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Tech Take-Apart
Be your own movie producer with iMovie Part 1
by kp

Ahhh...summer. A time of family BBQs, vacations and making home movies to remember it all. With hundreds of hours of video footage to edit, how can you get it onto a DVD? Think iMovie. If you have a Mac with OS X, you are already set. If not, just pick up a copy of iLife '05 that includes both iMovie and iDVD.

Camcorder Ports
Camcorder Ports

The first task is getting the video to iMovie by connecting the camcorder to the computer. To do this, you'll need a Firewire AV cable to act as a bridge to transfer the data to iMovie. Most camcorder manufacturers provide a DV cable with the camcorder or try Belkin's PureAV Digital Camcorder FireWire Cable that works with a camcorder, DVD player and iPod.

Camcorder Menu
Camcorder Menu
The next step is to activate the video streaming from the camcorder to your computer. For example, using a Sony Handycam, set the camcorder to Play/Edit mode, then from the LCD touch panel, go to MENU > EDIT/PLAY > A/V-›DV OUT > ON. Moving over to the computer, start iMovie and select "New Project" from the menu. The Project folder keeps all of your video clips, audio imports and final movie neatly organized in the "Movies" partition of the Mac hard drive by default, but if you have under 10GB of free disk space, switching to another drive is recommended. Before importing clips into the Project folder, rewind the digital cassette, then click the Import button. iMovie operates in real-time, so you can start or stop your recording without having to sequence the timing between the camcorder and the program. You can let iMovie import the clips for you, or you can create your clips by toggling with the controls. Editing the clip length as the video is streaming makes building your final movie easier, particularly if you have specific video footage you want to keep. Plus, this method saves space on your hard disk.
Imported Clips
Imported Clips

Once the importing is complete, it's time to switch to Edit mode (scissors icon) and start pulling the video together using the Viewers. iMovie has two viewing options — the Clip Viewer (film icon) and the Timeline Viewer (clock icon) — which give different editing options and graphical views of your movie. The Clip Viewer is good for preliminary assembly of your clips and to organize them into a sequence; the Timeline Viewer shows intervals of each clip with zoom and volume editing capabilities. After assembling your movie sequence, you can begin adding special effects. iMovie is packed with various effects to customize your movie such as adding titles, photos, music and transitions. For instance, to create a transition between clips, select the "Trans" button, click on two clips while holding down the shift key, choose an effect, then finish by clicking Apply. Follow the same procedure to add Effects to clips and to undo any effect, select the clip, go to Advanced > Restore Clip.

Making video effects and transitions is only the beginning — you can incorporate photos and movie titles too. Utilizing iPhoto, images can be imported into the movie as a separate piece and integrated with transitions. Titles can also be added to either the images or clips by simply choosing a clip and applying the text. Similar to the other effects, titles can be adjusted for speed and direction as they appear in the movie.

Editing Sound
Editing Sound

At this point, your movie may need some additional fine tuning which can be done switching to the Timeline Viewer. This Timeline Viewer shows an extended video layout for zooming into specific areas and editing audio. iMovie uses an non-destructive editing process that preserves the video without permanently modifying the file. To shorten a movie clip or audio track, just grab the end of a clip and pull inward. For editing sound, click on Edit Volume at the bottom of the window and move the slide button across to increase or decrease the movie volume. To add music to the movie soundtrack, click the Audio button to display your iTunes music library. After selecting a track, just drag the audio file to the timeline. iMovie separates the movie audio from imported music so that they can be adjusted independently. By activating Edit Volume feature, a line that represents the volume is placed across the audio tracks and can be used to control the volume of each track. This process is similar to GarageBand by clicking on the line to add a point for volume changes and dragging that point up or down to create a fade in/out. You can also turn an audio track on or off by checking/unchecking the volume boxes to the right of the timeline. Equipped with all of these features, your movie should be ready to go. After saving the project, try viewing your final movie full screen by using the Full-frame mode button to the right of the Play button. The only thing left is preparing your movie for exporting.

Next month, I'll be covering iMovie's exporting features and making a custom DVD movie using iDVD.

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