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iMovie Rocks

My niece called today in a panic asking if her family’s iMac had a FireWire port (she wasn’t at home to check). Her question surprised me, as she is normally completely uninterested in computers. It turns out that she and some friends had been working on a video for school that was due—you guessed it—tomorrow. She really needed a computer with a FireWire port and iMovie, so they could edit their video. My wife graciously donated her iMac to the cause even though none of us had ever used iMovie. This promised to be a real adventure in software.

If you’ve ever watched Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, demo iMovie or any of the other iApps during a Macworld keynote, you can’t help but be sucked in by the ease of it all. He makes it look effortless and for a moment, you think Hey, I could do that. But then the glow fades, and you remember it’s only a demo. Nothing (especially software) works like that in real life. Well, I felt like I was living a Steve Jobs demo after using iMovie for the first time. With little more than a glance at the handful of brief but well-written PDFs that comprise the entire “documentation,” we were off and running.

We started by copying the video from the digital camcorder to the iMac. The iMac recognized the camera, and we started importing video. We soon discovered (accidentally) that iMovie made a new clip at each scene change automatically. That was a very pleasant surprise and saved a lot of time. It was the first of many such discoveries.

Editing was similarly elegant and painless. Throughout the process I was amazed at how smoothly the program ran knowing how much data was being slung about. We hardly had to wait for anything except when rendering a complicated effect, and I never saw the dreaded beachball. One of my niece’s friends was very computer-literate, and I was quickly replaced in the driver’s seat. She did a great job. Even though she had never used iMovie (or, I suspect, a Mac), she was editing like a pro in short order, because iMovie’s interface was so simple and intuitive, although it was necessary to consult the PDFs for an explanation of a few of the features. The only time we stumbled was applying titles, which didn’t seem to “take” on the first try.

In a few hours, they had finished editing their video from over a hundred clips down to a 20-minute finished length with music, sound effects, titles, and special effects. Getting the video back into the camcorder was as easy as getting it out (we would have burned a DVD, but we didn’t have any).

As hard as I am on Apple at times, I have to admit that iMovie is a winner.

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