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iMovie’s top ten video effects

Edit colour and tone in a click, courtesy of iMovie’s game-changing preset video effects

Your digital camera is designed to try and automatically capture a scene’s true colours and tones when recording video. However, you may want to creatively alter the look of your clips to change the mood that they evoke or create a more filmic effect. Professional filmmakers refer to this stage in the production process as ‘grading’, where they creatively alter colour saturation and tone.

iMovie’s Color Correction panel enables you to manually tweak contrast, boost colour saturation and adjust colour temperature to produce a range of different looks. For quicker (and in some cases unique) results you can use special effect presets to create a dramatic new look in a click. iMovie offers 20 special effect presets – here’s our top ten with suggestions on where you might use them!


1. Bleach Bypass

This preset mimics an analogue film processing technique that was very fashionable at the turn of the Century (see movies such as Pitch Black for an example). It creates crushed blacks and blown-out highlights, which might add drama to an action movie.


2. Flipped

This effect is handy if you have to cut between two incorrectly framed shots. If a car interior shows the driver facing left and the exterior has the car driving right, then you can flip one shot horizontally so that the driver is moving in the same direction in both shots. iMovie can solve all sorts of problems.


3. Aged film

This effect adds artefacts such as a warm sepia tone and animated vertical lines that evoke the look of analogue film that’s been damaged by age and scratched by a projector. It’s particularly effective when combined with retro subject matter.


4. Day to night

This effect mimics the classic cinematic technique of shooting a scene in the day and then grading it with cold blue tones and tints to produce a more nocturnal hue. It’s useful for creating atmospheric night scenes without having to pay your crew overtime rates!


5. Romantic

Here’s a preset that does as its title suggests. It adds a soft focus vignette around the edge of the frame to draw attention to sharper details at the centre. Perfect for showcasing the happy couple in a wedding video montage sequence perhaps.


6. Sci Fi

We think that ‘horror’ might be a better title for this effect preset as it adds a ghoulish green tint to the clip’s midtones, in addition to creating a harsher contrast that blows out detail in the highlights while swallowing up detail in the underexposed shadows.


7. Cartoon

This effect preset simplifies colour and adds a stylised painted look to your moving footage. It’s a bit over the top but it might be fun if you add it to footage of a kids party, for example. It does create a unique look but we admit it’s one to use sparingly.

Hard Light

8. Hard light

This is a great preset for enhancing the sights and sounds captured in an exotic holiday destination. It boosts the saturation of the colours while increasing contrast between shadows and highlights. It’s similar to the Heatwave preset, which produces a strong contrast change.


9. Black & White

Produce a classic black-and-white movie in a straightforward click. This effect preset creates a strong range of contrasting greyscale tones that feature some black shadows and white highlights. These contrasting tones help emphasise shapes and patterns in a scene.


10. Negative

This striking preset inverts both colour and tone, creating the look of a parallel anti-matter world, perhaps. You could use this preset to enhance a dream sequence. You won’t be able to produce this look using any of iMovie’s grading tools, making it a unique effect.