The iMovie ’08 Controversy

11 years ago in Contributors, Reviews by Brent | 21 Comments


August 7th was a day I won’t forget. It was pouring rain, but I excitedly took the bus to my local Apple store to purchase the new iLife suite- iLife ’08 – which Apple had released only a few hours earlier. I picked up the box, and I suddenly felt a great joy. It was a new Apple product. All the way home, I just stared at the iLife disc. Mesmerized by the simplicity and the excitement of sticking it into my computer for the first time. I finally got home, ran upstairs, grabbed my mac, and stuck the shiny new CD into the drive. The beautiful welcome screen came up, I quickly installed it, and then clicked the new iMovie icon in the dock. What? All this excitement for this??

Immediately I stared asking questions to myself. Where is the timeline? Where are the audio tracks? Where are the video effects? Where are all the features I know and love in the old iMovie? After hours of scouring the program for all these missing features, and doing countless Google searches, I realized that these features weren’t there. Apple had removed them.

Then I began to get angry at Apple. Why would Apple do this? Why would Apple remove all of these features? Why would Apple totally change the iMovie interface? Why would Apple totally rewrite this app from the ground up? I told myself that Apple had made a mistake. The rest of the iLife suite was perfect! Why did Apple have to mess up iMovie, one of the most useful apps in the whole suite. I decided to forget about iMovie ’08, and go back to using iMovie HD. That weekend I had a video project to do. It involved precise audio editing, and a timeline view, so I had no other choice but to use iMovie HD. I got the video done, and it looked spectacular. Why couldn’t Apple have kept the old iMovie interface?

Then, this morning, I came across an RSS feed quoting Apple on the subject of iMovie. From the article:

“Apple isn’t apologizing. It says it wants a new audience for iMovie and that the redesign had to happen. ‘The consumer video-editing industry is dying,’ says Rob Schoeben, Apple’s vice president of applications and product marketing. ‘It got crushed by digital photography,’”

“Most camcorder owners never bother with video editing. Yet they will use software programs such as Apple’s iPhoto to manage their pictures and growing collection of video clips from still cameras, Schoeben says. Apple was forced to do a ‘radical reinvention’ of iMovie to get its users to work with their video clips, he says. Schoeben believes video novices will find it easier to edit with iMovie and, thus, use the program more. ‘This may be controversial at first, but long term … we’ll be fine.’

As I read this I began to understand why Apple had made this decision to totally rewrite iMovie. I buy their explanation. I’ve seen it happen many times. People (teens especially) always carry their still cameras everywhere. Digital photography has been a big hit with ordinary people, but video taking has not. Apple is right. The consumer video market is dying. The only videos that most people have are from their still cameras, phones, or webcams. Why? Because it’s too much work for the average person to record to a tape, import to their computer and make a video. It’s a whole days work. It’s not a simple, fast process…even with the old iMovie.

Apple is changing the definition of video editing. Video editing doesn’t have to be a big project anymore. With the new iMovie, and the birth of new HD Flash-based cameras, video editing is fast and easy. You can record and import in stunning quality in a matter of seconds. Then you quickly skim through your clips, drag them to the timeline, click one button, and BOOM–your video is on Youtube for the world to see. It’s that easy. iMovie ’08 is Apple making an attempt to save the video industry by redefining what video editing is. Maybe now video editing will hit the mainstream.

As I look at iMovie through different eyes, I see Apple did a remarkable job at a 1.0 product. I look forward to the next iteration of the new iMovie, that is more refined, and maybe brings an advanced view with more features, while still keeping the simplicity of iMovie ’08. I think the reason that there is such a controversy, is because Apple made an entirely new product, but kept the old name. iMovie ’08 stands alone, as a new product from Apple, and as Apple’s attempt to save the dying consumer video-editing industry.

iMovie: Rate it!

View Results

  • Mike Cohen

    I don’t like it. I used it a few days ago to create a DVD from a party I taped last weekend and I found it a lot less intuitive than iMovie HD. With both of them I can just connect my camera with a Firewire cable and have it import the movie. Without a timeline I feel lost in iMovie 08. I couldn’t see how to do transitions, so I just left the movie mostly unedited.

    iDVD made up for it, though. I used Magic DVD to put the movie and a photo slide show on a DVD with a nice menu, which everyone loved.

    Having to ‘share’ the movie to the media browser (which I couldn’t do in large size, only medium or smaller) is also pretty unintuitive.

  • gojeffrey

    I just upgraded to iLife ’08 last weekend. I have zero video editing experience. I never once used iMovie HD. But with all the coolness I was hearing about the new iLife suite, I was inspired to do more.

    I approached iMovie with only the expectations of what I had heard others talk about. I knew there was no time line, but I had no idea what that meant, so no biggie. What I had heard over and over was that iMovie ’08 was so simple, pretty much anyone could use it!

    Disappointingly, iMovie refuses to recognize my videos taken with my digital still camera that are stored in iPhoto. This week I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure this out. I’ve scoured Google, the Apple discussion forums, listened to podcasts that might hold the magic key to solving my problems, and more without any success. Converting my videos with QT Pro seems to be an option, but a very confusing option to someone with no video knowledge.

    I know there are others out there with this same problem… I’m holding out hope that I will find the answer.

    Ok… thanks for letting me get that off my chest 🙂

  • Sieber

    Hi Mike Cohen!

    How can you think that iMovie HD is more intuitive????

    I just just don’t get some people…….!!!

  • Sieber

    By the way, why can nobody see that Apple is reinventing the whole video-editing industry for the better, you all wait this is just the baby-steps towards the same changes in Final Cut too.

  • Michael

    I think Mike and gojeffery are the perfect two examples. I was a lot like Mike. I was used to the timeline concept of video-editing. iMovie ’08 is “different” in the way that it defies the whole timeline concept. Not necessarily in a bad way, but in a “different” way. For the first time user, however, iMovie ’08 is a much easier interface and concept. It makes you want to go through your video files.

    @gojeffery I’m experiencing the same problem. Mind you, I have a very old still camera….

    @sieber I agree! I can’t wait to see skimming in Final Cut. I think that Apple plans to make iMovie ’08 good for beginners and most people, but others will have to upgrade to Final Cut Express, or Final Cut Studio. I just wish that Apple would add a little more power to the next iteration of iMovie. Maybe adding an “advanced” view that would activate a timeline. That would seem like an ideal solution.

  • Michael

    Over this summer, I did really weird work that involved iMovie HD. In the camp that I worked at, our video editing workflow is as follows:
    1. Capture tapes to a Windows computer running Pinnacle Studio Plus 9 or 11.
    2. Cut up the tapes and place good clips on the timeline (such a pain in the rear in Pinnacle).
    3. Record the project back tt tape, and import the tape in iMovie HD on the boss’s iMac.
    4. Drags clips from project into categorized folders on the hard disk.
    5. iMovie crashes, and the just imported clips wind up in the trash.
    6. Restart iMovie, find out that all of the clips are in the trash, and pull them back out.
    7. Start dragging clips to folders, and lose track because iMove scrambled the order of the clips after crashing.

    Maybe our workflow is flawed (most likely), or iMovie is horrible software. How does Final Cut Express measure up to iMovie?

  • Marcus

    Their goal is to FORCE you to buy more expensive movie editing stuff. They’re going to become like M$ when all is said and done. That’s just spin. They could have put in an option to toggle modes, like “idiot” mode where you don’t need a timeline or anything and “I thought imovie hd was simple” mode.

  • istara

    I just bought iLife 08, mainly for iPhoto, and I am just shocked and horrified at iMovie. It is appalling.

    I am a professional video editor in my work, currently using FCP. I have always heard other FCP editors say how great iMovie is, and how they use it for simple stuff. I always found it unintuitive and horrible to work with.

    When I heard about iMovie 08 I was really excited. I thought that it would be like iMovie older versions, but with more functionality – eg the skimming – then drag them to a (presumably improved) Timeline.

    God what a shock. It is an abysmal piece of software. It is not intuitive, it is totally limited, and despite having RTFM-d the damn pdf how-to, I still can’t figure it out. It seemed that once you have dragged your clips from a huge library window to a tiny project window, that’s it. You can’t drag them around. You can’t put them in a line. You can’t delete their natural sound if you want to add music (or if you can, I sure as hell can’t see how to). It is now easier to use QuickTime Pro as a movie editor than iMovie.

    I fail to understand why Apple created this abomination to video editing. Unless it was to force semi-pros – or basically any previous iMovie users – to upgrade to FCP. Thank god I already have it. I won’t be opening up iMovie again.

    There is a reason that every single other video editing application uses a timeline. But what the reason is that Steve Jobs decided not to I guess we will never know.

  • Christopher

    I fine the new iMovie to be completely useless for me. Without the timeline I am completely lost. I have no clue how to add effects, transitions, or how to edit audio clips and narrations. I was disgusted with the new iMovie and it was enough to push me back into using Windows Movie Maker. I have been using Windows Movie Maker for several weeks now and I am completely satisfied. Now that I have re-discovered Windows so to speak it is doubtful that I will ever return to using iMovie for my video editing needs. Apple just lost one costumer.

  • WTF?!

    Well, at least you all can OPEN the freaking program.
    iMovie (’08) just crashes immediately upon opening (Leopard, PowerPC G5, dual 2GHz, 3.5GB RAM).
    I’ve tried every trick in the book, Library Preferences, Repairing Permissions, changing my display’s color profile, reinstalling, updating the software, changing my QuickTime settings … and NOTHING.
    Just nothing but a crashing program.
    WTF, Apple? IF your product even launches, it’s apparently not even very good.

  • Brent

    You know, I don’t have any relief for you but I will say that the only time I opened iMovie ’08, it crashed my Mac. I don’t use iMovie for video editing ever but I relate to your pain. Sorry…

    I know this is an old post, but anyone have any tips? I’d be interested as well


  • John

    Hey, I just recently changed to Mac and of course with Windows I could never really edit videos (plus, Windows Movie Maker would crash every second) but my brother has always edited videos so I was really looking forward to doing some amazing wideos like I remember he did when I was little. Then I stumbled uppon iMovie ’08. I cheerily added my clips, pretty happy with how cool "Skimming" was and then when I want to add some effects to my movie, I can’t find them! Then the same thing happened (googling everywhere) until I found this. Guess i’ll have to look for an iMovie HD download cause i’m not shelling out $1,300 for Final Cut…

  • Lachlan

    Maybe it’s because I never really used the timeline based iMovie, but I found iMovie ’08 really intuitive and easy to use. Sure, I don’t really do anything PARTICULARLY fancy, but all the problems everybody seems to be having with even the basic video arrangement doesn’t really make sense to me – you skim to find a section of video you want, click on the selection and then drag the ends out to fit what you need, then drag that into the main project area in the spot you want it. Everything to do with the clips from then on is in the project window.

    @istara: Removing the audio from the clips is easy – at the start of each clip, there are three boxes in the top left hand corner – one for video effects (changing the brightness, saturation etc), one for cropping the video, and the final one is for sound. From there you can reduce or boost the volume of the clip, reduce sound for all other tracks to a certain volume while its playing (ducking, which probably makes more sense to you than me), and all the other stuff. All you need to do is drag the volume to 0% in the clip to make it silent. May be kinda counterintuitive to some people, but it made sense to me.

    @Mike Cohen: The transitions are on the right hand edge of the window, under the preview window. It’s the box on the end with the four sections, next to the text button.

    @Christopher: As above, all the transitions, text, audio and photo overlay etc. are on the right hand edge of the window. While it’s true there aren’t any video “effects” so to speak (i.e. presets for sepia, black and white, glowing, negatives, whatever), a lot can be done by editing the video effects in the clips themselves (again, the first box in the top left corner of every clip). I would try those out before completely abandoning it.

    I guess that I’m the market that Apple has been aiming at – while I could USE iMovie before, I definitely didn’t find it as easy as I do now. Depending on your perspective, you could easily either call me an idiot/simpleton, or the guinea pig, or a quick adapter. It doesn’t matter, really. All the functionality which you REALLY need (as in, the core basics) are all there. For relatively precise editing, you can change the view so that every clip is split into half second segments (and so every section that you skim is essentially 1/2 a frame or a frame) – do you really need to be more precise than that? For actual editing of the video like that, at the start and end of each clip there’s a button with two arrows on it – pressing that selects the video in an orange box, and dragging the handles on each end will add or subtract frames… simple, effective and precise. I didn’t need to read the manual for any of this, it just made sense, really.

    What you really need to understand is that the timeline is still there. The difference is that instead of adding clips TO the timeline, the video clips BECOME the timeline.

    Hope this helped.

  • Jeff S.

    I just tried to do something in the new iMovie that would be easy in any program–synchronizing still pictures to music and titles–and was horrified to find it’s absolutely impossible in the program. It’s basically a glorified iPhoto slide show now, not an editing program.

    I’m all for making things easier, but dumbing a program down to the point where it’s useless for people who know what they’re doing is silly.

    They should at least have an option to work with a timeline!

    Bah. Guess I’ll have to wait until I get home and can use Final Cut. Apple just f&#%ed up my day.

  • Lachlan

    @Jeff S. What exactly is the difference between an iPhoto slideshow and what you’re trying to do? I’m sure there’s something I must be missing, because editing images and how long they show for really isnt any different to editing video. Add in an image, choose roughly how long you want it to be, then select the extra duration with the handles and delete it, and finish off by playing the music to see it all synchronises. Sure, if you know what you’re doing and you’re used to a conventional timeline then perhaps imovie 08 isn’t the best choice (in which case, get the free iMovie HD download you get with iLife 08 😉 link can be found here: but again, the photos and music BECOME the timeline, and you edit the timeline directly instead of objects attached to it.

  • nero

    Dear friends
    I just bought ILIFE 08 today and I canñt drag the clips in the timeline or screen. How I can do that?. Mow I coming back to the IMOVIE HD , the best and easy for me.
    Any help is welcomed

    thank u


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  • Janicek94


    I started with iMovie '08. So many people say that iMovie HD 6 is way better. But i dont know why. What are the differences, and why do you advice me to take iMovie HD 6, iMovie '08, iMovie '09, the newest version or another program to make your movies good and easy? And secondly, how can i download iMovie HD 6 on my computer if i prefer to have that? At this moment, i still think that iMovie '08 is good enough, and that iMovie '09 is even better! I hope you guys will help me solving this problem, and sorry for my bad english, cuz i'm only 15 years old and dutch.


  • Richard

    I guess Apple want people who are serious into video editing to purchase Final Cut Express. I'm just trying out a friend's copy now. A lot more advanced than iMovie HD and a little intimidating, but it's got to happen – can't possibly do what I need to do in iMovie 08/09.

  • Richard

    I have been having fun or a couple of years making little movies with iMovie 4. Then I had my videocam stolen and want to replace it. But iMovie 4 and my G5 running 10.4.11 wont see the Canon FS 200. So I checkout the possibility of upgrading to iMovie 8 (which apparently WILL at least run on my kit) and I read all this stuff. Apple is right about video editing being too time consuming for amateurs like me. Maybe I'll give iMovie 08 a crack. Wish me luck.

  • Richard

    I have been having fun or a couple of years making little movies with iMovie 4. Then I had my videocam stolen and want to replace it. But iMovie 4 and my G5 running 10.4.11 wont see the Canon FS 200. So I checkout the possibility of upgrading to iMovie 8 (which apparently WILL at least run on my kit) and I read all this stuff. Apple is right about video editing being too time consuming for amateurs like me. Maybe I’ll give it a crack. Wish me luck.

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