The New iMovie is a Maverick

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The New iMovie is a Maverick

My first encounter with iMovie was a total disaster. It happened about five years ago as I was trying to put together a marketing video. The user interface was less than intuitive. I couldn’t figure out how to upload raw video clips, never mind the tasks of editing and overlaying. I had purchased the Mac specifically to create and manage multimedia. Macs are supposed to be great at these activities, and I cannot express the amount of disappointment I felt at the time. Oh well, life is full of disappointment, right? Get over it and move on…

Fast forward to a month ago. I am in a similar situation with a basket full of media to roll-up into a presentation for my dad’s retirement dinner. iMovie is really my only choice since I wasn’t going to invest hundreds of dollars into Adobe for a one-shot deal. As much as I hated it, I knew I was going to have to suck it up and learn iMovie. I clicked on the star icon and hoped for the best.

I could not have been more pleased with the result.

For starters, the user interface is much improved from the prior version I used. To start a new movie, all you have to do is click on the big plus sign icon that says “Create.” Media clips and pictures are added to the movie by drag-and-drop into the timeline. Soundtracks from iTunes can also be dragged into the timeline to provide background music. A basic movie can be produced in a matter of minutes!

The video I was producing consisted mostly of pictures taken throughout the 35-year history of our company. When including pictures into the timeline, iMovie automatically includes the “Ken Burns” effect. The “Ken Burns” effect automatically zooms or pans over the picture in order to create motion. By default, iMovie also inserts a cross-dissolve transition between pictures to provide a continuous flow from one picture to the next. Other transition patterns are available. The basic functionality is similar to what you get when you play a slideshow in iPhoto. However, iMovie provides the controls to customize length, transitions and motion for each picture.

Of course, a video must have an appropriate soundtrack to truly grab the viewer’s attention. A quick search of iTunes is all that is needed to find the right track, and a quick drag-and-drop of the track will load the music into the timeline.

Video and sound editing are straightforward once you learn a few tricks. Dragging the beginning or end of the clip will change the clip length. The real editing power comes from splitting the clip into one or more pieces. For example, if you need to reduce the volume of a background track when someone begins to speak, split the sound clip just before the person speaks and reduce the volume. Sometimes it’s necessary to cut dead space from an interview or rearrange someone’s words in order to tell a better story (I wouldn’t do that, of course). Simply split the clip in the appropriate spot and reshuffle or discard as appropriate!

We were able to create two pretty cool segments that ended up being pretty easy to produce. The first segment is a “Star Wars”-like introduction complete with scrolling text. Appropriate sounding theme music is available from iTunes. Knock-offs of the Star Wars font can be found through an internet search, and the scrolling text is available in iMovie. Place all this on an iMovie star background and, voila, instant introduction.

The second segment is a series of movie outtakes that run during the ending credits. A couple of tricks are needed to get this working correctly. iMovie contains a credit scroll, but it runs down the middle of the screen. If you cut and paste the credit scroll into the Mac text editor, you can change the tab stops and shift the placement of the text. Also, I found it helpful to create the outtake clips in a separate movie. In this manner, you can insert transitions and sounds (e.g., “Beep”) between outtakes. The outtake movie can be finalized into a mpeg and then dropped on top of the credits using the picture-in-picture effect.

Of course, these are only but a few of the many effects that you can create using iMovie. I am particularly looking forward to trying out the blue screen capability. Many ideas are already starting to run amuck inside my skull. Bottom line: iMovie v10 gets two big thumbs up from this user.

Until next time, I’m off the grid @gregory_a_baker.