Apple iMovie for Mac version 10 review

With the release of iMovie 10.0, it feels like it’s iMovie ’07 all over again: the interface has been radically altered and despite the introduction of new features, some functionality has been lost which may not please some editors. Apple were very much aware of this and upgrading will not delete your previous copy of iMovie: it’ll be stored alongside the new one in the Applications folder.

So before we go any further, let’s have a look at some of the main features that have disappeared. The most obvious one is the project section. iMovie ’07 had introduced a radical new idea: instead of editing in a straight line that stretched out to infinity just like any other editing program had done until then, the concept was changed to editing left/right and top/bottom, in a manner very similar to the way we’re used to editing any text document. 

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iMovie’s interface has completely changed and looks more like Final Cut Pro X than anything else.

This was a controversial move which didn’t please many but did make it easer to budding enthusiasts to venture into the video editing world. Apple did re-introduce the infinite horizontal timeline as an option later on, but now, with iMovie 10, it’s back for good (or at least until Apple’s engineers change their minds again). The reason for its permanent re-introduction must be to create a uniform working environment across Apple’s three editing apps: iMovie for iOS, iMovie for Mac and Final Cut Pro X, so there’s a logic there, and no apparent madness.

Although the creaky old version of iDVD still works, even in Mavericks, iMovie no longer links to it. You can of course export your projects as self-contained files and drag them into an iDVD project, but iMovie isn’t making it easy for you any longer. Coupled with that is the loss of Chapter Markers. You can still add markers to your project, but they won’t be used to tell iDVD, or any other program, where to create a new menu. This is a shame because chapter markers were useful in self-contained exported files too, to help you jump to the next scene for instance, but they’re sadly no longer with us.

Did you know about the iMovie Drop Box folder? It was a nifty idea: drag any clips you wanted into it and the next time you launched iMovie, a window would ask you into which Event you wanted to import them. Now that feature has gone the way of the dodo.

The Colour Matching tool is a great and easy way to colour correct your clips to give your project a consistent look.

As you can see, some of what we’ve lost isn’t earth shattering - nowhere near as bad as the transition from iMovie 6 to iMovie ’07. So let’s take a look at what we’ve gained.

It’s quite obvious that iMovie for Mac is transitioning into the halfway app between Final Cut Pro X and iMovie for iOS as it draws inspiration from both its siblings. For one thing, all the themes, titles and trailer templates from the iOS version are now available here as well, making importing a project from iOS to the Mac that much more seamless.

The new timeline borrows a lot from Final Cut Pro X, even its new look is inspired by its big brother. Editing from the timeline is so much easier now: you had to jump through hoops to trim your footage, but now all you have to do is drag a clip’s edge to do so. The same applies to the Clip Trimmer or the Precision Editor: you used to have to select either from the clip’s menu. Now, double-click on a clip or an edit point between two clips to activate either respectively, right in the timeline. It’s a much easier and straightforward process.

The Precision Editor is but a double-click away and the same goes for the Clip Trimmer. Both highly useful tools, made much easier to use.

Altering the speed of your clip is also done straight from the timeline and as you drag the slider, your clip’s length changes in real time.

If you wanted to add an overlay (a clip on top of another), you used to have to drag it onto a clip in your project and choose what you wanted to do from a menu. Now, just drop the clip above the other and you’re done. This all makes for a more hands-on experience which should benefit neophytes and experienced editors alike.

The adjustment tools have been radically streamlined, but it looks as if everything’s there except for some advanced colour alteration tools, but these have been replaced with much more powerful ones borrowed from Final Cut Pro X, like the amazing Match Colour, which analyses two clips and alters the look of one based on the colours of the other.

You add an overlay by dropping a clip above another - no need to fiddle with menus and multiple clicks. You can also alter the type of overlay at will.

The green/blue screen effect is also much improved. Considering how limited your tools are compared with professional software, the results are mighty impressive.

Some great timesaving features include the ability to import footage in the background so you can carry on editing at the same time. iMovie is also now fully compatible with AVCHD clips which means it doesn’t need to convert footage from most HD camcorders into another format, greatly speeding up the import process. The same applies to exporting your work: it’s all done in the background for you and doesn’t lock you out of the rest of the app.

A new section called ‘Theatre’ is similar to the one you’ll find in the iOS version. Put simply, you can export your film to the theatre to watch it from there. Better still, your films will be synced between all your devices via iCloud meaning that you’ll be able to enjoy them with whichever device you have on you.

Exporting, just like importing, is now done in the background, so you can carry on editing while iMovie takes care of the file transfer for you.

Are all these changes enough to keep the wolf from the door? It’s a great update and if you don’t mind the loss of a few features you’ll greatly appreciate all the new tools iMovie 10 brings to the table. If you already own iMovie, you can get the update for free, and that’s not just for those who bought it through the Mac App Store: if you purchased your version (or at least iLife ’11) as an install DVD, you’ll also be eligible to the free update, so that’s a lot of users out there who qualify. The only proviso is that your Mac is running Mac OS X 10.9 “Mavericks” so that’s a lot of downloading in order to get it, but it’s all free.

You can read more iMovie tutorials over at our iMovie Topic Zone, plus:

OUR VERDICT

Even if you have to purchase it, £10.49 is an incredibly cheap price for a very capable video editing application. iMovie may have changed again, but it’s nearly all for the better and the increased parity with the iOS version can only be a good thing, enabling you to start working on a project on your phone and finishing it on your Mac without losing any of your edit in the process.

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