iMovie 3 and iDVD: The Missing Manual
Posted: 10-Oct-2003

Mac Guild Grade

Publisher: O'Reilly


Reviewer: Diane Love $24.95

iMovie 3 and iDVD: The Missing Manual

By David Pogue (with Erica Sadun)
1st Edition July 2003
450 pages, $24.95 US

What the Book is About
This book is the third in the iMovie "the Missing Manual" series, with a new section on iDVD.

The whole philosophy of the Missing Manuals is somewhat at odds with Apple's ethos. Apple wants to make products that you can use without reading a manual - and for the most part they succeed. It's really amazing that they can provide amateurs with the means to do nonlinear editing and make DVDs.

Target Audience
Perhaps some people get along with Apple's no-manuals approach, but for others, it's a little like going for a swim and not knowing whether you've got five feet of water below you, or five hundred feet. Sure you can make a DVD if you click these buttons in that order, but what is going on under there? Where are the files you need to look after and back up? How come there's 15 GB and several files in the Movie folder, but just 1 file and 4 GB in the DVD project?

Missing Manuals are for people who like to know everything that Apple thinks you don't need to know! Nevertheless, David Pogue famously qualified in theater rather than computer science - he may have started a fashion for writing technical books that are also entertaining, but nobody else seems to do it quite as well as he can.

What To Expect
This is a detailed and thorough exploration of iMovie and iDVD, with the following sections:
  • Part One: Capturing DV Footage
  • Part Two: Editing in iMovie
  • Part Three: Finding your Audience
  • Part Four: iDVD: The Missing Manual
  • Part Five: Appendixes
Part 1 of the book starts out by explaining the problems with amateur video; it tells you why not to pan and zoom the whole time and how to light video and improve sound quality. It then goes on to give specific advice about particular subjects like weddings, sports and live events.

This is all very useful, but it doesn't name the foothills of the learning curve - starting anything at all and finishing anything!

"The Little Digital Video Book" by Michael Rubin covered much of the same ground, without being specific to iMovie and the Mac, but had a rather interesting objective: to learn to make 3-minute movies first as a foundation for extending to longer movies. After reading this book and before reading any Missing Manuals, I started a lot of 3-minute movies but still didn't finish any.

Part 2 of this Missing Manual should get you actually finishing projects. You know what you want, but to start with you just don't know how to go about it. One of the keys to finishing your movie projects is to be able to move around the footage efficiently with the keyboard. It also helps to see all the transitions and effects in print without having to experiment with them to find out what they do - rendering takes time and that time may make the difference between finishing your movie this week and days or months hence. As well as the basics, this section also goes into detail on titles, graphics and sound and then ends with some advanced editing techniques.

Part 3 covers nearly everything you might do with your movie once you declare it finished - including getting it back onto DV tape, exporting it to Quicktime and putting it on the web; it also discusses what extra options are available if you buy Quicktime Pro. After reading this section you still won't be able to list all the codecs from memory, but at least you will know what a codec is and where to find out which one to use for the task at hand.

Part 4 describes the highly automated iLife transition from iMovie to a DVD and then goes on to hand-crafting a DVD from many movies, designing themes and finally iDVD secrets. The secrets include DVD-ROMs, the content of the project file, scripting and customizing iDVD. However the section I was most relieved to find told me how to duplicate my DVDs without having to keep my iMovie and iDVD files on my hard drive. This is pretty important because all the files for an hour's iMovie and iDVD project will set you back about 20 GB. No matter how big your hard disk is, you just can't keep all your projects on there forever.

Part 5 contains Appendixes on Menus and Troubleshooting. As usual in a Missing Manual, the troubleshooting section is fascinating. One of the new topics in this edition is diagnosing and repairing a corrupt iMovie project file by editing it in a text editor.

This book is not just about Apple's software - it has plenty about video making in general, both at the beginning and throughout the text.

The reference material is both technical and aesthetic - the descriptions of the codecs are vital, the descriptions of transitions, effects and themes save time and give you a second opinion on how tasteful or tiresome they seem.

The troubleshooting section is good for eradicating everyday frustrations as well as handling emergencies, and also gets into exploring and hacking the preference file.

Mac Guild Grade
A+ (Awesome!)

Final Words
This book will help you conquer every aspect of movie making with your Mac, from shooting through editing to final production on DVD. It will increase your efficiency and help you deal with all the hazards that stop you from completing your projects. Despite the amount of detail presented, it's captivating, entertaining and enjoyable to read. It would be truly fabulous if it had color illustrations, but still deserves top marks without them.