A Guide to Accessible Imovie Production

Last modified
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The task of making an I-movie production will most likely require some form of trouble shooting as some systems have minor changes in the ways that the program reacts. It is highly recommended that key commands for Apple’s VoiceOver have been well practiced. This guide pertains to iMovie version 10.1.10 running on MacOS Mojave 10.14.1. Users who are using earlier versions of the program will have different results though some information in this article could be useful. From this point forward I will refer to the Option and Control keys on the keyboard as the VO keys or “VO” for short when ever they are to be used in conjunction with each other.

Creating A Project.

When you first open I-movie and get through all of the tutorial windows you are presented with a screen with a few basic functions to get you started. Here is where you can open saved projects or create new projects. To start a new project you must first interact with the tool bar. Use the key command, Function+VO+left arrow to go to the top of the window. VoiceOver should announce, “Tool Bar.” Now use the keys Shift+VO+Down arrow to interact with the tool bar and the first button you will hear is the Projects button. Select this option with VO+Space bar and then navigate away from the tool bar with the keys Shift+VO+Up arrow. Now you have successfully opened the projects window even though VoiceOver did not announce it. You can confirm this by using the keys Function+VO=Right arrow to go to the bottom of the screen. VoiceOver should will announce the project browser if present. If If the browser is not announced go back to the tool bar and press on the Projects button again. Once the curser is on the browser use the keys Command+N to open a new project. Upon At this time you do not have the option to name your project. This will present itself when you create more than one project at a time.

Adding Video Clips to Your Project.

Upon opening your new project the first thing that will be under the curser will be the Event Media Side Bar. Here is where you can select where you would like to pull your media from. Depending which programs are loaded on to your computer you can have the option of loading media from Photos or iTunes. To do this you would first need to interact with the Sidebar. Use the up and down arrows to have the different options announced. Once you have one you want all that is required is to stop on the option and navigate away from the Sidebar. Then you can use the keys VO+Right arrow to move to the media list. Once there you can interact with the list if present and use the up and down arrows to move through the different media. To the left of the media list you also have the option of using a pop-up button for filtering out media to only show videos or pictures if you do not want to sort through everything all together. You can preview the media in the list by stopping on it and pressing the / key. Once you find the clips you want in your project you simply stop on it and press E which will add the selection to the timeline. If your media is located in another locating that I-Movie does not have in the sidebar then navigate back to it and go to the end of it. VoiceOver should announce a date which is when you project was created and now give you a blank slate with which you can add media too from many other sources.

Another way to import media into your project is to use the keys Command+I. This opens an external import window which lets you find folders and files located on your computer to import into I-Movie. Once they are imported they will go directly into the Event List and you will have to go back into there to add them to the project timeline. Both ways that are outlined above take up limited space in the computers memory though and many people would rather store their media on external disks.

If you’re anything like me your external hard drive is most likely a bit messy. My preferred method to adding media to I-movie is by locating the file in my disk first. Once I found the clip that I want I will use the keys Function_Vo+Command+F5 to move the mouse to the VoiceOver curser’s location. Then I will use the keystroke Function+VO+F5 to verify that my file is indeed under the mouse. If VoiceOver reads back the correct file name then I will make the mouse click and hold on the file to prepare to drag. This keystroke is Shift+VO+Command+Space. An audible click will be heard and that signals that the mouse is holding the selection. Now use the Command+Tab keystroke to switch to I-Movie and navigate to theMedia list. Bring the mouse to the VoiceOver curser again with the key command above and verify that it is in the right location. VoiceOver should announce “Organizer” if the mouse is where the clip needs to be dropped. Use the Shift+VO+Command+Space keystroke once more to have the mouse drop the item in the event list. From here you would follow the same procedures to add these clips to the timeline as all imported media has to go into the Event List first.

Working In The Timeline.

Un-interact with the Media List once all of the preferred clips have been added and use the keys Control+VO+Right arrow to move the curser to the timeline. Upon interacting with the timeline VoiceOver may announce “Item Accessory.” This is a bug in the software which causes all media imported to the timeline to be played back in slow motion. You can verify this by using the \ key to play your movie from the beginning. If this happens use the Select All command and then use the keys Shift+Option+R to reset all clips to their default speed. Now you should be able to move around within the timeline and VoiceOver should be reading out the clip tags. You can use the / key to play each individual one like in the media browser or use the key Shift+Right or Left arrows to move forward or backwards by frame. For a list of the more basic commands refer to the menu bars as they have more functions and VoiceOver will read out each function’s key command when possible.

Editing Clips.

Now begins the fun of making a movie. Here is where you can add transitions between clips, cut shaky parts of video out, and add music at the end of it all to give it a nice touch if you wish. Let's talk about the most important functions first which is trimming and changing volume levels. In the case of action cameras there is timidly a lot of movement going on while filming. Many times this can result in shaky and unwatchable footage which usually happens while you’re moving the camera to get a good shot. Play each clip one by one with the / key and pause the video with the space bar right before the movement of the camera. Use the split clip command which is Command+B which will make two clips from one. Navigate to your new clip and play that one until the footage you were trying to get comes in to view and stabilizes as the camera movement subsides. Pause the clip just before that point as in the previous step and split that clip again. Now you can delete the middle clip from your movie and you have no more shaky parts in your movie and also shortened the time.

Transitions are another great way to give your project some character. It can be as simple as using the Add Cross Dissolve command switch is Command+T. This command will add a transition before and after every clip that the curser is on. It is helpful to add these transitions before you start editing your clips as it will save you the time of moving these transitions around so that your scenes are not decided up. If you split clips after adding transitions all the new clips and cuts will stay together as one scene. Or course you are not just limited to just one transition. You can exit the timeline and use the Home command to navigate to the toolbar. The transitions list is the fifth operation to the right which will give you access to multiple ways to show your viewers that a scene is changing. To place these transitions in the correct place you must place the project playhead in the correct area. You do this by playing the clip that is after the spot where you want the transition to be placed. Use the / key and then pause the clip as soon as it starts playing. Then navigate up to the list of transitions and interact with it to select one. Use the same method you used to drag media from your disk to your project only in this case you will make the mouse drag your transition to the timeline. It is important to interact with the timeline before having the mouse let go of the item. Your transition will be placed in your project and you can repeat this as many times as you like. Some times the transitions will not land where you want them too. If this happens you can simply use your basic cut and paste commands to move the transitions and any other media around your project.

You may have noticed all the checkboxes that VoiceOver reads out as “Dimmed by now.” If you try to press on these nothing will happen and it can seem very inaccessible. To unlock these features such as stabilization, color correction, and volume you need to navigate down to the timeline. Place the VoiceOver curser on the timeline but do not interact with it. Now use the keys Shift+Tab to navigate backwards until you hear the option that you want. Once you hear VoiceOver announce what you are looking for you can select it as you normally would. This is the only way to un-dim these options and make them usable with VoiceOver. Each change you make after checking one of these boxes will only apply to the selected clip. To select a clip you will need to interact with the timeline and play the clip you want to make changes too by pressing the / key. Once the clip starts to play you can pause it and then navigate back up to the checkboxes. For the sake of this guide let’s say that you want to change the volume of a certain clip. Once you locate the media play it with the / key and pause it. Then select the volume box and tab forward until you get to the slider. Interact with this slider and use the Command key in conjunction with the up or down arrows. Up being louder and down being quieter. If you do not use the Command key in conjunction with the arrows the slider will not move. This applies too many other sliders within the program. If you would like to change the volume of the whole project then you would need to interact with the timeline and use the Select All command. Once that is done you will use the Shift+Tab keys to navigate to the volume settings and change the value. This applies to all of the settings. Descriptions of how each setting works and how to apply them can be found on the internet or from the help menu in I-Movie.

Finally Finished!

When you are finished trimming all your clips, adding transitions, and deleting all of it once or twice because a new idea popped into your head; it is time to export your movie. Start by using the keys Function+Right arrow to go to the end of your project. For this to work you must be in the timeline. Then exit the timeline and go up to the toolbar. Interact with the toolbar and the Share option is the last one. Go down to “File” and select it. Here is where you will have the chance to give your movie a title and choose the quality of the media. You will also be provided with stats for your movie such as how much memory it will take up and how long the total project is. Make sure that the time in this window matches the time in your actual project. The project time is located with three presses of the Left arrow key if over the timeline. If the times do not match then and the End command is not fixing the problem you may want to try to go to the last clip in the project and use the / key to play it. Then you can use the Function+Right arrow keystroke and that will fix it. Press the Next button in the share window and here is where you can choose to export your movie. Pick your location and press Choose. Now you will need to just leave the program running and it will do the rest. Once your movie is done processing you will receive a notification and you can copy or share your creation with others. This process also applies to all of the sharing options with very minor variations.

Tips And Tricks.

When adding clips to your project timeline you will sometimes find that some of them will land on top of each other. When you go to play back one clip it will play two at the same time even though you can not find one of them. This occurs when the playhead is not at the end of the timeline which causes the clips to be added in random areas. You will have to delete the clips that are playing together from the timeline and add them again from the Event List. Always make sure that the playhead of the project is at the end of the timeline by using the End keystroke to prevent the issue from arising.

If you have sat through an audio described film before you may have noticed that movies usually fade to a dark screen when they are done. You can achieve this effect as well by one of two ways. You can use the Drag and Drop method to pull the transition to your timeline and place it at the end of the project. A simpler way is to open the project settings which is located by using the Left arrow once when on the timeline. In those setting you have an option to fade the end of your project out to black. This will add more flexibility to your project as you can add or subtract media from your project with out having to worry about moving your ending transition.

Another bug that I have found presents itself when using the Drag and Drop method to add media to the Event List. After you have made the mouse hold an item in the Finder and have done the Command+Tab keystroke to switch programs it might seem as if VoiceOver automatically took you back to the Finder. The issue here is that the VoiceOver curser and the mouse got separated from one another and as a result your keystrokes are not functioning correctly. To remedy this you need to switch programs from the Finder and to I-Movie again but be sure to fully release the keystroke when doing so. This will get the mouse and the VO curser together again.

In the event where you have video and pictures together in the same project you may want to shorten the duration that the still images are presented on the screen. The default setting for this is four seconds of screen time for all of the pictures but this can be changed. Use the keystroke Command+, to open the I-Movie Preferences and navigate to Photo Duration. Here is where you can lengthen the time for each picture or shorten it.


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Submitted by djflex90 on Monday, March 11, 2019

Thank you so much for this. Being a long-time user, I have learned some things from this guide. And it does a lot better job of explaining than any of my videos. Although, I haven’t found that I’ve had to add media to the event list first. I’ve been able to drag and drop directly into the timeline

You're very welcome.
I don't know what causes the timeline to not accept items when they are dragged and dropped with VO. It is a glitch that I haven't quite figured out yet and it isn't consistent.

Submitted by natalija Lambert on Thursday, April 9, 2020

I absolutely love this new guide however I have just one question.
has anyone done a guide similar to this one but for iOS as I am creating an iMovie on my phone and am unable to split clips. whenever I try, all I get is that VoiceOver says that the split button is dimmed.
does anyone know how to fix this?
if anyone could let me know, that would be greatly appreciated.
thanks Nlambert

Submitted by Blind angel 444 on Thursday, April 9, 2020

I would love to use this one but I don’t know any short cuts. Also a guide for GarageBand for IOS too. Please help!!!

Submitted by Lily M on Sunday, August 23, 2020


I love this tutorial. While I've found a handful of videos, I really appreciated having something written. But I have a question that I haven't been able to figure on my own or from any of the tutorials: how to have music fade in or out. Does anyone have any advice on this?

Thanks in advance for any help