Putting the power of iMovie to work

imovie 88 (photo credit: )
imovie 88
(photo credit: )
As part of a suite, iDVD integrates with other parts of the media suite called iLife, of which another integral part is iMovie. While iDVD burns your movie to media, iMovie is the place to edit film, add chapters, overlay music, insert effects between scenes, cut scenes, etc. Although iMovie's tricks are not limited strictly to DVD output, indeed, you can just as easily make a streaming Web video (i.e compress your video to the appropriate size for posting to the Internet). Apple has a more advanced DVD editing program called DVD Studio Pro, which you don't get for free with an Mac Mini, or any other Mac model. One would not be thinking too conspiratorially if one were to say that Apple made the editing combo of iMovie and iDVD less powerful, less complete and less convenient than its premiere program, which costs a pretty penny (as part of the Final Cut Studio suite, it comes out to $1300). However, for home purposes, iMovie's editing is quite sufficient and is as one would expect from Apple. In terms of creating a DVD, the main purpose of using iMovie first would be to edit the video into scenes that can be assigned a chapter name or number. The result of doing this would be to have the video in each chapter accessible by a button or other choice method. When you finish editing in iMovie, your video can automatically be moved to iDVD, where you can assign the selector to each chapter you created. You can have as many clips as you want in a movie and you can cut, paste, assemble, order and reorder them in any manner you want in Timeline mode - but remember that the main screen in iDVD will limit you to six buttons on the opening page that shows up on the screen (although you can insert a folder as one of the buttons, which, when clicked, opens up another page of six buttons. If your video shows up in iMovie as a single clip, you can still create as many chapters as you want. Edit the clip by positioning the head at the location you wish a cut, then choose Edit Split Video Clip on the main menu. You will note that a cut appears at that location on the movie in the Timeline frame. I haven't mentioned the third leg of iLife's processing, and that is the automatic integration of music from iTunes, Apple's music organization program. Just click on the Audio button an choose iTunes from the menu, and you'll see all the music in the iTunes library ready for insertion into your movie. Audio can be pasted over existing sound, and if you like the sound but would rather have a different graphic or video for a particular sequence, you can replace a section of video with other video, or even with a still jpeg or other format photo, or even a chart or just plain text that you type in. Indeed, such visuals may even be more interesting than the video itself, once you apply one of the hundreds of iMovie effects available (the program itself comes with quite a few, and many more are available for free download). Imovie specializes in importing digital video directly to the computer. If you connect a video camera with a tape playing directly to the Mac (through the firewire port on a Mac Mini, or the A/V port on other models), iMovie will automatically detect and record your movie. What if you want to use an already existing piece of video? Theoretically, it should not be a problem but I have found that iMovie occasionally freaks out when faced with an unfamiliar codec, although the movie plays fine in Quicktime Player. On such occasions, I simply open up Ffmpegx (described here two weeks ago) and convert the file from AVI to DV format, importing it into iMovie and encoding it as an Mpeg2 for writing with iDVD. Imovie 5, the latest iteration of the software, is able to create a HD, high definition, production, meaning that it can be played in HD format on an HD television. Few people, of course, have the facilities to play high definition video, but it's nice to know that it's there, and is indicative of how advanced the program is for the money. Somewhat advanced in technique, but something many people like to use in their videos, if only in select scenes, are subtitles. Generally, subtitles are a feature of only higher level programs, but iMovie does allow you to insert them into scenes. A better solution for subtitling that I came across is a separate free (for personal use) program called Miyu Subtitler (http://www.fluffalopefactory.com/miyu/), which looks at the frames in iMovie or iDVD and lets you type in or import text in any language in which you want to subtitle. Again, keep in mind that iLife comes for free with new Macs and for those who already own a Mac and need to buy iLife, it can be ordered for around $50 - truly one of the bargains of the age, considering what it can do. On the one hand, you join a somewhat pricy club when you buy a Mac but once you're in the club, you're eligible for the inexpensive ease of use iMovie and iDVD provide. Unfortunately, there are no equivalent bargains in the PC world, although I did come up with a program that offers ease of use on a par with iLife. The people behind TMPEGenc encoder described previously also have a DVD authoring program called, appropriately enough, TMPGenc DVD Author. We'll look into that program next time. Ds@newzgeek.com