What’s New in iMovie 6

iMovie 6 represents only a light overhaul of the program, so iMovie veterans won’t have a lot to learn and unlearn.

Big-Ticket Features

Here’s a summary of the really big improvements in iMovie 6, the ones that Apple either advertises or should:

  • Full-size previews. When you’re setting up a video effect, title, or transition (crossfade), you used to have to preview the results in a tiny, Triscuit-size window. In iMovie 6, though, the entire full-size Monitor window shows the preview. It loops over and over, changing its display in real time as you fiddle with the settings of your effect.

  • Themes. A theme, in iMovie lingo, is a prefab, canned, professional animated graphic that you can use for opening credits, section dividers, end-of-movie “bumpers, “and so on. Actually, they’re not entirely canned. Each Theme design contains big holes called drop zones that you can fill with your own photos or movies, so that the result looks like it was tailored just for your movie. (The Themes match the menu-design templates in iDVD, too, so the whole thing can have a consistent look when burned to DVD.)

  • More than one movie open at once. No longer must you close one movie project before opening another. In fact, you can have 10 of them open at once, for ease in comparing versions or copying material (or drag-and-dropping material) between them.

  • Audio effects. iMovie 6 offers a new, sweet suite of audio-processing effects. There’s a graphic equalizer to bring out (or throttle back) the bass, treble, or midrange; reverb and delay for those echoey effects; even a tool to change the pitch of someone talking, turning a man into a woman or a woman into a chipmunk.

  • Magic iMovie. When you’re pressed for time, check out the newly enhanced Magic iMovie—a completely automated movie-assembly feature. You connect the camcorder, choose the music and options you want, and then sit back (or walk away). iMovie, unattended, rewinds the tape, creates an opening title, imports all the footage, adds transitions between shots, backs it all up with music that you choose, and, if you like, hands off the result to iDVD for quick burning to disc.

  • Time-lapse importing. Now you, too, can create spectacular PBS nature documentaries! Speed up the blossoming of a flower, the setting of the sun, the clouds crossing the sky—by hundreds of times, so that what usually takes hours takes only a minute.

  • More export offerings. When your movie is finished, you can now fire it off not only to iDVD, a QuickTime movie, a cellphone, or a tape in the camcorder, but also to iWeb (for turning into a Web page or video blog) or your iPod for watching on the road. Cooler yet, you can actually export an iMovie movie to GarageBand—and then compose a soundtrack for it in real time as the movie plays!

  • More visual effects. Dozens more, actually. Some are totally undocumented but profoundly useful, like the Exposure control that can bring out lost details from deteriorating old VHS tapes.

  • New preference settings. iMovie can handle both standard-definition video (shaped roughly squarish) and hi-def video (widescreen). Things can get sticky, though, when you try to mix and match. For example, what if you own a widescreen TV—and you try to play older, 4:3 videos on it? Or what if you have a traditional 4:3 TV—and you try to play widescreen material on it? A new preference lets you specify whether iMovie responds by stretching the video or by adding black letterbox bars.

    Another new preference setting limits the length of each incoming clip to, say, two minutes (or whatever you specify)—which, for complicated technical reasons described in Chapter 5, can help you keep down the massive size of your projects on disk.

You’ll also find lots of smaller tweaks. Some are unheralded but fantastic, like a revised Ken Burns effect (graceful zooming or panning across a still photo) that slows down, rather than speeds up, as it approaches the end. Others are unheralded but less joyous, like a redesign of the main control-pane buttons that requires an extra click to view, say, your effect options.

iDVD Changes

As you may have noticed, this iMovie book comes with a free bonus book: iDVD 6: The Missing Manual, which constitutes Chapters 15, 16, 17, and 18. If your Mac has a DVD burner, iDVD can preserve your movies on home-recorded DVDs that look and behave amazingly close to the commercial DVDs you rent from Netflix or Blockbuster.

iDVD 6 is loaded with enhancements that help you make your DVD look even more like a commercial Hollywood DVD.

  • Widescreen DVDs. Someday, high-definition DVDs will be standard and commonplace, and iDVD will be updated to handle high-def video. As 2006—and iDVD 6—dawned, however, the world was still using standard-definition DVD discs. The ones from Hollywood, though, often come in widescreen editions, cinematically shaped to fit today’s hi-def TV screens. For the first time, iDVD can create discs whose picture fits that widescreen TV shape.

  • Magic iDVD. You can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend fiddling around in iDVD using this feature. You choose a menu-screen design; specify which movies and slideshow photos you want to include; and click one button. iDVD creates the menu screens, chapter menus, and slideshows automatically. The result is a ready-to-burn DVD project—or a ready-to-edit one, if you choose to fine-tune the results first.

  • Autofill drop zones. A drop zone is a placeholder in one of Apple’s dozens of menu-screen designs where you can install your own photos or movies. Now, at your option, iDVD can fill them automatically, using raw materials from the DVD itself.

  • Editable map. As a DVD’s menu design grows more complicated, iDVD’s Map view becomes more useful. It looks like a corporate organizational chart, except that each little tile represents one menu screen. In iDVD 6, these tiles are draggable and editable, making it possible to design your entire menu structure on a single bird’s-eye-view screen.

  • Non-Apple DVD burners. At last, you can burn DVDs even if you’ve bought some third-party DVD drive. You can use all kinds of blank DVDs to burn on, too, including DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, and DVD+R DL.

There are other nice touches, too. A single Project Info window shows you the status of your project, and warns you if anything is amiss before burning (like you’ve got too much video to fit on one disc). New stage-by stage progress bars—and even a live video thumbnail—show you exactly where you are in the burning progress. There are ten new menu Themes, too, five of which are coordinated to match iMovie’s new Themes. More flexibility awaits when it comes to the buttons on your menu screens, too; you have greater typeface and transition control, for example.

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