How much editing does the average person need?

imovie screen shotWhen Apple didn’t release an upgrade to the iLife suite at this year’s Macworld, some people speculated that an announcement would have stolen focus from the iPhone, or that perhaps the new version was only going to work with Leopard. But now that iLife ’08 has been released, I think the reason might have been that it just wasn’t ready. An awful lot of work has gone into these applications — a new level of interface slickness and integration.

You can watch an excellent introduction to the new features here: iLife 08 Guided Tour. Apple has been moving to slick, highly produced, video-based tutorials. This one not only gives you a look at all the new features, but offers useful information and training. (Avid is putting up free training videos, too. Check them out here: Media Composer videos.)

My first impression of iLife is its user focus. They’ve consistently asked “what does the customer want to do” and answered it throughout the program. From a development standpoint, It’s always easier to ask “what can the machine do?” Apple’s approach can limit choices, but if done right, it’s much more intuitive for the user. That takes time, money and vision.

iLife, like the recent changes to the Final Cut Suite, focuses on high-bandwidth visual feedback. For example, they now offer something called “skimming.” Click and drag on a clip in iMovie to shuttle through it. Move your cursor over an image in iPhoto to flip through all the images in a gallery.

Overall, iMovie is the biggest surprise, because it’s been completely rewritten. It’s now designed as a library manager, more like iPhoto and iTunes, and as a way to quickly slam cuts together, add some music and automatically publish the results to the web. The old iMovie was very DV-centric. The new version seems to be format-agnostic. And it adopts Apple’s new media application look and feel — dark backgrounds, lighting effects on surfaces.

There’s been a lot of debate (for example, here and here) about the new iMovie, primarily because many capabilities have been eliminated. For starters, there’s no timeline at all. And there are far fewer visual effects (but none require rendering). You select material by simply dragging over a clip icon, so precise editing is nearly impossible. My sense from the guided tour is that the program excels in the kind of quick and dirty editing we see more and more now, and I suspect that it will appeal to many people.

Though I like the browsing and publishing features, with such limited editing controls I doubt that I’ll have much use for it. But it represents a vision of what the consumer wants, and whether it succeeds or fails I have to give Apple credit for aggressively rethinking entrenched ideas and trying something new.

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3 Comments on “How much editing does the average person need?”

  1. Alex Says:

    It may be true ‘democratisation of media’ requires that the media language chosen for communication is limited to what the public are prepared to bear in mind when creating their messages.

    I wonder if this ‘non-timeline’ editing delineation will help editors explain what they do more clearly to others. It may be that the new iMovie interface will appear in a future version of Final Cut Server. This means that producers, clients and writers will be able to rough out a ‘storyboard’ version of what they envision. Then we can take over. It shouldn’t take long for a competant editor to refine the picture and sound edits, add our own ‘magic.’ This will help us show what we add to the storytelling process.

  2. Aaron Joseph Says:

    Yes I feel like this is a GOOD thing to separate the wheat from the chaff, there are all too many YouTube kiddies who want to get into editing yet are disillusioned by their skills with iMovie. Ones that are more serious about their craft will pick up Final Cut and possibly move to AVID etc, making story based stuff while the others will stick with iMovie which is quick, dirty, and without finesse.

    Two thumbs up in my opinion.

  3. Mark Burton Says:

    This is the sort of thing that worries me when it comes to Apple. They took a hugely loved and well established application, dumped most of its features and released it with the same name packaged as a new version. I’m not surprised people are so disappointed. This is Apple at its worst – its created confusion and fed it as revolutionary.

    Products will always evolve and change over time, but when you’ve built a successful workflow based on a product and then all promise of enhancements to that workflow are scuppered unnecessarily, most people would be pissed.

    For another view, read Pogue’s assesment:

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