Et tu, iMovie?

Having worked in the design industry for over a decade, I’ve often been called on to dabble in various forms of media. Print and packaging design, multimedia presentations, website and icon design (of course) and every now and then, digital video editing. With Apple’s recent announcement of iLife ’08, I was excited to check out the latest updates to both iPhoto and iMovie. iPhoto’s new features and reorganized user interface are a marked improvement from previous versions. Sadly however, iMovie, as David Pogue recently noted, has taken a big step backward.

I was skeptical of Pogue’s critical points in his review until I tried the program out for myself. Almost instantly I could tell that the new skimming feature was going to be more trouble than it was worth. Because it’s initiated simply by rolling the mouse over a clip, you find yourself accidently skimming video you never intended to view. In addition, iMovie 8 has removed almost all control over audio, and the familiar time line for editing clips has bowed out. I grew overwhelmingly frustrated, especially since I had come from iMovie 4, and was expecting, perhaps a bit too much. After wrestling with the program for over 2 hours, I gave up and turned to a copy of Final Cut Pro HD that I installed long ago, but never learned to use.

In a matter of hours I was able to edit a short sequence exactly the way I wanted. This isn’t surprising since Final Cut Pro, as the name suggests, is the tool of choice for professional video editors. As I became familiar with the application, I managed to put together a short promotional video for Pixadex as a test. I’m pleased with how it turned out and will use it as the basis for a series of short video tutorials for IconBuilder over at the Iconfactory.

In retrospect, I definitely think Apple decided to dumb down the new version of iMovie to give Final Cut Pro some breathing room. Like The Talk Show’s Dan Benjamin, I’m a firm believer that the program was becoming too powerful and was being used for projects that went beyond “home movies” of people’s kids. Even Pogue admits that he used iMovie for all of his NYT video reviews, something that sounds like it should have been done with a professional editing solution. Unfortunately, with the price of FCP being so prohibitive, average users can only hope that Apple will decide to put back some of the missing features from version 6 in the months ahead. Perhaps sensing people’s dissatisfaction with iMovie 8, Apple decided to make version 6 freely available. Kudos to them for doing it, but in the meantime, I’ll be rediscovering the joy of video editing. My only regret is that it’ll be thanks to Final Cut Pro instead of Apple’s humble iMovie.


  1. I like the new Imovie I get to keep the old version and put more complicated projects together at 1/1oth of the speed.
    As for finalcut it serves a different process really and the new imovie will have it’s project finished before finalcut (or the imove06 version) is anywhere near finished. It is a great new app and to stop all the bleating we here about it should have been called something else.
    BUT as I said we have the best of both world so why people mone I dont know.. we now have access to 2 programs at the same price as the old one is a free download and is left on your system for you to use if you already had it there anyway.. the new imovie is lightening fast at getting something out and frankly most people buying ilife will in the end be alot happier.. i found the older version too laborious for doing my home movies and yes my name is not Peter Jackson

  2. shane, we mone (um, moan) because, while we do have imovie6 hd NOW, apple has implicitly stated that there will be no more SUPPORT for it beyond this. os update breaks imovie hd 6 on you? apple will say you should be using imovie ’08 or higher, or upgrade to something like final cut. basically, it smacks of calling ajax an sdk for iphone. no it’s not, but you just don’t have an easy way to tell us “tough luck.” so apple wanted a completely different way for consumers to make movies on their brand new imacs, so great, but don’t call it friggin’ imovie and expect us to just turn a blind eye to the obvious.

    as far as the new imovie “finishing” projects before final cut or the old imovie could, it really depends on your concept of what “finished” is supposed to be. i suspect that, if you are 100% happy with the pre-fab looks of many apple items in imovie ’08, then yes, you’d be right.

    but if there’s anything outside the lines you want to do, even incredibly basic stuff (audio track editing? hello?), then to upgrade to final cut express, which has the same learning curve as final cut pro, just to do so is insane, and like i said, if you’re working with imovie6 hd, you’re working with an EOL app that just hasn’t gotten the memo about its own demise yet.

  3. p.s. note i did say “implicitly” NOT “explicitly,” allowing apple to eek out minor patches if absolutely necessary.

    i especially feel bad for geethree and other imovie plug-in makers. i’m not sure i’ve seen such a major pull-out of a plug-in-able software app like this in a long time, if ever.

  4. Now that Steve Jobs is done “borrowing” programmers from all over Apple to finish the iPhone, he should “borrow” them over to iMovie and fix this mess. Upgrade iMovie 6 into a REAL iMovie 8 and rename iMovie 8 to iWebVideo.

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