iMovie for iPad Woes

screenshot of iMovie running on iPad 2

iMovie running on my iPad 2

I got my iPad 2 on March 25, 2011, the day it came out in France. I had bypassed the original iPad because I could not see what the fuss was all about. I then spent a few months watching my wife having fun with hers, surfing the web anywhere, getting actual work done, and all by carrying something that weighed a fraction of my MacBook Pro. This is not to say that the iPad is a replacement for a laptop, but the fact is that it covers a substantial subset of the things for which one carries a laptop around. For reading, and even writing documents on an airplane, let's say, the iPad beats any laptop hands down in terms of battery life and comfort. There is also something magical about interacting with the device by touch, but that's a whole other subject.

For now, suffice it to say that after watching the introduction by Steve Jobs and the iMovie demo that was given, I was excited about doing some basic editing of the clips I take with my Panasonic Lumix TZ7 (it's called the ZS3 in the US) on the iPad. I bought the camera connection kit and went to the harbor of Cannes to take a few videos. I did not use the usual AVCHD Lite setting as I didn't think the iPad would recognize the files. Instead, I used the HD version of motion JPEG. When I got back home, I took the memory card out of the camera, inserted it into the camera connection kit, plugged that into the iPad 2, and miracles of miracles, the card was recognized, the iPad switched to import mode, and I was able to import all my clips with almost disconcerting ease.

The process created two albums in my "Photos" application: "Last Import" and "All Imported". Opening either one allowed me to see the individual clips I had imported and to play them back, complete with sound. "This is a piece of cake," I thought, even though I was disappointed to find out that there did not seem to be any way to rename the album containing the clips I had just imported. Something like "Cannes Harbor" would have been slightly more appropriate than "Last Import"... But let's not quibble!

Eagerly, I launched the iMovie app on the iPad 2. Unfortunately, not a single clip showed up. Because I was completely stumped, I began to research the matter on the web. OK, so it seems that Apple has a Tech Note that claims that iMovie for iPad is only designed to work with video recorded with iPad 2, iPhone 4, and iPod touch (4th generation). Now I know that iMovie for iPad costs less than $5, but you would think that one should be informed about such a limitation before buying. Someone just had to have come up with a solution to this problem!

Indeed, a search revealed that many people were sharing information about how to solve the problem. All the workarounds, it seems, involved using a computer. The most frequent hints were about using QuickTime Player to open the clips and do a "Save As..." using the HD 720p format. The result then had to be copied to the iPad's camera roll by using iPhone Explorer, a free app. I have no doubt that this worked for the people who posted it, but it did not work for me. Rather than subject you to a detailed description of the truly amazing trial and error saga I went through, I shall give a step by step list of instructions that finally did work for me. As it happens, I used a commercial application, Aimersoft Video Converter, to convert my clips, but I'm sure any application that allows setting the necessary conversion parameters will work just as well. Also, please keep in mind that I have not tested this procedure with any camera other than my Lumix TZ7/ZS3.

Not exactly intuitive... I sincerely hope that Apple will see fit to make this a whole lot easier in a future version of iMovie for the iPad. By the way, if you want to use Garageband on the iPad to make a soundtrack for the movie, as I have done here, you need to export the song to iTunes, then synchronize the iPad with your Mac to get the iTunes version of the soundtrack on your iPad. It can then be selected from the tracks available to use in iMovie.

Uploading your finished movie to YouTube is easy, and one of three sizes, including HD, may be chosen. Selecting HD allows watching the movie in several resolutions, including 720p. Sharing a movie to the camera roll subsequently allows sending it to MobileMe, but curiously, it appears to be impossible to send it to the root level of a MobileMe gallery; instead, an existing album must be selected. These are all quirks that I believe will eventually be addressed by Apple.

None of these difficulties have diminished my pleasure of using the iPad, or even iMovie on the iPad. Once one knows what to do, it's an easy matter to transfer what is needed and then work on the movie anywhere one wishes on the iPad. Interacting with the clips directly is incredibly intuitive, and while the Mac version of iMovie is clearly more powerful, it is almost difficult to go back to using a mouse once one has experienced the iOS interface.

You can take a look at the finished video on YouTube. Simply choose a resolution that is appropriate for your bandwidth. I hope the above helps someone edit their video clips in iMovie for the iPad.

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