i-movie 08 review

Amongst the things going on I have found time to do a bit of playing around with the new imovie 08. Having seen the ad’s and a couple of the demo movies on the apple site I’d expressed a level of geeky impressed’ness so you can imagine I was keen to try it out.

The hype

Angela Grant had linked to my initial ‘geek love’ post, pointing out that quite a few people didn’t like the new package. I know that a number of features of the imovie HD are gone. Bakari Chavanu at MyMac pretty much covers pretty much all of them (some of his gripes are functional rather than features).

  • No audio extraction feature.
  • No chapter markers for DVD authoring.
  • No iMovie themes.
  • Lack of control over fade-in and out of audio.
  • You cannot open completed projects in older versions of iMovie in the newer ’08 version.
  • You can’t slow down or speed up the content of a clip!
  • No advance video editing controls. (by this he means audio and video fx)
  • No support for third-party plug-ins.
  • There’s no pause control for titles.

Looks like some serious ommisions here and people are noting more every day. But reading around it seems that the most common complaints seem to fall in to three main areas

  1. it won’t run on my old mac
  2. the themes have gone
  3. some of the tricks and bells and whistles have gone.

The first one is a serious point. Having just upgraded my mac to run bootcamp and one or two other apps I know a mac is requires a serious cash commitment if you find yourself needing new features (and I would say that this isn’t the bit of software that demands that commitment). But with my ‘newspaper/journalist’ friendly hat on I would say I have little time for the last two as serious complaints.

Themes are always going to be old hat before you open the box and a lot of the bells and whistles where making the program bloated and obtuse to use. Mark Hamilton rightly points out that imovieHD ‘was a competent (although limited) video editing program’. He is right, and it that sense it’s a same to see some of the stuff go. But it was getting very close to Final Cut Express (for not far off the price tag) and, as a result, was no where near as easy to use as FCE.

But enough about the debate. Given my focus is on multimedia video for journalists, what did I think?

Here’s a look at some of the key areas.

Importing (getting your video in)

A lot has been made of the compatibility and functionality of imovie with HD formats. It also offers support for the AVCHD format which is cropping up on a lot of HD and flash camcorders. The video tutorial on Apple’s website gives a good overview of the kind of functionality this will offer so I’m not going to dwell on it.

I tried capturing HD and the only technical decision to make was whether to go full (1920×1080) or ‘large’ (950×540) quality. Your choice will depend on space and your output but both gave acceptable picture quality for content that is ultimatley going on the web. Even those of us looking to go ‘HD’ on our webvideo.

Capturing can be done in automatic mode, where the tape is rewound to the beginning (or all of the HD/Card is captured) and then imported. Or you can use manual mode and select the shots or cue the tape using transport controls. That may not suit everyone and I can already imagine people will be asking for some kind of logging tools, but the ability to control the machine with neat controls – more than is often available in FCExpress – was a nice touch and made the whole thing reassuringly straightforward.

The set up really only realies on two or three text boxes and a few radio buttons and could be covered in a simple how-to on a piece of paper for technophobic journos. I tried it with my Sony HVR-A1 and found the control and capture part easy and error free. The record indicator could have been a lot bigger (a large red record light please) but pretty good none the less.

Interface and organisation

The interface is neat, much neater, and better laid out than the old imovie. Apple seems to be shifting away from the timeline dominant presentation and going more for iphoto style organisation over editing (one of the points apple is really pushing). I like it and if it’s done right it may be a shape of things to come. On a side note, I would imagine users of Vegas may see a style here that they are familiar with.

When you import footage, it’s organized in to events, based on time and date, which you can then edit in to a project. The term event is a little too consumer for my liking but I can see that having stuff organized by date might fit to a newsroom approach; an event could be a story.

You can filter these events and even mark favorite parts buy marking a section of your rushes and clicking the star button (another nod to the iphoto/aperture style) and it’s this marking and selection process that is impressive.

imovie selectOnce a clip is imported it is displayed in the event window as a long filmstrip . Running your mouse over the clip gives you a scrub style preview in the filmstrip and in the main viewer, alowing you to select a shot. A click-and-drag on the strip highlights an area in yellow. Apple say this is like selecting text. I agree. For a long time I have said that at its most basic video editing tools should be used and thought of, more as an app like Word.

Selected areas can then be dragged in to the project to form a timeline in a similar way to older versions of imovie. At this point it is also worth mentioning the nifty layout tricks here. You can change the positioning of the events and project windows with a click of a button to go from organising to editing and it’s all done with apple’s trademark genie effect – very cool.

Adjusting an imageEditing

It’s when you start editing that you really notice the tweaks to the interface and the editing paradigm. The Word analogy begins to really hold up. The same film strip presentation is there just like the strip in the event window and you can select some or all of a clip to effect or delete. When you do select all or part of a clip, a handy little prompt tells you how long the marked area is as well as which event it comes from.

Adding a transition is a simple drag and drop between the edits. But don’t expect a huge number of transitions to choose from. Apart from the dissolve and the fade through’s its a patchy mix that’s more reminiscent of windows movie maker than a creative apple app.

The picture can be adjusted in realtime with options for exposure, brightness etc and a little colour wheel to adjust the White Point. This makes for one of the simplest white balance correctors I have seen. Very intuitive.

This is about as far as those effects can go, hence a lot of the griping about a lack of effects,but given that this as much as many editors would do to an edit anyway and given that it’s in real time, I think it’s a nice feature.


A big criticism of the update has been the problems with audio and I must admit that the audio in the new set-up isn’t as intuitive as it could be. Any imported footage is displayed in the timeline without the audio as a ‘track’. The filmstrip is the whole clip.

ImovieHD timeline

Imovie08 timeline

In previous versions of imovie the audio was a separate strip which could be extracted and individually edited. That function is gone. Instead it’s only spot sounds and music that gets it’s own ‘track’ which is displayed as either an all enveloping background sound or, if a sound is already there, another track on top of the sound.

It’s a neat idea which looks great. Adjusting the relative levels is fairly straightforward but it needs a more obvious and visual way of seeing the relative levels of the tracks. Given the more consumer approach I don’t see why there couldn’t have been a little mixer window.

Having said that imovie does talk to other apps and most of the audio work could be done in Garageband, but more of that later.


titles and timeline

I always found titles unnecessarily fiddly in the old imovie. The process of adding them is much simpler but the range of titles is much reduced. Users of Aperture, Pages, Keynote or any other recent Apple app will be familiar with the font and color tools and in general the titles are not too fussy in design and as a result very usable.


When you are done editing you can then share your video. This part of the upgrade has caused a lot of interest not least because it offers the ability to upload direct to Youtube as well as the usual options for itunes, dotmac and quicktime files. I’m sure many will find the resolutions on offer a bit limiting but then many seem to using third party apps like Sorenson squeeze to work with their webvideo so no one really loses out here.

One of the share options allows you to add the project to the Media Browser. Doing this means it’s available to use in other ilife apps. By sharing your movie in the media browser you can access the movie in Garageband and do any audio editing you need to do there by dropping the video in to a podcast project. Relying on a one size fits all app just isn’t going to cut it anymore if you want the tools.

The other great addition for newsrooms already with Apple software is the ability to export a FCP/FCE compatible xml file. A rough cut in imovie could be exported to FCP and finsihed with b-roll/cut-aways, titles and any other finessing. This may help work through workflws where you have an editor working with a journalist and certainly means a less painful integration with exisiting kit.


I love the new imovie. It’s nowhere near as functional as imovieHD but I still love it. Why?

If you are going to engage with Macs as your main newsroom production tool then it may be a good time to get used to the way Apple is going with its software. Look at the new Final Cut Pro studio. That isnt an all in one editing package. It’s a suite of apps that allow you to edit (FCP, soundtrack), finish (Motion, color) and output content(Compressor or DVD Studio pro). Like rooms in a production facility, each app does it’s own job.

The ilife suite is slowley building up to follow that idea. You edit in imovie, tweak sound in Garageband and then share it out. Think of ilife as just one of a suite of apps you would use and your going to get more out of it and your going to be editing more like a pro than you would be with a boat load of themes and fancy fx.

Of course that does mean there is a lot missing from this imovie. Integration with the other apps in the suite isnt all it could be. A way to export to Garageband with individual tracks would be neat and the loss of chapter markers for iDVD is a real loss for those who use imovie exclusively as their production tool. I also think it may be worth Apple looking at some consumer finishing tool – a kind of motion and color combined. Something that will allow a user to polish and export stuff.

As for use within a newsroom production environment I think that anyone relying solely on imovie should avoid this update at all costs unless they want to change their working patterns. But if you work in a mixed facility with a lot of macs then this could be for you.

Heres a possible example: The journo/vj comes back and captures all the footage in to the machine. Using imovie they rough cut the interview to a project. They also cherry pick some good soundbites for a quick upload to youtube as a teaser. When they are done the project is exported as xml and handed over to a picture editor who can tidy up the interview and add any b-roll content. Whilst the editor is doing this the journo can be scripting or writing the print article.

Avid instinctI know some will say that FCE is simple enough to learn and I agree. Kind of. But at the price point and with the kind of integration it offers the new imovie offers a taste of a way of working that may be the shape of things to come. The changes to the interface may look simple but it takes a step towards a more task based way of editing rather than the timeline paradigm we have been used to.

Apple aren’t the only ones doing this. Take a look at Avid instinct (shown left)and you will see a similar approach being tried, specifically aimed at journos.

In the end there is a way to go(and no doubt a few well aimed updates) before this version is going to win the hearts and minds of imovieHD user who uses this to edit everything they do. And if you really miss it you can run both on the same machine. But if you are looking for a simple, uncluttered, intuitive app for quick cuts that will also play nice with FCP and FCE then I think it might just be worth a look.

So I’m going to enjoy it whilst it’s still lean and mean. imovie08 is a taste of things to come and I for one am looking forward to future.

14 Replies to “i-movie 08 review”

  1. Thanks Andy – This is awesome – I totally needed someone with a newspaper-video point-of-view to write a review before I started putting in any requests to upgrade our iMovie install.

  2. I bought the new iLife ’08 thinking iMovie would be da bomb.

    But you can’t do a-roll/b-roll — you can’t put interview audio underneath scene-setting video. It’s almost completely useless for journalism. I thought there had to be a way, but there isn’t.

    The new iWeb, though, is way cool. Much faster and you can embed videos and other html snippets now.

  3. Chuck

    I agree it’s pretty cruddy as anything other than a quick cutter. Apple have scored an own goal in alienating what was obviously a core of loyal and happy users by removing some of those features.

    A-roll/b-roll and split edits where never easy on the old imovie but I understand that a lot of people have invested a lot of time in learning how to work round the program

    It’s a typical apple approach. make a change that wows new users and demand that your old users come along. Not to be too crass but you become apples bi*ch when you buy a mac.

  4. Ryan

    No problem. I really think the new imovie could have a place in a production flow. There are some issues with how you would move media around etc but it could be a nice intermediate stage in the cutting workflow.

    If I was to offer advice at this point I would go with one or two copies and see if it fits. As Chuck says the new iweb is cool and I love the new garageband – its a great way to waste a few hours 🙂 – so you aren’t really loosing out.

  5. I am disappointed. I think I will stick back with my old version. The event library doesn’t impress me. I did just fine working with the media inspectors. On the positive side it is fast; I don’t have any problems with performance. I won’t trade any of the new features for the effects, ability to quickly set chapter markers for iDVD and ability to extract and edit audio quickly right in iMovie. I use Final Cut Pro, but use iMovie for quick and simple tasks. I’ll either use iMovie HD or Final Cut in the future.

  6. Less geeky than me you won’t find. You all seem so knowledgeable so here is my question: Just bought a new shiney imac with imovie 08 of course. Now I assumed that ilife 08 would therefore be on it so tried to download imovie HD6 and I can see it on my hard drive and on my desktop but it won’t open – could anyone have the patience to explain why to me? thank you

  7. I was very disappointed in the new Imovie. It is simpler to use, but I am an avid user of many of the old features, including *slow motion effects.
    We go on 2 family trips a year and I find great joy in taking my raw video footage and creating a condensed highlight Imovie of our trip. The best part of it is mixing the effects, such as slow motion and coordinating it with music, creating a touching memorial of our trips.

    i also coach youth sports and I have always tried to video my players and create a personal IMovie for each, highlighting their mechanics and adding titles to illustrate the good and not so good points of their mechanics. Voice over is a great addition, but now I can’t slow down and/or stop at certain points to address a point I want to convey about their mechanics.

    For both my basic uses of IMovie, dropping many features has lead me to consider dropping IMovie as my “Go to” editing tool for my videos!

    *Slow motion is a great way to accentuate a given moment, especially if its “in tune” with the music and is also a great tool to coordinate music with video. In other words, if I have a certain clip that I want running behind certain music and I am off by a few seconds, i can slow down or speed up a surrounding clip to line up the music with the video as preferred.

  8. Until reading this, I was gong nuts trying to figure to how to use slow motion.
    I can’t believe that slow motion is not an option. I have a movie I am making. I have a slow motion clip to fit the music.

    I guess I need to keep using my older mac with imovie 6 to enjoy this option.


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