With iMovie on the iPad 2, Video Editing Is Fun Again

4/8/11Follow @wroush

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tapping on a specific area of the screen to optimize exposure levels for that spot. In these respects, the iPad 2′s camera works exactly the same as the one in the iPhone 4, except that it doesn’t have an auto-focus feature. But again, the big screen makes a big difference—it means that you can more easily frame shots just the way you want them, and you can see everything in amazing, 16:9 detail as you’re shooting it.

Yes, walking around pointing a tablet-sized device at people may look a little goofy. But people said the same thing about the first cell phone owners back in the 1970s. Believe me, tablet videographers will soon be a common sight from Chicago’s Grant Park to the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

The editing software. If there was ever an example of consumer surplus, this is it. With the iPad 2 version of iMovie, Apple has packed much of the power of its $1,000 professional video editing program, Final Cut Studio, into a tablet app that costs just $4.99.

Just like Final Cut, iMovie lets you sort through all the media on your device—video clips, still images, and songs—and drag-and-drop them into a timeline area where you do a lot of editing magic. For starters, you can adjust the length of each clip, choose different transitions between clips, adjust the audio volume of each clip, add opening and closing titles and background music, and so forth. Unlike Final Cut, however, iMovie lets you do all that through intuitive touch-based gestures. If you want to cut a clip in half in order to insert new material into the gap, for example, you just use a slashing downward gesture—what could be more natural? At any point, you can play your video to see how the project is shaping up. And when you’re done, you can easily export your video to YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, or CNN (there’s a whole “iReport” theme built into iMovie for producing citizen-crowdsourced news).

I could go on and on about iMovie, but you’d learn more by watching this 12-minute YouTube video from Detroit-based tech vlogger Mike Kukielka, aka DetroitBorg. My point is that the software is good enough to let you create some pretty sophisticated stuff. If you don’t believe me, check out “Goldilocks” from Majek Pictures. The small production company shot and edited an entire episode of this espionage-thriller series on an iPad 2.

Which all makes me sort of wistful. Last summer, before embarking on my insane “World Wide Wade Goes West” video blogging expedition across the United States, I bought a $300 Canon Vixia camcorder, which also shoots HD video—but in a format that can only be edited using expensive, professional software like Final Cut Pro. During the trip, my collaborator Graham Ramsay and I spent several hours every day shooting video on the Vixia and several hours every night editing it on my laptop and then uploading it to YouTube. It was fun, but utterly exhausting.

If I were doing the whole thing over, I’d just use the iPad 2. The iMovie app wouldn’t give us quite the same fine-grained control over music, titles, audio levels, video transitions, and so forth. But by doing the whole project on the iPad, we’d avoid time-consuming headaches like transferring video from the camcorder to the laptop and finding places to recharge both devices. (The iPad’s 10-hour battery life is an incredible blessing). Plus, Final Cut Pro, despite being an Apple product, is hard to use—there’s a reason they call it Pro.

I should point out that iMovie has been available for the iPhone 4 since last summer, and it works great. But shooting and editing video on the iPhones’ relatively tiny screen just doesn’t feel the same. My bet is that a lot more consumers will give iMovie a try now that it’s come to the iPad. And while many of the resulting videos will probably be standard summer-vacation-at-the-Grand-Canyon fare, some of them are going to blow our minds.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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