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Import Audio with iMovie on Your MacBook

You can pull in everything from Wagner to Weezer as both background music and sound effects for your movie in iMovie on your MacBook. You get those notes into iMovie and then add them to your movie by dragging them to the Project pane.

You can add audio from a number of sources:

  • Adding songs from iTunes: Click the Show Music and Sound Effects button in the Browser toolbar (or press Command+1) to display the contents of your iTunes Library. Click the desired playlist in the scrolling list box, such as the dynamite ABBA playlist shown.

    (If you’ve exported any original music you’ve composed in GarageBand to your iTunes Library, you can use those songs in your own movie!) You can add a track to your movie by dragging the song entry from the Music and Sound Effects list to the desired spot in the Project pane.

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  • Adding sound effects: Yep, if you need the sound of a horse galloping for your Rocky Mountain vacation clips, click either iMovie Sound Effects or iLife Sound Effects in the scrolling list box. iMovie includes a number of top-shelf audio effects that you can use in the second audio track on the timeline viewer.

    This way, you can add sound effects even when you’ve already added a background song. Again, to add a sound effect, drag it to the perfect spot in the Project pane.

    If you have several gigabytes of music in your iTunes Library, it might be more of a challenge to locate “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin, especially if she’s included in a compilation. Let your MacBook do the digging for you!

    Click in the Search box below the track list and begin typing a song name. iMovie narrows down the song titles displayed to those that match the characters you type. To reset the search box and display all your songs in the Library or selected playlist, click the X icon that appears to the right of the box.

  • Ripping songs from an audio CD: Load an audio CD and then choose Audio CD from the scrolling list box. iMovie displays the tracks from the CD, and you can add them at the current playhead position the same way as iTunes songs.

  • Recording directly from a microphone: Yep, if you’re thinking voiceover narration, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

You can fine-tune both the audio within a video clip or the audio clips that you add to your project. With the desired clip selected, click the Inspector button in the Editing toolbar (it bears a proud letter i) and click the Audio tab.

The Audio Adjustments window that appears includes an array of audio controls that allow you to change the volume of the selected clip, or to give that audio priority — or ducking — over other audio playing simultaneously (such as a sound effect that needs to be clearly heard over background music and the video clip).

If your clips dramatically vary in volume, click the Normalize Clip Volume button and then select each clip that you want to set to the same volume; click Normalize Clip Volume again for each clip. You can also set an automatic or manual Fade-in/Fade-out for the audio.

When you’re done tweaking, click Done. (Oh, and don’t forget that you can always return the clip to its original volume; just open this window again and click Revert to Original.)

On the Video tab within the Inspector window, you can vary the exposure, brightness, contrast, and saturation of your clip. Click the Auto button, and iMovie will perform what it considers the best job of improving your video.

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