iMovie is one of these apps may proish shooter dont want to touch, yet could benefit a lot from. I know because I used to be in this category. iMovie felt too amateurish compared to FCP for me to even dare to use it. At each iLife release, I would give it a shot but never managed to complete a project, always feeling too restricted.
Enters iMovie11. It is still very amateurish at its core (Movie trailers & themes), yet it has some very practical features which make it a great tool to edit something in a rush or to get a draft.
Lets review some of its key features.
Edit native H.264
The first of these features is that you do not need to transcode your clips to ProRes. It saves times and HD space so you can start editing as soon as you are home.
Visual segment selection
Being able to visually select clip segments without having to watch the whole clip is extremely useful. While it is not new and it is also (somewhat) possible in Final Cut, it has to be my favourite feature of iMovie.
This little checkbox took a lot of people by surprise. First because it is not advertised on Apple site and second because it actually works. Well, for panning shots. You still have to be careful about jelloying your clip but at least pans are not a dont-do anymore.
FCP XML export
Once you have your rough cut, you can export the clip into a FCP XML file to continue the edit in FCP (or Premiere). I dont know if this features was there in previous version but its the first time I went far enough in my edits to make use of it.
iMovie gives you two choices regarding clips import: either move the files to your project folder or copy them. There is no way to just reference them. I guess the development team does not want to confuse users so they decided to put all project related files in a single directory.
No matter which clip I used, I never managed to make the adjustment sliders work. They systematically destroy my clips. If you are not planning to grade your clips in another software, I highly suggest to not shoot flat or you will end up with a near impossible clip to grade in iMovie.
While iMovie offers presets to most popular video sharing sites, there are no ways to control the quality of each of these presets. And unfortunately, these presets really damage image quality. If you want to do something decent, you either have to use the QT export or Compressor (via FCP XML).
No precise editing
While I love the fast and rough way to select clips to insert in the timeline, I wish there was a way to trim clips at a specific timecode.
If you can’t afford Final Cut or Premiere Pro, iMovie is the way to go. It is way better than Premiere Element (which was a big deception). Then again, even if you cut using pro apps, you may want to give it a shot, it is fun!