capsule review

iMovie 3.0.1

At a Glance
  • Apple iMovie 3.0.1

It's been two years since Apple last revamped its easy-to-use video-editing application, and for many users, it looks as though the company's time has been well spent. iMovie 3.0.1 sports a number of deep enhancements, and the program benefits immensely from integration with the rest of the iLife suite.

Refined Interface

From the outset, iMovie 3 presents a more refined, yet still familiar, interface. Instead of taking over your entire screen, the application's contents reside inside a single resizable window -- especially great news for users with large monitors who want access to the rest of their screen real estate. The iMovie monitor, Clips pane, clip viewer, and timeline viewer remain in the same relative positions.

The way you work within the clip viewer is much like it was before -- but now when you drag a piece of video from the Clips pane into a sequence, the other clips fluidly make room for the newcomer.

iMovie 3's difference is more apparent in the timeline viewer, where a new and very useful option called Edit Volume lets you adjust volume throughout a clip to create audio fade-ins and -outs, cut unwelcome noise, and boost weak voices.

One problem we found is that there was a slight lag in time between when we pressed the spacebar to begin playing a clip and when the clip actually started playing -- and in some cases, the video jumped back several frames before beginning.

Integration

iMovie 3's expanded iMedia Browser is where iMovie and the rest of the iLife apps interact.

iPhoto

Pressing the new Photos button displays the contents of your iPhoto 2 Photo Library. You can easily grab photos from iPhoto and slide them into your timeline, or you can animate them with the new Ken Burns Effect tool. Named after the documentary filmmaker behind Jazz, Baseball, and The Civil War, the Ken Burns Effect is a powerful feature that lets you zoom into and pan across still images. To use it, establish the position and size of the image at the start of the clip and then set the position and the size for the end -- iMovie animates the in-between movement. Unfortunately, iMovie applies the same settings to all subsequent still images you add to your sequence; this isn't helpful because you'll rarely want to animate two images in exactly the same way. It would be more logical -- and reduce mouse-clicks -- if iMovie's default photo treatment was a standard still image. To make matters worse, it's not easy to turn the Ken Burns Effect off. There isn't a reset button for the effect. To turn it off, you need to load the clip into the Ken Burns Effect window and set the Start and Finish points to a Zoom value of 1.00.

iTunes

Next in the iMedia browser is the Audio button. Pressing it reveals a pane that gives you access to your entire iTunes Library, as well as an expanded set of sound effects. While this is a helpful element, the interface is clunky -- there's only a Play button for previewing music and sound. This forces you to preview the audio clips in real-time from the start, which can be very annoying with long clips.

iDVD

In iMovie 3's iDVD pane, you can set chapter markers at logical breaks in your project, giving viewers the option of skipping ahead to particular scenes while they're watching your movie on a DVD created in iDVD 3. To create a chapter marker, place the playhead on the timeline, click on the Add Chapter button in the iDVD pane, and name the chapter.

When you've finished editing your project, you can transfer the project to iDVD just by choosing Create iDVD Project -- you no longer need to perform a lengthy QuickTime export of your movie, and the transfer to iDVD 3 takes only a few moments.

Welcome Changes

Beyond the marquee features, there are a few other new touches that make iMovie 3 even more of an impressive update.

Special Effects

iMovie 3 includes an expanded set of video effects with filters such as Aged Film, Fairy Dust, Ghost Trails, and Earthquake. These filters take iMovie one step closer to its more-professional counterparts. The Title tool has similarly been updated with additional settings.

Video Import

Click on the Clips button, and you'll see the familiar Clips pane, which stores and catalogs recorded video elements. But now you can import all sorts of different clips into the pane, instead of just footage from a DV camcorder. iMovie 3 lets you import any QuickTime movies (provided that the resulting clip is less than 9 minutes, 57 seconds in length -- a 2GB file-size limit). You can drag them into the Clips pane or choose Import from the File menu. Either way, you can easily import DV clips from Final Cut Pro or AVI movies from your digital camera into iMovie.

Macworld's Buying Advice

iMovie 3 is a significant upgrade to Apple's easy-to-use video-editing program. iMovie benefits greatly from integration with all the other iLife applications, both in terms of easy access to source media and easy links to iDVD for disc burning.

Continue the iLife review by clicking on one of the following products:

iTunes 3.0.1
iDVD 3
iPhoto 2
iMovie 3.0.1

At a Glance
  • Pros

    • ILife application integration
    • Animated still images
    • IDVD chapter support

    Cons

    • Ken Burns Effect presets can lower productivity
    • Slow playback
    • Limited audio preview features
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