Adding Special Effects

You can add all sorts of interesting visual effects to make your movie look better and even more interesting.

Making a Clip Play in Reverse

You can make a clip play in reverse in your movie. Why would you want to do this? There are several possible reasons. One is for comedic effect. Another might be to create an instant replay type of effect (you will want to increase the speed of the clip to do this, and you learn how later in this section). Do the following:

  1. Select the clip you want to play in reverse.

  2. Select Advanced, Reverse Clip Direction (graphics/mac.gif-R). On the Clip Viewer, a direction arrow appears indicating that the clip plays from right to left.


Reversing a clip also reverses its audio. You can mute the audio of any clip, as you will learn later in this chapter.

The first scene of the clip becomes the last one in the movie, and the thumbnail view you see becomes the last frame (which is now the first frame).


A transition impacts the clips to which it is attached. If you reverse a clip that has an attached transition, a warning dialog box appears and tells you that reversing the clip invalidates the transition. It then asks whether you want to rerender the transition. If you proceed with the reversal, the affected transitions are rerendered.

You can restore a clip to its proper direction by selecting it and using the Reverse Clip Direction command again.

Applying Special Effects to Your Movie

The Effects pane contains a number of other special effects you can apply to your clips (see Figure 17.11).

Figure 17.11. You can use the Effects pane to apply a variety of special effects to your clips.


The Effects pane includes the following tools:

  • Preview window? When you select an effect, you see a preview of it in the Preview window.

  • Preview button? Click this button to see a preview of the selected effect in the Monitor.

  • Apply? Click this button to apply the selected effect to the selected clip.

  • Effect In? The Effect In slider controls the number of frames over which the effect is applied. When the slider is all the way to the left, the effect is applied in full force from the start of the clip. As the slider is moved to the right, the effect fades in and is applied gradually over the time selected on the slider up to the maximum amount of time on the slider (10 seconds). For example, if you wanted to apply the black-and-white effect to a clip surrounded by two color clips, you might want the color of the clip to slowly fade away so the transition to black-and-white isn't jarring.

  • Effect Out? The Effect Out slider controls the time over which the effect fades out. When the slider is all the way to the right, the effect remains in full force until the end of the clip. As the slider is moved to the left, the effect begins to fade out from the point at which the slider is set (the maximum amount is 10 seconds before the end of the clip).

  • Available Effects? This area contains the list of effects from which you can choose. You can use the scroll tools to see all the available effects.

  • Configuration tools? Various sliders appear when you select certain effects; these sliders enable you to change some aspect of the effect. For example, when you select the Ghost Trails effect, you see three sliders that enable you to configure that effect. Some effects don't have configuration tools; these effects are either on or off.

The Effects pane is a bit different from the Transitions and Titles tool panes. The tools on the Effects pane are related to each other only in that they are effects you apply to the video track. This differs from the tools on the Transitions pane, for example, on which all the tools are related to creating transitions.

Exploring the iMovie Effects

Although they do different things, all these effects work similarly?after you use some of them, you can easily use all of them. Table 17.1 lists the effects on the default Effects pane and provides some examples of when you might want to apply them.

Table 17.1. iMovie Special Effects Tools


What It Does

When to Use It

Adjust Colors

Enables you to adjust the hue, color, and lightness of a clip.

When a clip has poor color or seems somewhat dingy

Aged Film

Makes the clip look old by adding scratches, jitters, and other artifacts that appear in video captured with old cameras.

For artistic effects

Black & White

Converts a clip into black?and-white.

For artistic effects

Brightness & Contrast

Enables you to adjust the brightness and contrast of a clip.

When a clip is too dark, too bright, or has poor contrast.


Causes the clip to "shake."

For artistic effects


Causes an "electric" line to appear at the top of the clip as if it is being hit by lightning or a Tessla Coil.

For artistic effects

Fairy Dust

Causes a trail of "fairy dust" to move across the screen.

For artistic effects


Makes a flash of light wash out the clip for a time.

For artistic effects


Shrouds the clip in digital fog.

For artistic effects

Ghost Trails

Causes the clip to be ghosted so objects are trailed by faint copies of themselves as they move.

For artistic effects

Lens Flare

Causes a spot of light to appear as if the camera were pointed toward the sun when the clip was captured.

For artistic effects


Places black bars at the top and bottom of the screen to simulate the Letterbox format. This effect actually cuts off the top and bottom part of the clip rather than reformatting it into the true letterbox format.

For artistic effects


Makes the clip appear with a mirror image of itself.

For artistic effects


Makes the clip play in each of multiple squares on the screen; you set how many squares appear onscreen.

For artistic effects


If rainy days and Mondays get you down, you won't like this one.

For artistic effects

Sepia Tone

Applies a wood grain texture to the clip.

For artistic effects (often used to make a clip appear as if it were filmed in the past)


Adjusts a clip's sharpness.

When a clip is too fuzzy

Soft Focus

Applies a blur to the images in a clip.

For artistic effects


Be careful about using the Brightness & Contrast controls on your clips. The relative brightness levels of video can vary depending on the device you use to show your movie. For example, you might find that a clip appears slightly darker in iMovie than it does when you export it to videotape. Thus, if you make it brighter in iMovie, it might appear washed out when you view it on a TV. You should do some testing on your setup and how you will view your movie (such as exporting a sample to videotape) before you make many of these adjustments.

Applying Effects to Clips

The general steps to apply a special effect are the following:

  1. Select a clip to which you want to apply an effect.

  2. Select the effect you want to apply.

  3. Set the time it takes for the effect to be applied and the time over which it disappears.

  4. Use the effect's other controls to adjust that effect's properties, while previewing the effect along the way.

  5. Apply the effect to the clip.

You change a clip that has an effect applied to it by updating the effect:

  1. Select the clip that has an effect applied to it. You then see the clip in the Monitor.

  2. On the Effects pane, select the effect you want to change and use the Effects tools to configure it.

  3. Click Apply, and the effect is applied to the clip; the clip is rendered again.

When you apply an effect to a clip, iMovie renders that clip using the effect you apply. However, it also saves the original clip so you can go back to it if you want:

  1. Select the clip that has an effect applied to it.

  2. Select Advanced, Restore Clip. The clip is restored to its previous condition.

You can restore a clip only until you empty the iMovie Trash. This is because the original version of the clip is stored in the Trash when you apply an effect to it. When the original version is removed from iMovie (by emptying the Trash), it is no longer available to be restored. Don't empty the iMovie Trash until you are sure you won't want to restore any of the modified clips to their original conditions.

iMovie's effects are interesting and fun to apply. Here are some more tips about effects:

  • You can apply multiple special effects to the same clip. When you apply two or more special effects to the same clip, the number of effects you have applied is indicated by the number next to the special effects icon.

  • If you apply multiple special effects to a clip and want to restore it to its original condition, you have to use the Restore Clip command once for each effect you applied to the clip to get it back to its original condition. For example, if you applied two effects to a clip, you must use this command twice to restore the clip to its original state.

  • As with transitions, you shouldn't add special effects just because you can?which might be a temptation because they are fun to play with. A few special effects go a long way.

Working with the Timeline Viewer

To this point, you have used only one of iMovie's two viewers. The Clip Viewer is a good place to focus on the video track of your movie. But as you get into finer levels of detail in the editing process and start working with audio, you switch over to the Timeline Viewer. This view provides a more detailed view of your movie, and you "see" all the tracks that make up your movie.

To switch to the Timeline Viewer, click its button (it has a clock icon) to see the Timeline Viewer (see Figure 17.12). This viewer looks more complicated than the Clip Viewer, and it is. This complexity enables you to do lots of great things, especially with your movie's audio track.

Figure 17.12. The Timeline Viewer enables you to see all the tracks in your movie.


The Timeline Viewer has the following tools:

  • Timeline Viewer? This viewer shows all the details of a movie's contents and enables you to configure them.

  • Video track? The top track on the Timeline Viewer displays the video track for the movie. You can see each clip in the movie, including video clips, transitions, and titles. This information is exactly the same as in the Clip Viewer, although it looks a bit different. The video track also includes the audio that is part of the video.

  • Audio 1 track? You can place any sound on the Audio 1 track, including sound effects, sound you record, and music. The sound on the track is represented by blue blocks when the sound is a sound effect or by an orange bar when the sound is recorded sound or music.

  • Audio 2 track? The Audio 2 track is the same in function as the Audio 1 track. Its purpose is to make working with multiple sounds easier because you can separate sounds on the audio tracks to make them easier to manipulate.

  • Zoom? You can select the magnification of the Timeline Viewer using the Zoom slider. When the slider is to the left, you see more of the movie's timeline but the elements you see are smaller and more difficult to work with. When you move the slider to the right, you zoom in and can see elements in greater detail. As you edit a movie, you can use this slider to change the view to be appropriate for the task you are doing. For example, when you are synchronizing sound, you might want a close-up view so you can position objects in precise relative positions. When you are recording sound from an audio CD, you might want to see more of the movie to see how much longer the sound you are recording will play relative to the movie's length.

  • Clip Speed? This slider enables you to change the speed at which a clip plays. Moving the slider to the left (toward the rabbit) makes the clip play more quickly and provides a fast-forward effect. Moving the slider in the other direction (toward the turtle) makes the clip play more slowly in a slow-motion effect. When the slider is in the center, the clip plays at its original speed.

  • Edit Volume? When this check box is checked, a line representing the volume level of an audio clip appears in the clip. You can change the volume level of the clip by moving the line up or down at various points. For example, to fade the sound out, you drag the line to the bottom of the clip. The angle of the line indicates how rapid the fade out is. You can change the volume at multiple points in any clip.

  • Relative Volume? This slider and text box enable you to set the relative volume of clips. For example, you might want narration in your movie to be louder than the music score. You move the slider or enter a percentage in the box to set the relative volume levels of various audio elements. Unlike the Volume slider in the Monitor, this slider does change the movie. It is called Relative Volume because you change only the relative volume levels of elements in your movie, not the actual volume of the movie itself (which is controlled by the viewer when your movie is played).

  • Mute check boxes? The Mute check boxes determine whether the audio contained in a track is audible or silent. When a track's Mute box is checked, the sound contained in that track is heard. Conversely, to mute a track's sound, you uncheck its Mute box.


You can do everything on the Timeline Viewer that you can on the Clip Viewer. You click a clip to select it. The clip is highlighted in blue, and then you can apply effects, transitions, and titles to it. You can also edit in the Monitor just as you can when you select a clip on the Shelf or in the Clip Viewer. Use the Clip Viewer when you want to make large changes to your movie, such as placing and moving clips, adding transitions, and so on. For finer work, such as adding sound effects, use the Timeline Viewer.

Changing the Speed of a Clip

One special effect is located on the Timeline Viewer. This is the Clip Speed slider, which you can use to make a clip play more quickly than normal or more slowly than normal.

Using the slider is trivially easy. Select a clip in the Timeline Viewer and drag the slider to change its speed. To make the clip play more quickly, drag the slider to the left. When you play the clip, it plays at the faster speed. It appears as compressed on the Timeline Viewer to show that it requires less time to play than it did originally. To slow down the clip, drag the slider to the right. Now, when you play the clip, it plays more slowly. The clip expands on the Timeline Viewer. Put the slider back in the center to return the clip to its normal speed.

When you apply speed effects to a clip, the fast forward or the play slow symbol appears on that clip in the Clip Viewer.


You can combine the direction and speed effects to add an instant replay to your movie. Select the portion of the clip you want to replay and copy it. Paste it twice so you have the three copies of the clip in a row. Select the middle copy and make it play in reverse. Use the Clip Speed slider to make this rewind quickly. When you play this section, it appears as if the clip were rewound at high speed before replaying, thus looking just like instant replay.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
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