Apple iLife ’09 [Mac] full review

Let’s get this out of the way up front: iMovie ’09 is the version Apple should have shipped when it decided a year and a half ago to start from scratch and build a new video editor for iLife.

Instead, the company released iMovie ’08, a rough draft of what Apple believed a consumer video editor should be. It offered several welcome feature improvements, especially for people new to video editing who were looking for an iPhoto-for-movies application.

However, for users who were already familiar with previous versions of iMovie, those advances were easily overshadowed by its disparity from the mature iMovie HD 6.

iMovie ’08 not only looked different - throwing away the traditional idea of a timeline running off the bottom of the screen, for instance - but it also lacked many features that had slowly filled out iMovie HD’s generous stable over the years.

A few of those capabilities have returned. iMovie ’09 can now slow down or speed up clips; export directly to iDVD with support for chapter markers; easily extract audio from video clips for editing separately; and provide a way to make cutaway shots (formerly known as the awkward Paste Over at Playhead command).

Themes have also reappeared, and are better implemented than in iMovie HD.

Other features, alas, are still missing. Precise audio editing is still hampered by the inability to control volume levels within a clip. (You can chop the clip into lots of pieces and set the volume for each one, a technique we did away with when iMovie 3 came along; Apple believes this style of audio editing is too advanced for average users.)

There’s no capability to write video back to tape in a MiniDV camera; tape is yesterday’s technology, so why support it? I’m guessing a significant number of people who own perfectly functional DV camcorders can offer reasons. And so far, third-party plug-in support remains a fond recollection of years past.

iMovie ’09 didn’t just move mostly up to par with iMovie HD, however. Apple has crammed enough new features and thoughtful improvements into this version that you might think they’d rebuilt iMovie from scratch again.

NEXT: Library management

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