iMovie full review

When Apple released iMovie for the iPhone last year, we felt a palpable sense of longing; a video-editing app seemed ideally suited to the iPad’s large screen, yet it ran only on the iPhone 4 and fourth-generation iPod touch. This update also runs on the iPad 2 and makes movie editing not just accessible, but touchable.

That tactile interactivity makes video editing more engaging. You get a better sense of assembling the movie using your fingers instead of being once removed by the mouse on a computer. Without a doubt, the larger iPad screen for editing is an improvement over the small screen on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Editing clips in the timeline is simple and intuitive. When you tap a clip, yellow selection handle orbs appear. As you drag a handle, the Viewer area displays the current frame, giving you an idea of where the edit point will be.

When you need to make specific edits, pinch outward vertically on a transition icon to open the Precision Editor. This takes advantage of the screen size to show both video clips around the transition, and the unused footage of each, helping you choose more deliberate edit points.

iMovie now offers multiple audio tracks and a library of around 50 sound effects

When we started putting together a longer project, we noticed that swiping across the length of the timeline was time-consuming. However, Apple has a couple of solutions: pinch with two fingers horizontally on the timeline to expand or contract its width, or tap and hold the left or right end of the timeline just above the video clips to jump to the beginning or end.

Editing audio
iMovie now offers multiple audio tracks: one for the video track, one background music track, and three foreground audio tracks; a limited library of sound effects are also available. It’s now possible to include multiple background songs, versus having to choose just one.

However, we still longed for more control. When you trim an audio clip, there’s no way to fade out the edit point, leaving an abrupt ending if you trimmed mid-sound. You can adjust only the overall volume of a clip. The background music track is also automatically ducked (made softer) when there’s audio in a video clip, but you can’t adjust the level of ducking.

iMovie makes an assumption that any audio track under one minute in length should be foreground audio, not a background music track. That can be a problem if you want to open a video with a short piece of music and then follow with a longer piece. iMovie places the short piece as a sound effect; when you add the next song, it appears as a background track, which locks to the beginning of the movie.

Sharing your movie
In the previous iOS version of iMovie, you had to send a finished movie back to the device’s Camera Roll before exporting it. Now, you can export the movie directly to YouTube and Facebook, as well as the iPad’s Camera Roll.

iMovie supports playing a movie on devices that support AirPlay, like the Apple TV. When you start playing full-screen and tap the AirPlay icon, iMovie creates an AirPlay-compatible version at 720p resolution. Another option is direct playback to an HDTV or projector via HDMI, using Apple’s Digital AV Adapter. However, when tapping the Play Full Screen button on the Projects page you get a mirror of the screen: widescreen playback limited to the resolution of the iPad’s screen with bars at top and bottom. To get the full screen effect, you need to share the movie to the Camera Roll, and play it there.

You can share a project between iOS devices, but you can’t open the project in iMovie ‘11 on the Mac. Even after you’ve transferred a project to another device, which is quite a laborious process, you’ll need to copy it into iMovie.

Apple doesn’t even try to support the variety of video formats that people are likely to be shooting in. Footage is assumed to come from the iPad’s cameras, an iPhone 4, or a 4G iPod touch. We could import and edit footage from a Flip Mino HD, but not a Canon Powershot G12.

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