While iMovie gains significant features in every new release, there's still a big leap from it to Final Cut Express, with regard to both accessibility and capability. Norrkross Movie is aiming to fill that space with some high-end options packed into an intuitive layout.
The important steps up from iMovie are the addition of persistent tracks in the timeline for layered editing and compositing, a much wider range of file import options, a larger choice of effects, and several options for keyframing and nodal compositing of video.
The tracks all have an icon that shows how they interact with the others around them. It's set to overlay by default, but you can add colour-adjusted transparency effects in a matter of seconds. The difference between most of them is subtle, but the sheer choice is impeccable.
A proper timeline means keyframing of effects can be introduced, and it works well here. It can either be added using just the canvas and timeline, or precisely controlled using the Filters Node View on the left.
Our issue with the tracks is that there's no separation of the audio from the video. iMovie enables you to overlap the audio from one clip to another in the precision editor, but in Norrkross you'd be forced to use an overlay edit to hide the first clip from view, and reduce the volume of the second clip to 0. It's clumsy in practice, and we'd prefer the chance to address editing the audio directly.
The inclusion of nodal compositing is very interesting indeed. Its only appearance in an Apple product is in Shake, part of Final Cut Studio, so we're talking about a fairly professional feature. It effectively enables you to add multiple filters to a clip and then see and control the order they're applied.
For example, if you wanted to remove a green screen background on a clip but also apply motion blur, you can use the nodes to ensure the Make Color Transparent clip is applied before Motion Blur. If it were the other way around, you'd be trying to remove green that blurs into your subject. It's a subtle tool, but one that offers a lot of headroom once you gain confidence with it.
A huge advantage of Norrkross is its ability to handle just about any video format your Mac can play – we even managed to import WebM video without any problems. However, it can't capture footage, only import files. Neither can it export to many formats, but it can do various video sizes in H.264.
The real problem with Norrkross is a lack of polish. There are typos in menus, and the Hide Toolbar option doesn't change to Show Toolbar once you've hidden it. You can't position the playhead and then drag to it a clip to trim, because the action moves the playhead.
There are also far too few keyboard shortcuts, and what is there is often convoluted.
Flies in the ointment
CPU usage can occasionally spike for no discernible reason, and the Media browser can only be viewed as a windowed overlay, but it would be best as a tab in the main program.
If you're looking at upgrading from iLife '09, Norrkross offers strong features at an appealing price. If you've already got the latest iMovie, it's a tougher choice.
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