Apple iMovie '09 Video Editing Software Review

Easier than Ever

Apple’s iMovie ’09 makes light work of video editing on the Mac. It’s a perfect fit for new editors or the casual family historian. The simple interface is easy to use, keeping video editors busy cutting footage together. With iMovie ’09, editing is fun again.

Easy Import

When working with memory-based video cameras, iMovie ’09 has a simple import interface that allows you to select checkboxes to import your footage. You can also import directly from digital cameras’ memory cards. This is definitely geared towards consumers with point-and-shoot still cameras and video cameras. Like iPhoto, media is organized by events (more in a moment.)

Nothing to get in the way of doing a rough cut in minutes, while also providing windows into all your media (music, photos) and to tools like transitions and professionally designed backgrounds that add pizazz to your production.


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Events are ordered by date and place multiple clips together. This is an ideal way to see your footage if you’re someone who enjoys editing family vacation videos, birthdays and other events. Rather than one large archive, you have individual events separated by dates. This type of organization relies on the metadata associated with each video clip which is captured when you record the video clips.

From this library of video clips you can easily scroll through each event. Individual clips are represented in multiple thumbnails that give you a better clue as to what videos are there. You can jump in to any point by clicking on a clip’s thumbnail image and sliding the playhead through the clip. This will scan through the video in the playback monitor so that you can review the footage. Clicking on any point in the clip will also create in and out points with a default duration of 4 seconds. Then, you can drag the clip to the project window, the equivalent of (but somewhat different than) a timeline. The project window is more like a storyboard displaying each clip as a single thumbnail image. The default 4-second setting is ideal for quick editing of highlights. If you’re slicing together a basic montage of video clips over a music track, this technique makes it incredibly easy to build your video. For longer clips, all you have to do is drag the in and out points beyond the default 4-second position. As you move this point, either inward for a short clip or outwards for a longer clip, the duration in seconds displays to give you a reference. Overall, this way of trimming clips is great, so long as you don’t need frame-by-frame accuracy.

What’s New?

One of the great features of iMovie ’09 is that it ties together additional media, namely, your pictures from iPhoto, and your music from iTunes. Each of these has a separate button that activates a window in the lower corner of the application, giving you access to your media. This is a great convenience over having to hunt down your music and photos. It also makes the process of building photo slideshows in iMovie a snap. A search bar is also available to help narrow your search for a specific music track. You can drag a music clip from the window to the project window and the track drops into your video. Unlike a typical timeline where the audio is a separate track, the audio is represented as a horizontal bar behind the video clips. The title of the track is displayed in the top left corner. You’ll also find a settings button that allows you to change multiple properties of the music clip, including manual controls of the fade in and fade out timing. This is a nice touch for such a limited user interface design. Ultimately, your audio controls are fairly limited. You won’t be able to fine-tune the audio levels all throughout your video project like you would if you could set individual keyframes for the audio level. While this is not ideal, it should be enough control to avoid the worst of audio problems.

Transitions and Animations

Transitions are very easy to work with, and fit nicely into the user interface of the project window. Since every video clip is represented by a single thumbnail image, there’s a space available between the clips to drop in transitions. There’s a good amount of transitions, ranging from classic dissolves and fades to more trendy special effects. There are also professionally-designed backgrounds that can be used to build plates for titles. Globes and maps round out the unique backgrounds that are available.

A library full of animated titles can also be accessed in the bottom-left window. You can click and drag a title onto a video clip, then edit the text in the video monitor. Lastly, click on the playback button, and without any downtime the animated text plays back smoothly. In the library you’ll find lower thirds too that are ideal for labeling talent (e.g., interviewees or hosts of a TV program).

Reviewing your final project can be done at full screen. If any changes need to be made, you’ll find clip settings on every video clip that will allow you to make changes to the duration, add special effects, apply video stabilization, adjust audio levels for the video clip and more. You can even click and drag a different video clip on top of another video clip to replace the clip, insert the new video clip or insert the audio from that clip into the project. This is a handy way to do more advanced editing maneuvers.


When you get your video just as you’d like, the Share menu provides a wide variety of exporting options. We really liked the Export Movie option that displays a specification for every type of video resolution and the common destinations. For example, you can choose the mobile option to work with the iPhone, email and some of the most common video sharing websites. This is a great little tool for new users who could use some help choosing the right video resolution and data rate.

With iMovie ’09, video editing is fun and simple. The user interface does a great job balancing simplicity with the extended functionality of transitions, backgrounds and your media from other applications. It’s a great tool for the casual editor who wants to create simple, quick videos or even more engaging narratives.

Tech Specs

Mac OS X: version 10.5.6 or later

Quicktime: 7.5.5 or later (included)

Intel-base Mac, Power Mac G5: dual 2.0GHz or faster, iMac G5: 1.9GHz or faster


  • Well thought out user interface
  • Event style media organization
  • Cool themes and transitions


  • None


iMovie ’09 is a flexible video editing application that is ideal for starters or enthusiasts.

Contributing columnist Mark Montgomery is a web
content specialist and produces instructional videos for a leading web application developer.


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