A woman in an orange shirt and hat with a backpack on. The red rocks of a canyon are behind her; she is holding up her hands to celebrate successfully crossing a stream without falling in.

iMovie: First Attempt

Is video part of your vacation memories toolbox?  I advocate for video as a supplement to online photo galleries, photo books, and printed photos.  The ability to capture voices, antics, and movement is unique to the video format.  With some basic training to help you efficiently navigate iMovie, you’ll find it is easy to create a comprehensive video story from a series of clips, taken on a variety of devices.  You can add audio (music or specific sounds), transitions, titles, and credits.  Splitting clips and editing out unwanted content is straightforward.  

My First iMovie From Scratch

I tackled my first personal iMovie project this month, capturing a hiking vacation to Glacier National Park in summer 2017.  Although I am comfortable working in iMovie for client projects, this first personal project seemed more daunting, as I wanted to create a video from 75 clips (totaling 22 minutes) shot over 6 days, hoped to incorporate music and other effects, and was very uncertain as to how long the finished product should be.  I need not have tabled this project for so long. iMovie made it easy, and I really enjoyed creating a personalized video.  I learned some things along the way, which will be helpful when we shoot video during our next hiking trip in summer 2018.  

Training to Get Started

I benefited from Garrick Chow’s iMovie Essential Training on lynda.com.  Garrick also offers an iMovie for iOS Essential Training and iMovie for iPad Essential Training.  Abba Shapiro offers Creating a Vacation Video with iMovie.  Some local libraries make lynda.com training available to patrons (remotely).  If access isn’t available via your local library (it isn’t at mine, although I have requested it), there is a free one-month trial and then monthly and annual plans.  

The Role of Video

How my family preserves vacation memories continues to evolve.  I am committed to the best practice of three copies on three different media to guard against a variety of hazards.  My current approach is pictured below:  

  • digital files on a hard drive (Apple Photos, backed up)
  • printed images in a photo book (also retained online with Shutterfly)
  • video stored on a hard drive and with Vimeo


Within a week of our return home, I copied the digital files from three different capture devices to our hard drive, adjusted the time zone for some of the images, and created albums for each day of the trip.  I created a photo book about a month later, while the memories were still fresh.  That was two forms of media complete; the video (third form) was yet to come.  I finally tackled the video eight months after the end of the vacation.

Shoot Horizontal

I expect many folks new to video shoot horizontally and vertically.  That’s how we take pictures, after all.  All “video 101” classes will tell you:  no vertical shooting if you plan to incorporate it into a video.  Fortunately, iMovie has a cropping tool that enabled me to rotate vertical video, crop it, and present it as horizontal.  I had to further split some clips to keep the object centered in the cropping window.  This is all unnecessary work if you just shoot everything horizontal to begin with.

Screen Shot cropping tool

On a trail in Two Medicine; my husband shot this vertically.  I cropped it relatively high so that as I walk toward the camera, all of me will be in the frame. Avoid this problem by always shooting horizontal video!


Even if you shoot horizontal consistently, cropping will be useful.  In the video below, a finger was shadowing the upper right corner of the screen.  I was able to crop the clip so that it was still useable. 

Screen Shot crop finger shadow

A finger is casting a shadow in the upper right corner; I was able to crop it and still preserve a view of Hidden Lake.

Adding and Adjusting Audio

iMovie’s audio Genres include Ambience, Booms, Foley, Jingles, Machines, People, Sci-Fi, Sports, Stingers, Textures, Transportation, Work-Home, and unnamed (e.g., car door).   I used mostly Jingles, and the variety of choices seemed overwhelming at first.  Two things made it more manageable: 

  1. Many Jingles come in a short, medium, and long versions (listen to the short one to get an overall sense).
  2. You can sort Jingles by the Time column and focus on selecting audio a bit shorter or longer (depending on the effect you desire) than the duration of a particular clip.  This will simplify your choices considerably and help you work faster.  

As I progressed through my project, I learned to appreciate the variety of audio options; I selected different types of Jingles for animal video, versus movement/hiking video, versus scenery video.   

All of the clips above were shot on the same hike and are part of the same segment of video, but I chose different Jingles for each:

  • Marmot:  First Snowfall
  • Hiking husband:  Torn Jeans Long
  • Bearhat Mountain:  Tour Bus Medium

Reduction of background noise is an option in iMovie, but I found it had little effect with many of my clips.  Although there were water sounds I wanted to preserve, there was other distracting background sound (such as wind) that wasn’t sufficiently dampened even after I selected the option to reduce background noise.  Multiple times, I ended up muting the audio captured at the time of the video and introducing a waterfall sound using the Genre:  Ambience/Big Waterfall.

Saint Mary Falls

 I used the Genre:  Stinger/Ethereal Accent several times to enhance video with some very fast ducks as they were diving underwater and reappearing with great speed.  We have no photos of this particular experience, as still images would not have adequately captured what we were observing – shooting this event on video was the best way to preserve this memory.  


iMovie has 24 Transitions options.  The training I have participated in encouraged using mostly the simple ones and saving the elaborate ones for unique situations.  I utilized these three simple ones:

  • Fade to Black:  between titles/days
  • Cross Blur:  between clips within an event/day
  • Cross Dissolve:  my favorite when I had to create further splits within a clip  


As our trip progressed, we did a better job of narrating our clips and also making jokes while shooting.  The audio can be removed, dampened, or silenced as part of editing, so I suggest always capturing something in case you want to use bits and pieces.  Narrating as you are shooting also serves to document the event, which will be helpful as you create your video story.

Screen Shot music ends allow voice

The music (green bar) fades out so that the viewer can hear me and my husband joking at the end of this clip (our audio in blue).

In a few instances (demonstrated above), I split a clip so that I could incorporate music initially, then I switched over to voices when I desired to include something interesting or funny that had been captured at the time of the video.

Length of Clips, Panning, and Zooming

Our average clip length was 18 seconds.  Some were as short as 6 seconds (waterfalls), others as long as 53 seconds (boat crossing a lake, animal viewing).  As I worked with the clips, I appreciated the variation in length; I believe it resulted in a more engaging finished product.  I learned that clips of 15-25 seconds offer the most flexibility and found shorter clips (5 seconds) harder to incorporate (seemed choppy); longer ones may require considerable editing.  Remember:  you can always shorten (or break up) a long clip, but you can’t lengthen a short clip.  

We had a lot of video where we panned 180 degrees or more, and we panned to the right more than the left.  We need to limit the number of such shots and pan the other direction 50% of the time.  I like panning up (from a lake shore, for example), but panning back down gave me a queasy feeling when I watched the clip; take your time to pan up (or down), pause, and then stop recording.  Keep it to one direction per shoot/clip, and vary the direction amongst your clips.

We didn’t utilize the zoom feature much while filming.  We need to experiment with using zoom instead of moving while we are filming – using zoom would enable us to keep the object in focus without introducing as much movement into the video.  The couple of clips where I did use zoom, it created desirable effects.

The above shots were taken in the order shown.  I zoomed in at the end as my husband paused near the end of the bridge.

Freeze Frames, Live Photos, and Bursts

I added a couple of Freeze Frame shots in a section of video where we are crossing a stream via rocks (left and center images, below, to capture the action).  I also used Freeze Frame in a situation where a candid shot cut off too quickly and twice to feature mountain views on hikes (right image below, to draw attention to the scenery). I was careful not to overuse these, but I think a few select instances can add emphasis in just the right place.

I attended conference breakout sessions in spring 2018 where the presenters encouraged us to use Live Photos and Bursts (both explained here by Simply Mac) in video stories.  One suggestion was to use several consecutive shots from a Burst series (instead of selecting a “best” single shot). Incorporating Bursts or Live Photos selectively should yield an effect similar to Freeze Frame (i.e., focusing on a moment), but with a sense of movement. I plan to experiment with both of these after our 2018 trip, so we need to remember to leave Live Photos turned on, to intentionally take some Bursts, and to review our images for the best candidates for inclusion in a video.


This feature helps with some clips, but not with all of them.  You have to be patient while it analyzes a selected clip.  In one instance, my husband was hiking up the trail and I was shooting his back as I was also moving.  Applying stabilization resulted in him being cut out completely (I ended up with very stable video of the sky).  In other instances, the software knew what to focus on and improved the clip considerably.  Don’t stabilize without viewing the results to a particular clip.  It’s easy to uncheck the box if the result isn’t what you wanted.  

Length of Final Product

I kept it long (just under 19 minutes).  For our family use, I wanted to capture six days of events; this duration resulted in an average of 3.2 minutes per day.  I do realize that if I want to share video with an audience beyond the two of us on the trip, my target duration needs to be considerably shorter.  I did create a 1-minute slide show of still shots in the Photos app, but a slide show has a different feel from a video.  I don’t think shortening my 19-minute video is possible; it would be more efficient to create a new, shorter video from scratch.  The Jingles will need to be completely different for a 3-5 minute video versus a 19-minute video.  I do like that the longer length gave me plenty of time to utilize a variety of audio options (slower paced, faster, softer, louder) and selected special effects (e.g., Freeze Frame).  For this particular trip, given the number of things we did and the number of days in travel status, I am content with the longer duration.

Organizing the Video

I prefer chronological for most things, and this particular video was no exception.  iMovie has a variety of Title formats you can choose, and you can add them throughout your project to distinguish various days, events or other categorizations.  I had eight still images that I imported into iMovie and used to further separate days and events (as backgrounds for my titles).  

Take Breaks While Editing

I completed the video in one day.  I have replayed it multiple times as part of the editing process, and I paced myself to review over a series of days. The first couple reviews, I focused on fixing obvious problems (missed transitions, misspellings).  Then came the tougher editing – music not aligning quite right, clips that seemed choppy, cropping that required further adjustment.  Around the fourth viewing, I made myself watch the video straight through, no interruptions, and took notes about what to change.  After completing that list, I found things were in very good shape.  During subsequent views, I came up with a few additional improvements.  As you wrap up, step away for a few days and come back with a fresh perspective to identify those few finishing touches.  

Use of Scrolling Credits

I utilized the Scrolling Credits (one of the Title options) for the still images referenced earlier (giving credit to the source), listing my husband and myself for the video shooting, to record the devices (e.g., iPhone 7 Plus) used to capture the clips, and to document information about a forest fire referenced several times in the video. Playing music through the credits provides a nice ending to a video.   

A credits screen lists devices used for shooting as well as information on a forest fire mentioned in the video.

This portion of the Credits lists the devices used to shoot video and information on a forest fire mentioned in the video.



I am excited about personalized videos as an additional way to document our vacations.  It is a fun activity to create the video after the trip, and it is enjoyable to shoot the video during the trip.  Printed photos, photo books, and online galleries each add value in their own ways; I see video as a supplement to these other forms of enjoyment.  Video has features that these other formats do not:  hearing voices and experiencing movement via video provide an additional way to relive a vacation.  Version of iMovie used: 10.1.9.

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