iMovie Brady Bunch Effect… Yes You Can

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Last night I was goofing around with my guitar and thought, “I should make a video.”  Now I don’t have a great voice, so I knew if I wanted to make it worth watching, it needed to have more than just me singing.

I decided to record myself singing, “I’m Not the Only One.”  First, I recorded a guitar and melody track.  Then I recorded three more tracks – the harmony, a vocal cello effect, and percussion.  By the way, I did this using Photo Booth on my iMac, but I used an external Yedi microphone (Apple’s built-in mics are not good for capturing quality audio).

When it was all done, I thought, “Gee, you know what would be awesome?  Making a video with the “Brady Bunch” effect.  So, I opened up Adobe Premier.  Yes, I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and no, I can’t remember the last time I used a program other than Photoshop.  After a few futile clicks, I gave up and opened iMovie.  Now, I know you can do this pretty easily with Final Cut Pro, and that is a much more intuitive program than Adobe Premier. However, right now I can’t justify spending $300 just to make a few goofy videos.  So iMovie will have to suffice.  One big problem though, iMovie doesn’t have a “Brady Bunch” effect.

I’ve found that while iMovie does have its limitations, you can usually do a few workarounds to get exactly what you want.  Here’s a link to a tutorial I did on getting text effects using Keynote and iMovie.  I also created a comprehensive review of iMovie 10, which I’ve posted here as well.

So after a couple of minutes of thinking it through, I discovered  the solution on how to do the “Brady Bunch” effect in iMovie.  Ready, set, go…

Start with a green screen

The first thing you need to do is get a green screen as your bottom layer.  I did this in keynote by creating a green slide and saving it as a jpeg.  You can do this in a paint or photo program as well.  You could even do this just with the background tool in iMovie.  Once your image is in the movie editor, extend it to about the length of your movie.  Technically, you don’t even need to make it a green or blue screen.  Any background should suffice.

Add Your First Video

Add your first video on top of the green screen layer.  You have a few options when using multiple video tracks.  You can do cutaway, insert, green/blue screen, but for this, you’re going to want to choose “Picture in Picture.”  This turns your video layer into a box like what you see on the news next to the anchor’s head.  The reason you want to do it this way, as opposed to green screen, is because the picture-in-picture option allows you to move and resize your video however you want without cropping it.  As you’re resizing it, make sure to leave room for the other videos.  You also have options to add a colored border around your video.  Once your video is done, go ahead and save it as a video file.  This exports your iMovie video into a MP4 file.

Add Your Next Video

Start a new project and bring in the video you just exported.  You should see your movie surrounded by the green screen.  You’re going to do the same thing you did in the previous step .  Drag your next video track on top of the video that shows the green screen.  Choose picture-in-picture again, and resize the second video to fit somewhere in the green space.  Make sure to line up that second track so that the audio syncs with the first video.  As you suspected, you’re going to have to export this video as well before adding more tracks.

Rinse and Repeat

For each track, you’ll need to repeat the previous step.  Depending on the length of your video, the constant exporting as a MP4 file is going to be the most time consuming part.  Here’s where a professional video editor like Final Cut Pro with the ability to do the Brady Bunch effect is going to save you lots of time.  However, the price tag may not be worth the convenience if this is all you’re trying to do.

A Few Tweaks

For this video, you’ll notice that I start out on a single screen and as the different parts enter (around the :45 mark), the screen splits.  You can easily do this by dropping your original videos in and trimming the “Brady Bunch” effect video.

Final Project

And here it is.  True story, when I sang in high school and college choirs, I sang as a double bass.  That falsetto stuff isn’t for me.

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