How to cover or blur areas in iMovie

iMovie is simple, fast and it works well but there are a few little things it just wasn’t built for. Video masking, covering up passwords or blurring areas of a video is one of those gray areas and this tutorial will teach you how to get it done quickly and easily.

For this tutorial you will definitely need iMovie and you will want a photo editor like Photoshop or Photoshop Elements to do the best job but it is not required! I’ve provided a sample image here that you can download and use to cover up parts of your video so if you can’t edit images you can still do this.

If you don’t have a photo editor right click and save as to download this image block-cover.jpg (4 KB). It’s just a white square that you can use to cover up parts of your own video using picture in picture, perfect for hiding passwords etc.

Here are the steps to cover sections of your video or blur areas in iMovie:

  1. launch iMovie and go to iMovie > Preferences then click the “Show Advanced Tools” box if it isn’t already selected. You can tell it is enabled because you will see a key icon popup on the menu in iMovie
  2. for simpler, non-Photoshop directions skip to step 5. For an advanced, more professional blur you will want to take a screenshot of your video in the monitor area of iMovie for the scenes you want to cover or blur sections of. Use Shift + Open Apple (command) + 4 and you will get some cross hairs to use to capture the area
  3. open the screenshot you just took in Photoshop, copy and paste the content into a new image with a clear background then cut out everything from the image you don’t want to be covered, once this is done you can use Filter > Blur or Gaussian Blur to distort what’s left. Use save for web and save the image as a .png or .gif since they allow for transparent backgrounds.
  4. drag the new image you just created right up and onto the scene you want to “mask” and drop it in. In iMovie ’09 a menu will come up and one of the options will be Cutaway, this is what you want for a full mask. Select this option and then position the overlay for the section of the video you want to hide, after this click the overlay and choose the crop icon or double click the layer. In the preview window now you will see options for fit, crop and ken burns. You should choose Crop and then stretch the green box all the way to the edges so your screenshot size exactly matches the video size and all areas you blurred in the image overlay are now matched to the video.
  5. for the simpler non-advanced way to cover videos in iMovie you just need to drag any old image (including the block-cover.jpg listed above) into your video timeline and then choose Picture in Picture. This will create a little square that you can resize and move all around your footage to cover passwords, personal information like emails etc. It’s that simple…

The video below covers all of the steps and options described above. You will learn how to setup the advanced options in iMovie, take a screenshot for the overlay, edit it in Photoshop and export with clear background and use as a cutaway to hide parts of your video.

Also, you can avoid the white edges of the blurred image by blurring before you cut away the surrounding images. Since I cropped the circle first the blur edge faded to clear which turns white when importing into iMovie.