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iMovie ’11 Tutorial: Create a better soundtrack

The key to a good movie is getting the sound as well as the visuals right. iMovie ‘11 now has all the tools you need

While visuals for movies are obviously very important, poor sound can make a project seem less professional. The biggest culprit is uneven sound, sound that jumps wildly from one scene to another. In one it might be really quiet and in the next really loud, creating a jarring crossover that is unpleasant for the viewer. In one scene you might have a lot of deep rumble in the sound from an air conditioner or road noise but in the next, no background noise at all. Of course, it would be unnatural to mess with the sound too much, but there’s a happy medium where you edit just enough to give a smooth and polished feel to the overall sound. We’ll show you how it works.

1: Select a clip
Find a clip with ‘problem’ sound, eg one louder than those next to it. Double-click it to open the floating Inspector window. Click on the Audio tab.

2: Change the volume
Here you can change the overall volume of the audio associated with that video. This is the quickest way to deal with a clip being too loud or too short.

3: Normalise the volume
If a clip is too quiet, use the Normalize button to have it analysed and raise its volume so it doesn’t clip. This action can easily be undone if it’s not right.

4: Reduce background noise
If a clip has too much background noise, hit Enhance and use the slider to determine how much noise is removed. Take care not to cut out sounds you want.

5: Use EQ
Equalisation is a useful tool. Activate it then choose a preset like Hum Reduction or Treble Reduce. Play back to see if they fix the sound to your liking.

6: Set EQ manually
To tweak an EQ preset, move the sliders. They run from lowest frequency on the left to highest on the right. Raise or lower one to boost or cut the level.

7: Use effects
Go to the Clip menu and you can add an audio effect to the clip. Choose from the presets and hover over one to hear the sound played through it.

8: Use fades
In the Audio menu, you can add manual fade-ins/ outs to a clip, independent of transitions – handy at the start and end or when you need some silence.

9: Cut and paste settings
Select a clip you’ve edited and Edit>Copy. Choose one or more other clips and Edit>Paste Adjustments >Audio to apply the same settings to those clips.

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