Well, I never really liked the ’08 version – I missed the ability to “kinda” get into the nitty gritty of the video and audio and through the use of my two favorite tools – “Split Video at PlayHead” and the elastic band – I was able to do just about everything that I wanted to do with any given clip that I imported. Of course, if I wanted to do some more “heavy duty” editing, I would drop into Final Cut, but for some projects that was certainly overkill. So when I was looking at the specs for the new iMovie and the ad copy suggesting that editors would have more control over the work, I thought… well, it can’t be worse than ’08 could it?
Well at first, it seemed that I was wrong – everything that I didn’t like in ’08 seemed to be back with a vengeance and to boot… there was no intuitive place to look for the various control points. This, after all was the shining light of the first few iMovie versions – you didn’t need to know very much about editing, and most everything that anyone needed could be done with the mouse alone. This might still be the case with the current version, but the “just about anyone” has now changed to “pure beginners with some help”. I say this with a caveat, which is, I’ve been editing for a while now with various apps and if someone who is familiar with the process in general has a learning curve… what hope do new eyes have – though they might have it a bit easier as they don’t carry baggage in with them.
But then after about an hour of fooling, it seems that Apple might have started moving in the right direction with this – the attempted cross between “iMovie and Final Cut” seems to have come out a bit better in this second iteration. So what did I find? Well first, the “time line” is now called “Precision Editor” that you pull up from the Window menu… not entirely straight forward, but I can live with it. I wish there was a way to get to it via a button or a ctrl/right click. This editor is “kinda sorta” like the timeline, in-so-far as it allows you some fine toothed control over where the individual clips and effects might overlap. As I use this mode, it seems to get more useful. So score one for change.
This score was almost erased when I found that I could not move the audio around the way that I wanted – and trim the audio in an intuitive manner… at least to me. For this, Apple has now brought in the “Clip Editor” that will allow you to trim audio in a separate window with the results being reflected visually in another. This seemed to work fine as I figured that the reason why I wasn’t able to slide my background audio around was because the clip was too long. Nope, that was not the case. It seems that audio is “pinned” by default to the ends of the video clip and it seems it is also “Snap[ed] to [the] beat”. These two settings seemed to have been the bane of my experience, but after I found them, I was able to edit with almost the same flexibility I had in the days of “lines and bands”. So score another for change.
Lastly, when I was looking for my long lost “Split at Playhead”, I looked under the Edit menu and found nothing but greyed options, including a “Split Clip” option… if only I could get to it. Well it turns out that I can, through the mouse, when looking at a project. Right/ctrl clicking will pull up the “Split Clip” option when you are working on the video. If you want to split non attached audio, you have to now have two copies of the clip and then line them up. This is actually not as hard as it seems because Apple provides “bar markers” to help you “see” the details of the audio.
But why would you want to split audio in this manner? Well, so you can have the background fade in an out – the best use of “bands” that there ever was. To do this now, you have to go through a few extra hoops – first, you have to split the clips that you want to have the audio duck out and then through the inspector set your new levels and then finally adjust the background audio (if any) – so it is possible, and perhaps more exact than before… but certainly not as intuitive.
So on the whole, I think iMovie ’09 is much more usable than it’s previous iteration and hopefully, if you are reading this and wondering if you should take the jump – I would if only to gain the organization features. You’ll lose some of the flexibility that you had in ’06, but hopefully the vague workarounds/how-tos I suggest will get you through together with some quick googling and maybe Unlocking iMovie ’09 for however long it stays around.