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iLife Tutorial: Switch scenes with terrific transitions

iMovie has a rich vein of post-production effects for you to plunder to enrich your video productions Here's how to make the most of the transitions it has on offer.

Since cinema’s earliest days, moviemakers have used transitions to demonstrate a change of location or mark the passing of time. Optical film processing techniques limited transitions to simple wipes or dissolves from one scene to another. When tape-to-tape video-editing became popular in the Eighties you needed two players, a video recorder and a vision mixer, to create a simple transition. This meant that transitions were difficult and expensive to do.

iMovie’s Transition browser can mimic traditional optical effects (see the classic Cross Dissolve for an example), but as it uses digital technology we can also have more creative-looking transitions. You can drop in as many transitions as you like without the constraints faced by film and video editors of old, and it’s a doddle to fine-tune the duration and position of a transition, as you’ll see.

Step 1: Classic wipe
Import ‘Wipe01.mov’ and ‘Wipe02.mov’ and place them in a project. Place Wipe Right from the Transitions browser between the two clips.

Step 2: Change of pace
The wipe follows the movement of the men, but it’s too fast. Double-click on the transition’s icon. Type a duration of 1:19 to slow it to the pace of the men.

Step 3: Ripple effect
Add ‘Fountain.mov’. Add a Ripple transition. The Overlap is set to All – Maintain Clip Range. This shortens the clips by the duration of the transition.

Step 4: Change Overlap
If you want to keep a project’s duration, set Overlap to Half – Maintain Project Duration. The transition borrows a few frames from the clips’ start and end.

Step 5: Fine-tune transition
Add ‘Cistern.mov’ and drop in a Mosaic transition. Click the transition’s gear icon and choose Precision Editor to drag the transition to where it should start.

Step 6: Open door
Use Doorway transition to move from ‘Cistern.mov’ to ‘Boat.mov’. Give the transition a duration of 2:00. Doorway is a great way to introduce a new location.

Step 7: Cross Blur
Add ‘Disembark.mov’ and drop in a Cross Blur. Like Cross Dissolve it mixes clips, but it also defocuses the first clip before refocusing on the second.

8: Quick change
Click a transition’s icon in the Project window. Press ‘i’. Click the transition’s name for a window featuring all iMovie transitions. Preview, then click to choose one.

Step 9: Natural transition
You can create a transition using a cut. Trim the clip so it ends as people walk into shot and block the frame, then cut to a new shot. This mimics a wipe.

(Click on the image below to view the annotation text in more detail)

iMovie Transitions Tutorial - Annotated diagram
iMovie Transitions Tutorial - Annotated diagram

To undertake this tutorial you’ll need to download the issue 93 tutorial files.

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