a camcorder), I recommend you check out a royalty-free site like I-Stockphoto.com. Royalty free doesn’t mean zero cost, but it does mean you don’t have to pay a royalty fee (as you would with any music under copyright for example). There are various bundles of packages of ‘credits’ and videos use more credits than stills, and stills use more credits than sound effects. It just depends how many elements you want to use. For my trailer I bought in 6 stills, 4 videos and 4 sound effects and it cost me about $185 (be sure to know what your budget is before you start).The downloads are instantaneous and again I put them all in the same folder, except the sound affects which snuggled themselves in my I-Tunes from the download.
So now you have all your material ready. I’m going to break up the different elements and how to do them, though obviously you may opt to start with something other than a photo as this guide will kick off with.
Opening the application
Open your iMovie application. Under the file drop down menu above the application, click on New Project (Command N) Name the file when prompted.
Drag the image you want from your folder storing images into the middle of the upper section where it says ‘Drag media here to create a new project’.
Your chosen image shows up in a rounded edged square. Every single element you put into the video will be displayed in this section, and will play in the order in which they appear. You can insert an element between two existing ones if you’ve missed out something or had an idea for something extra (see below).
Now you can edit your photo. Notice that your image has a small slanted diamond mark on it. If you click on that, you will be able to edit it. Doing so, you’ll see that the image also appears in the editing box to the right of the centre. You are offered 3 options. You can simply click fit the image and have it as a still shot (you can’t change the dimensions under this function).
OR you can crop the image. A green rectangle appears around the frame of your image and by clicking on that frame and dragging it to the size you want you can make the image smaller. However, it is not a sophisticated tool and the image will always remain a rectangle, just of smaller proportion. I must admit, I don’t think I’ve ever used it. The two arrows in the middle offer you the opportunity to rotate the image. Again, it’s not a terribly sophisticated function, in that it will only do ninety-degree pivots, but I have used it to try and mimic animation of the same still used one after the other; thereby the image pivots on its axis.
Finally there is the key function with the rather odd name of Ken Burns, named after a documentary maker who became associated with the technique for manipulating still images. Here you can imitate the effects of zooming in or out, or panning up or down an image, which imparts movement to what would otherwise be static.
This time you have two rectangles, one green and one red. The green rectangle should be dragged over the section of the image you want the ‘shot’ to start with and the red will represent the end of the image. The whole shot will move smoothly between these two poles. Unfortunately you only have two to manipulate not more and you can’t expand the rectangles, though you can reduce them in size. That’s useful for serving as a cropping, but again always in the proportion and shape of a rectangle. So there are 4 effects you can render through this function. A slow zoom in, a slow zoom out, a slow panning up or across one way and a slow panning down or across the other way.
Now while these are a great way of animating your video, have a think about how many times you use the possible combinations of 4 movements across your whole video, because it may just pall with your viewer if you are doing this throughout and with little other type of movement. Also judge which images need to be still and which need animating.
You can hit the play button (the one next to the done button in the editing box) to see the movement of your ken burns image. When you’re satisfied it’s moving the right way for you, hit done. You can return to re-edit any of the above 3 options at any time. Just move the cursor on to the diamond icon in any still in the centre screen and it will return the image to the edit box in the right hand side.
There is one other thing that impacts on your animated images and indeed on all elements in your video. Time.
Each rounded edge square, be it image, video clip, or even sound added, has a marker of duration. The amount of seconds of duration is displayed. But under that is a little clockface and you can click on that to change the duration of that element. A pop-up box appears asking you for the duration. You can click on this as many times as you like until you are satisfied. It’s particularly pertinent to ken burns treated still images and any credits you might add (see below). The duration set controls the rate of movement, the longer the duration, the slower the tracking or the scrolling of credits.
Finally on photos and stills, there is a little circle in the top left hand side of the rounded square of your image. If you click on that you get a pop up box for colour, contrast and all sorts of shading. Again, this is one I’ve never used, other than to restore the original colour to video footage of me reading that I had accidentally managed to tint orange!
There are two types of video footage, that you shoot on your webcam, such as for reading from your book to camera, or discussing some subject; and externally filmed footage which I hope you’ve put in your pre-production folder as instructed above.
To import any external footage, click on the file function above the application and drag down to import movies. A pop up menu with you computer’s files will appear and click on the relevant file footage you require. Make sure you are adding it to your existing event and not starting a new one before you click import. The video footage appears in broken up snippets in the box at the bottom of the I-movie suite. Even those videos brought whole from I-Stockphoto appear in these snippets. Don’t worry, they still play seamlessly.
To move them up into the media box above, you have to click on the frame you want to start the footage from and you’ll see a yellow outline. Drag the right side of this outline over the entire footage you want to move into your video. Then go to edit above the application and click on ‘copy’. Before you paste, make sure the cursor is at the end of the frame of the previous element you want the film to come after, otherwise it can get inserted awkwardly between various elements. And it’s as easy as that.
If you want to edit any of the footage, you have to do it in the box at the bottom where the footage was first imported into. To be honest, apart from trimming the beginning and end of the opening and closing clips, editing video footage isn’t great, because it leaves a jump cut that looks clumsy. This isn’t so bad if it’s footage of you talking to camera. I had some bought in footage that I was able to cut in half and use the two parts separately at different point in the video, but again that’s about the limit of editing flexibility.
But if you are going to edit footage here’s how. Again the tools aren’t precision ones, so particularly if there is audio on the footage, you have to be careful not to chop off something you need. Manipulate the yellow outline frame around the section you want to chop, then from the edit function above the application, click on reject selection. It will disappear from the footage in the bottom of the application. You can restore it via the same edit function.
There is a range of transitions you can try and mend your cut, more of which below.
Very useful for quoting bits of text or having buzzwords about your theme, as well as titles and don’t forget the ‘Available from Amazon’ ending.
I suspect the scrolling text function is way better on more recent versions of iMovie, otherwise it is quite limited. For static text there is no problem. Click on the ‘T’ box to the right hand side and the type of text options appear. Note, these are really for captioning a still, so most of the styles are variations on a similar theme. The only exception is the ‘Credits’, more of which below. Drag whichever option you want, either on to a still or video already in your video in the middle section and the words you go on to type will appear on the frame in a position according to which option you’ve chosen. But you can make it so that text only appears. Just drag the text option rectangle to the cursor at the end of your video in progress and a black box appears with sample writing of ‘title’ and ‘subtitle’. Type whatever you want, and the usual Mac pop up menus for text font style and size are presented. You can change the fill colour of the square, all the usual stuff you get with MS word.
If you want to animate your text there are 2 different ways and both rely on the duration time for the frame (see above). The first is to Ken Burns your text. It’s a bit winging it and is very much trial and error to ensure the words don’t disappear from view too quickly. Again, just hit the play button in your text editing box to see how the text is moving, and hit done when you’re happy with it.
The same problem effects the other option, that of selecting the text option for credits. It is designed for exactly that, for a set of credits. But they seem to shoot through at an alarmingly rapid rate unless you lengthen the duration of the whole frame. Of the two, I veer towards the ken burns, but in truth I tend to have mainly static text. Like I say, hopefully the functionality is better in later versions.
If you click on the semi-quaver icon in the right hand side, this brings up your whole iTunes library (which will contain any downloaded sound effects as well as your songs). But it also brings up a set of options of pre-set sound effects which are rather useful and free! Unfortunately you have to plough through them to listen and decide which one(s) you want, but when you find one, simply drag and drop it on to the frame(s) you require. Added sound appears as a green bar underneath the frame it’s soundtracking.
You can expand or shrink the duration of the sound effect/music, so that you can extend them beyond any single framed element. Just click on the green bar and shorten/lengthen it. Lessening the duration of sound by reducing the length of the green marker bar makes a clean cut. You can’t extend the sound beyond the duration of the original download however. You would just have to drag and drop it a second time to continue, again with possibly an ugly sounding cut between where the first ends and the second begins. But you can layer sounds over one another, so you may be able to disguise it. If you click on the speaker icon with waves emerging from it just to the left of the volume level gauge, you can make various adjustments such as fades and the like. Again, it’s not something I’ve ever used, other than to increase the volume of the sound affect so it wasn’t drowned out by the voiceover – simply increase the sliding scale percentage of Ducking.
Hit the microphone icon, and you’ll get the message to select the frame you want the recording to start from. The built in mic will record your voice. You ought to check the volume level it’s set at in the pop-up menu that also comes up. I find 67% is good, but adjust to your preference. Once you click on the frame to select, you will be ‘ping’ counted down from 3 to zero when the recording will start.
When you want to stop recording, click the microphone icon again. Voiceover data appears in a purple flash underneath the clips it soundtracks. Usefully the length of the recording is in the left hand of the flash. You can shorten the length of the recording, simply by dragging the right-hand end of the flash, but you may lose some voice content, since the recording is in the real time it takes you to read. It is far easier to mesh the sound with the stills by changing the duration of the stills (lengthening/shortening them accordingly). You can do this retrospectively after the voiceover, but remember you may have to drag & adjust the duration of the voiceover flash as well. You can break the voiceover into as many different units as you want, just be careful to modulate the transition between each end of a section and the start of the next one. You can rerecord any part that is unsatisfactory; just click on the flash so that it is framed in yellow and then hit delete to get rid of it and repeat the recording process as above.
And there are all the separate elements to putting your video together. To check the whole, hit ‘play project full screen’ button in the middle of the 3 buttons at the bottom of the Project Library section to the left.
When you are ready to convert the iMovie Project into a video, simply go to the ‘Share’ menu above iProject. I always start with ‘Export Movie’ which converts it to a movie on your laptop which unless you change the file destination, will go to your movie folder. The saved format is one unique to Macs, a dotM4V file. After I’ve saved it in this format, I go to save it in a more widely distributable movie format, dot.MP4. From the share menu, I export it using QuickTime for the dotMP4 version. You may opt to just do this version and forget about the dotM4V file version. I just like having both formats. The third thing you can do is upload straight from iMovie to YouTube, again from the share drop down menu. The first time I did this it worked perfectly, but every other time I’ve tried it disappears into the ether and I’ve had to upload via YouTube. Don’t forget to fill in the information about the video; title, description, tags, category.
And there you have it. The ease of imovie, with a very few things it seems limited by. Don’t forget, some of these shortcomings may have been fixed with later versions than I have, especially (hopefully) scrolling text.
About this post’s author:
Marc Nash is a writer of difficult literature, challenging notions about the form of the novel, language and the nature of storytelling. He has two novels out on kindle as well as a collection of flash fiction, a website on each of the novels “A,B&E” and “Not In My Name” and a YouTube channel with 16 book-related videos. Come say hi on Twitter with @21stCscribe. Marc lives and works in London for a Freedom Of Expression Charity and until recently managed his sons’ soccer team which was way harder than anything to do with literature.