One Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Back in the February 2000 issue of Videomaker, we reviewed the DV iMac, an inexpensive computer that included a new editing software package called iMovie. In the true Apple tradition of bringing technology to the masses in an easy-to-use bundle, the DV iMac with iMovie became one of the simplest ways for owners of FireWire-equipped DV camcorders to edit their videos.
More recently, Apple has combined its easy-to-use editing software with its high-powered computer systems. Included with these new computers is iMovie 2, the upgrade of iMovie. Though there are some notable improvements in the software, it remains a program for beginners. However, the computer is well equipped to take an editing software upgrade like Apple’s full-featured professional editing software, Final Cut Pro, or perhaps Adobe premiere. That makes this system a great one for beginners and it can progress with them as they grow to have more sophisticated editing needs.
The unit we tested had dual 500MHz G4 processors, 256MB of RAM, a 40GB Ultra ATA hard drive, ATI Rage 128 graphics card and a 17" Apple Studio Display monitor. The system was very easy to install; within ten minutes of clearing off a space for the computer and opening the box, we had the system up and running, connected to the Internet, plugged into a Canon Optura Pi DV camcorder and ready to edit video.
iMovie the Second
Starting up the iMovie 2 software was as simple as double-clicking the pre-installed icon on the computer’s desktop. The interface, at first glance, looks pretty much identical to the previous iMovie interface; the burnished chrome windows and glass-bubble buttons are reminiscent of the latest release of Apple’s QuickTime 4.0 software. Importing clips is very simple: all you have to do is plug in your camcorder, turn it on in VCR mode, and use iMovie 2’s transport control buttons at the bottom of the Monitor window to locate the scenes you want. As the video plays, pressing the Import button on the Monitor window starts the recording process. The first time you press the Import button, a clip icon appears in the Clip window, and time code numbers appear above the top of the icon. Pressing the Import button a second time determines the out point of the clip and ends the recording process.
Once you have recorded a series of clips, you can trim any unwanted footage from them. Then, it’s a simple matter to drag and drop the clips from the Clip window into the Timeline window in the order you desire.
Taking a closer look at the bottom of the Clip window, you’ll find buttons for transitions, titles, audio and effects. Clicking on one of these buttons changes the Clip window into a simple interface that controls these more advanced functions. These pre-configured options are impressive but small there are only 12 choices available for titles, six for transitions and seven for effects, yet each one is finely crafted and exceptionally sharp and clear. The Audio section has a fairly decent selection of 19 pre-recorded effects, plus the option to use your camcorder’s microphone to record your own audio.
When you drop a title, transition, effect or audio clip onto the timeline, you’ll notice a little red progress bar that appears at the bottom of its icon. This shows the rendering progress of the item; yes, that’s right as soon as you make an editing decision, iMovie 2 begins rendering. This is an excellent feature that saves a great deal of time, because you can continue working on a project while your transitions and titles render. No need to render your entire project in a huge lump at the end. Performance however may decrease if you have more than two render processes running at the same time.
On the unit we tested, rendering was very fast. The combination of the 500MHz G4 processor, 256MB of RAM and an Ultra ATA hard drive meant a one-second dissolve transition between two clips took about a minute to render. It is important to note here that though this computer has two processors, iMovie 2 is not written specifically for two-processor support. (Other packages, like Adobe’s PhotoShop, can make use of both G4 processors.) Even without dual-processor support, however, the 500MHz G4 is screaming fast.
Full-screen playback of your movie is available on the computer’s screen, but there are significant playback artifacts when you use this method. Don’t worry, these won’t appear when you output your movie to tape.
One other important note about this computer’s capabilities: though it includes a really cool DVD-RAM drive, there’s no way to make ordinary DVDs with the configuration we tested. It is possible to use this excellent storage medium for archiving, but without the MPEG-2 codec available, it’s impossible to write DVD-Video files onto a DVD-RAM drive.
In short, the new iMac G4 with iMovie 2 is a dream for those who simply wish to make quick edits of their DV or Digital8 videos. It’s easy to set up and configure, and is equally easy to learn and use.
If the thought of spending $4,000 on a limited, simplistic editing system sounds unappealing, remember, when you’re ready, you can easily upgrade to professional editing software. Also, you not only get a great video editing system you get a high-powered, and extremely stylish computer to go with it.
Processor: Dual 500MHz G4
Hard Drive: 40GB
ATI Rage 128 graphics card with
16MB of SDRAM,
FireWire (FireWire cable included)
MacOS 9, iMovie 2, QuickTime, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Communicator, FAXstf, Palm Desktop