TechsmARTs: Synchronizing Audio and Video in iMovie

At our last TechsmARTs gathering we talked about video production. After hearing the story of C4 Atlanta’s recent adventures in producing videos, we also heard from David Tyberg from The Extraordinary Contraptions, and Kevin Gillese from Dad’s Garage.

David Tyberg and Kevin Gillese present at TechsmARTs

Everyone had great stories to tell, and they essentially boiled down to two non-technical lessons:

  1. The basic idea behind producing videos: use video production as a platform to create a community around the mission.
  2. No matter your technical skill level, the most important step is in getting started.

There was one technical question that was asked, and it seemed to be a question of great interest to a lot of people in the room: if you record the audio and video separately, how do you go back and synchronize the two?

Excellent question! What follows is an explanation of how I accomplish this in iMovie ’11. First thing’s first: Let’s begin before you’ve started building your project.

Your first step is to import your video file into an Event, then create a new, blank project. I will assume you know how to do both these things. In my case, I have several interviews in my event, and a project I call “Soundbed.” Once this first step is done, your iMovie window should look something like this:

Click to zoom in

Next, you’ll drag the video clip you want to use to the project area. Here’s your very important note: You will want to use only one video clip at a time in the “Soundbed.” The reason: once you’ve successfully synchronized the audio and video, you’ll export what you have as a new video file. Otherwise, if you try to do any further edits, the hard work you’ve put into synchronization will be lost. In any case, your window should now look something like this:

Click to zoom in

So now you have a sound file somewhere. Let’s assume it’s sitting on your desktop. You can that file from the desktop to your project. As you’re dragging the file to the project, you should see a green box appear, like so:

Click to zoom in

Now here is where the fun begins. Once you’ve dropped the audio onto the video, you’ll see the video within a green box. If you click the small gear icon in the upper-left corner of the green box, a menu appears — choose “Clip Trimmer.”

Choose "Audio Adjustments"

At this point the bottom half of iMovie becomes the “Clip Trimmer.” Here, you can clip off the beginning of the audio file. Move the yellow bar left and right to adjust where the clipping happens. As you make these adjustments, check to see how closely the audio from your audio file matches the audio from your video file. Once you’re satisfied with the synchronization, turn off the audio for your video clip:

Adjust the volume to 0%

Take a final look at the video to be sure the lips and audio are in-sync.

Next, the most important step: Export the result to a new video file. From the menu bar, choose Share, then Export Movie. Choose the highest quality option available, give the file a name, and choose where you want the file to be stored. Click the Export button, and you’re done.

You can now use your exported video movie clips as though they were your original movie clips. That way, if you need to edit any further, you won’t have to re-synchronize the audio again.

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