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Quick Review

Rating: 4/5

The Good
It comes free on your new Mac, great user interface, easy to learn

The Bad
Mac only, may feel confining to some "power users."

The Price: $49.00, or ships free with new Macs.

The Advise
If it's on your Mac, use it. Chances are it will meet your needs. If
you're getting paid (decently) for your project, use Final Cut Pro.


iMovie 2
Apple Computer

iMovie 2
Consumer Video, Apple Style

By Josh Oakes
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

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.

Exporting Video

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 home videos.

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. --J.O.