Comments on iLife '11: GarageBand and iMovie

By Graham K. Rogers


This is my third look at iLife '11 which includes Garageband, iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iWeb. Although iTunes is a part of iLife and it integrates with the other parts, it is installed and updated separately, because of its functions as a conduit for online services and synchronising of iOS devices, like the iPhone.

After I wrote the first part of my look at iLife '11, a regular reader of eXtensions tried to buy the suite and was told by the unidentified retailer that iWeb and iDVD were no longer included. In a panic, he contacted me and I reassured him with a screenshot of the installation: he would not have updated.

Both iWeb and iDVD are still parts of iLife, although what happens in the future is anyone's guess. They have hardly been mentioned by Apple in the last couple of years. I am not a fan of iWeb preferring to code my own (simple) pages, and many people now blog using online methods, like WordPress. Two recent events have me speculating on the future of iDVD: the MacBook Air and its OS X on a stick; plus the impending arrival of the Mac App Store.

The MacBook Air has never had a DVD drive and still sells quite well: updates are carried out using other computers via wifi, internet downloads and transfers by flash drives. If we can download applications, why not the operating system? We already install updates in this fashion.

The current iLife comes on a disk and delivery would have given me much less grief if I could have downloaded it. However, I am happy with the update, not least of all with Garageband. While professional musicians, like Khanngoen "Khan" Nuanual work in Logic Pro, those of us with lesser skills had little on the Mac until GarageBand arrived. Making soundtracks became simpler, and home-made tracks could be improved with the provision of a comprehensive library of loops and sound effects. With iLife integration these sounds are available to those using iMovie, either within that application or when a movie soundtrack is made in GarageBand.

Apple added features like "Magic GarageBand", a jamming feature, and more recently, lessons. The basic set was useful and there were lessons by famous artists, for example Sting, who would explain how they worked. However, in some areas of the world (copyright again) they were unavailable. Lessons have now been augmented by a feature that compares learner input with the music as it should be. It marks wrong notes and timing problems on the music notation.


Sometimes on my way out of the office, I can hear students practicing being pop stars. The drummer and guitarists are not necessarily playing to the same beat, while the singer falls between the two. While in live performance this may improve, two new GarageBand features allow recorded tracks to have this lack of synchronisation ironed out: Flex Time to fix errors while playing with a simple click and drag; and Groove Matching. A control at the left, activated when the mouse is held over it, activates this and selects the "Groove track". The recording is analysed and resultant output is much easier on the ears.

Soundtrack manipulation has also been improved in iMovie. This is now much easier to access in clips and this helped me immediately when one I was using had far lower volume than adjacent ones. A click and a slider (in an Inspector) did the job in a couple of seconds.

While professionals will go for Final Cut (which is due an update in the new year), most of us do not need such richly-featured software. Home users do not want (or need) the complexities of high-level video editing software. We have small, light cameras with video, or (in my case) the iPhone. I also have a new iPod touch on test that has HD video as well. Locally-favoured Nokia phones and others also have video recording features.

iMovie (integrating with the other parts of iLife) makes it easy to import, select, edit and export (in several formats) our clips; and the speed at which we can make such good looking movies with transitions and effects removes the chore aspects.


The feature I enjoy most in the latest iMovie is the way in which we can make a Trailer of a movie in a couple of minutes. Indeed, the output is so effective, that I plan to use this as means of sending out information from a conference in Singapore I am at this week. A few clips can be used to make a brief movie (the trailer), with titles and music (copyright-free) for uploading to a site. Also new is face-recognition software that finds clips that have people in them.

The iLife '11 suite has the components to handle most media types easily and produce satisfying results. It is part of the bundled software with all new Macs.

See also:

  • iLife '11 Finally Here
  • Using iPhoto in iLife '11

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