Earlier this week I upgraded my MacBook Pro and my Mac mini (the only two Macs I own anymore) to iLife ’09. That includes iMovie ’09, which is Apple’s consumer video editing application. I’ve wanted to try it out for a long time, since I know its professional big brother Final Cut Studio. But word on the street was iMovie ’08 was terrible, so I never gave it a chance.
However, once ’09 came out, I figured “why not?” and had the perfect project. A friend named Sybil Baker has a new book coming out in March, and she asked me to make a book trailer for her. My plan: See how far I could get with the book trailer project using only iMovie before having to switch to Final Cut. It turns out I was able to do the whole thing all in iMovie ’09!
My basic opinion, coming from the top end down, is this: iMovie would make putting together home movies and vacation movies a breeze. That seems to really be its sweet spot. It’s not super flexible, but it is very easy to use if you’re trying to do a simple project like a DVD of your trip to Tuscany or something. If you want high flexibility, though, you have to go with Final Cut.
My pet peeve: As with all Apple products, some of the features that pros need are in the consumer version and are easier to use. For example, the so-called “Ken Burns effect”. That’s where you take a still image (a photograph, in other words) and have the camera zoom and/or pan across the image to give your video some extra sense of movement. This is built right into iMovie, where it’s assumed you may want to do this all the time. In Final Cut, you can do the same sort of thing, but you must jump through lots of hoops, entering numbers and moving sliders around without a video cue to show you what you’re going to see. It’s so difficult in Final Cut that about a half dozen third-party vendors sell add-ons to make it so you can do the “Ken Burns effect” the same way you can in iMovie. There are probably a half dozen similar examples in iMovie/Final Cut, iDVD/DVD Studio Pro, Garage Band/Soundtrack Pro, and so on.
So anyhow, I now understand the good and bad of iMovie ’09 a lot better. If I ever get time to capture the MiniDV tapes I shot of our Grand Canyon trip last summer, I definitely think I’ll use iMovie to edit it down to something watchable. But I doubt I’ll ever use it for a “real” video project or one of my Exploding Corpse Production films.
Meanwhile, in case you’re interested, the book trailer I made is for “The Life Plan” by Sybil Baker, released March 5, 2009. If it’s a best seller, I’ll take all the credit.