Talk Marketing

The Pros and Cons of iMovie for Basic Video Editing (Podcast)

In this episode of Talk Marketing Made Easy, we talk about iMovie. It’s a great editing tool for beginners. We look at the pros and cons and explain how to get started.

John McDougall: Welcome to Talk Marketing Made Easy. I’m John McDougall, and I’m here today with John Maher, the VP of Digital Marketing and Multimedia at McDougall Interactive and Talk Marketing Academy. Welcome, John.

John Maher: Hey. Glad to be here, John.

What Is an iMovie?

John McDougall: Yeah, so today we’re talking about iMovie because we’re huge believers in podcasting and videos and YouTube optimization as a way to get good content for your website and for your SEO without having to always do the writing. So first let’s just start with what is iMovie?

John Maher: Yeah, so iMovie, believe it or not, actually first came out in 1999, which is quite a long time ago in terms of video editing software that you can use on your computer. Really, really popular with a lot of home video people doing videos of their family and things like that.

Because it came free at that time with that latest version of the Macintosh OS. When that came out, it came bundled with that operating system. So people basically, for free, if you had a Mac, you had access to video editing software. So if you had a little home camcorder and you’re doing home videos or something like that, it made it really, really easy and free to just do some quick video editing without having to pay hundreds of dollars for something more expensive.

Advantage: Great for Beginners

John McDougall: Yeah, and it’s still that go-to, just get a Mac and iMovie is just usually already on there, but is it good for beginners or are there other options?

John Maher: Yeah, I mean, it is good for beginners. Professional level videographers and video editors will use something like Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut. But again, they’re expensive, they have monthly subscriptions, or they’re hundreds of dollars if you just buy the software outright.

But iMovie, if you have a Mac, it’s free. So it’s a really great place for beginners to start. It’s like the lite version, if you will, of something like Final Cut. It’s pared down, it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles, but for basic video editing, it does a pretty good job.

And a lot like other Apple products, whether it’s the iPhone or whatever, iMovie is pretty intuitive. It’s pretty easy to pick up on all of the things that you can do without having to go too deep and read all kinds of manuals and watch all kinds of videos on how to use it or whatever. It’s pretty easy for a beginner to pick up and for the average user to use.

Disadvantage: Limited Custom Options

John McDougall: And what about the downsides?

John Maher: So it does have some downsides. Like I said, it’s pared down so it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that a bigger program has. It’s limited, for example, to just two video tracks and two audio tracks. So you’re not going to be using iMovie to edit your multi-camera setup where you have three or four cameras videotaping at the same time and you’re cutting between the different camera angles. It’s not really great for that.

I’d say where it works is you can have one track of your video and then you can put another video track on top of that with clips of maybe a closeup of some things. So if you had two cameras and you had one camera focused on some closeups and one with a wider angle, you could put in little closeups here and there and that would work pretty well. Basically, whatever track you have on top becomes the one that’s shown at that time.

So you could put, again, little clips of closeups, maybe pictures. So if you have a video and you wanted to show a little illustration of something, you could put a picture in there and it would show that. You could use that second video track for that. And again, two audio tracks as well. So you could have, for example, a music track throughout the video and maybe some sound effects or something like that.

But if you’re looking to do much more than that; again, multi cameras and have a background layer and then a video layer on top of that, and then something overlaying the other video, you’re just not going to be able to do that with iMovie. It works pretty well, but it can be slow if you have very large video files. It can slow it down, bog it down a little bit, so watch out for that if you have large video files.

You’re limited in the output options that you have. You can export the video and choose what size you want within a limited choice, you have six options for the size of the video that you want to export and the quality of it. But for example, if you choose Pro resolution, it exports it in MOV format. If you choose anything less than the pro resolution, it exports it in MP4 format. You don’t really get to choose that. So you can’t say, “Oh, I want to have this small video and export it in MOV format,” or some other video format. You just don’t have those options. So it works with the basics. You can choose what size and what quality you want and export it that way, and that’s all you get.

It doesn’t have super powerful effects. It has some basic ones. Some transitions are very basic. You just get the cross dissolve transition. You have some of those ones that you might watch and you go, “Oh, that’s a home movie.” Ones where it divides up the screen into little tiles and then it spins them around, or it rotates the video off into the corner and then it rotates the new one in. Things like that I generally don’t use anyway for videos that we do with clients because you look at those transitional effects and immediately think it looks like a kind of cheap home movie. So it’s not really that big of a deal. I mostly use just cross dissolve types of effects anyway. But you do have fewer transition options, fewer effect options, limited color grading.

It does have color balance and correction. It has a little magic wand tool that’s actually pretty easy to use. So you can just select your clip, click the little magic wand, and then it automatically will just brighten up the image, adjust the colors to make it look normal. It really works well for the beginner, I would say, because you’re not diving into this incredible menu full of options for color grading and things like that. You can just click the little magic wand tool and that does the best that it can, and it does a pretty good job. But you are limited in the amount that you can do in terms of color grading.

So just generally fewer custom options are available to you. But if you’re just looking for a basic video with some basic transitions, put a little music track under it, do some editing at the beginning and the end, maybe put a few clips together, some pictures. It does a really good job for that.

iMovie: Great for Beginning YouTubers

John McDougall: And what about for YouTubers? Because a lot of people want to get on the YouTube bandwagon. Maybe they don’t have the money to hire a full video company, but they can just shoot with their iPhone, or their smartphone of some kind, and take it into iMovie, right?

John Maher: Yeah. The three most popular video editing programs for YouTubers are iMovie, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. And so if you’re a complete newbie and you’ve never done this before, iMovie is a pretty good option. And like I said, it’s free if you have a macOS. And for just, again, doing some basic video editing where you’re trimming the beginning in the end and adding some music and whatever, it does a pretty good job.

So I’d say it’s a good option for YouTube. You don’t need a lot of the bells and whistles. One thing that I did notice is that it’s a little bit challenging to do YouTube Shorts with iMovie. It’s possible, but again, because you have these limited options for exporting the video into different formats, it doesn’t really have an option to export it in a vertical format, which is the YouTube Shorts are all in that vertical format where it’s taller than it is wide.

And there is a way to get around that. You can go into the crop option. In the crop option, there’s a rotate option, so you can rotate the video so that it’s vertical, then you can crop out a section of it and then export that. But it will export the video so that it’s sideways, and then you can open that up in QuickTime, and in QuickTime, QuickTime has an option for rotating the video again, so that you can now rotate it from being sideways to being vertical. And now you have a YouTube Short and you can upload that to YouTube. So it’s a little bit of a workaround, but iMovie doesn’t-

John McDougall: Yeah, I’m sure they’ll tweak that.

John Maher: Yeah, it doesn’t really have a native way to just change the format to vertical and then export it…

John McDougall: Interesting.

John Maher: For YouTube. Maybe they’ll add that later, I don’t know. Because YouTube Shorts are so popular now. I have to imagine that iMovie would have an easy way to do that at some point in the future.

Getting Started With iMovie

John McDougall: Yeah. And what about just getting started? First step; you open it up, you hit the new movie or new trailer and hit the spacebar and edit out… For people that might even want to just send a video overseas to be fine-tuned for them, but they just want to crop it or do some basics.

John Maher: Yep. Yeah, so I’ll do a video at some point later where I go into some of the more details. But the basic idea of using iMovie is that when you first open it up, you open it up into this what’s called the projects browser. So you have all of your projects listed there.

If you haven’t done one yet, you’ll just click the create new button. And when you click create new, it’ll ask you if you want to open or create a new movie or a trailer. The trailers are fun. They’re meant for, again, home video users. It has preloaded little backgrounds, and filters, and titles, and things like that so that you could take pictures of your kids or videos of your kids and then insert them into a trailer that looks like Jurassic Park or something like that.

John McDougall: Yeah, right.

Editing Clips and Adding Music and Transitions

John Maher: So it’s fun for home video users, but you’re probably not going to do that if you’re doing corporate videos or videos for your YouTube channel. So you’re going to want to select create new, and then you click movie.

Then your project opens, and it has three panels. It has a browser, where you can browse for your video clips, the viewer, where you view the individual clips, and then on the bottom it has the timeline where you drag your clips or your videos into the timeline and arrange them in the order that you want them. And so the basic idea there, again, is just you’re going to browse for your clips, you can click on them, watch them in the little viewer, and then when you have them ready or you say, “Oh yeah, that’s the clip that I want in my timeline,” you can just drag that clip down into the timeline.

And then even once it’s on the timeline, you can split that clip into multiple clips. You can edit the beginning and the end of it. So you can easily just trim the beginning and the end by dragging the edge of the video clip over, and you just drag it over from the right, and so you can just adjust it that way. So pretty easy to just do some quick editing.

There’s another option for music up on the top there. So you can click that and browse your computer for music files. And again, you just drag that file down onto the timeline and it puts the music file below the audio file in the timeline. And then you can easily just drag it and adjust the volume level. So if you want that volume level to be down low underneath the audio that’s in the video, that’s pretty easy to do.

There’s little points on the left and the right of the audio that you can drag, just fade the music in and fade the music out. So again, for basic video editing like that, it’s pretty simple to use and you would just arrange those clips in whatever order you want. And then there’s an option for transitions, and you can just drag transitions in between those clips to do it like a cross fade between one video clip to the next video clip. Or one fades out and the next one fades in. That’s probably the simplest way to just transition from clip to clip in your video.

Importing and Exporting Videos

John McDougall: Good. Well, that was really helpful, John. I think that if people want to just get a quick start, like you said, it’s not going to be all the bells and whistles, but that’s actually a good thing because you’ll be able to get started more easily.

John Maher: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s easy to just go ahead from there and just export it to a file. You can also import videos from different sources. So if you have video on your iPhone or your iPad, you can import those. You can import it directly from a camera that you have plugged into your computer, if you have your files already on your Mac, you can just import them from there.

Or you can even record video directly into iMovie, so you can use it with your webcam if you just wanted to do a little talking head podcast thing where you’re just looking at your webcam and you’re giving some information. You can easily just do that directly in iMovie, so you don’t even have to do it with an external camera and then import that clip.

John McDougall: That would be super easy to get started YouTubing, yeah.

John Maher: Yeah. So I’d say in general, great tool, it’s always been a really good, easy tool to use for beginners. It still is. Just know that you don’t have all of the options that a professional level video program does, but sometimes you don’t need all of those options. Sometimes you just want to do a basic little… crop the beginning and the end, add a little music and that’s enough. So it’s really good for that.

John McDougall: All right. Thanks, John. This has been John McDougall with John Maher with Talk Marketing Made Easy. See you next time. Make sure to rate and review us on iTunes. Thanks.

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