Playing around with iLife’s new iMovie

My wife’s new MacBook arrived a couple of weeks ago with the new iLife ’08 suite and since iMovie has been said to receive the greatest overhaul I thought it was time for some serious video editing.

To get raw material in first instance we put our two laptops in two different places in my son’s room, each with another viewport. The built-in iSight cameras did quite a good job – resolution- and color-wise – while the picture was sometimes a bit too dark or too light under some circumstances. A bit annoying was also that its quite hard to move a laptop like a portable video camera if your little son is moving quickly through the room. You have no real way then to determine if the picture is ok since there is no display on the rear of the camera / laptop screen. But hey, if you have no money for a portable one I guess you have to live with those minor issues.

Anyways, after our recording session I copied the video project from my wife’s laptop and fired up iMovie. I noticed then that you have to import iMovie HD projects into iMovie, which took quite a long time for the roughly 25 minutes of raw video we had1. Why on earth did Apple not just simply upgrade the old HD format bundle, but decided to copy around gigabytes of raw camera output?!

After the import was finally done I found myself very pleased with the easy interface of iMovie. Stiching parts of video clips together was as easy as marking a certain video sequence with the mouse in the events view and dragging it into the project view, while adding sound from iTunes, still pictures from iPhoto (with the famous Ken Burns effect) and various transitions. You can also directly record audio and video from the built-in microphone or iSight / connected webcam like in the previous version, normalize and adapt the volume of audio tracks and even do some basic video image processing.

While this makes a good overall picture, I found some things annoying, difficult to accomplish or even impossible (please give me a pointer if it was really just my dumbness ;):

  • The amount of transitions is very limited. If your video should not look too amateurish, you can probably only use two or three (cross-fade, fade to black, fade to white)
  • Its not obvious to change the length of a transition, i.e. you can’t just drag them bigger or smaller like you can do with video clips, and I somehow managed to overlook the context menu item “change duration” in first instance… maybe this was inserted just after I globally edited the project settings and raised the default length from 0.5 seconds to 1 second… I don’t know.
  • The only way I found to create moving text for a short credits section was the pre-defined text template. How do I do horizontally scrolling text there? How do I change the length of the credits display after I set it initially? (It managed to occupate half or everything of the length of the clip on which I dragged it.)
  • I found no way to create some “blackness” on which I could display text like f.e. the credits at the end – am I supposed to create a 1x1px^2 black image, place it into my project and display text on it?
  • There seems to be no way to do advanced audio editing f.e. to adapt the volume of certain parts of a bigger background audio track or fade it in/out at certain positions if the foreground/video audio should be understood better.
  • I dislike the track views which break like text lines if the space is up on the right. They make it kind of hard to select sequences which span multiple lines. Surely Apple’s developers invested quite a lot time to get it “flowing” nicely that way, but I’m not sure if that served the usability very well.

Anyways, here is the result of the work. Please be gentle if you vote on it 😉

1 You ask why I recorded in the older iMovie HD, and not directly in iMovie? Well, the first time I tried to fire up iMovie, Quicksilver gave me an error similar to “wrong version of Quartz composer installed” so I thought – at first – my iMovie installation was broken somehow and decided to go for the older iMovie HD to record the video, just to find out a little later that Quicksilver was the real issue and not iMovie…