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5 New Audio Editing Features in iMovie '11

Apple's iMovie has always been targeted at the consumer video makers market. But don't let the low price tag or the fact iLife is bundled free with every new Mac fool you. iMovie '11 packs a powerful punch when it comes to video editing. Practically every editing function can be applied in real-time, which is enough to make hard-core Final Cut users (myself included) look on with envy.

Although iMovie '11 sports a virtually unchanged interface to it's predecessors, Apple have added extra features to make creating movies for any purpose easy and fun. Advanced audio editing, new themes, storyboarding, new transitions and  even a Timeline... are some of the note worthy additions. So, if you were hanging onto iMovie HD 6 out of preference for working in a Timeline, then now is a great time to see what iMovie '11 can offer you.

We here at macProVideo have picked out five of our favorite new audio editing features in iMovie '11 to share with you. These are not necessarily the ones that have generated the most attention, but ones that have made our lives easier!

It's About Time

Before we delve into the Advanced Audio Editing features let's take a look at how to turn iMovie's clip view into a Timeline. The Timeline just makes iMovie feel more like a professional Video Editing Application.

Click on the 3 blue dots icon in the top right of the Project Window to toggle between single row or multiple row clip display. In single row clip display the Timeline is visible and the clips are laid out from left to right. Hooray!

01 - What you See is What you Hear

This is really two tips in one. First off, wouldn't it be great to be able to see the audio waveforms in the Project window and the Event windows? Done!

Clicking on the Audio Waveform button next to the Zoom Slider in both Project and Event windows displays the audio waveform for video clips and audio clips. Although seemingly a small feature, it's so useful when editing a clip to see the waveform as well as hear to it!

02 - Quick Gain Solution

This ability to view the audio waveform under each clip brings another cool feature to the fore. Again, simple but very effective! In the Project and Event windows you can drag the horizontal line in the Audio waveform area up and down to adjust the level of that audio clip only.

As you can see in the image below, I've increased the level of the audio to 133%. The waveform has updated in realtime - and further information is visible too. The red areas of the waveform are warning us that section of audio is likely to clip and sound distorted. Very useful to see this advanced info at a glance!

Adjusting audio levels for a section of clip is also easy. There are times when the odd word or sound needs to be removed or it's level attenuated. There's no need to split the clip. Instead drag a yellow selection area over the audio waveform you wish to edit. Then drag the horizontal audio level line up/down to adjust only the level within that yellow section. A fade in and fade out will be automatically created on either edge of the yellow selection area.

03 - Getting a Handle on Audio

Wouldn't it be great if you could drag at the beginning/end of a clip to create a fade in/out? Yes, it would be, and yes it can be done.

Position the mouse cursor over the left or right edge of a waveform clip in the Project window. A white anchor will appear.

Drag that to within the clip to create a fade in or fade out respectively. Again, the audio waveform view updates in real-time to show the levels. This is sweet!

04 - All Things Being Equal

Double-clicking on a video clip with audio or an individual audio clip displays the Clip Inspector. Select the Audio tab and one of the new features in iMovie '11 becomes apparent. The Equalizer. You can turn the Equalizer on or off and choose from custom presets to enhance voice or music, reduce hum, boost bass or treble or reduce the bass or treble. But the most exciting aspect is the inclusion of a 10 stage Graphic Equalizer which allows you to adjust certain frequencies of the audio spectrum manually.

05 - Extreme Audio Effects

Need to add an effect to your voice over, background sound or music? Previously Garageband or another audio editor would have been needed, but in iMovie '11 there are some fun effect presets that might save you the round-trip.

Double-click on any clip to view the Clip Inspector, and make sure you're in the Clip tab. click on the Audio Effect button to view this HUD below.

Roll your mouse over the different effects to hear them playback in real-time. Click on one to apply it to the clip or choose None if you'd prefer not to apply an effect at all.

They say video is two-thirds audio, so these enhanced audio editing features in iMovie '11 are there to help your video sound as good as it looks and impress your audience with it's professional feel!

Share your audio or video editing tips with iMovie in the Comments below and check out our iLife and OS X range of tutorials!

Rounik Sethi

Rounik Sethi | Articles by this author

Rounik is the Executive Editor for Ask.Audio & macProVideo. He's built a crack team of professional musicians and writers to create one of the most visited online resources for news, review, tutorials and interviews for modern musician and producer. As an Apple Certified Trainer for Logic Pro Rounik has taught teachers, professional musicians and hobbyists how to get the best out of Apple's creative software. He has been a visiting lecturer at Bath Spa University's Teacher training program, facilitating workshops on using music and digital media tools in the classroom. If you're looking for Rounik, you'll most likely find him (and his articles) on Ask.Audio & macProVideo.com.


Dec 22, 2010
Thanks for this informative article, Rounik.
Mar 11, 2011
Ed Sanders
Will I-Movie 11 audio allow you to combine the two channels (stereo) into one (mono) and place in on channel one? This can be done with Final Cut Express and is necessay because our Access Channel only plays mono from channel one. If two people are recorded on seperate channels with the Sony DSR250 the person on channel 2 can't be heard except for what the other person's mic picks up. With FCX the wto channels can be combined.
Mar 12, 2011
Hi Ed

If you Sony DSR250 splits the channels in such a way, I'd recommend using Final Cut or Soundtrack Pro (or even Garageband) to get the audio just the way you need it before importing it into iMovie.

Another option is to use a mixer when recording the audio... Not sure if that would be what you'd like if you need to edit the audio in post.

Hope that helps...
Aug 23, 2011
Hi Rounik,
Great presentation. There is only one problem and that is that "What you See is What you Here" isn't always true. There is a bug since at least iMovie 08 with volume fading. It happens sometimes (sporadic) when you use transitions and/or add extra sound effects. I have experienced this on three diffferent macs and I am using the lates version. Any ideas?

Best regards
Aug 24, 2011
Hi Hans,

I've not come across this bug so am not sure what to suggest... What happens if you detach the audio from the video clip?

Aug 24, 2011
Thanks for your quick respons! I will detach the audio from all video clips tonight when I'm home to see what happens. I also would like to add that I use background music and most of the the clips are muted. So at some clips there could be three audio tracks, one original from the clip, one soundtrack and another sound effect. I also mix video clips and photos.

Aug 24, 2011
Thanks Hans.

BTW, what version of OSX are you running? Also, is iMovie'11 completely up to date?

Good luck :)
Sep 06, 2011
Sorry for a late reply. I am using the latest versions of iMovie11 and Leopard. I found one reason why volume drops. I often add a soundtrack to be played in the background. Then I add a sound effect on top and increase the volume on that sound clip. Volume drops on the soundtrack after this. If I then change to the original volume on the "extra" sound clip the soundtrack volume is constant. This seems to be a bug, but now I have at least identified it.

Sep 06, 2011
Hi Hans,

So, you're using OS X 10.5.x Leopard?

It sounds like it might be a bug or alternatively check that the sound effect clip doesn't have "ducking" enabled. This automatically lowers the volume of any other audio tracks playing during the same time. It's a common effect used when a radio presenter talks over the top of music playing...

Mar 15, 2012
thanks, I learned a lot from this article. I have a big problem.

I have been working with a dozen or so movies. The video is set. Audio clips come from several sessions using voiceover and narrative tracks imported from itunes. Everything had been working well until today when I opened imovie11 to continue editing the sound tracks. Most of the sound tracks do not play. The wave forms are viable and can be adjusted. The movie inspector does not show any problems that I can see. Volume is up on all of them, their is no ducking or fade. What could have happened? Can I get the sound to play again and finish the movie?
Thank you for any help.
Nov 13, 2012
I have imported an MP4 clip to Imovie 11. At one point in the clip, the sound track has an extra bit of "silence" and the rest of the sound track is delayed by these few seconds relative to the video.

How can I clip out this offending bit of sound track and bring it back in line without changing anything else?

Possibly very elementary?


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