Audio Editing Tips for iMovie 10

iMove is a powerful video editor for Mac computers. Before fully jumping in, and especially prior to producing your video, check out some tips on how to best edit audio in iMovie.

The screenshots and explanations below are for iMovie 10 only. However, you might be able to adapt what you see to make them work for older versions.

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Use Waveforms to See What You Hear

show waveforms in iMovie
Showing waveforms for clips in iMovie makes audio editing easier.

The sound is just as important as the images in a video, and should be given just as much attention during the editing process. To properly edit audio, you need a good set of speakers and headphones to hear the sound, but you also need to be able to see the sound.

You can see the sound in iMovie by looking at the waveforms on each clip. If the waveforms aren't visible, go to the View drop-down menu and select Show Waveforms. To get an even better view, you can also adjust the clip size for your project so that each video clip, and its corresponding audio, is enlarged and easier to see.

The waveforms will show you the volume level of a clip, and can give you a good idea of what parts will need to be turned up or down, before you even listen. You can also see how the levels of different clips compare to one another.

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Audio Adjustments

Adjust audio in iMovie
Adjust audio in iMovie to change the volume, equalize sounds, reduce noise or add effects.

With the Adjust button in the top right, you can access some basic audio editing tools for changing the volume of your selected clip, or changing the relative volume of other clips in the project.

The audio adjustment window also offers basic noise reduction and audio equalization tools, as well as a range of effects—from robot to echo—that will change the way people in your video sound.

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Editing Audio With the Timeline

Adjust audio in the iMovie Timeline
Working with clips directly in the timeline, you can adjust the volume and fade audio in and out.

iMovie lets you adjust the audio within the clips themselves. Each clip has a volume bar, which can be moved up and down to increase or decrease the audio level. The clips also have Fade In and Fade Out buttons at the beginning and end, which can be dragged to adjust the length of the fade. 

By adding a short fade in and fade out, the sound becomes a lot smoother and it's less jarring to the ear when a new clip begins.

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Detaching Audio

detached audio in iMovie
Detach audio in iMovie to work with audio and video clips independently.

By default, iMovie keeps the audio and video portions of clips together so that they are easy to work with and move around in a project. However, sometimes, you want to use the audio and video portions of a clip separately.

To do that, select your clip in the timeline, and then go to the Modify drop-down menu and select Detach Audio. You'll now have two clips—one that has the just the images and one that has just the sound.

There's a lot that you can do with the detached audio. For example, you could extend the audio clip so that it starts before the video is seen, or so that it continues for a few seconds after the video has faded out. You could also cut out pieces from the middle of the audio while leaving the video intact.

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Adding Audio to Your Projects

Add audio to iMovie projects
Add audio to your iMovie projects by importing music and sound effects, or recording your own voiceover.

In addition to the audio that's part of your video clips, you can easily add music, sound effects or voiceover to your iMovie projects.

Any of these files can be imported using the standard iMovie import button. You can also access audio files through the Content Library (in the bottom right corner of the screen), iTunes, and GarageBand.

Note: Having access to a song through iTunes and adding it to your iMovie project, doesn't necessarily mean that you have permission to use the song. It could be subject to copyright violation if you show your video publicly.

To record a voiceover for your video in iMovie, go to the Window drop-down menu and select Record Voiceover. The voiceover tool lets you watch the video while you're making the recording, using either the built-in microphone or one that plugs into the computer over USB.