Back in April, just after iMovie for the iPad was released, I tried to put the program through its paces editing DSLR video. It was a no-go. Through a lot of trial and error, and a lot of feedback from readers of this site, we were able to figure out that the iPad didn’t support the audio format coming out of DSLRs, though video without sound worked and edited fine. A couple of users (A big thank you to Quentin) figured out ways to “jailbreak” the iPad and make it work. And then, another user, Wan, reported that iOS 5 fixed the problem without the need for jailbreaking.
So there you have it – with the combined iMovie 1.2.2 update and iOS 5, the iPad can finally take and edit non-iDevice video. Awesome. This ground-breaking milestone (even though it sounds like I’m dripping with sarcasm there, I assure you, I am not) was a footnote in the updates on the iTunes store: “This update addresses minor issues and expands support for videos imported from external cameras.” the line reads.
The short answer is no. Read on for the long answer.
Consumer-grade software, pro-grade frustration
The initial excitement of being able to manipulate video on the iPad gave way to frustration as I realized that this was no Final Cut Pro. Indeed, you can see by my attempt below that I wasn’t able to do much beyond amateur hour here, and I have six years behind the wheel of Avid/Final Cut/Premiere.My first attempt was to put together a video involving an interview interspersed with clips from an already produced video (a behind-the-story video with journalist Brad Horn) – a fairly simple task that has been made exceedingly difficult because of a locked-down operating system and practically useless-for-journalism iMovie.
I’ll explain – I wanted to have Brad Horn speak while layering clips from the video he was talking about, Colors, over his voice. I recorded his interview with a Nikon D7000, and had his footage in hand from the video. Both transferred easily to the iPad using the $29 camera connection kit. I had to load Colors onto a memory card to do so, but the iPad did not fuss over this.
But while the video played and edited smoothly on my iPad2, the feature set of iMovie left me wanting.
That layering of audio and video? Can’t do it. You get one timeline layer for video. OK, I thought. I’ll just bring in the audio and leave the video so that I can have him talking underneath the footage from Colors.
No dice. Video and audio are forever linked in this version of iMovie. To get the audio separated, I had to upload the raw footage to a private YouTube video, then record the audio separately using Adobe Soundbooth on my PC. And then I couldn’t just use Dropbox or otherwise easily transfer the file onto the iPad. I had to load it into my iTunes library, then sync my iPad with my computer to transfer the file into my iPad’s music library. Only then was I able to bring it into my iMovie project to do an incredibly frustrating edit on.
Don’t even get me started on the cheesy themes, canned music (you can see for yourself below) and limited transitions.
I give up. The whole point of this experiment was to cut the larger machine out of the loop and get the job done exclusively on the iPad.
Which brings me again to Apple’s contempt for open devices.
I understand why I can’t move files easily in and out of my iPad. It’s the same reason I avoid talking RAW format photo files to my beginning student photographers – file management is something most of the population using the iPad knows nothing about, and to let it happen freely and openly is to invite disaster as people delete system files and load viruses onto their iDevices.
At the same time, a subset of content producers want to bring the iPad to a higher plane of existence, more than a book reader or Angry Birds player. They need official, Apple-sanctioned access. Not “jailbroken” flaky access.
Would it be so hard to bury the option for access to the iPad’s file structure somewhere in a menu so I wouldn’t have to jump through so many hoops just to get a sound file onto my iPad? I was under the impression that it was now a PC-free device, but apparently that’s only true if your content comes from Apple’s limited pond.
On my Android phone, I can access the entire file system of the device using any number of apps (Astro is my weapon of choice). This makes it easy to free up space when I need it or to load files onto my phone. I never need to sync an iTunes library to transfer my music because I can just drag and drop it from my PC as if I was using a flash drive.
Why, Apple, why can’t you just loosen the reins a little?
Is Apple testing the waters?
All that about open standards being said, I would probably just shut up about it if Apple gave me better software to edit on. A iPad version of Final Cut? Why not?
What I iMovie feels like in this incarnation is a proof of concept. It shows us – clearly – that the iPad can edit video. Very high quality video at very fast speeds. In fact, it makes me wonder why editing video on a desktop computer or laptop requires so much horsepower.
What iMovie for the iPad also shows us that perhaps the future lies in editing videos with our fingers. Indeed, slicing things up, shortening clips, rearranging things all worked smoothly and felt natural. This is after years of using a mouse to edit videos (I know what I said earlier about mice. I’ve changed my mind).
Apple needs to stop treating us like children. Add an option to split up video audio. Give us an extra video layer. Let us move the placement of lower thirds for God’s sake. And most of all, let us import photos, videos and audio more efficiently than through iTunes. If nothing else, add support for importing from Dropbox.
Final Cut Lite for the iPad? I’d buy it – if only it addresses the above caveats I have with iMovie. Apple is ignoring a potentially huge audience of journalists by relegating iMovie for the iPad to the minor leagues.
So what did I make with iPad for the iMovie? Not much, but it at least proves it can handle DLSR video. And there you have it:
The Gannett video situation revisited
I was surprised at the amount of feedback I received from my last post about Gannett’s video initiatives. At the time, I wasn’t aware (and neither was anyone else aware on the Web, as far as I can tell) about the financials behind this push for video, but Gannett Blog reported on it a few days later and even mentioned my post on the homepage (which explains all the traffic to this site). I see the numbers potential here – but I stand by my points made earlier. If you’re going to make a push for video – hire visuals people. Certainly the amount of money they are projecting to make can absorb the cost of hiring a few good people. Quality, not quantity, folks.
I got many e-mails, phone calls, Facebook messages, and text messages from former Gannett employees, fellow academics, industry professionals – and all were in agreement – and so I hope the folks at Gannett are listening – this is the wrong thing to do and, in the name of good journalism, it’s worth re-evaluating. I know that Corporate will do what Corporate wants to do, but ostensibly I hope they would at least pay some lip service to journalism here.
The one voice I didn’t hear from was Kate Walters – the executive pushing these video initiatives that I singled out before. So here’s an open message: Free space on my blog to you, Kate, to provide an unedited response to what I said about Gannett’s video initiatives. You can e-mail me. I genuinely am curious about what’s going to be different this time, and I want to hear it from you.