Digital clock overlay for iMovie - elapsed time project?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Drewski, Dec 15, 2013.

  1. Drewski macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2011
    Somewhere else
    I've been looking for a while for a way to overlay a clock display on an iMovie project with no luck so far. This one does just what I'm looking for, but it is a plug in and therefore only good up to iMovie 6 I think. I tried the "Date/Time" title already on iMovie, but it only works correctly for projects that are running at 1x speed. I need to speed up the video, and have the time speed up with it. The "Date/Time" title counts in "real time" regardless of whether or not the replay is fast forwarded.

    So basically, I need to permanently overlay a digital clock over a video, then speed up the video using iMovie fast forward, and export that as a project. Help please!
  2. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I think this is Apple's way of getting you to buy FCP X. That comes with all kinds of generators.

    Lacking a way to generate a clock display you could shoot video of a real clock or a real stopwatch and over lay it or use "picture in picture" feature in iMovie. The pic-in-pic thing does not look bad and you can control opacity to blend them.

    But FCP X comes with "generators" that will create titles, clocks and what not and you can buy others from third parties.

    Using an overlay like I suggested is much the same way they do it with film. First shoot an animation of the clock using a real clock and stop motion or what ever then over lay then on your video
  3. Madmic23 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 21, 2004
    This might be an ok work around.

    Play the clip at normal speed with the timer running at normal speed. Export that clip. Then, import that clip into a new project and speed it up.

    I know it's a few extra steps, but it should achieve the desired effect.
  4. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    In After Effects, you can use expressions to make any kind of clock you'd ever want. Perhaps you use expressions in iMovie or FCP X, such as this one:

    rate = -2;
    clockStart = 3604.999;
    function padZero(n){
      if (n < 10) return "0" + n else return "" + n
    clockTime = clockStart + rate*(time - inPoint);
    if (clockTime < 0){
      sign = "-";
      clockTime = -clockTime;
      sign = "";
    t = Math.floor(clockTime);
    hr = Math.floor(t/3600);
    min = Math.floor((t%3600)/60);
    sec = Math.floor(t%60);
    ms = clockTime.toFixed(3).substr(-3);
    sign + padZero(hr) + ":" + padZero(min) + ":" + padZero(sec) + "." + ms
  5. Drewski, Dec 22, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2013

    Drewski thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2011
    Somewhere else
    Yes, I had the same idea, but as I'm not at all experienced with video editing, I was hoping there would be a faster way. So with no other ideas, I have been using the above. Unfortunately for me, this project is moving painfully slowly.

    Perhaps a better explanation of my project here would conjure up some better ideas.

    I've been using my Panasonic HDD video cam as a kind of security camera. It has a 30 GB HDD built in, so I basically set it in a window, and let it record until the HDD fills up, which is about 28 hours or so. The camera automatically breaks up the recording into ~4 hour chunks, typically 4.29 GB each. So every day, I have to connect the camera (via USB2) to the iMac. It takes about 30-40 min to upload the 6 MOD files from the camera to the iMac HDD. I then delete all the files on the camera and set it to record again. It takes entirely too much time and drive space to import the files from the camera. Somehow iMovie 10 blows up the file size dramatically if I import them from camera to iMovie.

    Next step, I run all the MOD files through Handbrake to reduce file size (as I said, I have no video processing experience, so I don't know what term to use - encoding, recoding, whatever). This generally knocks the file size down quite a bit, usually 600-800MB. Of course, this takes some time too. The iMac is a 2011 2.7 i5 with 12GB RAM, fwiw. Since 32 bit iMovie '11 really balks at the bigger files, not to mention runs so much slower, I have been using the more effective new iMovie, although only for this basic processing (I hate the new UI vs iMovie 11's):

    - Import the 6 Handbrake-processed files
    - create 6 new movies (projects)
    - drag each imported file into it's respective project
    - superimpose the timer
    - export the projects
    - reimport the projects
    - run the fast forward effect
    - export again

    The "final" files are in the 450MB range, although I assume I can Handbrake them down to a more reasonable size too.

    Now consider that I have 2+ weeks of video footage to run through this gauntlet of processing, and you'll see why I need to find a better way. I may have to do this project again, and, if FCP X can help save time, it would be worth the $300. Any help is very welcome.
  6. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    stock fcpx has no time generator. you can probably build one your own ( ) - or download a generator for fcpx made in motion ( e.g.: , link to generator: )

    it seems also possible for some fcpx effects to work with the new iMovie:

    you could also use motion for this, it's cheaper than FCPX, but more difficult to use.

    on your workflow. imovie (and fcpx and motion) can't import mpeg2 files, so you have to transcode them. your .mod clips are just that - mpeg2 files with a strange file extension. rename them to .mpg to make them readable by a lot of programs (but not iMovie, fcpx & motion). imovie transcodes the files into a less compressed codec (probably apple intermediate codec) when importing directly from the camera. this makes them easier to handle for imovie but also makes them larger. the files from handbrake are more compressed, so imovie might balk at them, because it needs to do more work to decode them. it's either larger files or less speed while editing & transcoding.

    to skip the transcoding process you could use another editing program (like premiere elements) that can edit .mpg files natively. there's a trial version on adobe's website. but that wouldn't solve your clock-problem either.

    here's a timer i made in after effects:

    this file got an alpha channel, meaning a transparent background that should work in most editing programs.

    you can overlay this in imovie by dragging it over a clip in the timeline. use "picture in picture" from the contextual menu for this (you might have to activate "advanced mode" in the preferences first), then resize, position and retime as necessary.
  7. Drewski thread starter macrumors regular

    Jan 6, 2011
    Somewhere else
    Great info - thanks for your time and assistance, very helpful.

    Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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