Best format to import into iMovie

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by MikeKamm, Jan 3, 2007.

  1. macrumors newbie

    Jan 3, 2007
    Upstate NY
    Hey all,

    I just bought a new JVC Everio harddrive based camcorder. It saves the videos to it's harddrive in a proprietary format that needs to be converted before editing/importing. It comes with software to do the actual converting...

    The choices are MPEG (system or elementary stream), DV stream, or QuickTime.

    My question is what is the best format to use - which one will import into iMovie the quickest?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. macrumors 601


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    I hadn't realized that any of the HDD camcorders came with Mac software. Anyways, for iMovie, the best format would be DV.

  3. macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    Roeselare, Belgium
    That depends on your project settings (you choose them when you start your project) there is DV, DV widescreen, iSight, MPEG4 (and maybe another one too, but anywho,) I think you can choose MPEG4 or DV to import, as long as it's the same as your project. MPEG4 will give you a smaller file size (iMovie project files can easily go up to dozens of GB) but I think DV stream is slightly better in quality. (not really compressed)
  4. macrumors member

    Aug 25, 2006
    Columbus, Ohio
    Try an NxN array of possibilities

    If no one is able to give you a definitive answer, and I certainly can't, you should probably set up an experiment where you convert a sample video to a variety of formats, import them all into the various iMovie project formats, and then subjectively analyse the quality of the results.

    I can think of a couple concerns. I believe that DV is the highest quality because it is uncompressed (or compressed with a lossless format) and as therefore the DV files are quite large--you will quickly fill your hard drive.

    From personal experience, I have a Canon S3 IS digital camera, which takes very nice video: easily tv quality, though only 20 minutes per 2-gig card. When I download the video files and play them they look nice and sharp. I was stymied, however, by iMovie because when I imported my video files into a project the quality of the video dropped significantly. It looked blurry with significant artifacts introduced into the stream. One day I was fooling around though, and I found that if I created an "iSight Project" in iMovie, the quality of my source files was maintained. So now, though I only make short movies, I always use the iSight Project setting because that's the only one that maintains the quality of my source video.

    The point of my anecdotal story is to say that your best course of action is probably to experiment yourself, systematically going through the combinations you mention above, and deciding for yourself what gives you the best balance between quality and practicality (ie. hard disk space consumed).

    Ps. Let us know what gives you the best results. I'm curious.
  5. thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 3, 2007
    Upstate NY
    Trying it tonight...

    Thanks for all the advice thus far...

    I am going to try an array of formats and methods to see which works best for quality, and which is the best time-saver. I'll post my results here when I have finished. Who knows, I may even start a support blog on the topic!

    And to think... a harddrive based camcorder plus a macintosh was supposed to make my life easier???!!?!

    Off to iMovie land...

  6. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 6, 2005
    Here is another question. I have my 8mm tapes playing in my camera and then ran through my new sony dvcamera to make it digital and import them onto my movie. Would I really loose a lot of quality if my project is mpeg4 vs. dv. Also the only way I would do this is if I import as mpeg4, would I save time burning in iDVD? Its 2 hours for each tape. let me know please.
  7. macrumors 65816


    Jan 10, 2006
    Roeselare, Belgium
    I don't think the quality loss would be that big, but a DVD uses MPEG-2, so I don't if it would spare you time in iDVD. I even suspect it automatically re-encodes your video.
  8. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 6, 2005
    ok. Well I have a lot of movies that I am doing. I will just have to try it on one of them and then post the results.
  9. macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2008
    don't bother trying to import

    imovie HD 06 is very slow to import as it always tries to convert the video first.

    I've found a good solution is to get the movies into DV or mp4 format first and then actually place the files directly into the package in the "Media" directory. Then when you open the movie, it thinks the movies are lost and shows you them in the trash. You can drag them out of the trash and put them back into your timeline.

    Exact steps are as follows. This does not work for imovie 08, only the older iMovie HD (06).

    - Open imovie HD (06).
    - Click "Create a New Project".
    - Change the Video format to mp4 format then click the Create button.
    - Save the video and then close imovie.
    - Find the movie you just created in the Finder, then hold down Ctrl and click the movie name. You should see an option called 'Show package contents'. -- Choose this and it should open the inside of the imovie's contents.
    - There is a directory inside your movie package called "Media".
    - Drag your mp4 formats into the Media directory.
    - Close the package (close the window)
    - Open your movie again. imovie should tell you that movies were found in the trash. Open the trash and then drag the movies back into your timeline.
    - You're done. Save the movie and you should have an mp4 imovie.
  10. macrumors newbie

    Dec 17, 2008
    I registered at these forums JUST to tell you how awesome your post was. You just saved me 30+ hours of re-coding, trans coding, whatever coding iMovie insisted on doing to a mp4 I just created. Thank you so much!
  11. macrumors newbie

    Apr 2, 2009
    I randomly came upon this post and I THANK YOU too!

    My MP4 files were importing with way wrong colors. Your tricky method of putting them in the media folder & getting them from the trash made them import into the timeline perfectly.

    THANK YOU sooo much!!! Plus, it's a lot quicker this way instead of waiting for Imovie to do its thing. :)
  12. macrumors newbie

    Apr 14, 2009
    VHS --> miniDV---> MBP

    Hey everyone, thanks for the great tips. I am in the process of converting all our old vhs tapes to save on my external hard drive [connected to the new aluminum body MBP ;) ]

    I understand how to access the folder where I can drag the mp4's into in imovie 06, however, how do I get my vhs converted to mp4 without using the imovie capture feature? I am new to this, so I apologize if this is a stupid question. thanks for the help!
  13. macrumors regular

    Dec 6, 2003
    Canis Major
    Thank. You. So. MUCH!!!! This is great! I never knew why iMovie was never satisfied with the movie format I drag in... This will save tons of time and quality (transcoding)~

    Thanks again! :D
  14. macrumors newbie

    Jan 6, 2008
    WOW! What a time saver. I don't know what's wrong with iMovie 06, but when I tried to import files that were already in mp4 format, it would do nothing for a while, then tell me there was only 3403 minutes remaining. Yikes! This was instant - and awesome! Thank you so much!

  15. macrumors newbie

    Jan 24, 2010
    Downloading video to iMovie with JVC Everio

    Try this: CLICK for VIDEO How To

    gregory west
  16. macrumors newbie

    Feb 16, 2010
    Best format to import into iMovie

    I have just tried to import as described in this post. It was very quick, but it scrambled all my clips. Is there a method to sort them - either by their "names" or the recording time/date? It is not terribly useful if I have move each clip to its appropriate location.

    Thanks & Regards,
  17. macrumors newbie

    Apr 12, 2009
    Do you know why when I follow these steps, it is taking my vids out of widescreen and compressing it into a 4:3 format?

  18. macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2010
    I've seen the issue with changing aspect ratio pass on a lot of forums.
    The program Anamorphicizer should solve this issue, but take care , i think you need a previous version of Quicktime (not the one of Snow Leopard)

    If you look on different forums or google on Anamorphicizer, you'll prbably find some user experiences...
  19. macrumors newbie

    Jul 21, 2010
    Thank You!!!

    THANK YOU SOOO MUCH!!! This worked!! You are a genius. Final Cut wouldn't take it, so I tried I movie. When I tried importing the 30 min clip in Imovie it said it would take almost 1200 min.s to import. Then I tried streamclip to convert the mpeg4 into a .mov or something more compatible and it was taking the same hours of time. I followed what you said above and it went into the timeline in about 1 sec. Thanks again for being so helpful!!!!! :)
  20. macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2011
    I love this trick to avoid import times. I have a Samsung HD camera that records in .mp4 (h.264) format. I bought this camera specifically because I did not want to deal with long conversions before editing. I can drag files right into imovie, but it takes some time. So I prefer to do it the backdoor way with the media folder trick. But does anyone else have some issues with this?

    I have found that iMovie struggles to play the clips when imported this way. But it turns out smooth once exported. If I import normally, they play much smoother/faster while editing.

    But my main problem is that the transitions I use have chattering audio, and they export that way too (no matter what I export to). This does not happen if I do the normal import method.

    Any ideas what could be causing this? Could a setting fix it?
  21. macrumors 68030

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    h264 is not a format that's designed for editing. You would be better off using MPEGStreamclip to convert, exporting to Quicktime using the Apple Intermediate Codec setting
  22. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010
    During import into iMovie highly compressed video gets transcoded into a .mov file using the Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) for video and Uncompressed for audio, which makes it easier to work with those files, as the CPU does not get taxed too much.
    If you have the storage capacity and can leave your Mac on over night or in the evening, thus it can import the footage properly, do that, as it will make editing easier and less hasslesome, as MPEG-4 (the codec your camera uses) is not meant for editing.
  23. macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2011
    Thanks guys.

    Yeah, I know it's best to let it import. But I do still find it quicker overall to have somewhat slower editing performance with an mp4 than to wait for the transcode. In most cases I can be done editing and exported before the file would be done transcoding.

    The strange thing is that I had a Sanyo HD camera (returned it because of horrible stabilization) that also records in h.264 mp4, and those files were not slow to edit at all. I also had a Insignia HD camera (returned because the audio is horrible) that recorded in h.264 .mov files and those were smooth as can be too.I'm wondering if Samsung uses a different variation of h.264 that is more compressed and harder to decode on the fly?

    Oh yeah, I did find a workaround for the transition audio garbling. If you split your track right before you want your transition, then extract that audio segment, then apply the transition — it will apply just to the video and leave the audio segment smooth. Of course you'll have to manually fade down the audio line. Kind of a pain in the butt, but not that hard.
  24. macrumors newbie

    Mar 21, 2011
    Correction. I still have some files from my old camera and tried it again. Although they play much smoother and don't strain iMovie, they do still suffer from the transition glitch. I've been reading about it elsewhere and it appears to be an issue with any mp4 with imovie 6.

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