iMovie: The Sequel

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Sometimes the sequel surpasses the original. That definitely applies to iMovie 2, the latest version of the Apple software that has made digital video editing easy for everyone. iMovie 2's star attractions include new editing capabilities, glitzy special effects and title styles, and a popcorn bucket full of tweaks and interface enhancements.

Despite these improvements, iMovie 2's basic premise has not changed. Connect a DV camcorder to your Mac's FireWire port, and then use iMovie to bring video into your Mac, clicking on iMovie's buttons to stop, start, and rewind your camcorder. Next, use iMovie's editing features to organize and polish scenes, adding text titles and transitions as you go. Finally, transfer your finished epic back to videotape via FireWire, or export it as a QuickTime movie for the Web. Thanks to FireWire and the all-digital DV formats (such as Digital 8), video quality remains consistent as you shuttle video from camcorder to Mac and then back to tape.

If you've used iMovie 1, iMovie 2 will feel familiar, though the differences may trip you up at first. If you're new to iMovie, see "Home-Movie Magic" (April 2000) for an overview of DV moviemaking. And in either case, keep reading for a hands-on guide to using iMovie 2's new features and understanding its subtleties.

Every new Mac with FireWire includes iMovie 2. If you have an older FireWire-equipped Mac, you can buy iMovie 2 for $49 from the Apple Store ( ). The upgrade is available only as a download--Apple does not offer a CD-ROM version.

Make the Upgrade   If you buy the iMovie 2 download, you may have an afternoon's worth of updating to do before you can reliably run it. For starters, you'll need Mac OS 9.0.4 and QuickTime 4.1.2 (or later versions--these are the most recent as of press time). And if yours is an older FireWire-equipped Mac, such as a blue-and-white G3, you may have to install firmware and FireWire updates, too. For links to everything you'll need, visit

Get the Latest   Shortly after releasing iMovie 2, Apple issued an update; you can download version 2.0.1 from Also download the free iMovie 2 Plug-in Pack, which adds effects and title styles. While you're online, stop at to find music clips, sound effects, and graphics to use as backgrounds for titles.

Most of iMovie 2's interface and feature enhancements make editing more convenient.

The Scrolling Shelf   Aim the searchlights skyward and page the paparazzi! iMovie 2's shelf--that grid of boxes where imported clips lie until you drag them to the Timeline Viewer area--introduces a radical new concept: a scroll bar. No longer is the number of clips you can store limited by your Mac's screen-resolution setting (see "The Curtain Rises on iMovie 2"). iMovie's bigger shelf makes it easier to manage all the clips that make up a complex project, and it postpones the need to free up shelf space by dragging clips into the timeline.

A Bigger, Better Timeline   iMovie 1's Timeline Viewer depicted every video clip in a project as a tiny blue bar; to identify clips, you had to switch from Timeline Viewer to Clip Viewer mode.

In iMovie 2, each clip in the timeline sports a small thumbnail image. To make the timeline even more informative, choose Preferences from the Edit menu, click on the Views tab, and then check the Show More Details box. iMovie then displays the clip's file name and duration, and even shows where you've applied iMovie's new fast- or slow-motion effects.

The new Timeline zoom pop-up menu lets you control how much of your project appears in the timeline. To see the entire project, choose the 1x setting--similar to the old, nonzoomable timeline in iMovie 1, this setting is ideal for moving clips large distances. When you're working with a lot of small clips, you might prefer a magnified view, such as 5x or 10x.

From Timeline to Shelf   In iMovie 1, you could drag a clip from the Timeline Viewer area back to the shelf. In iMovie 2, you can't--you must first switch from Timeline Viewer to Clip Viewer mode. Here's a workaround: In the timeline, select the clip you want to move to the shelf, and then choose Cut from the Edit menu. Then select any clip on the shelf and choose Paste from the Edit menu.

Play Through: Editing Like the Pros   What a difference a check box makes. Activate iMovie's Play Through To Camera option (in the Preferences dialog box), and anything you play---a single video clip, a title or transition, or your entire project--plays back not only on the Mac's screen but also on your camcorder.

What's so hot about that? Simply this: the video iMovie outputs to your camcorder plays at full resolution and full motion--it isn't the jittery, preview-quality video iMovie displays on the Mac. Pop out your DV camcorder's LCD monitor, and you can use it to get a far more accurate assessment of the video.

But don't stop there--connect your camcorder's video output to a TV to view your work on a large screen (see "All the Right Connections"). This is how video professionals edit, and once you try it you'll never settle for iMovie's preview-quality playback.

Easier VHS Dubs   There's one more benefit to the Play Through option: you can dub your finished projects to VHS or other formats without having to make a DV dub first. Connect your camcorder's outputs to a VHS deck's inputs, and then eject the tape from your DV camcorder. When you choose the Export command, iMovie complains that there isn't a tape in the camcorder and asks if you want to continue anyway. Press your VHS deck's Record button and click on Export. Your DV camcorder acts as an intermediary, passing video and audio to the VHS deck.

With iMovie 2's new editing features, you can add new layers of visual richness to your projects--and have fun in the process.

Show the Reaction   In iMovie 1, you couldn't switch to a second video clip while playing back the sound from the first one. This made it impossible to do cutaways and reaction shots, where the camera angle changes to show, say, an interviewer nodding while an interviewee answers a question.

iMovie 2's new Paste Over At Playhead command makes these kinds of edits possible. See "Creating Cutaway Shots" for step-by-step details.

But not all the news is good. A flaw in iMovie 2 can create an audible pop or delete part of a word at the cutaway point. Apple says this is because iMovie currently can't position audio with subframe accuracy. To work around this, time your cutaways to occur at brief pause points, such as between sentences.

Stay Still   iMovie 2's Create Still Clip command (in the Edit menu) creates a PICT file containing the currently displayed video frame. Here's one scenario where you might use it: you've made a movie of Junior scoring the game-winning goal, and you've got a great close-up of his smiling face as his teammates hoist him up on their shoulders. If you create a still image of that shot, you can place the still at the end of your movie and add closing credits to it. When played back, the action will freeze on Junior's happy mug as the credits roll.

Make It Slow   And what would a video of Junior's sports triumph be worth without slow-motion instant replays? iMovie 2 provides them. Just select the clip in the timeline, and then adjust the new Clip Speed slider.

Because slowing down or speeding up a clip alters its audio playback, you'll want to mute the audio of a clip when you change its playback speed. With the clip selected, drag the Clip Volume slider to its far left position.

When you export a project containing slowed clips, iMovie displays a dialog box advising you to render those clips for best quality and giving you the option to proceed with or without rendering. Choose the Render option, and iMovie performs additional processing that blends adjacent frames to smooth out the slow motion.

Restore That Clip   You've cropped a clip, but later you need those extra seconds you took out. In iMovie 2, you can reclaim them, as long as you haven't chosen iMovie's Empty Trash command. Select the clip and choose Restore Clip Media from the Advanced menu.

Audio was a second-class citizen in iMovie 1, but iMovie 2's audio enhancements give you more control over soundtracks.

Extracting Audio   You may want to use only the audio portion of a clip--maybe you're making a documentary about your grandmother's childhood, and you'd like to show old photographs as she talks.

To do this, first place the video clip in the timeline, and then select the clip and choose Extract Audio (command-J) from the Advanced menu. iMovie copies the audio, places it in Audio Track 1, and then mutes the audio in the clip. Next, select the video clip in the timeline and press the delete key.

The video vanishes but its audio remains behind, and you can now position stills and other clips in the video's place.

The Ghost of Playheads Past   Say you're working on your kid's birthday-party movie, and you want the sound of a windstorm to play as she blows out the candles. In iMovie 1, positioning audio at a precise point was a trial-and-error proposition. iMovie 2's ghost playhead makes it easy.

In the timeline, position iMovie's playhead at the spot where your daughter begins to huff. Now import your sound effect--as you drag it to the timeline, you'll see a semitransparent version of the playhead at the point where said huffing commences. That's the ghost playhead, and it's acting as a bookmark to save your place. Drag the sound effect to that spot.

Better Fade Control   In iMovie 1, you could make a clip's audio fade in or fade out, but you couldn't specify the duration of the fade. In iMovie 2, you can: double-click on a clip, and then adjust the sliders.

Splitting Audio Clips   Unlike iMovie 1, iMovie 2 enables you to split audio clips, dividing them into two or more separate clips whose position and volume you can adjust independently. You can use this feature to adjust a music soundtrack's volume levels. Say you want music to begin at full volume during your opening credits, become quieter when the action starts, and then return to full volume for the closing credits. With the music track selected, position iMovie's playhead at the end of the opening credits and press command-T. Next, move the playhead to the start of the closing credits and press command-T again. This action splits the music track into three separate clips--select just the middle one and lower its volume slider.

iMovie 2's new Effects panel is the gateway to video effects ranging from subtle to silly. You can tweak clips shot under adverse lighting conditions using the Brightness/Contrast controls. The Adjust Colors tool fine-tunes color balance--handy when you shoot under incandescent light and forget to adjust your camera's white balance.

The Black And White effect, which strips away color, can add a fun retro look to a clip, as can Sepia Tone, which gives a clip a rust-tinted, antique-looking color cast.

Effects over Time   In iMovie 2, effects aren't an all-or-nothing proposition--iMovie can apply or remove an effect gradually. Apply the Black And White effect over time to make a clip start in black and white and turn into Technicolor. Animate the Soft Focus effect to make a clip start out blurry and come into focus--or vice versa.

To animate effects, use the Effects panel's Effect In and Effect Out sliders. Drag the Effect In slider to the right if you want the effect to appear over time. You'll see a time indicator in the panel's preview area, showing how much time will elapse until the effect is fully visible.

To make an effect go away over time, drag the Effect Out slider to the left. As you drag, the preview area's time indicator shows when the effect will start to fade. Here, you're measuring time from the end of the clip. To have an effect begin to go away two seconds before the end of the clip, drag the Effect Out slider to the left until the time indicator reads 02:00.

Some additional features make their screen debut in iMovie 2. You can now adjust a title's type size, and there are several new title styles to choose from. A new set of sliders gives you more control over title timing, allowing you to specify the speed of animated titles, for example.

Apple also tweaked iMovie 2's export features, but not all the changes are good. To improve performance, Apple changed iMovie's default Web, e-mail, and CD-ROM export settings to use the H.263 compression scheme. This lets you see the final results faster, but H.263's image quality is inferior to that provided by the Sorenson Video compressor in iMovie 1.

If you want the best possible quality, choose the Expert option in the Export dialog box, and specify Sorenson Video for compression.

Compressing video for the Web and CD-ROMs is an art unto itself. To learn about it, visit the sites listed in the Links boxes. And don't miss next month's Macworld, where we'll continue our iMovie how-to coverage and look at exporting movies with iMovie.

A contributing editor for Macworld since 1984, Jim Heid writes and lectures on all subjects related to digital audio and video.

Creating Cutaway Shots

A cutaway shot --where the camera angle changes to show, for example, a close-up of Grandma's garden as she talks about it--is a common video-production technique. One variation on this theme is a reaction shot, where the angle changes to show, say, an interviewer nodding solemnly while an interviewee answers a question. iMovie's new Paste Over At Playhead command makes these edits easy to create.

Begin planning reaction shots when you're shooting video footage. While you're filming the school play, grab a couple of shots of the audience. Or after you've shot an interview, move the camera to catch the interviewer nodding.

1. Set Up for the Edit   With your footage in the can, you're ready to set up for editing. First, make sure your primary and cutaway footage exist as separate clips A.

If your footage consists of one large clip, you need to split it into multiple clips. Drag the clip to the timeline, position the playhead where you want to split the clip, and then press command-T or choose Split Video Clip At Playhead from the Edit menu.

For cutaway shots, retain audio from the primary clip and discard audio from the cutaway. Choose Preferences from the Edit menu, click on the Advanced tab, and select the Extract Audio In Paste Over option.

2. Crop Your Shot   The next step is to crop your cutaway shot to the appropriate length.

In iMovie's shelf, select the cutaway shot. Next, click beneath the clip's scrubber bar A to display crop markers. Drag the crop markers ( B and C ) left or right to indicate which portion of the clip you want to keep. (For extra precision, use keyboard shortcuts: to move a marker left or right one frame, press the left- or right-arrow key; to move left or right ten frames, press the shift key and the arrow key.) Finally, choose Crop (command-K) from the Edit menu.

3. Insert the Cutaway   Now you're ready to insert the cutaway. This involves positioning iMovie's playhead at the desired point and then pasting the cutaway shot into position. First, position the primary footage (named "Grandma" in this example) in the timeline A. Next, select the cropped cutaway shot (named "Cutaway" in this example) in the shelf B and choose Copy from the Edit menu. Now position the playhead C at the spot where you want the cutaway to occur. Finally, choose Paste Over At Playhead from the Advanced Menu.

A The scrolling shelf holds more clips, making it easier to import video and plan your project.

B A collection of buttons takes the place of iMovie 1's animated drawer; when clicked on, these replace the shelf with controls for working with transitions, effects, titles, and soundtracks.

C The enhanced timeline now shows thumbnail versions of clips and information about each clip, including its name and duration. The red bar below the clip at the far left edge of the timeline indicates that a title is currently rendering. iMovie 1's timeline lacked this useful feedback.

D You can zoom the timeline in for detailed work or out to show all of your project.

E The Clip Speed slider lets you create slow- and fast-motion effects.

F With the new Lock Audio Clip At Playhead command, you can lock an audio clip to a specific video clip so they remain synchronized, even if you insert additional clips before them. A small thumbtack icon denotes a locked clip.

G The main transport buttons have changed. The new buttons, from left to right, are Rewind, Home (go to the beginning of the project), Play (or, when it's playing, Stop), Play Full Screen, and Fast Forward.

H The new Advanced menu is the key to iMovie 2's improved audio-editing features.

2's Video Play Through To Camera option (under the Advanced tab in the Preferences dialog box) lets you view your work on a TV as you edit--just like the pros. To activate this feature, connect your DV camcorder to the Mac with a FireWire cable A as usual. Then connect your camcorder's video output B to the video input of a TV set.

If your TV and your camcorder each have S-Video connections, you should use them for the best video quality. If your TV lacks S-Video but has a composite video input (an RCA jack), use it. If your TV lacks video inputs, add an RF modulator between the camcorder and the TV set. You can buy the modulator at Radio Shack for about $30.

When iMovie's Play Through To Camera option is selected, your project's audio will not play back through your Mac's speakers. You can rely on your camcorder's tiny, built-in speaker for sound playback, but you might want to connect your camcorder's audio outputs C to your TV's audio inputs, if it provides them; to a stereo system; or to a pair of external amplified speakers.

To make VHS dubs of your creative efforts, you can connect a videocassette recorder D between the camcorder and TV: connect the camcorder's outputs to the VCR's inputs, and the VCR's outputs to the TV's inputs.

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