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An early review of iMovie3 Reviews
Using iMovie 3 to make a Video CD: An early review.

I've spent most of the last weekend using, fiddling with, and customizing iMovie 3. Although I have seen a few complaints on the web here and there, the overall trend of my experience is quite positive.

iMovie 3 is, the way I use it, at least, basically a very nice front end for QuickTime. Although it's perfectly possible to edit captured video in QuickTime Player Pro, it's not convenient and not free. iMovie 3 especially is much easier to use and you can't beat the price. I still use QuickTime Player Pro, as described below, but I am hopeful that in time I won't need to.

[Editor's note: The remainder of the article contains a very detailed look at using iMovie3 to create a VCD project, including some tricks for customizing the iMovie3 interface...]


I downloaded the 88.5 meg installer, and would very much have preferred an English-only option. Although I appreciate and respect the way localization files allow developed software to be deployed worldwide easily in OS X, once I finished field-stripping iMovie I had it down to a 23.5 meg package. This can be done easily from the Get Info... box. Click the "languages" selection. In the window that opens up, select the languages you don't speak or don't use much one by one, click the remove button, and letting the finder get rid of the excess data.

On launch, my copy of iMovie complained about my localized.rsrc plug in having something wrong with it. It turned out that I had an OS 9 plug-in buried in my ~/Library/iMovie/Plug-ins folder, which I deleted to fix the problem.

I'm not fond of the metallic look in anything. If the whole OS were metallic, that'd be one thing, but it isn't, so I took a screen shot of the standard grey on grey stripe pattern, cropped it to 126 by 126 in Photoshop, saved it as "new-metal-texture.tif" and moved it into iMovie/Contents/Resources. (Try it on a copy first). It isn't perfect but at least it lets you make iMovie look a little more like the rest of the OS. If you prefer the look of DVD Studio Pro, try doing the same thing with a fully transparent image, or a flat grey one. I have done the same thing with iPhoto and it works pretty well there too.

One other change is that I edited the file in ~/Library/Preferences to reduce the default clip size. I do this because I like my clips to be all exactly five minutes long. Open the file in a property list editor such as the one with developer tools, or any text editor, and change the key "AutoSceneDetectMaxBytes: %d" to 1078856627, which is 5 minutes of NTSC DV video at 29.97 fps. If you like to archive clips on CD, you might want to reduce that even further, so they'll fit. 670000000 should do it. Oddly, the first clip always picks up 15 additional frames. I'll speculate that the extra frames have to do with the RAM buffer that iMovie uses to manage the transition from one clip file to the next, but that'd just be guessing.

Finally, I never use the Export to Camera Option nor the iDVD option from the export dialog of the file menu. When I export, I always want to do an Expert QuickTime export to MPEG2, wav, or Toast Video CD. For my purposes, I opened iMovie -> Contents -> Resources -> English.lproj -> IMMainMenu.nib in Interface Builder (for which you must have the developer tools installed). Once there, double-click on the "Main Menu" icon in the instances tab of the IMMainMenu.nib window. The small menu window on your screen, titled "IMMainMenu.nib - Main Menu," will drop down the usual list of items on the File menu. Select "Export..." and hit command-2 to see its connections. The connections dialog box will appear and you will see that the "Export.." menu item is connected to the command "ExportDialog:". Click the disconnect button at the bottom, move up one to select the "expertExportMovie:" item instead. Click the connect button. Save and quit Interface Builder. From now on, when you select "Export..." from the File menu in iMovie 3, you will be immediately taken to the Expert Export dialog box to control your file output.

Little things like this, by the way, point up the amazing flexibility of the way Apple software is shipping these days. The fact that I can make a useful-to-me customization like this, with minimal hassle, enhances my efficiency and my enjoyment of the product. Try it yourself ... ON A COPY.


I use iMovie for capturing video to make XSVCDs for later watching on my DVD player (see The VCD Helper Page for more about making your own Video CDs). I can't tell the quality difference between DVDs and a good XSVCD, and they burn faster. At 25 cents apiece for CDs vs. five bucks a pop for blank DVDs, I really don't understand why people mess around with the latter. My hardware is a PowerMac Dual G4 1.25 GHz (purchased before the price drop -- D'Oh!), with a Canopus ADVC-50 PCI card in one of the slots. When the S-Video and RCA sound inputs and firewire outputs are hooked up, iMovie recognizes the card and lets me hit "play" to show live TV directly on the screen. Clicking import begins capture of my 5 minute clips. Tonight's rerun of Enterprise, our test case for this example, made 12 little clips.

If you have a different system, such as an iMac or Powerbook, consider the Canopus ADVC-100. It's a standalone box that does the same thing as the ADVC-50 and connects via firewire. You're paying another hundred dollars for a nice little case and a power supply, which may be worth it to you.

Workflow was very smooth. The standard Command T split at playhead technique I used in iMovie 2 worked the same way. New in iMovie 3, however are more QuickTime Player Pro-like in and out marker tools, with a crop selection on the edit menu. This is quite convenient. I ran through the program splitting the clips wherever the playhead encountered the beginning or end of a commercial. Then I went through the list of clips and deleted all the ones that were advertising. This takes maybe two minutes to do..very quick. Especially nice is the way that when you split a clip at the front of the list, it pushes all the subsequent ones to the right so that they stay in order, rather than putting the new ones to the end of the list in the first open slot.

I then went to the export menu. I was delighted to see the standard QuickTime export menu choices. This is a huge improvement over iMovie 2. I don't have to play mother-may-I with a non-standard export sequence any more. But impatient as I am, I edited the export command from the menu to skip a couple of dialog boxes as described above. Sound goes out as Wave in 44.1 kHz 16 bit stereo. This step exported a wav file in about five and a half minutes for a 43 minute program.

Okay, time to switch to QT player pro for the next step. iMovie 3 is perfectly willing to let me export as MPEG2 from the application itself, but I haven't worked out how to scale the audio and video as easily as one can in QT Player Pro with the Add Scaled command. iMovie 3 now has in its project folder a new .mov file. It's just a Quicktime resource with the pointers to all your DV clips. You can extract the video track from your edited movie, add it scaled to the wav file, and then export to MPEG2. I selected 2.2 Mbps bit rate, upper field dominant, 4:3 aspect ratio, and no sound for my video export. The export takes a little over 50% real time on my powermac, and about 105% real time on my PowerBook 1GHz.

There might be a way of doing the add scaled trick from within iMovie directly, but I haven't tried it yet. Also, the Canopus card does claim to lock audio and video in synchronization during the capture, so it's possible that the QT player step isn't really necessary. I'll try it both ways fairly soon.

To finish creating the XSVCD, you're down to open source tools. The place to go now is major4's outstanding ffMpegX application, an AppleScript Studio wrapper for a variety of such tools. Get it from his file sharing page. The application can do a great deal, but we're going to use it simply for transcoding the wav audio to the mp2 format (Soundjam used to be able to do this but the feature didn't survive into iTunes), multiplexing the m2v and mp2 files, and creating a couple of .img files we will burn in Toast in Multitrack XA mode. All of these steps together take under six minutes on my PowerMac (and fast external burner). Total elapsed time from the broadcast rolling credits to watching a burned disk on the DVD player is under 35 minutes.

Gripes and nitpicks:

No AppleScript support: The AppleScript dictionary on this application is not just thin, it's nonexistent. Even the standard open / close / quit stuff is absent. With such lavish AppleScript support in QT Player Pro, this is rather unfortunate. There's a pretty shiny workaround in 10.2.3, though ... the new UI scripting elements, which lets you say, "Select this menu. Click Here," and stuff like that. Just about anything can be worked around now with AppleScript, but it would be nice to have it available directly within the application.

Little UI nits: The scroll bar well for the clip tray is visible even when there are not enough clips to make scrolling necessary.

I realize that not everyone faces this problem, but when capturing television broadcasts, there are often annoying little synchronization pulses at the top. You can mask them out in Quicktime but there's no fast way of doing this in iMovie. There is a letterbox effect filter but it takes longer than realtime to render each frame. Better would be a way of doing the cropping, masking, or letterboxing during capture.


This is a great product. Workflow and exporting options especially are much improved. While better (i.e. "Any..") AppleScript support and an few nits here and there ought to be fixed, and some helpful capturing options could be added, it is now possible for a Mac user with a fast machine to create beautiful Video CDs in faster than real time.
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No MPEG2 export in default iMovie/QTPro
Authored by: TheTominator on Feb 06, '03 02:00:41PM

There was great information in this article but contrary to the author's assertion that

iMovie 3 is perfectly willing to let me export as MPEG2 from the application itself

I do not find that iMovie 3 has the option to export to MPEG-2 (or MPEG-1 for that matter). I suspect that the author has some QuickTime plugin to do the MPEG-2 export. Maybe this comes with iDVD?

I have a vanilla installation of iMovie3(free) and QuickTime Pro 6.1 ($30). iMovie 3 can export to MPEG4 using the Expert Quicktime Export feature described by the author. While MPEG4 is a convenient way to export a near VHS quality QuickTime readable file that fits onto a CD, it is not useful for a VCD or a SVCD.

Don't loose heart though. The fine program ffmpegX with its associated programs (mpeg2enc et al.) can do all of the work to make either a VCD or a SVCD directly from the .mov file that is in your iMovie3 project folder. As far as I know, you need Toast or a similar program to actually burn the VCD or SVCD format from the .bin/.cue or XA .img files created by ffmpegX. I would love to hear of a technique that uses DiskCopy to burn the image to CD-R.

So far I have only experience making VCDs. As I write this I am using ffmpegX to make my first SVCD (time estimate ~4hrs on my hardware).

My setup is a

  • Canopus ADVC-100
  • External Firewire HD
  • B&W upgraded to 500 MHz G4, OS X 10.2.3
  • OWC 3 port Firewire card (both ADVC and ext HD use this for best performance)

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Sorry, should have said: it is a QT Plug In
Authored by: Mitchell on Feb 06, '03 02:16:23PM
I exported to MPEG2 with the QuickTime Export Component (/System/Library/QuickTime/QTMPEGExport.component). This is a plug in that is installed when you buy DVD Studio Pro. Plan B, as you point out, would be to use ffMpegX to do the mpeg2 encoding. ffMpegX is slower than the apple plugin, but may produce better picture quality and gives more options. Also, it's getting pretty close to one-click functionality when you use the presets. Plan C is to use the BitVice encoder, which is a standalone MPEG2 encoder. This one's a commercial product, though.

[ Reply to This | # ]
B&W Firewire Hub
Authored by: Anonymous on Feb 06, '03 04:34:52PM

Your setup is quite similar to mine:

G4 Powerbook
B&W G3 300MHz - 80 + 20GB Maxtor 7200 hard disks
OWC Firewire Card
Sony DV Camera

I was amazed to find out that I could do this today.
I connected the DV camera to my B&W and connected my Powerbook to the B&W as well. I have IP Over FireWire setup on both of my machines and set up the 80GB hard disk in the B&W to be shared on my Powerbook.
When I opened up iMovie 3 on the Powerbook I was able to control my DV camera even though it was connected to my B&W. I was also able to create a new project stored on the B&W's hard disk and when I imported video it was stored directly on the B&W!!
This workaround gives me a very cheap external hard drive for my Powerbook. I had always been annoyed that I couldn't put my B&W into FireWire target mode but IPOverFireWire has given me something even more useful.

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great hint
Authored by: kyrrigle on Feb 06, '03 02:57:03PM

great hint on reducing disk space bloat by deleting languages... my iPhoto2 went from 97MB to 20MB... sure would be nice if you could set up a system preference with the languages you care about...

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great hint
Authored by: kyrrigle on Feb 06, '03 03:25:12PM

even better... DeLocalizer... freed another 228MB for me...

[ Reply to This | # ]
great hint - possible but problematic
Authored by: cynikal on Feb 06, '03 04:06:26PM

The problem with delocalizer is that you are modifying your bundle, and when you download upgrade packages, they sometimes expect the virgin bundle, not some trimmed bundle.

Worst case scenario is your upgrade will fail and you'll have to reinstall the full (bloated) software w/ all the languages (well a default install in any case) then run the upgrade program (and delocalize it again if you wish, but you may still have the upgrade problem further down the line).

I know for a fact this is what happens with Micromat's Drive. I had to reinstall it just to upgrade it because it did not think it was installed (and hence coudln't upgrade anything).

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iMovie3 isn´t able to export but...
Authored by: Nacho on Feb 22, '03 03:00:13AM

If you have iMovie and Roxio Toast (I have Titanium 5.2) Toast lets you create VCD´s in a flash. With Toast you are able to export your movie directly from iMovie or QuickTime to Toast and make a perfect VCD in less than 5 min. You don´t need to bother yourself with all these apps that, in my experience, are just a great big hassle.

[ Reply to This | # ]