How to Replace Audio in iMovie

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How To Replace Audio in iMovie

Replacing an audio track in iMovie, Step 1: Load Your Data. Joe Shambro,
One of the most common questions I get from fellow audio engineers isn't about audio recording, it's about video editing: namely, how to remove and replace an audio track when editing with Apple's iMovie suite. It's a lot easier than you might think, and all it requires is a working copy of iMovie, no fancy editing suites necessary.

Before we begin, I'm going to assume that you're running an up-to-date copy of iMovie. I'm using version 9.0.2 of iMovie '11, on Mac OS 10.6. Some of my menus might look different than yours if you're not using the same version, but the function names are still the same and are still present, probably under a different menu.

So, first, let's drag your video file over to your project window. In this file, I'm editing video of the final space shuttle launch. I want to replace the audio -- so I go into my favorite DAW program, and edit a piece of audio exactly the length I want for the video. Before I can add this, I need to remove the audio that's presently on the video, and then drop in the new file.

Let's get started.
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How to Replace Audio in iMovie - Step 2 - Remove the Master Audio

Replacing an audio track in iMovie, Step 2. Joe Shambro,
First, let's remove the master audio track that's already on the video file. Right-click the video file, and it'll highlight with a drop down menu like the one you see above. Choose "Detach Audio", and you should see the audio file become a separate entity on the editing line. This will be purple, showing that it's no longer part of the video file's integrated contents.

Now that you have your audio file separated, you're able to easily go in and edit this file. Clicking the small selector box on the left hand corner, you're able to make various EQ and fade adjustments to the original audio file; if you wanted, you could keep this audio file and simply mix the new one over the top; if you're going to fully replace the file, now's where you can delete the file entirely.

Now that you've moved your old audio out of the way, it's time to add your new audio.
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How to Replace Audio in iMovie - Step 3 - Drag-and-Drop Your Replacement

How to Replace Audio in iMovie, Part 3 - Drop Your Audio. Joe Shambro,
Now, it's time to take your replacement audio and drop it into your project window. This is the easiest part, assuming you've matched your audio clip to the proper length and matched it to sync with your program material. Don't worry if you haven't; you'll be able to click your way around and adjust your margins on both your video and audio program. This is just like mixing with a linear multitrack editor like GarageBand or Pro Tools -- you can move your program material on a timeline, and adjust everything where you like it.

Once you've put your audio where you want it, you can then click the small drop down box to the left hand side, and make any EQ or fade adjustments you see fit. Now, you'll be able to play your project -- and hear what your overdubbed audio sounds like (and looks like) against the video. Now, it's time to export.
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How to Replace Audio in iMovie - Step 4 - Export Your Movie

How to Replace Audio in iMovie - Step 4 - Export Your Movie. Joe Shambro,
Now that you've lined up your new audio track and you've verified it's placement, it's time to export your overall file. This is just like the bounce function in Pro Tools or Logic, and it's very easy to use. You can simply press Command-E, and then choose your format you'd like to export to. You can also click on the "Share" drop down menu, and select from there.

At this point, your audio will be compressed. Make note that if your audio entered iMovie already compressed, such as an MP3 file, it's going to sound even worse upon rendering to the video, depending on which mode you choose for your final mix. Importing a non-compressed file is your best bet for sonic clarity.

Importing your own audio onto a video through iMovie is surprisingly simple, especially if you're familiar with how linear multitrack editing works in the audio world.