iMovie Made me Switch

I’ve been using and programming computers since the summer of 1983 (obligatory first computer reference: Commodore VIC-20). During the first decade there was quite a vast array of computers and operating systems; the second decade was pretty much dominated by Microsoft Windows. It wasn’t by choice, it was a concession that I made because going through Electrical Engineering in university almost demanded it: having to share files within study groups, using engineering software that would only run on Windows, and cost of hardware on a student budget all weighed as factors. I’m happy to say that I finally feel back in control. I’m now back to using the computer of my choice.

Even today as a software developer, some of the most useful and favorite tools at my disposal today still only run on Windows. Therefore it comes as no surprise that up until three weeks ago I was running Windows XP both at work and at home.

One of the better purchase decisions that my wife and I made a few years ago was a digital camcorder. We love video taping our two girls running around the yard or dancing in the living room. I took the camcorder to swimming lessons, mini-golf, weddings and even taped the girls sound asleep using the night shot mode.

From owning both a camcorder and a computer, it follow that I would want to start making home movies and burning DVDs. So I went about collecting all of the pieces that I needed: a video capture card (for importing movies from the old camera), a firewire card, a DVD burner, and video editing software. Throw in a few cables to connect everythingn up, and it looked to me like I had it made. This was all about 18 months ago.

Since the time of amassing all of the items for my movie making, I have had absolutely no success getting things to work. It didn’t take long to hook the wires up and see some initial progress, but no way in the last 18 months could I figure out how to take the clips from my camcorder, edit them into a nice movie, add a soundtrack, add a menu and chapters and then burn all of this off to DVD. My computer hated me, and I wasn’t liking it too much either.

A month ago, a friend of mine said that he bought a new Mac (one of the sexy G5 all-in-the-flat-display types). I asked if I could borrow his old G3 iMac, since he hadn’t sold it yet. He agreed, so later that night I picked it up from him and then set it up in my basement.

When I sat down to try making a movie, I turned on the iMac and then plugged the firewire cable into my camcorder. Voila, iMovie popped open and took me to the import controls. I rewound the tape using iMovie and then told it to import. Fifteen minutes later I had enough footage, so I stopped importing. By this time, iMovie had already split the incoming video into 7 different clips, logically separated into different scenes. That was easy.

I had never used iMovie before, but it was easy to guess that I was supposed to drag these clips somewhere. I picked the first one and dragged it into the blank space below. It stayed there, so I assumed that was a good thing. I dragged the second clip down beside it. So good so far.

Then I wanted a dissolve between these two clips. I saw a button called “Trans”, assumed that meant transitions, and clicked it. Yes, that was it – I saw a “cross dissolve” entry there. I dragged that down to in between the two clips, and they (very cutely) moved apart and made room between themselves for the dissolve transition. I continued adding clips and transitions until I had no more to do.

Adding music proved to be just as easy – click the “Audio” button, pick a track, and drag it down by the clips. I found that the song was too long, so I wondered if dragging the trailing edge of the song would shorten it…. yes, that worked, too. Wonderful! After all of the editing was done, I finally clicked the “iDVD” button in the bottom corner, picked a DVD theme, and then told it to burn. Time to go to sleep!
In the morning, I woke up to discover that the DVD had been ejected from the drive. I just couldn’t wait – I immediately ran upstairs with it and dropped it into our DVD player. Wow, it worked!

Absolutely everything about iMovie was intuitive, and I loved it. I accomplished more in one night using a Mac than I had in 18 months using Windows. I went the next morning and ordered a Mac mini. Two weeks later it arrived and I gave the Windows machine a new home… far away from my computer desk. 🙂

Since then I transferred all of our documents over to the Mac, including my wife’s Mozilla profile. She didn’t mind the switch at all, since using Mozilla to read email and surf the web works about the same on both operating systems. She has found that our photo printer works better and is much easier to print with using iPhoto than any of the ways we tried printing with it on Windows.

So what about the development software that I used to run at home? Well, I stopped! I decided to work less from home. I can’t say that I don’t do any work at home now, but I certainly do a lot less. I’m pretty sure that this is good for me – what a strange side benefit to switching back to a Mac!