How to Use a Green Screen in iMovie
Ask any professional video editor or producer about iMovie and they are bound to give you a smirk. Yes, iMovie is not Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, but this free editing software is quickly catching up with its big brothers.
If you are just getting your feet wet, iMovie is a perfect tool to learn the video editing basics. Not only that but it also comes with some fancy tools. Green screen is the most recent addition, and it works on iMovie for macOS and iOS. Keep on reading to find out how to take advantage of this tool.
iMovie Green Screen – macOS
This tutorial assumes that you’ve already shot a clip in front of a green or blue screen and uploaded it to the iMovie timeline. Of course, the other clips you want to use need to be in the timeline as well.
In case you didn’t know, any background of uniform color, light, and transparency should do the trick. But green and blue are the easiest to work with, and they are the only colors iMovie recognizes well.
Pick up the green screen video from the timeline and position it above another clip. To be exact, it needs to be above the clip you wish to superimpose onto the green screen. This is a simple drag-and-drop action and you should release the mouse when a small plus icon appears.
As soon as you do this, overlay controls will appear above the preview window on the right. Click/tap the Video Overlay Settings icon to reveal more controls.
Select the drop-down window on the left and check the Green/Blue Screen feature.
The Green/Blue Screen menu allows you to change the video’s softness and there are also two clean-up tools. Ideally, you’d hit the sweet spot the first time, but mastering these tools takes a lot of practice.
The iMovie green screen works by removing the dominant color in the frame. It analyzes the frame where your playhead is (a vertical line with a dot in the middle). This is similar to keyframes in professional editing software.
Sometimes the playhead frame may not work with the rest of the video and the green screen looks off. If this happens, you need to move the playhead and use the green screen effect again. This is done by holding and dragging the green screen clip. While at it, you can also make the clip longer or shorter.
It might take some time to zero in on the exact frame both in the top and bottom clips. It helps if you completely expand both videos in the timeline.
The Softness slider targets the edges of the superimposed clip. Dragging the slider to the right makes the edges smoother and makes both clips look more uniform.
The Crop option helps you isolate the main subject in the foreground. It is the thing or the person that’s in front of the green screen. Grab this tool and move it across the green screen sections to make your subject blend in with the superimposed clip.
There is also a Clean-up/Eraser option. This allows you to remove any leftover sections of the green screen that shouldn’t be in the final video.
Note: The softness needs to be adjusted first. If you do it after using Clean-up options, the background resets and you need to select/adjust it again.
iMovie Green Screen – iOS
The green screen technique is pretty similar on the iOS app. However, the general layout differs, so it pays to take a closer look at how to use this feature. But before you start, make sure your iPhone/iPad is running the latest version of iMovie.
First, import the green screen video, then tap the plus icon to add the media you want to superimpose onto the green screen. It can be an image, another clip, or some sort of motion graphics.
Again, the green screen clip goes on top and the other video/image is at the bottom. It’s easier to do this and make adjustments in landscape orientation.
When you select the second clip/image, tap the three horizontal dots to access the More menu. This is where you specify how you’d like to add the media, and the menu features Green/Blue Screen as one of the options.
Unlike the macOS app, the mobile version of iMovie doesn’t have blending options or smooth-out filters. The only thing you can do is tap on the color to make it transparent. This is a limitation, but there is a way to work around it.
Make sure the green screen video and the media you superimpose have roughly the same lightning. It helps if they share the same format, frame rate, and size. During our testing, superimposed images worked better than videos. That said, it’s not impossible to superimpose a clip as well.
When all is said and done, Apple has worked hard to make the green screen and editing software accessible to everybody. It does take some practice to learn how to utilize the green screen, but trial and error is half the fun when it comes to editing software.
Why do you want to create green-screen videos? Are you starting a YouTube channel? Have you already posted one or more of your green screen videos online and want to share them with the rest of the community? Let us know in the comments below.
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