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Saturday, October 01, 2005

Review: iMovie HD and iDVD

For this past week, I've been spending my nights working on a video (besides Tuesday and Wednesday nights when I was knocked out by the flu bug). I had been procrastinating on it for almost six weeks and I figured it was high time I got it done. And because of my self-imposed deadline of finishing it on Sunday, that left me with just a few hours for about five days to get it done.

Which meant that I would have to forego using the more pro tools and use something that's more cut-and-paste, i.e. iMovie HD and iDVD. These two programs had been sitting on my hard disk for a few months already, so it was about time they got some use to justify their bytes.

iMovie HD
iMovie HD remains the simple, easy-to-use video-editing program that it was since its version one days. My method of editing is:
  1. Import the video from the camcorder
  2. Lay the unedited clips (with footage that I want) in the timeline
  3. Edit clip by clip, splitting each clip at the point where I want to use the footage
Especially for (2) and (3), my workflow is different from what other people would do. For (2), most people would drag one clip to the timeline, edit it, then go on to the next clip. I guess that since I knew beforehand what clips I wanted, it was easier to find those and add them to the timeline first then do it clip by clip.

And for (3), the common technique as suggested by the manual is that for each clip, you select the portions that you don't want and press "Delete". I find this difficult to do due to the nature of the mouse. For me, it's harder to select something horizontally across about two-thirds of the screen. It's far easier to get to the point in the clip that seperates what I want/don't want and split the clip there. Of course, that means I have tons of subclips, but at least it's also easier to restore an incorrectly removed portion.

I also wanted to have portions where the audio track would continue running but the video would change, like voiceovers in documentaries. iMovie HD has a simple "paste over at playhead" one-menu method to achieve this. It worked... for the most part. I found to my horror that, at the point where the video changes, there would be a very noticeable "pop" sound or an audio break for one frame. One frame, or 1/25th of a second, may not seem like much, but when it comes to sound, you will notice it.

So that was what I really disliked about iMovie HD. According to the discussion boards, this is a known problem. There were several suggested fixes, but I didn't have time to try them on my end. I had already spent four days to trim one-and-a-half hours worth of raw footage to about half an hour of completed video. That left me with one day to prepare the DVD.

iDVD
Switching over to iDVD was easy-peasy. In iMovie HD, it's a one-button affair. iDVD was painless to use for the most part. All i needed to do was select the template that I wanted, type in the titles, and I was done. iDVD had intelligently picked up the chapter markers from iMovie and created a whole menu for chapter selections.

My only stumbling block came about because of my own silliness. iDVD has a panel that lets you control settings. I had used it to do things like selecting a template, choosing photos (I didn't use any photos in the end), etc. But it took me a trip to the manual to figure out that that was also what I should use to change text settings. Well, duh! It's a settings panel! *slap forehead*

The other thing I needed to learn is that, in iDVD, to add a new menu, you "add folder". I guess the assumption is that each menu "contains" other items, whereas a "menu" is something that points you in a certain direction. It's just terminology.

So, one week later, I had burned a pretty slick DVD using these two consumer programs. In future, I think I'll stay away from iMovie HD unless absolutely necessary, but I intend to use iDVD again and again and again...

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