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Old May 4th, 2008, 11:30 PM   #1
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Can I capture in iMovie?

Don't have Final Cut yet (will buy soon). Right now, I have to capture a whole bunch of footage. Is there any reason I can't do that in iMovie, so I can edit in FinalCut later this week? I'm concerned that there's no way to adjust the preferences, and the default is 30fps at 640x480. Isn't regular NTSC 60i at 720x480? The footage I actually want to capture is 30p, shot on an XL2, but I'm disturbed that there's no mention of 60i in the iMovie help screen. I've got about eight hours of tape here, and don't want to have to redo it if the capture program isn't set right. I've seen people get burned on this before.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 09:25 AM   #2
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Obviously iMovie wasn't designed for pro applications and has built-in, narrow limits on everything. As with all "i" products documentation on exact specs is difficult to find, so my suggestion is that if you want to avoid any compatibility issues then wait to capture with the NLE you're going to edit on.

However, Apple does offer a tutorial for importing iMovie projects into FCE:

http://www.apple.com/finalcutexpress/
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Old May 5th, 2008, 11:54 AM   #3
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you can, but you won't be happy with the results. I captured 47 hours of footage for my feature that I've been working on for the past 5 years, and have to re-render the whole thing every change I make.

I'm looking at starting fresh with the imports and using the knowledge I've gained by capturing the quick and dirty way and cutting my losses on the time front there.

Wait til you get FCP and do it then, you'll be happier with the results.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 12:07 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt View Post
Don't have Final Cut yet (will buy soon). Right now, I have to capture a whole bunch of footage. Is there any reason I can't do that in iMovie, so I can edit in FinalCut later this week? I'm concerned that there's no way to adjust the preferences, and the default is 30fps at 640x480. Isn't regular NTSC 60i at 720x480? The footage I actually want to capture is 30p, shot on an XL2, but I'm disturbed that there's no mention of 60i in the iMovie help screen. I've got about eight hours of tape here, and don't want to have to redo it if the capture program isn't set right. I've seen people get burned on this before.
iMovie *can* capture 60i but I agree with Cole in that is almost not worth it. Not only does it break up your DV into 2GB/9 minute chunks, it captures audio at 32-bit for some reason, making your footage require rendering even on a standard DV sequence.

There several DV capture utilities out there for Mac that cost $100 or less and I haven't used any of them- but most have a trial or demo version so if FCP is out of the question right now you might try that route. Google it.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 06:27 PM   #5
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Here's a thought. Watch your footage through in iMovie and write down the in and outpoints you want to grab along with descriptions of the shots and notes about the footage you're grabbing.

When you get FCP, enter in the in and out points and log the clips, then do a batch capture, go make a coffee cake or something while it sucks in just the clips you want.

This way, you get to preview your footage right away, and start editing about a half an hour- 45 minutes after you get FCP installed.

The other option is to import all the footage through iMovie, re-encode (losing clarity) into quicktime with compatible audio settings to make it usable in FCP.
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Old May 5th, 2008, 09:37 PM   #6
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Thanks guys!
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Old May 6th, 2008, 04:26 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Benjamin Hill View Post
Not only does it break up your DV into 2GB/9 minute chunks
To my knowledge, that limitation was overcome with the release of iLife 05 /iMovie 5 which was a few versions ago. iMovie captures with iMovie 5 and newer should retain the single clip until the next scene break or until either the capture space of the source tape runs out. It's been a while, but I routinely captured single dv files into iMovie that took up one clip on the shelf and were well over an hour in length.

That being said, in my personal experience, Marco, capturing through iMovie for later use in FCP is pretty inconvenient due to the need to render the footage for FCP compatibility. (more on that shortly)

Personally, I haven't really used iMovie in about 2 years, and I have only VERY limited experience with iMovie 7 (from iLife 08), but I believe that its capture faculties are largely similar to iMovie 5 & 6, with the additional compatibility factors of a few more types of recording mediums. Evidently, it will now recognize a very limited selection of mini-DVD and several hard drive based camcorders and can also import AVCHD - although this requires a lengthy transcoding that is often much longer than a 1:1 traditional tape capture.

As far as a typical iMovie capture, I am uncertain as to the validity of the claim that iMovie captures at 640x480 . I am pretty sure that it is the standard dv frame size of 720x480 (unless you are talking about a widescreen or HDV format) If importing live capture from a connected iSight camera, I believe it is taking the iSight 640x480 image and conforming it to a 720x480 size.

iMovie traditionally captures into a dv file (instead of a .mov file) using the Apple Intermediate Codec.

A big surprise I learned some time ago by a veteran digital video instructor is that the iMovie capture is technically a higher quality "image" capture than the traditional .mov capture one would get using FCP. I was a little surprised by this, but he explained that it is a more accurate bit-for-bit transfer of the source content from the camcorder dv tape than would otherwise be captured as a .mov file during the FCP capture. A demonstration of this by capturing the exact same piece of footage using both iMovie and then FCP would show that the iMovie version is a larger file - deductively presuming that it carries more imaging data. (This is not a proper scientific assessment, so take it with a grain of salt.) Between one or the other, though, I really doubt that the eye would ever perceive any distinguishable difference.

The primary source of incompatibility frustration is that iMovie captures the audio as a flattened audio file embedded within the video with a different structure than FCP can natively work with. If you export your iMovie files (or drag them from the package contents folder) in the standard "full quality" dv format and drop them into FCP, it must then be rendered, which can take a while, and sometimes results in a crash for FCP.

To properly export for FCP using iMovie, you must choose the Quicktime option and choose expert settings, and then select the proper NTSC format (or PAL if that is your gig ) and the 48kHz/16-bit audio setting. The resulting export should work fine with FCP. Unfortunately this time-consuming method seems to eliminate most of the convenience of using iMovie for capture.

But I have heard that a lot of folks still enjoy using iMovie as their capture app before using FCE or FCP, especially since iMovie 7 (from iLife 08) can now export an XML file that is compatible with the most recent version of Final Cut Express. (I can't accurately comment on the validity of this statement, nor whether or not it works with FCP.)

The presumption being that iMovie offers a hassle-free capture experience. It doesn't mess with logging, time code, or dropped frame alerts. It's just quick and simple. Then, just opening up the XML file from iMovie allows the user to begin working with the captured content using FCE. (Final Cut Express uses the same AIC codec system as iMovie). I presume that FCP can also work with this XML file, but I suspect that the lengthy render process for FCP compatibility would still be required.)

If the footage you are using is sourced from a tape-based format AND you will be working on a project that involves alot of footage and a lengthy post production cycle, my advice is to get FCP and use the traditional 'log and capture' process. It requires a little time and organization, but is invaluable in my book. Having once experienced a near-disaster on a lengthy post-production due to a bad system crash in which the capture and render files had become corrupted (after many many hours of detailed editing), I was able to just rebuild it with ease by re-capturing the source contents from my tapes using the logged files. It was quick and painless and didn't lose any of my editing work.

Hope this helps.

-Jon
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Old May 6th, 2008, 10:44 PM   #8
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Looking through the preferences, I think you're right. The reference to 640x480 does indeed appear to be from the built in camera. (It just says import movie). The footage I captured from tape did indeed get broken up into tiny clips though.
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Old May 6th, 2008, 11:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Marco Leavitt View Post
Looking through the preferences, I think you're right. The reference to 640x480 does indeed appear to be from the built in camera.
Evidently, there was also an early resource book companion to an early version of iMovie which had the 640x480 reference incorrectly stated in a first print edition - which was then subsequently quoted all over the place. Add to that the fact that alot of folks trying to figure out why their footage was getting cropped (their inability to view the full frame due to overscan on CRT televisions), there was a growing perception among dv initiates (for whom iMovie was intended) that it only worked with a 640x480 frame area.

I don't know what to say about the clip time limit though. (as I recall, it is about 9 minutes and 11 seconds or something like that.) Something I didn't have to deal with in my latter days of iMovie usage - perhaps it is due to the many hours of tweaking I did to iMovie in rooting out bugs and testing developer plug-ins.

-Jon
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Old May 8th, 2008, 08:39 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Jones View Post
A big surprise I learned some time ago by a veteran digital video instructor is that the iMovie capture is technically a higher quality "image" capture than the traditional .mov capture one would get using FCP. I was a little surprised by this, but he explained that it is a more accurate bit-for-bit transfer of the source content from the camcorder dv tape than would otherwise be captured as a .mov file during the FCP capture. A demonstration of this by capturing the exact same piece of footage using both iMovie and then FCP would show that the iMovie version is a larger file - deductively presuming that it carries more imaging data. (This is not a proper scientific assessment, so take it with a grain of salt.) Between one or the other, though, I really doubt that the eye would ever perceive any distinguishable difference.
Wooahh, is he SURE about this? I may be wrong here, but I'm fairly certain that both FCP and iMovie do bit for bit transfers of the footage on the tape (in SD DV mode this is, iMovie always converts HDV into AIC) the difference is iMovie wraps the file up in a .dv container, and FCP wraps it up in a .mov container.

The veteran editor may have been used to working with high end FCP stations or even Avid stations that were fitted with analogue YUV capture cards or SDI capture cards, and may have mistakenly though that this was always the case with those machines.
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Old May 8th, 2008, 09:33 AM   #11
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Wooahh, is he SURE about this? I may be wrong here, but I'm fairly certain that both FCP and iMovie do bit for bit transfers of the footage on the tape (in SD DV mode this is, iMovie always converts HDV into AIC) the difference is iMovie wraps the file up in a .dv container, and FCP wraps it up in a .mov container.
No, I'm not sure about it at all. That's why I was surprised by his statement. I always thought it was bit-for-bit as well. I don't really know of any way to verify it, other than the size of the end file. The iMovie file was indeed larger in size with a significantly higher bit count. Though I'm not sure what accounts for it - whether it is due to more imaging data (as he stated) or that the audio is structured differently. I really couldn't say.

-Jon
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