Since iMovie's complete overhaul in 2007, its mantra has always been to appeal to novice users. While more experienced video editors complained of this streamlining, beginners positively lapped up the changes. The interface was clearer, the options sparse, and the way it worked was completely different from any other video-editing program on the market.
Over the last two revisions, more advanced tools have been added, but these are cleverly hidden by default so as not to intimidate a person launching the program for the first time. Yet they offer enough power to perform complex edits without having to resort to more advanced applications such as Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro.
So what's been introduced this time around? The feature that's taken most of the limelight is Movie Trailers. With it, iMovie can help you create impressive-looking trailers. You can even add a company logo that looks uncannily like one of those from the big Hollywood studios.
But although it works incredibly well and iMovie will tell you which shot you need next, finding a requested close-up or wide shot within your clips can be a daunting task. Therefore, don't think about using Movie Trailers until you've analysed your footage using the People Finder command.
This process also figures out the type of shot that's been used, and coupled with iMovie's keyword tool, it makes creating a trailer a breeze.
Audio is back
The other big new feature is the re-introduction of audio editing (it was available in iMovie '06 but has been conspicuous by its absence ever since).
The way it's handled is remarkably simple: every action is performed by dragging and dropping: if you need to raise a clip's volume, drag its audio level up. Need to lower a specific section? Select it then drag down – iMovie even creates handles on either side to gradually fade the changes (drag these points to alter them as well).
You also have a collection of 20 audio filters to alter the track's pitch, make it sound as if it was recorded in a wide open space, make a voice more robotic, and so on.
The new One-Step Effects are designed to make complex visuals in seconds with hardly any input from you: just select the clip, or part of the clip, you wish to modify then go to the Menu Bar's Clip menu to select from one of seven options.
But that's not to say these effects aren't customisable – that part's up to you. There have been a few tweaks in other places too: you can now upload your finished film to Vimeo and Facebook in addition to YouTube and MobileMe. You even have the option of exporting your work at the highest HD resolution available: 1920x1080.
The Maps feature has been improved as well and now gains a zoom option, although this is nowhere near good enough if all you want to do is depict your trip between Bath and Oxford. However, it's still the best tool for transcontinental travel.
The best part, though, is that all these new features are tucked away and casual users would most likely never notice them. For instance, you can have a traditional left-to-right timeline view, rather than the default top-to-bottom configuration.
So iMovie '11 is now easy enough for novices, but powerful enough for editors serious about film-making yet not quite ready to jump to Final Cut.