iMovie 2

When Apple released iMovie, it marked the beginning of a revolution in personal computing. Anybody, and I mean anybody, could make a movie. The only ingredients needed were a FireWire-equipped Mac and video camera, and a little imagination. The original iMovie was so simple that it didn’t even ship with a manual – most users could just guess how it all worked. There was a price to pay for such simplicity: it had only the most basic editing tools. iMovie 2 is slightly more complex – though many of the limitations of the previous version have been addressed – yet it’s no harder to use Video effects
One of the most impressive new features is motion effects. This is a slide bar to speed up, slow down or even reverse the video clip. The slow-motion effect is ideal for running end-credits over clips, or creating a dreamy feel, guaranteed to get grandparents weeping at little Johnny running – Little House on the Prairie-style – through the fields. To complete this tear-jerker effect, you can now add a soundtrack directly from a CD. Just imagine the footage from your Princess Diana memorial barbecue in slow motion, to the strains of Elton’s Candle in the Wind. You can also do some basic tweaks to the music – such as fade in and fade out. But this could do with some extra controls, to allow the song to be faded back when people are talking, for example. The Video effects could also be improved, by allowing a little more control. The speed can be adjusted to go faster or slower – but an ease-in, ease-out for the speed-change would be nice. There are a number of new visual effects available in iMovie 2. Useful but basic effects such as Black-&-White and Sepia Tone are in the basic package. Apple has already released a plug-in pack for iMovie 2 that includes more interesting modes, such as trails and mirror effects. However, “more interesting” actually translates to “less useful” on a regular basis, but fun effects are always nice to have. If you want to recreate a favourite ‘80s pop video all the tools are here. It could be your ticket to a home version of Stars in their Eyes. Unlimited clips
One of the main gripes with the original iMovie was that you were limited to 12 movie clips. Now the only thing to limit your creativity is disk space – if you’re lucky enough to have a relatively new Mac, with a large hard disk, this shouldn’t be a problem. The sound effects haven’t changed in this version of iMovie, which is a bit disappointing, as this is surely one of the easiest additions Apple could have made. You can import sound clips, though, as long as they are in the AIFF format. Sound effects are plentiful on the Internet, and for the project in hand I found some Carry On clips to add spice to the scenes. If the sounds are in the wrong format, QuickTime Pro can export practically any audio format to AIFF. It’s simple to import sound and cue it up to the event on the screen. Although iMovie only appears to offer two sound tracks, it’s possible to add more than one sound or effect to each of the tracks. Voice-over
Audio from one video clip can be extracted to make a voice-over for another piece of footage. This means you don’t have to dub a fresh voice- over when you come to edit the original soundtrack. Sound tracks can also be used to disguise faults with the original footage. For example, if the camera gets knocked when taping, another video-clip can be played to cover it while keeping the original soundtrack. Some slower Macs may be unable to show the movie at full screen and keep the original frame rate. If you have a camera with DV in and out, it may be able to play back either on the camera screen or onto a TV set. This is because the hardware needed to decompress the data is built into the camera. The Mac can manage this decompression through sheer brute strength, but the camera hardware has a DV processor devoted to this action. So if it can be used, take advantage of it. With iMovie 1, keeping audio in sync with video was difficult. Now, there’s a command to lock them, making sync problems a thing of the past. Another problem was keeping track of the timeline. A long movie made for tricky editing when the view of the pieces was too small. Now, the timeline can be resized to make more accurate changes. Too short
Of course, budding Hitchcocks are not instant movie-masters and everybody makes mistakes. If you edit a clip too short, you’d previously have had to re-import the footage. Now, you can restore the original clip without having to plug in the camera. The new-look iMovie interface is in keeping with the Aqua interface that will be seen in Mac OS X. Awash with throbbing and glowing liquid lozenges, it’s a delight to use – unless you have a big monitor, that is. The iMovie interface is designed to fit a 1,024-x-768 screen perfectly, ideal for iMacs owners. However, when presented with a bigger screen, such as the 1,240-x-1,024 screen I use, the tools remain the same size but are widely spaced. Great swathes of the screen are unused, and the palettes are not expandable. Although iMovie was designed to go with the iMac DV, as it’s now available for all FireWire-equipped Macs, it’s a shame that a bigger layout isn’t an option. It wouldn’t take much extra programming, and it feels like iMovie 2’s development was cut short to get it ready for the launch of the new iMacs. An even bigger give-away that Apple rushed the launch, is that barely a week after its launch an update to 2.0.2 was released. The extra plug-in pack also relies on the update being installed. It’s worth downloading though, as it contains the best effects. Although a great package, there are other flaws in iMovie 2. The automatic import that divides footage into individual clips at each new shot, doesn’t always hit the mark. This meant that the beginning of clips are cut off, and the end of clips also include some of the next shot. It isn’t a big deal, but does require some messing around to get everything right. So for now, be sure to add a fraction of a second to the beginning of each shot you record. The lack of proper support for larger screen-sizes is also a flaw, but not a serious one. I hope this oversight will be addressed in a future update.

OUR VERDICT

Apple iMovie is in a class of its own. There are other DV-editing packages, some of which are free, but none are as easy to use as iMovie. The original iMovie is now a free download from Apple, though it looks plain compared to the new version. The great thing about iMovie 2 is that you can make a movie with no film-making experience at all. Just about anybody with the right equipment and a basic grasp of the Mac can make a professional-looking film. This is an exciting prospect for the Mac consumer. Even novices, kids and your mother in-law will be making movies with this program. If you can operate a video camera, you can operate iMovie. I was worried that iMovie would be the Super 8 of the new millennium, allowing anybody to create tiresome holiday movies. But the fact is, iMovie makes us all look talented. When it goes on sale in September, a new breed of film maker will be born.

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