TODO alt text

Apple iMovie '09 review

Can this latest version bring back the movie goodness that was sadly lost in '08?

Our Verdict

There are some great features here but lack of Blu-ray support is a letdown

For

  • Video Stabilization is great
  • Powerful editing tools
  • Fast and easy interface
  • Easy export options

Against

  • No dedicated audio track editor
  • No Blu-ray support

When Apple released iMovie '08, it did something it had never done before with an iLife app: it threw away six versions and started over from scratch.

The motivation to refocus iMovie stemmed from iLife's goal of making media simple to work with. iMovie '08 accomplished that, enabling clips to be stitched together and shared on YouTube or MobileMe in next to no time.

But with that simplicity came sacrifice, and editing features that had previously been available in iMovie were missing. So loud was the outcry from users that soon after the release of iMovie '08 Apple made the older iMovie HD 6 available to all '08 users. Conspiracy theories abounded that Apple had dumbed down iMovie as a means to sell more copies of its pricey Final Cut Express video-editing package.

New and improved?

iMovie '09, without a doubt, will silence those critics. It combines the faster, simpler, and more straightforward interface of iMovie '08 with the editing tools of versions past, all the while packing even more powerful features into the software (be sure to turn some of these on by selecting Show Advance Tools from iMovie's Preferences).

Working with iMovie '09 is a joy: ploughing through footage you shot is now fun and so easy. As with iMovie '08, the first step is to select the portions of the clips you want to use from the Event Browser and drag them to the Project window. But it's at that point that the similarities between the two versions largely ends.

The new Precision Editor makes it easy to adjust your clips, and each clip features a context-sensitive menu, quickly turning your vision into reality. These features run the gamut from using only the audio of a particular clip to inserting a second video as a picture-in-picture, ideal for presentations or narrations.

19 video effects are at your fingertips, including Black & White and Sepia to the more interesting Vignette and Aged Film. These effects, like virtually every other feature of iMovie, are all applied in realtime to your video, so there is no waiting for it to render.

New additions

Two of the most impressive additions to iMovie '09 have never been seen outside of Apple's Final Cut tools: Green Screening and Video Stabilization. Both are good insofar as they require no input from the user. To take advantage of the Green Screen feature, film a clip with a saturated green backdrop and drag it on top of the clip in iMovie's Event Browser, which you wish to use as the background, and specify it as a Green Screen. If you wish, the masking can be improved by tightening the crop of the Green Screen video.

Enabling Video Stabilization requires just a single click and a bit of waiting, as it's the only feature of iMovie '09 that isn't rendered in real-time. The length of time this takes varies, depending on the resolution of the video and the length of the clip that is being stabilised. The results are generally good and will always be welcomed by your viewers.

Maps and globes

In a nod to iPhoto's new Places features, iMovie '09 offers a number of different maps and globes that are perfect for inserting into any video involving travel (provided the journey is more than a few hundred miles away since you can't zoom). Other enhancements include dynamic themes, fast and slow motion, as well as new titles, transitions and effects.

iMovie can export your video to many formats or directly to iTunes, iDVD, YouTube or MobileMe. While iMovie supports high-definition cameras and formats, you won't be able to burn a Blu-ray disc of your work. But an external Blu-ray burner and a copy of Roxio's Toast 10 Titanium with the additional Blu-ray plug-in will do the job.