If you've followed the evolution of consumer digital cameras, you know that manufacturers have really improved their ability to capture high-quality video with these palm-size devices. Apple has kept in step with this trend and included movie management in version 5 of its venerable digital shoebox.
I'm a big fan of digital camera moviemaking. I like having just one device to take my pictures and capture life in motion as it breezes by. If you read my review of the Casio EX-P505, then you know that I'm impressed with the quality of video that the current generation of cameras is producing. Moviemaking has never been more convenient.
iPhoto 5 encourages me to shoot even more footage. Until now, I've been managing my content in the Finder--neither convenient nor elegant. With iPhoto 5 I can upload my movies right alongside the day's photos, organize them by album, sort, rate, and even batch-process data to accompany the movie files. At first this might not sound like a big deal, that is, unless you have folders full of random video clips languishing in anonymity on your hard drive.
In this article I'm going to take you on a brief tour of iPhoto movie management. My hope is that this information will encourage you to shoot more video with your digicam, and share that footage with friends and family.
iPhoto 5 recognizes most movie formats currently used by digital cameras. When you connect the camera, the video files are uploaded along side your photos. The keyword "Movie" is automatically added to the accompanying file data. The first thing I suggest you do is create a Smart Album that recognizes this keyword and grabs all of your movies on the fly. That way you don't have to go searching for them among your images. To do this, hold down the option key and click on the Smart Album icon in the lower left corner of the iPhoto interface. Then set up the album as illustrated in Figure 1.
Once you have an album of movies, their thumbnails show you the first frame of the snippet and a little camcorder icon in the lower left corner and the duration of the clip in the lower right. If you click once on the thumbnail to highlight it, you can get even more data by revealing the Get Info box. If the box isn't already present in the lower left corner of iPhoto, simply click on the blue "i" to display it.
The basic information displayed in Get Info is the title, date, time, rating, format, and size. You can add your own data to the "comments" field at the bottom of the box. One iPhoto quirk with movies is that the "date" and "time" data represents when you uploaded the movies, not when they were recorded. This is disappointing, and maybe future updates to iPhoto will be able to read the movie header file and display that info in the date and time fields.
The star rating system works great with the movies, and somehow seems appropriate. I also like that the frame dimensions are displayed in the "size" field along with the file size itself.
I like use batch processing to manage the data that goes with the movie files. Highlight two or more files, then go to Photos> Batch Change and choose your parameters. You can batch change the information in the "title," "date," and "comments" fields. This command can help you correct the date and time quirk I mentioned earlier. But what I really like to do is add information to the comments field when I upload a number of snippets that are part of a project. Batch Change makes this job a snap.
Once you've added your data to the movie files and star rated them, you can sort them within the album or library by going to View> Sort Photos and selecting the criterion that you want to use to organize the files.
iPhoto hands you off to QuickTime Pro for editing the snippets. The Pro version is a $30 upgrade to the free player that Apple includes with every Mac. When you double-click on a thumbnail or click on the Edit button, iPhoto automatically launches QuickTime for you.
The most common edit you'll make will be "trimming" the clips. To do so, drag the two bottom triangles on the scrubber bar to the endpoints of the video you want to keep, then go to Edit > Trim in QuickTime Pro, as shown in Figure 3.
Once you've trimmed your snippet, choose "Save As" in QuickTime Pro, adjust the filename to reflect the edit that you've made, click the radio button next to "Make movie self-contained," and click the Save button. You're edited movie will be saved to the Desktop, or the location you designated. Now import the movie back into iPhoto by dragging it in to the album where the original clip is located. You have both the original and edited versions organized in the album.
You could simply use the "Save" command in QuickTime Pro, but then you'd overwrite the original file. I don't recommend that because you never know when you might want to use the trimmed off footage for another project. It's best to leave your masters alone and use Save As for the edited versions.
Depending on the file type, you may not have a choice in this matter anyway. I've noticed that with certain movies, even when I hit the Save command, I have to choose a location outside of iPhoto to save the clip. I've encountered this most often with .avi files.
You can stitch together clips in QuickTime Pro by using the "Add" command. Start by opening your first snippet in the sequence and moving the top triangle indicator on the scrubber bar all the way to the end (right side). Then open the next clip in the sequence, choose Edit> Select All, then choose Edit > Copy. You now have the second snippet on your clipboard.
Go back to the first movie and choose Edit > Add. You've now successfully combined two snippets into a single movie. You can keep adding clips until you've created a complete story. The choose Save As, click the radio button next to "Make movie self-contained," and click the Save button. The new movie is saved to your hard drive. You can import your completed movie back into iPhoto by dragging and dropping.
The are lots of great QuickTime tricks that you can use to further enhance your movies, such as adding titles. Take a look at the tutorials on Apple's tutorial page. I also encourage you to download the set of AppleScripts for QuickTime. They are huge time-savers and make light work of tasks such as adding text to your presentations.
Once of the most useful iPhoto functions for movie making is helping you build a storyboard. By doing so, you can get your scenes in the right sequence before stitching them together. It's much easier to drag thumbnails around in an iPhoto album to get the narrative just right, rather than tearing apart and reassembling your movie after you've spent time stitching it together.
To make a storyboard, I create a new album just for this project, then drag the clips into it that I'm considering for the movie. I can then play with the order of the snippets, preview them, and even do more trimming if necessary. Once I have the narrative to my liking, I open the first clip in the sequence and use the Add command to build the movie with the subsequent snippets.
You can create a PDF of the storyboard by holding down the keys Shift/CMD/4 and dragging the cursor to the dimensions of the iPhoto interface. When you let go of the mouse button, Mac OS X will create a PDF file of the image and save it to your desktop. That way you can send the storyboard to others for discussion, or file it away for your records.
If you use the storyboarding technique, you'll find that you're making better movies faster. I even think it's fun.
If your digital camera uses a format not recognized by iPhoto, such as the M4S2 (Microsoft ISO MPEG-4 Video) codec that my Casio EX-P505 uses to encode movies, you can still take advantage of the workflow I've presented in this article. You just have to add a step.
I recommend downloading ffmpegX and using it to encode your clips as a .mov file. I configure ffmpegX to use similar variables, such as data rate, as the original clips to maintain maximum quality, as shown in Figure 6. One drawback to ffmpegX is that it doesn't support batch processing yet. But the author has promised to add that functionality soon. I'm sure that sending in your shareware fee will provide the necessary encouragement.
Once you've encoded the snippets to a QuickTime compatible format, you can import the movies into iPhoto 5. I recommend that you archive the original clips. You may want those "masters" up the road for another project.
I was telling a friend the other day that I wish my PowerBook had a 500GB hard drive instead of 60 gigs. Between my growing music library, RAW files from my Canon 10D, and now digital movies from the Casio EX-P505, I go through gigs like cans of Coke. Maybe iLife 05 should come bundled with a 250GB external FireWire drive, because you're going to need one soon enough for back up.
But storage issues aside, I encourage you to try the movie mode on your digital camera. Now that you have iPhoto to manage this content, I think you'll find those short videos perfect for certain special occasions. Life is constantly in motion, and sometimes you need to capture it that way.
One last thought, I just found out that iPhoto 5: The Missing Manual will be released this week. David Pogue and I added lots of innovations to this edition, starting with full color images throughout the book. If you really want to get inside this latest version of iPhoto, I think you'll enjoy this first full-color Missing Manual.
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 www.thedigitalstory.com.
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