Wow: New Hidden Features in iMovie ’09 8.0.3

[I just posted the following article at TidBITS.]

iMovie ’09 8.0.3 Adds New Hidden Features

Apple released iMovie ’09 8.0.3 this week, a seemingly minor update that “addresses general compatibility issues, improved overall stability and fixes a number of other minor issues.” However, I’ve discovered that this small iteration turns out to have two new features, along with some other undocumented changes. (Which is good news and, to me, funny because my book “iMovie ’09 & iDVD for Mac OS X: Visual QuickStart Guide” has just been released. These changes don’t make anything in the book outdated or wildly incorrect, thank goodness.)

Ken Burns for Video — Until now, the Ken Burns effect has been reserved for still photos. When you import a picture, iMovie automatically applies the pan-and-zoom effect; for example, the clip begins zoomed into one corner of the photo and gradually zooms out to reveal the entire image.

Now you can do the same for video clips. Select a video clip and click the Crop, Rotate, and Ken Burns button on the toolbar (or just press C). Click the Ken Burns button in the Viewer to set a start and end point, just as you would with a still photo. This is a pretty big change, especially for an x.0.3 release.


Keep in mind that as you zoom into standard-definition video, the resolution is going to decrease; you probably won’t see much of a difference when starting with high-definition footage. But in my quick testing, the results were perfectly acceptable.

New Optimize Video Menu Option — When iMovie imports most high-definition footage from a camera, such as HDV or AVCHD, it converts the video to Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) for easier editing. However, some formats remain intact – the Flip MinoHD, for example, records in MPEG-4 format encoded with H.264 compression.

For better performance during playback and editing, you can convert clips using the new Optimize Video menu, located under the File menu. With a clip selected, choose Full – Original Size or Large – 960 x 540 to transcode the clip into AIC; you can also choose those options from the contextual menu (Control-click or right-click a clip to view the menu).

Manual Audio Fade Duration — You can set a specific time over which a clip’s audio fades in or out. In earlier versions of iMovie ’09, that time was limited to 2 seconds, but now it can be up to 5 seconds.

Clip Speed Audio Bug Fixed — An annoying bug related to sped-up or slowed-down clips has been fixed. The Speed control in the Clip Adjustments inspector isn’t limited to the preset tickmarks on the slider (which let you change a clip’s speed to anywhere from 12.5% to 800%). By entering a value in the slider’s text field, you can set the clip’s speed to any number between 5% and 2000%.

Unfortunately, the bug messed up audio in the project when exporting the movie to iDVD or movie files; it could affect audio in any clip within the movie, not just the clip that had been sped up or slowed down.
[Update: According to a source I trust, the bug has not been fixed. I haven’t been able to replicate it in a project where I saw the bug before, however.]

Other Optimizations — Some of Apple’s “other minor issues” should be welcome for iMovie editors. Performance of rendering and playing back themes and maps has gotten faster, as has general application launch time.

As the release notes indicate, deleting a beat marker no longer modifies the project duration, but the duration is also maintained when you turn automatic transitions on and off.

iMovie is also smarter about locating missing audio files when a project is moved to another machine. For example, a song that exists in one computer’s iTunes library will be found in the other computer’s iTunes library if it’s present there.

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