Tidy Up Audio For Better Sounding Movies

Reduce unwanted background noise using iMovie’s handy editing tools

Keeping control of every aspect of audio while filming is not always possible. Whether it be gusts of wind or car traffic, there are plenty of ways your sound can be interrupted by background noise. Fortunately, this is something Apple is acutely aware of and, as a result, iMovie includes a tool for directly dealing with any background noise issues.


Tucked away under the Noise Reduction section of the Adjust edits tab, there is a scrollbar that enables you to completely control the amount of background audio that can be heard. This tutorial will take you through the key steps in doing this to your own videos, without compromising the vital aspects of the audio. Get some peace of mind while you’re filming, knowing that you have this great feature as backup.

Step-by-step Reducing background noise in iMovie

1 Adjust menu

Start by opening up the project you want to work on and then selecting the clip that has audio issues. From here, look to the top-right corner of iMovie and click on the Adjust button.

2 Noise reduction

The different icons are divided up into video, audio and general sections. The central segment is audio, and the right-hand Noise Reduction icon is the one you need to click.

3 Background noise

The background noise bar will have appeared beneath the various editing icons. You’ll notice that it is faded. Tick the checkbox next to its name to activate the tool.

4 Editing scrollbar

Now move this slider up and down to get the ambient noise levels to a suitable output for you. It’ll take a bit of trial and error, as every clip will have different levels of background noise.


The Equalizer

Take full advantage of the other noise reduction tools in iMovie to get the best results for your projects. Here we’ve taken a look at the Equalizer – one of our favourite features…

1 Equalizer

Just across from the background noise tool, under the Noise Reduction tab still, there is the Equalizer option. Click the small arrow to open the drop-down menu.

2 Audio specification

Now you have options to help with the sound in all manner of scenarios. For example, if you have recorded speech you can use the Voice Enhance option to balance the audio.


Take Control Of Functions In Numbers

Master the functions in Numbers and create complex spreadsheets in seconds

Everyone knows that Apple is the best when it comes to creativity, but its iWork suite is a great example of how the company is also dedicated to providing the full package. The apps offer plenty of creative features, from newsletters to photo slideshows, but they’re also perfect when you need to get serious on your Mac and do some hard-hitting work.


This applies to Numbers especially, which hides its serious numbercrunching abilities behind slick design and a number of themes that can be applied and customised with a few clicks. The app also offers all the spreadsheet functionality you need, including a huge selection of functions that will help you manage complex calculations. Read on to find out how to master these options and get the most from your documents.

Step-by-step Use functions like a pro

1 Select cell

First, select the cell you want to create your function within. You can click and drag cells and references around later, so don’t worry if you need to move this one in the future.

2 Quick function

You can add a function to your cell quickly by clicking the Function button in the toolbar and picking from the most regularly used options in the drop-down list.

3 Pick the cells

Once you’ve selected a simple formula, you can input data directly into the formula bar, and click on cells in the spreadsheet to include their data within the formula.

4 Complex formula

For more complex formulas, click the Function button in the toolbar again and choose the Create Formula option from the bottom of the list to open up the Functions sidebar.

5 Function information

Functions are separated into categories on the left. You can search to find specific functions, and click on any function on the right of the panel to get a description of what it includes.

6 Click placeholders

Depending on the function that you choose, you may see a number of grey areas, called arguments, in the formula. Click them and a brief description will appear in the bottom bar.

7 Required or optional?

The dark grey arguments are mandatory for the selected function, while lighter grey arguments are optional and can be removed if you don’t need them. Just click and hit Backspace.

8 Select data

To input the relevant data for your selected function, click an argument and then click on the required cell on your spreadsheet to add the data to the formula.

9 Accept and check

When you’ve completed all of the arguments and inputted all the relevant information, click the tick icon. A value should appear in the cell; errors will bring up an alert.


Master Smart Controls To Boost Tracks

Reshape your sound by adjusting the parameters set out in GarageBand’s revised controls

Looking back with hindsight, the previous version of GarageBand had various surface-level limitations. One in particular was the one-size-fits-all effect profile assigned to new default tracks of varying types. Typically, the old setup was to offer two basic slider controls for track reverb and echo as standard, before you started switching on AU units.


Thankfully this has been addressed, introducing aptly named Smart Controls that will seem vaguely familiar to GarageBand users on iOS. Now we get a changeable array of knobs to twiddle, depending on the type of track, software instrument, amp or effect. The look and configuration vary, but here we aim to demystify the common configurations with before and after projects for fully understanding how Smart Controls work.

Step-by-step Master GarageBand’s new Smart Controls

1 Showing Smart Controls

With any track selected, click the third button from the top-left of the GarageBand workspace. Smart Controls will show within the bottom panel until you choose to hide them.

2 Toggle switches

In the ‘Smart Controls 1’ project, select the first track. This shows a familiar set of Smart Controls, offering Compressor, EQ and Send options. Activate using the silver toggle switches.

3 Raising levels

Smart Controls are changed using their dials. Here the Compressor can be applied to even out volume while the EQ knobs are great for adding more bass and tone to our drum loop.

4 Added atmosphere

Particularly with loops, you’ll want to tweak the sound to make them feel more natural. By isolating the drums and adjusting the Ambience and Reverb dials you can give them more life.

5 Bass options

Now select the third track and see how the Smart Controls change. Here we get Filter, Threshold, Ratio and Attack dials – capable of dramatically changing how the bass line sounds.

6 Real Instrument

In track two, we get Smart Controls for a guitar. The current patch is Dublin Delay so the dials relate to a string of effects. Basic amp Gain, Tone and Tremolo can be applied first.

7 Distortion and Echo

The basic guitar track sounds thin, so we can add subtle levels of Distortion and Echo. This combined with the original wah-wah heightens the Reggae feel and adds some warmth.

8 Even Smarter Controls

Access full amp and stompbox options via the small buttons in the right corner. Here you can drill down and adjust the wider parameters for achieving more advanced sound results.

9 Master Track

Show the master track via Show>View Master Track. This track also has Master Controls with an array of parameters for the whole project. These are useful for rounding out the final overall mix.


Master Histograms For Better Images

Learn to control an image’s contrast and exposure in iPhoto

Getting to know an image’s histogram is something every keen photographer should look to do. What these mountainous graphs show us is the distribution of light and colour in an image. They show us the vital statistics of an image, and whether or not it’s been over- or underexposed. By controlling the histogram in iPhoto, we can improve the contrast, shadow detail and brightness of an image very effectively.


Mainly, it’s a matter of assessing what the histogram is telling us about the image, and then applying the appropriate edits. If there are any peaks falling outside of the histogram then this indicates a loss of visible texture and detail, which is something best avoided. Follow these easy steps to create better images in no time at all.

Step-by-step Fine-tune the histogram

1 Inside iPhoto

If you think your image is suffering, you can view a histogram to show exactly what’s happening. Open up your image into iPhoto and click on the Edit button to begin.

2 Too bright!

At the top of the Adjust menu is a histogram. As it reveals, this image is overexposed in regions of blue and green. If you pull the far right pointer inwards, your image will become even brighter.

3 Just right

To fix over-exposure, adjust the midtones by sliding its pointer to the right. Notice that details gradually return to brighter areas of the image. Too far and the image goes dark.

4 Assess the histogram

Histograms can be used to not only fix overexposure but also boost contrast. If most of the peaks are clumped in the centre, then your whites aren’t white and blacks not black.

5 Darker shadows

To increase the contrast, slide the far left pointer inwards until it reaches the first couple of peaks. This helps to deepen shadows. Anything inside the dark grey area has no details.

6 Brighter highlights

Increase contrast by sliding the far right pointer inwards until it reaches the first peak. You should see a dramatic difference between the original image and the now more vibrant exposure.

7 What’s happening?

If your image has a dull exposure, then the Histogram will show flatter peaks, and more lower peaks. We can instantly see that not all the pointers align with the histogram’s main parts.

8 A brighter day

Starting with the outer pointers, slide the far right one inwards to brighten the highlights. Line it up with the beginning of the first peak you come across in the histogram.

9 Focus on midtones

Finally, slide the middle pointer to the left. This controls the midtones of the exposure, and will make the image appear much brighter. Over all, exposure is dramatically improved.


Make Your Images Stand Out With Curves

Capturing a great image first time, every time is a very fine art – lots of environmental factors such as lighting can really negatively impact the final image that is captured. The great news is that if you don’t capture the image you want, you can easily edit the image after.


The Curves tool works by making subtle changes to the shadows, highlights and midtones (the blacks, whites and greys of an image) – it’s not a tool to edit colour or remove noise. It’s most effective with images that are over-exposed (too light) or under-exposed (too dark) but can also work well with images that are a little bit lacklustre in their colouring. Follow our handy nine-step tutorial to discover how to completely transform your images using Aperture.

Step-by-step Get to grips with Curves

1 Get started

Launch the Aperture app and navigate to an image that you wish to edit. Double-click on an image to open it full screen. Alternatively, click on the Viewer icon in the top-right corner.

2 Launch the Inspector

Next, click on the Inspector icon in the top-left of the Aperture interface. In the column that appears on the left-hand side of the interface, click on the tab labelled Adjustments.

3 Launch Curves tool

Click on Add Adjustment. From the drop-down that appears, select Curves. The Curves tool will be displayed in the main left-hand column. Ensure that the box labelled Curves is checked.

4 Auto adjust image

In the Curves toolbox, click on both buttons labelled Auto. This will automatically apply the Curves tool to your image – it saves time and also gives you a much better work canvas.

5 Select Colour Channel

The Auto tools will have already improved your image, yet there is always more to be done. Click on the menu next to the Channel option and make sure that RGB is selected.

6 Into the shadows

Drag the black slider on the left-hand side of the Curve grid to increase the number of shadows – this will increase colours and works particularly well with over-exposed images.

7 Add some light

Drag the white slider at the bottom of the righthand side of the grid to increase the number of highlights and improve the colour intensity – this works wonders with under-exposed images.

8 Create a Curve

On the Curve grid, you’ll notice a number of dots. Click on these dots and drag them around the grid to create a curve – the image will change in real-time as you’re moving the dots.

9 Go slow

It’s important to note that a lot of these changes will be subtle, so move the dots around slowly – dragging them from one end of the grid to the other will result in extreme changes.


Make Album Artwork For iTunes

Gaps in your library? Create your own placeholder album cover

Missing artwork is the downfall of any well-stocked library. Sometimes you will come across the occasional album that you can’t sort out using iTunes’ search options. Maybe it’s an exported GarageBand project or a download with no metadata attached – whatever the case, you’re going to need to make some artwork yourself.


This is where iPhoto comes in, with some help from Pages and Preview. We’re going to show you how to turn the iTunes icon into a placeholder album cover. Of course, you can make custom covers for every album using your own photos, but if there’s a lot of missing artwork then you may just want something a bit more simple. Let’s get cracking.

Step-by-step: Restyle the iTunes icon

1 Grab the base icon

Right-click iTunes in your Applications folder and choose Show Package Contents. Copy iTunes.icns from Contents>Resources onto your desktop and then open that copy in iPhoto.

2 Create a JPEG

The standard resolution for album artwork in iTunes is 600×600 pixels, so we need to resize. Hit File>Export, set it to JPEG at Maximum quality with a 600px Custom size, then Export.

3 Get a little creative

Next, customise your icon as you see fit. We boosted Contrast, reduced Saturation, tweaked Temperature/Tint, applied a Sepia effect and pushed Vignette up to 7 for a rich, vintage look.

4 Apply as artwork

When you’re ready, export another JPEG. In iTunes, find an album that needs artwork, rightclick it and select Get Info. Click the Artwork tab and use Add to apply your new album cover.

Add text to your album cover

You’ll need to enlist Pages and Preview, but it is possible to add text to your iPhoto-made album artwork – here’s how you do it…

1 Make space for text

Export a 500px square version of your icon artwork. Then export another 600px version, but push the Vignette up to the max so it’s black around the edges. Drag into Pages.

2 Convert PDF to JPEG

Using the guides, put the 500px square in the centre of the 600px one, covering the central spot. Add your text and export as a PDF. Use Preview to convert back to JPG and crop.


Export And Share Your iMovie Projects

We explain all the ways you can get your work out into the wild

Most of your care and attention in iMovie goes into perfectly piecing together your movie project. You want to ensure that every frame and shot is correct, with the right audio and other effects firmly in place. What this all means is that by the time it comes to exporting and sharing, some people can skip through the process and not really take in all the options open to them. This tutorial will take a look at all the sharing options on offer to you at the business end of an iMovie project, and when is the best time to use them.

From posting your projects to CNN’s dedicated news site to uploading it to a video sharer like YouTube or Vimeo, this tutorial will give you a better understanding of all the ways you can get your projects out there.

Step-by-step Share your iMovie projects

1 Share

Once you have completed your project and are ready to export and share it, there are two ways to do it. Either click File then Share from the menubar or just click the share icon in-app.

2 Confirm

Whichever sharing option you choose, a confirmation dialog will appear. This enables you to add tags, a description and choose the size of the project when it’s exported.

3 Render

When you’re happy with all of these points, click Share. This will begin the export process by rendering your movie. The time it takes depends on your project’s size.

4 Exported

Once rendering has finished, your project will be ready to be uploaded, sent or shared as you see fit. It will also have been added to the iMovie Theater for you to view at any time.

iMovie sharing highlights

A look at some of the other sharing options within iMovie, and what sort of projects they would suit being used for…

1 Vimeo

A video-sharing site, Vimeo is widely populated by independent filmmakers. So if you’re particularly happy with your movie project, then this is the place to send it.

2 CNN iReport

The US-based news network has a dedicated area of its website just for citizen journalism uploads. iMovie even has a template for you to use for your own reports.


Design Your Own Keynote Theme

It’s easy to customise the basic themes to fit your needs and then save new versions for later

Beautiful as they are, you won’t get far if you keep using the default Keynote themes. There will come a time when you’ve spent so lon working on the layout and style of a particular keynote, you’ll want to re-use it for a different presentation. And you may have built bespoke slides that you want to use again – perhaps something with image placeholders you’ve enhanced with precise borders, tints and tilts.


Keynote makes it easy for you to save your customisations for future use. If you work on the master slides, you can save them out as a new theme that you can then choose to use next time you create a fresh keynote. Here’s a quick-start guide – take a look at your disc for a full screencast tutorial on making this theme.

Step-by-step Customise and save themes

1 Edit the masters

Open a blank new Keynote document using the White Theme from the Standard collection. This is the base we’ll work from. Click View>Edit Master Slides (or hit Cmd+Alt+E).

2 Add a background image

In the Format panel, pick Advanced Image Fill from the Background section and hit Choose to add your artwork. Use Scale to Fill and click the colour wheel button to drop the Opacity.

3 Make text more readable

Use the Shape tool to add a square, then resize it as shown. Set it to Gradient Fill, making the top white with 0% Opacity and the bottom a complementary colour set to 100%.

4 Repeat for all slides

For consistency, copy and paste this shape to all your slides. Resize placeholder images to fit within it, and play with the colour stops under Advanced Gradient Fill for further control.

5 Choose your size

Consider where you are going to be using your theme. If you want to make a widescreen or custom-sized version, open the Setup panel and use the Slide Size drop-down.

6 Save your theme

For more guidance on customising your theme, check out the screencast. For now, just head to File>Save Theme and then choose to save in the Theme Chooser or a custom destination.

Using your theme

If you’ve saved your theme to the Theme Chooser then it will be there waiting for you next time you create a new document in Keynote. If you’ve saved it to your Mac then you’ll be able to launch it from the file itself, wherever you’ve saved it, and even share it with other people (like we’re sharing ours on your disc). In any case, here’s how to use it.

1 Open your theme

If you saved your custom theme to the Theme Chooser, start a new Keynote document and click My Themes at the top to see yours. You can right-click to delete or rename it. Double-click to open it up.

2 Start adding slides

As usual, you’ll see just a title slide to begin with. To add more, click the ‘+’ button in the bottom-left corner of the interface to bring up the full list of your customised master slides. It’s as easy as that.


Design And Share A Digital Business Card

Never worry about having business cards with you again – it’s time to go digital

Business cards have long been a useful tool for networking with potential business clients or contacts. However, technology has moved on significantly in recent years. We store the contact details of our friends and family digitally on our phones and computers, so it makes sense that business cards should evolve from paper to phone, too.


Gone are the days of having a Rotadex storing the precious contact details of all of the people you’ve ever done business with – now it’s time to go digital, and with Pages, you can do just that. With a few minutes and a whole host of creative tools in Pages, you can create a professional looking digital business card to share with your existing and soon-to-be business contacts. Follow our handy guide to get started.

Step-by-step Create a digital business card

1 Change your dimensions

Select the Blank Landscape template. Navigate to File>Page Setup. Click on Paper Size and select Manage Custom Sizes. Set the Paper Size Width to 85mm and the Height to 55mm.

2 Convert to Page Layout

Press OK. Head back to the File menu and select Convert to Page Layout – this converts our document into one more suited to being creative. Next, we’re going to create a logo.

3 Create a logo

Click on Shapes at the top and choose a square. Drag the square to the left-hand side of the business card. Click Fill in the Format panel and choose a colour from the Colour Fill heading.

4 Style your logo

Drag the Opacity slider to 50%. This will make your square slightly translucent. Copy and paste your square twice, offsetting them both at a diagonal. Make the colours lighter.

5 Add some text

Click on the Text icon and choose a style of text from the pop-out box. Re-size the text box to cover the right-hand side of the business card. Type in some business contact details.

6 Style your text

Highlight the text you’ve just added and change the font using the options listed under the Font heading in the right-hand column. We’ve chosen Helvetica Neue to keep things clean.

7 Make it bigger

Change the font size to 10pt by pressing the up arrow next to the font size box. Next, just highlight the business name and set it to a larger size than the rest of the text.

8 Frame your card

Frame your card with a border. Click the Shape icon and choose a line. Place a line at the top and bottom of the card – customise the lines using the options in the right-hand column.

9 Export and share

Once you’re happy with your business card, navigate to File>Export To. Choose PDF from the pop-out menu. Set the PDF’s Image Quality to Best and give your business card a name.


Customise Your Pages Setup

Control the structure of your document to improve its appearance

Pages makes it easy for you to focus on your writing, and gives you formatting tools for improving your images and text – but what about the page itself? Once you’ve written all the words, you might be wondering how you can make the most of your page space, or set your document up so that you can print it properly. And it might be the case that you’re trying to save a few lines somewhere to avoid leaving half of your final paragraph on a new page. Well, Pages has you covered.


Using the Setup panel, you can quickly and easily make sweeping changes to the structure of your document and get it ready for anything, whether that’s printing in uncommon page sizes, dropping information into headers and footers or changing your page margins.

Step-by-step: Change page layouts

1 Set page orientation

Click the Setup button at the top-right to bring up your document settings. Set your document to portrait or landscape mode using the buttons beneath Page Orientation.

3 Insert page numbers

Tick the Footer option just below Page Orientation to add a three-column bar to the bottom of each of your pages. Select a cell then click Insert Page Number button.

2 Change paper size

Above Page Orientation is Printer & Paper Size; use the first drop-down to select the printer that you’ll be using and then use the second to set your paper size.

4 Add a header

Now tick Header on. Use this space to hold information like the title of the document, your name and the date – it’s particularly useful for reports and academic writing.

Get more space

Page layout and structural elements are important, but if you’re just trying to be efficient with your page space then there’s more you can do, as we’re about to prove…

1 Reduce page margins

Below the header and footer section is Document Margins, which controls the space between your page edges and your text. Reduce these to fit more words onto a page.

2 Hyphenate text

If you have a text-heavy document then consider ticking the Hyphenation option at the bottom of the page in order to break words across lines using hyphens.