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QuickTime Authoring

Digital Still Cameras for QuickTime Movies, Part Two


In the previous column I discussed how to use your digital still camera to capture short QuickTime video clips . Now that you have those clips, what do you do with them?

Build your digital editing room for less than $30

This week we'll fire up the digital editing room and turn our snippets of video into short movies that can be served on the Web or shared via CD. I'll be working in Mac OS X 10.1, but these techniques work in OS 9 too.

Here's what you'll need to follow along:

With the exception of QuickTime Pro, which costs $30, the rest of the software comes bundled with Mac OS X 10.1 or is available on the Apple Web site. Now that you have your tools together, let's get to work.

Two quality levels to choose from for building movies

I'm going to show you two ways to build your final movies. This first method, the "easy" way, renders great-looking video that's perfect for serving on the Web. The second avenue renders video at the highest quality possible, but it takes a little more work. When absolute clarity is paramount, such as for CD distribution, this is the way to go.

The native format difference between QuickTime and iMovie account for these quality differences. iMovie is native "Streaming DV" (.dv) format, and QuickTime Pro is native QuickTime Movie (.mov) format.

When you move video from QuickTime to iMovie and then back to QuickTime, slight quality loss occurs during the conversions. This loss isn't an issue for video that's served on the Web, because those clips are highly compressed anyway. But if your final product is destined for CD, then you might want to consider the high quality route. I'll show you how to do both.

The "easy" method for building movies

If the final destination is the Web, then this method is for you.

First, before you do anything else, go sign up for iTools right now and set up your home page. This will be your Web serving vehicle for the movies you create.

If you haven't visited an iMovie page created with iTools, take a look at my current selection, Canadian Geese. You'll need QuickTime 5 to view this movie, but you need version 5 to proceed with this article anyway.

Once you have your destination established, it's time to assemble the various video clips residing on your still camera into a movie that tells a story. Begin by connecting your camera via the USB port to your Mac OS X 10.1 computer. This should launch Image Capture 1.5.

You'll notice that both your movies and your still photos appear on the "light box." Select a video clip that you want to upload, and send it to your project folder on your Mac. Once you've uploaded all the video clips you need for this project, turn off your camera to save battery power and disconnect it from the computer.

Now it's time to set up your project in iMovie2. Open iMovie, and if you don't have a project going, it will create one for you. I like to keep all of my QuickTime projects in the Mac OS X "Movies" folder (/Users/MyName/Movies). Inside your new project folder (that iMovie just created), there's the all-important "Media" folder. Note the directory path to it for the next step. Close iMovie for the time being.

Exporting your video clips to iMovie

The video clips you've uploaded from your camera to your computer are in the .mov format. iMovie can't import those files, so we have to export those clips to the DV Stream format, .dv, and place them in the Media folder of your new iMovie project.

Open the first clip in QuickTime Pro 5, and choose "Export" from the File menu. Navigate the dialogue box controls to your Media folder in your new iMovie project -- that's where we want to export these files.

  QuickTime Pro Export window

QuickTime Pro can convert your movie files to DV Stream so you can import them in iMovie.


Now, beside the "Export" label at the bottom of the dialogue box, select from the drop-down menu, "Movie to DV Stream," and next to the "Use" label, make sure that "NTSC 32 kHz" is chosen (if you live in North American), or "PAL 32 kHz" (if you live in Europe). Then click "Save" and QuickTime Pro will convert your .mov clip to .dv and place it in your iMovie Media folder. Repeat this step until all of your clips have been exported to iMovie's .dv format.

Editing and enhancing in iMovie

We've actually played a little trick on iMovie. Normally, iMovie places files in the Media folder when captured from a DV camcorder.

Comment on this article Apple has created the tools to capture, edit, and publish digital video. But the question remains, is this endeavor worth your time, or does still photography provide you with all the tools you need?
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Instead, when it wasn't looking, we snuck a handful of files in there behind its back. As a result, when you launch iMovie, it will say, "There were 'stray' clips in the project folder. They will be loaded onto the Shelf for you to decide what to do with them." Just click OK, and like magic, all of your project components (from your digital camera) appear on the iMovie shelf ready for editing. This is much faster than using the Import command from within iMovie to add DV Stream clips to your shelf.

I'm not going to discuss the actual editing process in iMovie here because it's so darn intuitive. If you'd like a little help to get you started, take a look at the iMovie Tutorials page.

(One tip I do want to leave with you right now is, keep your movies short. I advocate two minutes at the longest, and between one and two minutes is best.)

A great advantage to working in the iMovie2 environment is that it's very easy to add audio to your production, and I do want to spend a few minutes covering that now.

Working with music and sound effects

In iMovie2, you actually have three audio tracks available. The first track is attached to the video clip that you imported from your camera. If your digital still camera records audio as well as video, then you have those ambient sounds attached to your video.

In addition to the "attached" audio track, you also have two open audio tracks in iMovie for adding music and sound effects. Each audio track has its own volume adjustment, so you can balance music and effects tracks with each other for just the right mix.

Generally speaking, I like using some of the ambient audio attached to my video, but not all of it. Fortunately, iMovie allows you to separate the audio and video and let you deal with them independently.

  Extracting Audio Window

If you want to separate the audio track from your imported clip, use the "Extract Audio" command.


To extract the audio and place is on a different track, move your clip from the shelf to the timeline bar, click on it to highlight it, go to the "Advanced" drop-down menu (at the top of your monitor) and select "Extract Audio." iMovie will create a separate audio track that you can now edit independently from the video.

I also have a good tip for you relating to background music. If you're publishing your movie on the Web, then you have to be careful not to use copyrighted music that will attract attention to your project. Contemporary rock or country music is particularly dangerous. So what do you do?

Apple is way ahead of you. They have published a Sounds for Your Scenes page on their site that lists a variety of royalty-free music tracks and sound effects that you can download and use in your movie. Plus they provide you with links to vendors who supply this material at an affordable price. Take a look at the page, and I'm sure you'll find something that works for your project.

Exporting from iMovie back to QuickTime for publishing

Once you have your movie looking and sounding the way you want, it's time to export it back to QuickTime so you can upload it to the Web.

In iMovie, click on "File" and select "Export Movie." In the Export drop-down box, choose "To QuickTime." In the Format drop-down box, select "Expert." This will give you a new dialogue screen.

In the "Image Settings" area, set your movie size to 320 x 240. These are the best dimensions for serving your movie on iTools Web pages. If you're serving your movie somewhere else, set the dimensions to best suit your needs.

  Using Expert configuration for Export

When sending your movie back to QuickTime, use the Expert configuration for Export with these settings.


Then click on the "Settings" button to reveal another dialog screen. Here's where you'll choose your compressor and frame rate. If you want QuickTime 4 users to be able to see your movie, use the "Sorenson" compressor. It's not quite as good as the Sorenson 3 compressor, but S3 can only be viewed by QT 5 players and plug-ins.

Use the "Medium" setting for Quality. "High" is wonderful, but the file sizes are too big.

As for the frame rate, type in 7.5 fps. Why that oddball number? Well, most digital still cameras capture video at 15 fps. The file size would be too big for the Web at that high frame rate, so you want to choose a rate that's half that speed. By the same token, if the original capture is 12 fps, then export the video at 6 fps for Web serving.

Leave "Key Frames" and "Data Rate" blank, then click OK and turn your attention to "Audio Settings."

Now click he "Settings" button in the Audio area, and choose "QDesign Music 2" for your audio compressor. Use 22.050 and mono for your Khz and channel settings.

Now all you have to do is check the "Prepare for Internet" box, and select "Standard Web Server" from the drop-down menu. Click "OK," then hit the "Export" button, grab a cup of coffee, and when you get back you will have an edited, compressed movie ready for Web publishing.

By the way, the "Prepare for Internet" feature is very important, so don't overlook it. This is where "Fast Start" is added to your movie that allows it to start streaming before download is completed -- a very user-friendly function.

Publish your movie on the Web

In Mac OS X, return to the Finder, click on "Go" at the top of the screen, and select "iDisk." Make sure you have a live Internet connection before doing this. Once your iDisk is mounted, open it and place your new video in the "Movie" directory.

Open your Web browser, log on to iTools, and go to the HomePage area. Create a new iMovie page that links to your video in the iDisk folder and publish it. If you want your iMovie page to appear as your home page, be sure to select it as the default page by moving it to the top of the list. Now send out the URL to your friends and family -- -- and remind them that they need to have QuickTime loaded on their computers to watch the movie.

Note to PC users: QuickTime 5 for Windows is wonderful, and it sports lots of interface improvements that look almost identical to the Mac. It's free, so encourage your friends who have PCs to set aside 20 minutes to get their computers up to date with QT5.

You can add more videos to your iDisk Movie folder, and toggle between them by changing the setting in the HomePage editor.

If you need the highest quality output ...

Here's a nifty trick if you want to maintain the highest quality throughout the production process. I usually go this route when creating movies to be distributed on CD-ROMs instead of the Web.

Instead of exporting your QuickTime video clips to iMovie, then bringing them back to QT, perform all of your editing in QuickTime Pro. You can still use iMovie to add the audio.

Here are the steps I recommend for maintaining the highest quality of video. Remember, you need QuickTime Pro to accomplish this.

  1. Extract the audio track from each clip and save as a separate file: use "Edit" --> "Extract Tracks ...".
  2. Trim each clip so that you only have the segment you want to use in your final movie: "Edit" --> "Trim."
  3. Assemble your trimmed clips using the "Add" command: "Edit" --> "Add."
  4. Save your movie as a self-contained .mov file.
  5. Export the movie as "Streaming DV," as outlined earlier in this article. (You're creating this video as a "place holder" to use while laying down the audio tracks. Once you have the audio the way you want, you'll pull it apart from this temporary video track and add it to the native QT video.)
  6. Open the exported file in iMovie and create the audio track(s).
  7. Export the completed iMovie file back to QuickTime.
  8. Open your export file in QuickTime and extract the audio track you created in iMovie.
  9. Copy and Add the audio track to your original high quality QuickTime file.
  10. Save the QuickTime movie. This is your master file.
  11. Export your master to the specs needed for your final use of the movie.
  12. Enjoy!

Final thoughts

It's amazing the things we can create with a $500 digital camera and Mac OS X. If you're primarily a still photographer, but want to shoot the occasional short movie, there's really no need to spend another $1,000 for a DV camcorder.

Your digital camera most likely captures images at 2 megapixels or higher, so it's a versatile still camera. DV camcorders can also record still images, but the typical resolution is 720 x 480 -- a far cry from even 1.3 megapixel still cameras.

Then there's the portability factor. Why lug around both a video camcorder and a still camera when you only need one?

I hope you have a chance to experiment with some of the techniques I've covered in this two-part series. Please share your experiences, and your questions in the Talk Back section below. I prefer to respond in the public forums where others can follow than in private.

Happy shooting!

Derrick Story is the author of The Photoshop CS4 Companion for Photographers, The Digital Photography Companion, and Digital Photography Hacks, and coauthor of iPhoto: The Missing Manual, with David Pogue. You can follow him on Twitter or visit

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