Sometimes newer isn’t better

by Judy Baker on February 15, 2011

Final Cut Pro IconThe instructor of my video production class has recommended that we use older versions of software, specifically, iMovie ’06 and Movie Maker 2.6. (You can download Movie Maker 2.6) There are newer versions of both of these products. These newer versions have less in common with the professional products Apple Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere and Avid Studio than their predecessors.

In their efforts to make video creation simpler, both Microsoft and Apple buried or eliminated features controlled by the user. The key point, it is harder to use the timeline, an essential part of editing software, in the newer versions. Apple and Microsoft didn’t eliminate the timeline. What they did is to make decisions geared for novice editors. In dumbing down the programs, a new user could make a movie with these products, but they would not have the same level of control that the earlier software provided. In fact when Apple changed the timeline feature when they released later versions of iMovie, for the first and only time in Apple’s history, owners of the software were allowed to downgrade to iMovie ’06.

iMovie '11

I worked a bit with iMovie ’04 and ’08. I was eager to buy the current version, iMovie ’11. At first, I was somewhat skeptical as to the why I should use what I thought to be an outmoded piece of software. On my own, I edited a few movies using iMovie ’11. When my instructor compared iMovie ’06 side by side to Adobe Premier it was clear that they had far more in common than did iMovie’11. Since I am doing more and more video editing and I am partnering with a professional videographer, I decided to try my hand at using iMovie ’06 as a precursor to going to a professional version of video editing software.

After I created my first project using iMovie ’06, I was quickly a fan of its simplicity. It is the opinion of this video editor that sometimes less is more.

Being able to see your timeline and easily adjust clips is what makes digital video editing so powerful. If you have used any software for more than five years, I bet you ask yourself whether or not the upgrade will make your life easier or not before you make a purchase. Witness the failure of Windows Vista, now repacked as Windows 7.

I’m sure you too have encountered what I commonly referred to as “Microsoft syndrome” with other software developers. I know my husband goes through a “where did they move that” period each year when AutoCAD releases its annual update. Instead of keeping what is working, Autodesk moves functions to different menus and abandons other features that are working for what seems to be the sake of releasing new software without improving the functionality of it for the end user.

From my perspective, some software engineers think they know how I think without asking me or getting me involved in testing. Adobe does a great job of asking for and encouraging user input. I have participated in user interface testing for Adobe several times and I saw my input reflected in the release versions of their products. They listen and they encourage users to send in their wish list for consideration. It really helps to test the software with a variety of users, experience levels, and ages. This same principle is true for any business: ask your customers what they want and then, give it to them.

Key elements that make the difference between consumer and professional software editing programs are these: the ability to have multiple tracks of audio and video that are easily visible and accessible, separate audio and video tracks, and non-destructive editing.

Both Moviemaker and iMovie are given away free with new computers. The current versions of these applications can produce excellent results. But it would be nice if instead of dumbing software down, Microsoft and Apple kept the good stuff in their applications and responded to the outcries of users by replacing the features they took out, never to be seen again. I like some of the templates and scripting that come with iMovie ’11, but it sure would be nice if I could have the superior iMovie ’06 timeline back again. With Moviemaker it is still easy to drag or import clips into the program, but now you must take additional steps to to see your assets.

The best software lets you customer your experience. You can decide what features you want to turn on or turn off. Perhaps future versions of iMovie and Movie Maker will allow users to decide how you view your assets, timeline, and have separate the audio and video tracks. These features would make it easier to edit with precision.

You can still find older versions of both of these applications for downloading.

If you’re just getting started with video editing, give these free products a try or you download trial versions of the professional software products I mentioned. The best choice for you is the software that meets your needs and produces the kind of results you are looking for with ease.

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