You've had a long year: the 16-hour labor; the invigorating midnight feedings; that first word (which you're sure was "daddy"); and the first birthday party, where you learned that babies don't know the meaning of sharing. Now you've reached the moment that really matters--dishing out the painstakingly edited iMovie footage of your parental odyssey to your kith and kin, just in time for the holidays.
Yet during the past year you've learned to be cautious. Have you compressed your video enough that the Des Moines crowd will be able to view your Web-based work over their 56K modem connections? Will the CD-ROM you've burned for Aunt Vilma play on her PC? And how likely is it that an oft-used VHS tape will survive repeated play in Cousin Tricia's ancient VCR?
Relax. You've got enough on your mind as it is. We'll show you how best to transfer your iMovie to the medium of your choice--the Web, a CD-ROM, or videotape--in steps easy to absorb even after months of interrupted sleep.
When it comes to sharing your iMovies with family and friends, the Web provides the greatest exposure for your video vision. After all, it's a cinch to send folks your Web page's address through e-mail, plus you'll save a bundle on postage, VHS tapes, and CD-ROM discs. Unfortunately, all your efforts will remain unwatched if you don't address two issues--storage and bandwidth.
The Problems iMovie creates movies in the QuickTime format, and uncompressed movies are gargantuan--a full-screen QuickTime movie (that's 720-by-480-pixel resolution) at 30 frames per second (fps) requires around 30MB of hard disk space for each second of video. It would be difficult to post a five-minute movie at this resolution--and no Web connection would be fast enough to play it. To create a Web-friendly iMovie, you must reduce the movie's file size and make your movie viewable over a dial-up connection. Doing so isn't difficult, but you'll need to take some care while producing the movie and look beyond iMovie's default Export settings.
Shoot for the Web If you know your movie is going straight to the Web, avoid unnecessary motion in your video--pans or rapidly moving objects, for example--and use a tripod when you can. Most video compressors don't handle motion well, causing artifacts to appear in areas where the camera or your subject jinks from place to place.
Next, keep your shots simple. Many video compressors work by describing areas of a scene rather than the state of each pixel. For example, it takes far fewer bytes to relay that "the top half of the screen is white for the next 60 frames" than to detail the color of each pixel in every frame of the video. You'll gain greater savings from your compressor--and your Web videos will look better--if you shoot against a plain, unchanging background. When shooting on the seashore, for example, choose a background of beach, sky, and distant water, instead of the rolling surf.
Edit for the Web Remember that your files will be smaller if you cut extraneous material. iMovie titles, for example, usually look washed out and unfocused on the Web, so cut them from your video and post the information as text on your Web page instead.
Also, avoid transitions in which the background shifts dramatically--fades and dissolves, for example. After your file is compressed, you won't see a smooth transition from one scene to another. Whenever possible, use quick cuts rather than fades and dissolves.
Export for the Web When you select the Export Movie command from iMovie's File menu and choose the Export To QuickTime option, you'll spy the Web Movie Small option in the Format pull-down menu. This setting will produce Web-friendly iMovies.
But you can also create a Web movie that takes up less storage space and begins playing before it's completely downloaded by selecting the Expert option and changing the settings in the Expert QuickTime Settings window. Follow along:
The first thing to do is change your codec (compressor-decompressor). In the original iMovie, the default codec for the Web Movie Small option was the Sorenson Video codec. For iMovie 2, Apple chose the H.263 codec because it compresses more quickly than the Sorenson Video codec. But Apple had it right the first time. Although the Sorenson Video codec takes longer to compress video and demands more processing power from the computers that view your movie, it produces better-looking video than H.263--particularly when you've created a movie for fast Internet connections.
Next, for greater storage-space savings, click on the Audio Settings button and select the Mono option--doing so cuts the size of the audio track in half and will usually suffice.
Finally, click on the Prepare For Internet option in iMovie 2's QuickTime Expert Settings window and select Standard Web Server. This causes your movie to begin as soon as QuickTime feels it has enough data to play the movie from beginning to end without interruption.
Final Touches If you intend to make your iMovie viewable by those accessing the Web with a 56K modem, you should make additional changes.
Reducing the frame size and fps rate makes for a slimmer movie. Setting an appropriate data rate--around 5 KBps (kilobytes per second) for a 56K modem--helps ensure that your movie won't skip.
Spacing keyframes , the reference frames that detail the state of each pixel in a frame, far apart also reduces file size. Inserting a keyframe every second will help ensure smooth video with the Cinepak codec--a predecessor to Sorenson Video--but other codecs, such as Sorenson Video, perform better when a keyframe occurs only every ten seconds or so. To read our recommendations for a movie that will be viewed over a 56K modem connection, see "A Smaller Web Movie."
Beyond Exporting Now that your iMovie is prepared for Web viewing, where on the Web do you put it? Nearly every ISP (Internet Service Provider) will provide you with a modicum of storage space (usually between 2MB and 10MB) for a personal Web page. You can use an editing program to create and upload a Web page that contains your iMovie.
But there's an easier way: Apple's iTools. Apple provides 20MB of storage space with each free Mac.com account, along with tools that make it easy to upload your iMovie. If you need additional storage, you can purchase 100MB, 200MB, or 400MB of space for $100, $200, or $400 a year, respectively. Just go to http://www.apple.com and click on the iTools tab to sign up for a Mac.com account, mount and open your iDisk (a virtual hard disk), and drag the iMovies you want to display to the Movies folder. Then click on the Create iMovie button, select a background, and click on the Edit Page button. Click on the Choose button to select one of the movies in your iDisk's Movies folder, and finally, click on the Apply button to place the movie on the page.
A Web page offers wonderful exposure, but let's face it--it's not the kind of thing you can wrap up in colorful paper and send to Grandma on the occasion of her 112th birthday. For more-tangible and better-looking results, burn your iMovie onto a CD-ROM.
The Problems Find out what kind of computer and CD-ROM player your disc will be played on. Aunt Vilma's PC won't be able to read your Mac-formatted CD-ROM (see the sidebar "Cross-Platform Concerns"). And the Export settings you've used may produce a disc that plays just fine on a 12x CD-ROM player but not on Uncle Fred's 1x player. If you're burning a disc for a slower CD-ROM player, consider dropping the data rate (from 200 KBps to 100 KBps, for example) and resolution (from 320 by 250 pixels to 240 by 180 pixels).
Shoot for CD-ROM Your best work will be clearer on CD-ROM--and so will your worst, so pay attention to things such as lighting and audio when recording your footage. Use your camcorder's backlight control to make backlit images discernable, for example, and watch for odd shadows and reflections of you and your camcorder in windows and mirrors. For "talking head" shots, use a clip-on or wireless microphone instead of the camcorder's built-in mic.
Export for CD-ROM iMovie 2's CD-ROM Movie Medium export setting will produce an adequate CD-ROM movie in nearly all cases. We'd suggest just a couple of minor tweaks:
First, change the compressor from the H.263 codec to Sorenson Video. You might also be tempted to change the audio codec to QDesign Music 2, but severe compression is unnecessary for the storage capacity of a CD-ROM disc.
When compressing any movie, however, it's a good idea to combine a demanding codec--one that requires a lot of processing power--with one that's less demanding. Both the Sorenson Video and QDesign codecs require a robust processor for decompression, and using the two in a single movie can drag down less-powerful computers. If you're creating movies for slower computers, consider combining Sorenson Video with IMA 4:1, or QDesign Music 2 with Cinepak.
If you're interested in reducing your movie's file size without compromising video quality, you can select a mono soundtrack. For our CD-ROM recommendations, see A Smaller CD-ROM Movie.
Beyond Exporting To create a CD-ROM disc, you need a CD-R burner. Must you pungle up hundreds of dollars to buy your own? No. Some branches of printing services such as Kinko's ( http://www.kinkos.com ) can burn a CD-ROM for you at a cost of around $11 a disc.
The fact that you're reading Macworld hints that you have a Mac of your own. Regrettably, not everyone has a computer, much less a Mac. Most people do have a VCR, however, and sending a tape, though old-fashioned, may be the best way to share your movies with your nearest and dearest.
While moving your iMovie to tape isn't difficult, the following tips will help you produce better-looking movies.
The Problems A VHS tape has only so much life in it, and a tape that's recorded every episode of Friends is going to be stretched and worn. If your iMovie is important enough to dub to tape, it's important enough to place on a fresh tape.
Prepare for Tape In all likelihood, your Mac doesn't bear an S-Video or Composite Video port, so you'll need to use your digital camcorder as a go-between when transferring your iMovie to your VCR. Use a fresh tape in your camcorder, too--not only because of tape wear but also to prevent you from accidentally erasing your iMovie's original footage.
Export to Tape String the necessary video and audio cables between your camcorder and VCR (for cleaner video, use S-Video if you have it), and then press the record button on your VCR and the play button on your camcorder. That's it.
If you're dubbing multiple VHS copies of your iMovie, record each copy from the camcorder to the VHS recorder rather than copying from one VHS recorder to another. VHS-to-VHS recording incurs a "generation loss"--meaning that quality degrades when copying between two analog devices.
Exporting your iMovies to various formats may not be as difficult as raising a child--or even shooting and editing the film in the first place--but everyone can use a little help from iMovie's Export settings.
Now the kid--bathed, fed, and swaddled--is ready to be shown off to the grandparents. With the help of these tips and techniques--and a few elusive hours between feedings--your video should likewise be ready for viewing.
Contributing Editor CHRISTOPHER BREEN uses many of these iMovie techniques when producing Breen's Bungalow, a video feature that appears each month on Macworld' s CD-ROM.
Apple has taken great care to make QuickTime compatible with both Mac OS and Windows. Despite Apple's efforts, differences that will affect your movies remain. When preparing your iMovies for the PC, keep these tips in mind:
1. Lighten Up Due to differing display settings, movies that look great on a Mac B>A are dark when played on a Windows machine B . iMovie doesn't allow you to adjust for monitor variations, but you can make your iMovie look better on a Windows PC by clicking on iMovie 2's Effects button, selecting the Brightness/Contrast option, and using the Brightness slider to make your iMovie lighter. Regrettably, there's no perfect compromise--the movie will be either a bit too bright for a Mac or a little too dark for a PC.
2. When in Rome We understand that QuickTime is one of the finest video formats around, but not every Windows user has a copy of QuickTime on his or her hard drive. While you can insist that your Windows pals download and install a copy of QuickTime ( http://www.apple.com/quicktime ) on their PCs in order to view your CD-ROM- based iMovies, it may be easier to simply include both QuickTime and AVI--Windows' Audio Visual Interleave format for video--versions of your work on the CD. To create an AVI version of your movie, open the movie in QuickTime Pro, select Export from the File menu, and choose the Movie To AVI option A .
3. PC Compatibility Insert a Mac-formatted CD-ROM disc into a PC's CD-ROM drive, and the PC will do little more than shrug its virtual shoulders and refuse to mount the disc. For your disc to be recognized by a Windows machine, you must format the CD-ROM as an ISO 9660 disc. The OEM version of Adaptec's Toast 4 (800/442-7274, http://www.adaptec.com )--the CD-R creation application that ships with nearly every current CD-R writer--allows you to create only Mac-formatted discs. To create PC-compatible discs, you must pay $80 for Toast 4 Deluxe.