iMovie for the iPhone and iPod touch 4
As you know, the topic of this column is Final Cut Pro Insider, but every once in a while, I stretch the envelope and go off on a slight tangent. This month is one of those times, where I''m going to look at the video recording capabilities of my new iPod touch and video editing on the iPod with iMovie.
I could say that I''m doing so because mobile is so critical to all of our futures going forward, or that iMovie for the iPod touch might give us some direction about where Apple is taking the next version of Final Cut Pro. But I''d be lying. Basically, I bought the iPod touch 4 because I needed to learn how to produce video that would play on it, and then I became enamored with the ability to travel without a camera or computer and still upload videos for my kids to see. So, I had to shoot some video and check out iMovie.
So, this month I''ll look at iMovie for the iPhone and iPod touch first. Then I''ll review the video recording capabilities of the iPod touch, including (wait for it) … what preset to use in Final Cut Pro when editing iPod touch footage. Whew, a more tangible nexus!
While iMovie for the iPhone (and iPod touch 4) offers very limited functionality, a movie maker in the 1940s probably would have given his left pinky for its capabilities — certainly, the left pinky of his key grip. As usual, Apple frustrates you with creative decisions that you don''t agree with and can''t change. For instance, all images must have motion, and you can''t add titles to images — just videos. However, it is a version 1.1 program, and it is really cool to be able shoot, edit and upload to YouTube all in the palm of your hand.
You''ll need an iPhone or iPod touch 4 to run the software, though it''s safe to assume that if the next version of the iPad comes out with a video camera, you''ll be able to use the software there as well, or a greatly enhanced version of the software. Here''s the workflow for producing a movie with iMovie on my iPod touch 4.
As an overview, many of the steps come with text instructions, but many don''t. You can access a useful help screen from the Projects window, but you might want to read through the iMovie FAQ at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4174 before getting started.
You start a new project by clicking the + sign on the upper right of the Projects window. Then you''ll be asked to choose a theme, which controls the appearance of titles, and the background audio used in the project, though you don''t have to use the background music. Each theme contains its own specific transitions, though you can opt out of this as well. There are five themes: Modern, Bright, Travel, Playful and News. Don''t fret over your theme selection decision because you can easily change it later.
Once you choose a theme, you can insert previously captured media or shoot new media.
If you choose to insert new media, your videos are presented in a browser as a frame sequence, with the date and duration in seconds on the left.
You select a file by touching it, which inserts it in the hybrid storyboard/timeline (hereafter, timeline) on the bottom of the screen. Choosing files is tedious. If you shot eight files in a row to include sequentially in the video, you have to choose them all separately. After each file, you have to return to the browser, scroll down to the file, drag it in, and repeat as needed. It would be nice to group select; perhaps that will be an option in the next version.
Once in the storyboard, you touch a video to open up trim handles that you use to trim the video.
New in version 1.1 is the ability to split any video. Just position the play head where you want to split the movie, tap the clip to make the trim handles appear, and then swipe down on the playhead to split the clip. It will probably take you a time or two to get familiar with the action, but it definitely works.
You can see the split in the figure below. If you decide this was a mistake, shake your device gently, and you can undo the edit.
Speaking of the playhead, unlike most video editors, the play head stays fixed in the center of the application; it doesn''t drag around the video. Rather than dragging the play head around to preview the video, you have to drag the clips on the timeline back and forth to the playhead. It makes sense, but you''ll probably find yourself dragging the playhead around a few times before getting used to operation.
Otherwise, you use additional gesture commands to edit the video. For example, you pinch video the preview window to zoom out from the timeline, and spread the preview window to zoom in. (You don''t pinch in the timeline; you pinch in the preview windows.) To move a video to a different location in the timeline, you touch to select it, hold for a moment until it pops up, and then drag it to the new location.
To delete a video, you select it, and then drag it up into the preview window. A puff of smoke will appear, and iMovie will delete the video.
Title and transitions
To insert a title, double tap the clip to bring up the clip settings. Then choose the type of title to insert (Opening, Middle or Ending) and type in the title text.
A few notes about iMovie''s titling function. First, the Opening title includes the locational data from your iDevice, and you have to enable the Location service to access your photos or videos, which obviously is the whole point of the exercise.
The problem is, if you live out in the sticks, iMovie may place you in the nearest big city, which in my case was Winston-Salem, about 60mi away. Though you can change the location to another location from the database, you can''t type in your actual location, which is frustrating. The workaround is to simply use the Middle title, which is very similar, just without the location data.
In addition, any title added to a video displays over the entire clip, so if the clip is 60 seconds, the title is 60 seconds. The obvious solution to this one, of course, is to split the clip the appropriate distance in. iMovie even deletes the title from the second clip, saving you from having to do it manually for Opening and Middle titles. With Ending titles, iMovie still deletes the title from the second clip, which probably isn''t the desired result, since that''s the clip where you want the ending title. So if you don''t want the title over the entire last clip, split it first, and then apply the title to the second clip.
Finally, you can''t add a title to a still image, which hopefully is a limitation that Apple will address soon.
Still images and audio
You can add still images from the device''s Camera Roll, which get inserted with a Ken Burns effect applied. You configure the effect by positioning the start and ending positions, though you can''t delete the effect. You can almost get the effect to go away by positioning the image at the same location at the start and end, but it would be faster and easier to simply disable the effect.
Moving along, iMovie inserts transitions between all clips inserted into the timeline, defaulting to a one second cross-dissolve, which you can disable or replace with the transition from the selected theme. iMovie does not insert a transition when you split a clip, which works out well when you''re splitting a clip to lose the title. Otherwise, you can easily add a transition manually.
There is no option to fade in from or out to black, which is a silly omission. While hunting around to verify this deficit, I found a solution at http://www.ryanirelan.com/blog/entry/fade-in-and-fade-out-with-imovie-for-iphone/. To save you a trip, to fade in from black, shoot a short black video (I just left the iPod touch on my desk and shot the desk), insert the video at the beginning of the movie, trim it to the required length, and you should be good to go, since iMovie will insert the 1-second dissolve for you. To fade to black at the end, insert the same clip at the end, trim it, and you''re done.
Audio options are limited, but not tragically so. You can only use one non-DRM song per movie; if the movie is shorter, the audio track will fade out appropriately. If longer, it will loop automatically, and then fade at the end. I''m not a big audio guy, so I can live with this.
You can preview at any time by clicking the play button on the upper right, or insert new video into the movie by moving the playhead to the desired insert location and clicking the movie camera icon. As with the regular camera application, you can record multiple takes until you get it right; once you shoot a keeper, iMovie inserts it into the timeline at the playhead location.
When you''re ready to render, click the Projects icon to return to the Project window. Then click the export button, choose the output resolution, and iMovie starts rendering the clip, placing it in your camera roll. Some additional options would have been nice, particularly Mobile Me, but I was able to get my video uploaded to YouTube without too much difficulty (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgP1hGcmkgw). Exporting my 67-second project to 720p took 4:12 (min:sec), though I swear I could see my battery drop as the movie rendered. While you may not have to bring a notebook, you better bring a wall charger.
What''s not available in the program? Lots, most notably effects like color or brightness correction. For me, though, for the types of videos that I want to produce with the software, I found this very freeing, as it will let me get videos that should take 10 minutes to edit done in 10 minutes, stem to stern. Heck, I can''t even boot my Mac, run Final Cut Pro and transfer images from an AVCHD SD card to my hard drive in 10 minutes.
I could see this function being used a lot, particularly with the iPhone, where connectivity is more pervasive. You shoot a quick interview, import it into iMovie, trim, add a title and upload in minutes. No, you wouldn''t want to edit “Gone with the Wind” with it, but for short and sweet videos that you want done fast, iMovie is tough to beat.