Test Bench:Apple iBook with iMovie 2



1 Infinite Loop

Cupertino, CA 95014

1(800) MY-APPLE


A very short time ago, the manufacturers of professional video systems were offering small and very expensive solutions for the editor or video journalist on the go. Let us highlight: "very short time ago," "very expensive." Just makes you feel all warm inside, doesn’t it?

The iBook and iMovie 2 have something going for them. They are both uncomplicated. Put them together and you get a delightfully simple arrangement for editing video that truly is set up and go. Don’t let the iBook’s moderate laptop price and lollipop looks deceive you. The 466 MHz G3 in this little piece of candy kicks. At $2,000 the iBook really holds up well as a choice for the novice DV editor and also entices the video professional who needs every minute and opportunity to work toward deadline. That means that many of you in between could also find a place in your heart for this dynamic duo.

Over the Threshold

The unit we tested has a 10GB internal drive, which might be a little small, but you can get more (these days, adding multi-GB storage means hundreds of dollars not thousands). The 128MBs of RAM we had on our test unit is not base (64MB is) and adds another $200 to the price. Our Special Edition Graphite model came with a power supply, DVD-ROM, FireWire cable, analog stereo audio and a composite video out adaptor cable. You heard right, analog composite out. With a touch of an iMovie 2 button you’re viewing full-screen full-motion video to your NTSC monitor. Some of Apple’s higher end systems don’t include this feature.

Besides iMovie 2, you get the latest QuickTime, all the Internet tools and Apple Works for writing and office chores. We mention the office tools in the iBook because they can be a powerful asset for the video professional or student who needs to view footage, log shots and ideas, write scripts, etc. Anything that saves time on an editing project is part of the editing solution.

Start It Up

After powering up, we went right to registration and setup. Five minutes later we connected our Canon Optura Pi to the FireWire ports. We launched iMovie 2, heard the distinctive whir of the camera and began capturing footage. From taking the Apple iBook out of the smartly packaged box (Apple is as innovative in their packaging design as they are in their product line) to the first edit took no more than 10 minutes; you have got to like that. We had absolutely no problems with setup. Not only did we bring in some stock footage, but we enjoyed capturing directly to hard disk from the live camera with out using tape.

With this small portable system and a DV cam, you can setup an interview shoot and capture footage as you shoot directly to disk while having the benefit of an external monitor to boot. Then you can keep the good takes, log, file, edit and eventually output back to tape only the footage that is useful to your endeavor. The portability of iBook with iMovie 2 opens many options, enhancing creativity and timesaving possibilities. As Apple and other companies continue to advance portable video editing products, the line of demarcation between the camera and computer/editor is going to blur until they may become an integral unit (anyone listening?).

Setting up House

After capturing several shots from the Optura Pi, we imported some CD audio from the DVD drive. A drawback that we found in iMovie 2 is that if you are monitoring your audio through the iBook speakers when the camera is armed to receive signal via FireWire, the audio is routed to the camera and is muted at the iBook. Manipulation of project footage and sound is minimal in iMovie 2. Effects are usable but few in number and take longer to render than they should with a 466MHz G3. A 10-second motion title took approximately 26 seconds. Mixing audio is cumbersome and the controls did not seem to respond as stated in the help text. Hard copy documentation for iMovie 2 is not provided with the system, and you must rely on the help text to address any questions that you might have. Even after reading about a certain function it was sometimes difficult to get iMovie 2 to respond as expected, but the simplicity of the program kept our expectations of what it should do low. We feel that if Apple expanded iMovie 2 to reach a little closer to it’s own Final Cut Pro, while still keeping the novice-friendly atmosphere, the video editor would be in for a longer haul with the program. As it stands now, ambitious users will soon find the simplicity of iMovie 2 limiting.

After editing our test project we output back to DV tape using a JVC GR-DVL9800. The iBook had no trouble controlling this camera and when we viewed our finished product, we were happy with the result.

Happy Marriage?

The ease of use and the portability of the iBook with iMovie 2 is enough to make this product worth the $2,000 price tag. We think the iBook with iMovie 2 will prove to be a useful tool for the fledgling DV editor who wants to put together home videos with a simple interface, powerful processing and moderate price tag for a laptop. The iBook with iMovie 2 is also a viable tool for the video professionals who need a totable video notepad with enough features to help chip away at their workload.


Communications: 6-pin FireWire, USB, analog A/V out

Bundled Software: iMovie 2

Processor: 466MHz G3

Operating System: Mac OS 9.0.4

Memory: 128MB PC100 SDRAM


  • Portable
  • No setup
  • Good Price


  • Serious users will quickly outgrow iMovie 2 software


  • The iBook is a great system for those who want simple, on-the-go editing.
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