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An Introduction to iMovie
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Importing Video

The instructions in iMovie Help (command-?) under the section "Importing video from your camcorder to your hard disk" are about as clear and simple as you could ask for, but there are one or two things they don't tell you.

Briefly, you'll want to connect your digital video camera to your Mac using a FireWire cable. I bought a six-foot Belkin Apple FireWire and a Sony i.LINK compatible cable, 6-pin to 4-pin cable, at CompUSA for $25. The end with the smaller connector attaches to the camcorder, the larger connector plugs into the FireWire port on the side of my iBook.

Once you have done that and have set your camera to the right mode (see below), you'll be able to control the tape in the camera with iMovie controls onscreen. You can play, rewind, fast forward, and choose which segments you want to import.

Photo of firewire connection.
Figure 3. The Firewire Connection. You don't need the middle seat: You can set up a video-editing studio on a footprint the size of one airline tray.

An indicator in the lower left corner of iMovie's viewing screen indicates whether you're viewing or importing video from the camera, or whether you're working with video that's already on the hard drive.

Screen shot.
Figure 4. The Camera/iMovie toggle. Here you're importing video, or just watching it play on the camera.

Your camcorder needs to be powered up and in the mode for offloading video. On my old analog video camera, this mode was labeled VTR. On my JVC, it's marked "Play/PC".

Offloading video onto your computer will fill up the drive quickly. One minute of digital video footage uses about 220MB. A disk space indicator lives at the lower right of the main pane of iMovie, indicating how much space is left on your hard drive. In addition to the number of megs or gigabytes, this indicator is color coded: green means you have more than 400MB left, yellow means less than 400MB, and it turns red if you have less than 200MB. Since that's good for less than one minute of video, it's obviously time to stop importing and start editing, so you can dump what you don't need.

Screen shot.
Figure 5. Hard Drive Warning. Where's that Firewire drive?

Editing Clips

As you download clips, they pop into windows in the pane on the right side of the screen--each cut in the action finishes one clip and adds another. I find this makes it a little easier to navigate through clips you want to add or dump.

Screen shot.
Figure 6. The Camera/iMovie toggle. Now you're ready to edit.

Once you've hit the large Stop/Play button at the center of the image window, and stopped the import, you're ready to begin editing. The toggle switch, shown in Figure 4, switches to the iMovie position automatically when you click on a clip on the right.

A good first step is to view each of the clips. This will probably let you discard at least one or two--those mistake clips before your subject was ready or even the occasional clip of the sidewalk or an inside-the-camera-bag shot

Once you've discarded the rejects, you can drag the keepers down to the viewing pane.

Screen shot.
Figure 7. The Viewing Pane. Here's where you line up your good clips.

In most cases, you'll want them in the order you shot them, especially for short movies. But it's easy to rearrange them, and that's good knowledge to take back on your next shoot: you can grab your positioning, approach, or closing shots whenever you want them, and frame them around your action back in iMovie.

Once you've lined up your clips, you'll want to edit each one as tightly as you can. Editing involves trimming off the beginning and/or the end of a clip, cutting out a section in the middle, or a combination of both. iMovie differentiates between Trimming (cutting off the ends) and Cropping (highlighting a section and keeping only it)--terms that seem intuitive from photo editing.

To edit a clip, select it down in the viewing pane. It will appear in the large picture pane, and clicking on the big play arrow in the center, of course, starts it rolling (or you can just hit the space bar to stop and start, as in QuickTime). As it plays, a time bar runs just under the image window. Along the top of this time bar is a control that moves from left to right as the video plays. You can move around the clip by dragging this triangle.

Along the bottom of the time bar, you'll see notches; here's where you'll do your editing.

To select a section of a clip, click your mouse at the point of the time bar representing that moment of video. You can confirm that's where you want to start your cut by dragging the triangle atop the bar to the same point; the image window will show you where you are. Then, holding your mouse button down, drag the cursor to the right or left (forward or backward in time). This will highlight a section of the video's timeline in yellow. You can verify that you've highlighted the right section by dragging the triangular cursor along the top of the timeline.

Screen shot.
Figure 8. Video Edit. Keep the gems, clip the dull stuff.

iMovie's better at clipping off the ends. If you have a 10-second clip and you highlight in yellow the notches from the fourth second to the seventh, and type in Crop, iMovie won't remove that middle section; it'll clip off both ends and keep the highlighted section. Cropping cuts out the parts that aren't highlighted.

To Trim a section, you highlight from the end or the beginning to a point where you want to cut. Then pull down from Edit, and select Clear. Or you can choose Option-x, just like cutting text from a word-processing application.

To remove a middle section, it's easiest to split the clip into two parts, and clip the ends. Select a point in the clip in the midst of the section you want to cut. Command-t splits the clip in two; iMovie renames the second half as a new clip with the original name (Clip 03, for example) followed by a slash and 1 (Clip 03/1).

Sticking with the example of the 10-second clip. If you really want to keep seconds 0-4 and 7-10, you might split the clip at second 6, and then trim off the last two seconds of the original clip (leaving 0-4) and trim the first second of the newly created clip (leaving 7-10).

Pages: 1, 2, 3

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