iLife Is No Place For HD (at least not yet)

by Gregory Ng Feb 11, 2005

Last month in the Keynote Address at MacWorld SF, Steve Jobs declared this year, “The Year of High Definition.” In turn, Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Express, iMovie, and iDVD all have new versions supporting HD video. High Definition video and the HDV format is the way of the future and certainly has a place in the professional software offerings from Apple. But I question HD’s place in iMovie and iDVD, the home consumer applications within the iLife suite of applications.

The HD feature in iMovie and iDVD is too much, too fast. It sets unrealistic expectations for home users. Although HD television is becoming more and more commonplace, (due in great part to the drop in price for HD-Ready televisions as well as the major networks broadcasting more HD content every day) it is far from the standard. In fact it is only projected that a little over 14 million households in the United States would have an HD-ready TV by the end of 2004*. Considering the US has over 111 million households, this number does not give me the warm and fuzzy feeling of a HD revolution.

Imagine creating a DVD of your wedding and realizing after sending it to 10 different family members, that only 1 of them is able to watch it the way you had intended it to be viewed: in HD. Now imagine, in order for you to have gotten that footage in HDV, you shelled out $3699 for the “world’s first consumer 1080i high-definition camcorder”, the Sony HDR-FX1 HD Digital Camcorder available at the Apple Store. That’s right. You wouldn’t have bothered. Anyone who can find a justification for buying a HDV camera (at the prices they are at now) would probably be buying it for business reasons like training videos or porn. And if this was a business expense, you would probably be using FInal Cut and DVD Studio Pro anyways.

iMovie and iDVD have always been marketed as software for making movies of things like parties, road trips, weddings, and watching your kid play soccer. With the advancements in DV, video cameras have become smaller and thus more convenient to carry around wherever you want. But HDV isn’t there yet. The Sony HDV Camcorder is 14 3/8” long and 7 1/4” tall. I find it hard to believe that someone is going to go to their kid’s school play and whip out a camera reminiscent of the VHS cameras with the big microphone from the 80’s. High Definition is great but not worth the hassle.

Apple is back to their ways of being at the cusp of technological advancement (read: Newton) but I’m afraid they are way too far ahead of their time. HDV editing and burning capabilities will not upsell HD TVs and HDV cameras. Rather it will make home users feel this product is no longer appropriate for them.

* Penhune, James “The Transition to Digital Television: FCC Mandates and Market Evolution” Strategy Analytics, 09/04


  • I think you miss the point slightly on iMovie HD.  They haven’t done it because it needed to be done.  They did it becasue they can.  And probably very easily too.  All that stuff is already in QuickTime, so why not make some of it available and then claim to be first ?

    I agree that it’s next to useless at the moment,  but it may well be the norm in as little as two years time on cameras rivalling the current mini DVs in terms of size.  And Apple are fully prepared for it right now.

    It may be marketing bullshit,  but it does demonstrate how quicktime technology and the overall design of the software is excellent.  They didn’t re-invent the wheel with iMovie,  they’re just exploiting the power of QuickTime.

    Hywel had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 51
  • agree with Hywel
    Also DVD’s don’t do full HD resolution at the moment [you will have to wait for HD-DVD or Blu-Ray for that]
    iDVD would do a photoshop-ish resize to 720 x 480, down from the sony camera’s 1440 x 1080
    Anyway the name iMovie HD will go nicely with a Powerbook HD, which must be around the corner!

    znfjyku had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 2
  • Gregory I think you’re a wee bit out your element here.  The timing of this article(being it’s only mid Feb) is poor.  Steve Jobs said this is the “Year of HD” and that encompasses the final 10 months as well.  HDV is far from over in fact NAB 2005 in April is supposed to be a coming out party for HDV.  My guess is we see HDV drop down to a low of about $2200

    You reference the $3700 Sony but remember the “first” HDV camera was the JVC JY-HD10U which is $2780 or lower at some places. 

    Although millions of households do not own HD televisions that doesn’t preclude you from recording in HD and then using Compressor(included free with FCP/Motion) to convert the HD video to something that plays on todays non HD equipment. This is how many Wedding Videographers are working. Record HD, archive and the convert video to whatever format is needed.

    iMovie and Final Cut Express will both do this easily.  I like your articles Gregory but by years end you “will” be eating crow on this.

    hmurchison had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 145
  • Never too soon! I have a slew of nice, higher res still photos that I would love to turn into little mini-HD films.

    Ulfy had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I actually have the Sony HDR-FX1, and was very appreciative that Apple gave me an easy way to edit the footage that I’m shooting. 

    I understand that most people won’t be purchasing an HDV camera right away, but by getting this software out now, Apple will have an opportunity to continue to refine the product as consumers shift to the format, and also create more demand for the equipment.

    I certainly don’t fault Apple for providing a product before everyone needs it. 

    BeenThere2 had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I also have the Sony HDR-FX-1. I was disapointed that Final Cut Pro did not have this the ablity to cut HDV first, but I am glad to have something that can deal with it. So far iMovie has just been OK, many of my smooth pans are jerky when imported despite working on a Dual 2.5Ghz G5 with multple fast stripes RAID’s. I cannot imagine some working on a iMac doing anything with HD. A 8 minute iMovie project was a litlle over 35GB.

    ggreen21 had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 1
  • And you should be able to edit broadcast HDTV captured by EyeTV 500 using Final Cut Express HD.

    Unless there is some drm involved that I’m not aware of…

    Don had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I don’t get it. You don’t have to do HDV with the new iLife suite. It works just fine with plain 720x480 old fashioned NTSC.

    To complain of something that is extra seems a little silly to me. If nothing else it is bragging rights. You could do HDV if you wanted to. And for $79 for the software. Try the same on Windows.

    James Bailey had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 7
  • Let’s face it, right now, February 2005 - iMovie with ‘HD’ is marketing.
    iMovie is consumer software right?
    But then again the HDR-FX1 from sony is a ‘consumer’ camera. It really is. It’s just expensive, and so it’s out of the reach of most consumers but they have recently released a big brother model - the HVR-ZIU which records to MiniDV and DVCAM and has more features [and is of course even more expensive]. Actually neither does ‘true’ HD - which is 1920 pixels wide like Apple’s 23in Cinema Display but they do have the critical 1080 lines of horizontal interlaced resolution - so they can call themselves ‘1080i’.
    And of course if you want Sony can provide you with a George Lucas style CineAlta, but that will set you back many many FX1’s.
    The HDV format is great for many reasons but one of key end results of its compression technology is that you can get HD bandwidth from your camera through ‘plain old’ firewire.
    Apple is doing ‘consumers’ a favour by giving us the tools to have a homebrewed HD _workflow_. It’s the same attitude that allows ‘consumers’ to maintain a RAW image workflow [now] with iPhoto. I haven’t read the fine print to know about know how well [or not] iMovie does compression but its a step in the right direction.
    The fact is that Apple’s so-called consumer products are used by all levels of people up to the top professionals.
    OK, Star Wars wasn’t shot on HDV but ‘HD’ in all its flavours is fast becoming _the_ standard for all video. HDTV is probably doing the most to drive it into the mainstream.
    So I’m happy that an iMovie HD is available. If your wallet and your CPU can handle it, shoot it high and downsample to whatever you need - be it DVD or a quicktime stream on the web. Before long you will be glad that you have got the ‘originals’ to crank all the way up when nothing less will do.

    znfjyku had this to say on Feb 11, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I disagree.
    Lets say someone buys a HD TV.
    And wants to watch his photo album from iPhoto in Hi Def.

    Plug iMovie HD to the HDV camera
    create a nice HD video from the iPhoto library in iMovie HD.

    Record this to the cassete on the camera.

    I would buy a HD camera if I could afford it right now. I could record all the 2005 footage I need in Hi Def quality, and start editing it in iMovie and maybe storing it back to tape.

    And when Tiger comes, I would burn the footage on .mp4 files with AVC encoding (h.264).

    And when the Hi definition DVD comes, I would create HD DVDs

    But at first we need the cameras… we need the footage…

    I don’t shoot home videos every day.
    But when I shoot a home video I would like it to be high quality footage…

    Dimitris Tsarouhas had this to say on Feb 13, 2005 Posts: 1
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