A Guide to Using Effects and Transitions in Your iMovie Projects

A step-by-step guide

Filmmaker's clapboard
Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Here is a guide to adding effects and transitions to your iMovie 10 projects. The two features are separate in iMovie 10, so the first set of steps below covers effects, and the second set covers transitions.

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Finding Effects

iMovie screenshot

To access the video and audio effects in iMovie, you'll need to have a project opened in the timeline.

  • Double-click on the clip in the timeline that you want to add the effect to.
  • In the top right of the screen, click on the Adjust button. The second button from the right, after the i, is the effect icon.
  • Click on the Effect icon, and then you'll have an option to open windows showing the available audio and video effects in iMovie.
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Testing Effects

iMovie screenshot

Once you've opened up the Effects window, you'll see thumbnails of your video clip with the various effects applied. If you hover over any of the individual effects, the video clip will play back and you'll get an instant preview of how the effect will look.

The audio effects do the same thing, giving you a preview of how your clip will sound with the various effects applied.

This feature makes it really easy to experiment with different effects quickly and without time-consuming rendering. 

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Editing Effects

After you've selected the effect that you want, just click on it and it will be added to your clip. Unfortunately, you can only add one effect per clip, and there is no simple way to adjust the intensity or the timing of the effects.  

If you want to add multiple effects to a clip or tweak the way an effect looks, you'll have to export the project from iMovie to Final Cut Pro, where you can make more advanced edits.

Or, if you're willing to get a little bit complicated, you can add an effect to a clip and then export the clip. Then, re-import it to iMovie to add a new effect.

You can also use Command+B to split the clip into multiple pieces and add different effects to each piece.

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Copying Effects

iMovie screenshot

After you've added an effect to a clip, or made other adjustments to how it looks and sounds, you can easily copy those attribute and apply them to one or more of the other clips in your sequence.

  • Select the clip that has the effects in the timeline and copy it (Command+C).
  • Select the other clips in your timeline to which you want to copy the effect. From the Edit drop-down menu, select Paste Adjustments.

From there you can select what you want to copy from the first clip onto the others. You can copy just one effect, or you can copy all of the audio and visual adjustments that you've made.

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Finding Transitions

iMovie screenshot

Transitions are separate from the effects in iMovie 10, and you'll find them in the Content Library on the bottom left of the iMovie screen. 

There are basic video transitions that are always available, and there are other theme-specific transitions that are available depending on the pre-selected theme of your project.

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Adding Transitions

Transitions and Overlapping Audio iMovie screenshot

Once you've selected the transition that you want, drag and drop it to the place in the timeline where you want it to be located.

When you add a transition between two clips, it will blend the video and the audio of the two clips. If you add a transition at the beginning or end of your sequence, it will blend the clip with a black screen. 

If you don't want the sound to blend, detach the audio track from your clip before or after adding the transition. There are no audio transitions in iMovie, but if you want to blend the sound between two clips, you can use the volume sliders to fade in and out, and you can detach the audio and overlap the ends of the clips.

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Adding Automatic Transitions

Add Cross Dissolve in iMovie screenshot

You can add a cross dissolve transition to your video using Command+T. This is a simple way to move between shots. If you use this as your standard transition it's a fast way to edit your movie.

If your cursor is positioned between two clips when you add the transition, it will be added in that spot. If your cursor is in the middle of a clip, the transition will be added at the beginning and at the end of the clip.