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Learn iMovie Week: Create a cool silent movie in minutes

In the first instalment of Learn iPhoto Week, we use iMovie’s colour tweaking tools and Titles browser to mimic the retro look of a classic silent movie.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - 10-minute beginner's tutorial
iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Main
To make your edited footage really stand out from the crowd you can use iMovie’s colour and audio editing tools to give your modern clips a retro makeover.
We’ll show you how to use the Video Inspector to chuck out the colour information and tweak the tones for a vintage black and white look. As the first movie cameras were hand-cranked people often appeared to move slightly faster. We’ll demonstrate how to re-time your footage to achieve this effect. We’ll also show you how to make crisp clear video look like scratchy old film and add intertitles to enhance your movie’s narrative. So follow this tutorial to create a cool silent movie effect in iMovie.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step-By-Step

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 1

Step 1: Create a new project

Go to File>New Project. Choose a frame rate of 24 fps. This helps create a jerkier looking clip than the smoother 30 fps option. Click Create.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 2

Step 2: Import the clips

Go to File>Import>Movies. Browse to the folder of source clips on our disc. Create a new event called Silent Movie clips. Click Import.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 3

Step 3: Lose the sound

Drop the clips into the Project window. Don’t change the frame rate when given the option. To lose the sound Shift+click on the clips and pick Clip>Mute Clips.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 4

Step 4: Re-time footage

With both clips still selected press ‘I’ to open the Inspector. Click on the Speed box and type in 125% for a hand-cranked film rate effect.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 5

Step 5: Make it mono

Click on the Video Inspector. Drag the Saturation slider to the far left to remove all colour information. Pop Contrast to –18% for a faded film look.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 6

Step 6: Add old film effect

Click on the Clip Inspector, and then click the Video Effect button. Click on the Aged Film thumbnail to tint the shot sepia and add some scratches.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 7

Step 7: Add a caption

Click on the Show Title browser icon. Drag Organic Main between the two clips. Click on the sepia coloured Organic background. Type in ‘Bath Time’!

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 8

Step 8: Edit title duration

By default the caption duration is 4 seconds. Click on the Organic background thumbnail and press ‘I’. Tighten the Duration to 3:00 seconds. Click Done

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Step 9

Step 9: Add music

Many silent movies had a live piano accompaniment, so raid the Music browser’s Jingles folder and drag ‘Off Broadway’ into the project to finish it off.

Click on the image below to zoom in and view the annotations.

iMovie tutorial - Silent Movie - Annotated

To complete this tutorial, you’ll need the Issue 98 tutorial files.

This tutorial is the first in our Learn iMovie Week series; for more articles just like this, visit the Learn iMovie Week tag. At the end of the week, we’ll be giving away a prize to one lucky person who gets in touch with a question or problem related to iMovie on Mac or iOS. To get involved, simply tweet your question, plus the hashtag #LearniMovieWeek, to @iCreateMagazine or post on our Facebook wall.