iMovie is the first software package Apple introduced as part
of its "Hub of Your Digital Lifestyle" vision. Installed on every
Mac that Apple ships, iMovie allows anyone, and I mean anyone,
to capture, edit, enhance and publish their own video footage
to the internet, tape or DVD (with iDVD). iMovie is aimed at entry-level
and consumer users and provides the most important features in
a clean, easy interface.
Enhancements from iMovie 1
If you are upgrading from iMovie 1 to iMovie 2, the first thing
you will notice is the new Aqua interface. The second thing
you will notice is the improved timeline. The drag-and-drop
approach in iMovie 1 has been much improved in iMovie 2, and
finally you can zoom the timeline. Working with video and audio
tracks in the timeline is better than ever, and should be since
that is what digital video and iMovie are all about.
Capturing and Importing
Capturing video in iMovie is very, very easy. Launching iMovie
and plugging your DV camera into your Mac's built in FireWire
port will automatically put iMovie into capture mode. When capturing
footage, iMovie will automatically split your footage into clips
where you started and stopped your camera during recording.
While in capture mode, you may also control your camera with
iMovie's VCR controls, which are compatible most cameras. Another
option for getting files into iMovie is to import them. iMovie
can import a wide range of file formats, including MP3s, Photoshop
files, AIFF audio files, JPEGs, GIFs and BMPs. You may also
import DV Stream files, which can be created from existing QuickTime
movies via QuickTime Pro.
The timeline offers two views of your project: the Thumbnail
View and the more traditional Timeline View. The Thumbnail View
displays clips and transitions as slide-like icons and is helpful
for quickly getting an overview and manipulating the order of
your captured clips. The timeline view displays clips and transitions
as tracks, indicating their length. The timeline view also allows
you to add audio clips to one or both audio channels.
Working with Video and Audio
Apple is very big on drag-and-drop, and that is how most editing
happens in iMovie. Drag an audio or video clip to the timeline
to add it, drag it around to change the sequence. Drag the clip
out to remove it. Drag a transition to a clip to add it, drag
it out to remove it. Applying Effects and Titles are the few
editing tasks that do not work this way. Effects and Titles
are applied on a clip-by-clip basis, accessed by selecting a
clip in the timeline, and clicking "Apply" after selecting
and configuring an effect from the Effects or Title panel. Clips
then display icons indicating if they have been the subject
of an Effect or Title. iMovie also offers basic audio and video
clip editing within the Timeline, including the ability to strip
audio from a clip, import audio files (including MP3s), and
split video and audio clips.
There are several options for exporting your final work of
art from iMovie. Exporting to DV tape (which can then be transferred
to VHS), QuickTime and to iDVD are supported. Both the DV Tape
and iDVD export options are pretty much "fire and forget"
settings, meaning that there are few or no settings you need
to worry about or adjust. However, when exporting to QuickTime,
there are a number of pre-configured settings which work fairly
well, though not as well as third-party solutions like Cleaner.
QuickTime export also offers and "Expert" setting,
allowing manual configuration of the settings.
The Bottom Line
iMovie is a great product for nearly all users, and gives you
the tools to digitize, edit, and output. The controls are simple,
but do what most users will need them to do, for free. iMovie
brings people the power to do something that only a few years
ago would cost a thousand dollars or more. It is a great tool
for hobbyists and entry-level users and for tasks like digitizing
The shortcomings of iMovie are relatively few. The most limiting, of course,
is the fact that iMovie is a Mac-only application, but really, no one is surprised
at this. Additionally, iMovie might feel limiting to some users who sit firmly
between the skill set of iMovie and Final Cut Pro, Apple's Professional digital
video suite. Although, for such users, the $1000 price tag on Final Cut Pro
is probably a good enough reason to use iMovie, at least until they get discovered.