Add transitions between video clips

You can add transitions between clips to smooth or blend the change from one scene to another. You can have a clip fade in or out, dissolve into another clip, zoom in to another clip, and so on.

You can add transitions to your project manually, choosing which effects to add between which clips. Or, you can set iMovie to add transitions automatically.

By default, iMovie makes all the transitions in your movie the same length. Standard transitions are one-half of a second long and theme-styled transitions (which are available only if you’ve applied a theme to your project) are two seconds long. You can change these default settings in iMovie preferences, and you can adjust the duration of each transition individually after you add it to your project.

Note:  Because no transition can be longer than half the length of the clip on either side of it, the transitions in your project may be shorter than the default, depending on the length of the shortest clip adjacent to the effect.

To add transitions between clips manually:

  1. With your project open in the Project browser, click the Transition button in the iMovie toolbar, or choose Window > Transitions.

    Image of the Transition button

    The Transitions browser opens, showing all the transitions available. If a theme is set for your project, a group of theme-styled transitions appears above the standard transitions.

    To preview the transitions, let the pointer hover over each one in the Transitions browser.

  2. Select a transition by clicking it once, and then drag it between two adjacent clips in the Project browser.

    The transition is represented by a transition icon in the Project browser. (Several icon styles are shown below.) The exact appearance of the icon depends on which transition type you added.

    Image of transition effect icons

To add transitions between clips automatically:

You can set iMovie to automatically insert transitions in your project. When you do so, iMovie adds a transition almost every time you add a new clip to your project. If you have a theme applied to your project, iMovie adds some theme-styled transitions and some standard effects. If you already have some transitions in your project, iMovie replaces them with new ones.

Using automatic transitions is useful when you want to apply transitions throughout your project quickly. However, with automatic transitions turned on, you can’t add, change, or delete transitions individually. Therefore, to add transitions quickly and then edit them, set iMovie to add transitions automatically, and then turn off automatic transitions. You can then select just the ones you want to modify.

  1. With your project open, choose File > Project Theme (the File menu appears in a light gray bar across the top of your computer screen), and then do one of the following:

    • To include transitions styled after a theme, select a theme by clicking it once, and then select the “Automatically add transitions and titles” checkbox.

      iMovie inserts standard cross-dissolve transitions between clips, with occasional transitions based on the theme. Not every space between clips gets a transition.

      iMovie also adds a theme-styled opening title over the first clip and an end title over the last.

    • To include only standard, non-themed transitions in your project, click No Theme, select the “Automatically add” checkbox, and then choose a transition style from the pop-up menu.

      Note:  If you already have a theme applied to your project and select No Theme, all theme elements are removed from the project.

  2. Click OK.

With automatic transitions turned on, you can double-click any transition in a project and change its duration in the inspector that opens. Simply type a new duration in the Duration field, and indicate whether you want it to apply to all the transitions in the project.

To set how much transitions overlap with adjacent clips:

Whether transitions are added to your project automatically or manually, you can set how much they overlap with the clips they’re adjacent to. This setting, which applies to all non-themed transitions in your project, affects the duration of your project.

  • With your project open, choose Edit > Transition Overlap, and then choose one of the following options:

    • All - Maintain Clip Range:  The two clips are made to overlap by the length of the transition, and the transition is placed over the overlapping region. In this case, no additional content from clip ends is added. The total duration of your project decreases by the length of the transition.

    • Half - Maintain Project Duration:  The transition is placed so that it spans the clips; one half of the transition overlaps each clip. In this case, additional content from the end of each clip is added to fill out the transition. The total duration of your project remains the same.

      Schematic of transitions showing overlapping.

To change the overlap setting for a specific transition, double-click any non-themed transition icon in your project. In the inspector that opens, choose an option from the Overlap pop-up menu.