Now Playing Everywhere: iMovie

For Robert Cohen, digital video has been a godsend. A software designer by day, Cohen enjoys making movies in his spare time. And DV has made his hobby a whole lot easier.

"Years ago, I used to work with film, and I found that it got very cumbersome to shoot blind, develop the film, then edit manually," the 53-year-old Portland, Ore., resident says. "Now I can mix production and postproduction, changing the shooting halfway through if the editing or composition gives me a better idea."

The one drawback for Cohen? Powerful but affordable editing programs have been hard to come by. "Moviemaking is a hobby for me, and not something I can afford to pay the price for Final Cut or a similar application to do," he says.

But now, Cohen has joined many other Mac users who've taken advantage of Apple's (800/692-7753, http://www.apple.com ) decision to release its iMovie video-editing software as a free download. More than 150,000 people downloaded iMovie in the first week it was available. Apple has also put out a $20 CD version that contains iMovie tutorials.

iMovie, which promises video assembly easy enough for everyday users, originally came bundled with the iMac DV. That left Power Mac and PowerBook owners with few options outside of low-end programs such as Strata's VideoShop or high-end packages like Apple's $999 Final Cut Pro.

Digital video has gained greater attention from Apple in recent months. The company believes desktop video will be every bit as important to its fortunes as desktop publishing was more than a decade ago.

"iMovie has taken that sphere of what you can use your computer for and blown it up to include more," says Jon Bass, group product manager of video applications for Apple.

Apple says the iMovie download will work on any Power Mac G4 or PowerBook with built-in FireWire, QuickTime 4.1, and Mac OS 9.0.4. But what Apple says is required and what software will actually run on are not always the same thing.

Indeed, Mac users on troubleshooting Web sites like Macfixit.com and Macintouch.com have reported some success at getting iMovie up and running on both beige and blue-and-white G3s using operating systems as old as 8.5. And while it may not list the G3 among the supported computers, Apple isn't exactly warning G3 owners to steer clear of iMovie.

"There are no technical reasons why users of G3s wouldn't be completely happy with iMovie," Bass says.

A few users have even managed to install and run iMovie on pre-G3 Macs with upgraded G3 CPUs and FireWire PCI cards. That doesn't guarantee that iMovie will work on older systems. Other users who've tried an end-around Apple's system requirements have reported problems with speed and stability. Still, without having to risk a dime on installing iMovie, giving the software a try could be worthwhile for amateur directors eager to make their first DV masterpiece.

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