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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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Digital Still Cameras for QuickTime Movies, Part One

Amazing Media Player Brings PDA Video to Life

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.

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