How to Use iMovie 2016-2017: A Beginner’s Guide

If you have a Macbook, iMovie is a fantastic (and free!) video editing software that comes with your computer.

If you’re looking to make some simple and quick videos, but either don’t have the money, time, or experience to invest in programs like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro, iMovie is a great place to start.

Read on to learn about everything from importing clips to adding transitions and titles to changing the coloration and sound of your sequence.

STEP 1: Take the “Struggle” Out of iMovie

We highly encourage you to download the “iMovie- Getting Started” 4-Step Checklist.
It will help you speed up the editing process for every one of your videos.

Got your 4-step checklist?

Great. Now, let’s move on…



Import Your Clips Into iMovie

First things first, you’ll need to import a clip into your timeline. This is the first stage in editing your videos on iMovie. You can import your videos by dragging it in from the desktop, or by clicking the import icon on the iMovie editing interface.

The imported video will then pop up on timeline. Feel free to import in as many clips as you need.

001 importing video into imovie

drag and drop from desktop

Now, the magic begins and you can start editing your video!


To Add a Transition

If you simply cut your video and spliced it together, it’ll look super jumpy and awkward. If that’s not the type of video you’re looking to make, then you should certainly consider using transitions. Transition effects allow for one clip to gracefully transition into the next.
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To insert a transition, move your cursor to the bottom left, the first option “Transition”. Click it and, boom! Now you have a plethora of transition options to choose from.

004 click on transitions option in imovie

005 transitions menu in imovie 2015

To select the point you want to add a transition, locate the very point in the video, right click on it and select  “Split Clip”.

(NOTE: This is more of an advanced feature inside of iMovie. However, as an editor, this feature can save you a lot of time as you create more videos. Definitely take advantage of it!)

007 drag and drop between clips in imovie for transitions

An easier approach to adding a transition would be to drag the transition style you prefer to the middle of the divided clip and there you will have your transition.



The first clip should transition into the next clip in the manner of the transition you chose.


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To Add a Title

Titles allow for you to frame your video. They help create a beginning, middle and end, so they’re really important to include. 

To add a title, move your mouse to the bottom left to find the Title option.

008 select title option in iMovie 2016

Click on it and you will have options of title styles, just like with transitions.

Drag it on top of the part of the video you will want the title to reflect, you can then expand it along the timeline to the point you prefer. 

010 Drag and drop title style on top of clips in imovie

Double click on it and you’ll be able to play around with the text size, color and style. Have fun and be creative!

Adding Backgrounds

You’ll see that adding a title will come with a clear background. This allows for the words to appear on top of your clip. However, if you wanted a background behind your title instead, here’s how you do it!

First, click on “Maps & Backgrounds”.

011 maps and backgrounds menu in imovie 2016 how to

You’ll then have various background colors and styles to choose from.

012 drag and drop a slate backdrop into imovie how to

Pick one, drag it on the timeline and then add any text you want on it.

013 how to add a title on backdrop black slate in imovie 2016

Adding Sound

Adding sounds is similar to how you’ve added everything else – click, drag, and drop. To add sounds, click on iTunes, located at the bottom left.

014 adding music into imovie using the content library option

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You will have various options of sound effects. Drag it to any point you will like to add the sound effect on the timeline.

015 adding sounds drag and drop effect or song into timeline on imovie 2016


Cropping, Color, Saturation And Tone

At the top right corner, right above the little preview box, you will have options for cropping, changing saturation, changing the tone, and panning.

016 adjustment options in imovie how to add effects

You can increase and decrease the saturation, color and tone to your desired level by clicking on the respective icon then dragging along the line that appears next to it.

017 drag the color options

To crop, you click on the cropping option, then resize the box that appears. This will cut the video to the size of the box. You may change the size of this box.

020 cropping video clips how to imovie 2016

To pan, click on the pan icon and drag the arrow to where you’d like the video to pan to. When you now play the video, it pans when it gets to that cropped part.

021 movie cropping in imovie 2015

Stabilize, Rotate, and Sound Volume

If your video is shaky, you may use the stabilize option. Go to the top tight and click on the fourth icon. This is the stabilizing button.

023 camera stabilization how to in imovie 2016 also lets you rotate your clip

Click on it and check the “Stabilize Shaky Video” button to activate this feature.

022 stabilization in imovie 2016 use to kill shakiness in video

If you play around with it, you can use it to stabilize your video.

If you’d like to rotate the clip, click on the rotate icon.

The fifth icon on the top right of your iMovie’s editor is the sound volume.

024 increase or decrease sound volume in imovie using sound speaker option how to 2016

Use this to increase or decrease the sound of your video. You can also increase or decrease the sound volume by moving the line that cuts across the video’s audio output up and down.

025 click on the clip's elastic band to increase decrease volume of clips

You’ll see the line your timeline in-between some wavy lines. This is particularly helpful in the case where your video was filmed too quietly or loudly. Again – just play around and you’ll find a good medium that you’ll like!

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Video Effects and Audio Effects and Speed

To add video or sound effects, go to the top of the video output on the iMovie video editor.

026 adding effects to the imovie timeline library

You’ll see two drop-down menus for “Video Effects” and “Audio Effects”. Choose either the sound or video effect of your choice.

027 choosing video effects to your video in imovie how to screenshot

To increase or decrease the speed of your video, right click on the clip and go to “Show Click Trimmer” on the dialogue.

029 how to use show clip trimmer in imovie 2016 for slowing down or speeding up clips

You will have unlocked a new icon at the top of your preview video – “Speed”! This will be the7th icon on the top right.

030 changing speed of clip in imovie 2015

Click on it and there you change the speed from options “Normal”, “Slow”, “Fast”, and Custom. You can also reverse your video here, if you’d like.

028 adding audio effects in imovie 2016 using pitch effects

Time to Post Your Video Using iMovie’s Built in “Share” Options!

On iMovie, the “Share” button essentially saves the video you edited as a video you can upload, watch and play! Click on the “Share” button, located at the top left and save the file.

031 how to use share options in imovie 2016

Now the file can be uploaded to wherever you want, like YouTube.


Congratulations! You’ve just finished editing your first video in iMovie. This is only a beginner’s guide, so there’s tons more that you can learn about iMovie.

Let us know in the comments what else you’d like to learn about. We love taking your suggestion to write our future post!

Happy editing, guys.


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