WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Vacations can lead to lots of idle downtime for browsing photo galleries and videos. But what about editing and producing some short movie gems on the fly?
Luckily, Apple’s iPad 2 was packed for this two-week New Zealand trip. It was included to use e-mail andSkype, plan travels, play endless hours of Angry Birds — and shoot and edit high-definition video on the go.
The iPad’s nearly 10-inch sexy screen was a natural for reviewing homemade videos right on the spot. Spectators were amazed when showed newly captured footage of erupting geysers or Kiwi bungee jumpers.
And courtesy of Apple’s $4.99 iMovie app and rival video programs ReelDirector and Splice, you can turn these little productions into mini video postcards. It’s then a breeze to get them right onto Facebook, direct from your motel room. You don't have to wait until you get home. Nor do you have to worry that your creation will forever rot in your camera.
The New Zealand trip yielded four finished iPad-produced pieces. There would have been more had it been possible to include the video clips shot and imported from other cameras into the iPad. But they don’t work in iMovie without going through a serious workaround. More on that in a moment.
First, let’s talk about the iPad 2 as a video-capture device. The pros are big: a huge screen, instant gratification, exceptional video quality in good light. But the cons are many: no flash, no zoom and it’s bulky. It does not fit well into a pocket or tote. There’s no tripod mount for it either, so your finished video could get quite shaky. And the unsteadiness is much more noticeable on the larger screen.
That issue can be fixed by using instant crutches — like positioning the iPad on a fence, a desk, the ground, anything to keep it steady.
On the trip, point-and-shoot cameras from Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic were also brought along, to test out for future reviews, and they all had the features the iPad lacks: zoom, flash, tripod mounts, removable memory and better lenses.
In each case, the video quality from the cameras was sharper and crisper, especially on the Canon PowerShot S95.
But none had that huge tablet screen for monitoring the video. Nor the add-on features that people love about the iPad, such as the Web browser and all those apps. And you can’t make a video on a Canon camera, edit it right there on the spot, click a button and send it directly to Facebook.
So let’s get back to the editing process. Apple’s mobile iMovie, introduced for the iPhone 4 in 2010, is a nifty little program that will trim the excess from your clips and put in menus, titles, music and sound effects. You also get the ability to record voice-overs for narration. But it has some shortcomings.
In iMovie, you begin with your raw video footage, and Apple gives you three choices: video — most likely from the iPad — photos from the “camera roll” and music from your iPad.
The bad part is that you won’t be able to access video clips shot on other cameras and imported into the iPad. So if you plan on editing while on vacation, using a variety of video sources, you’re out of luck unless you also bring a laptop — and that’s a pain.
To convert, you’ll need to import the footage to a computer and iTunes, click the Advanced tab, and click the “convert to iPad” tab. Then you’ll need to sync the laptop and iPad to get the video back onto the tablet.
This step was especially frustrating, as the clips from the Canon and Nikon cameras had already been imported and played just fine on the iPad — but were non-existent in iMovie.
Fortunately, the App Store offers other video programs. Yet there are only a few video-editing tools there. Both Splice — which has a free version — but you'll need to spend for transitions, background music and other features — and ReelDirector, which goes for $1.99, were at the top of the list. Both came in handy on the trip by allowing point-and-shoot camera footage along with the iPad footage.
Those programs are bare-bones compared with iMovie, though. ReelDirector is the better of two, but unlike iMovie, you won't get menus, audio-editing controls or one-click uploads here.
Still, after spending time editing with the iPad 2 when it first came out, then in New Zealand on travel videos, here’s what would be nice to see in iMovie: easier trimming of videos, more transitions, manual options on photo zooms, more menu choices, better control of video titles and more fadeout controls.
Let’s face it, though. Most people never get around to editing their videos. So having easy-to-obtain software on a device that lets you edit anywhere, like the iPad, will, hopefully, result in more polished videos. This is a great start.
But just as with games, which bring you in for a small fee then sell you add-ons, Apple might just have a good market for iMovie add-ons, either with tools or a more robust iMovie Pro version.
Here’s one customer ready to fork over another $5 or more before starting the next video.