Inside QuickTime Pro's bag of tricks

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At some point, most Mac users have probably whiled away a few company minutes watching Apple’s QuickTime movie trailers. But QuickTime can do much more than just bring you the latest Spider-Man 3 teaser. Apple’s QuickTime Player application is a surprisingly feature-packed utility capable of recording and editing movies, and even handling a few video effects. The key to realizing its power is to fork over $30 at the Apple Store and upgrade to QuickTime 7 Pro.

Make your own videos

After you do that, you’ll notice that QuickTime Pro has made QuickTime Player better. You can play videos in full-screen mode and save movie trailers downloaded from the Web.

And now you don’t have to be relegated to the role of audience member. Combining QuickTime with Apple’s iSight gives you an instant recording studio. To record a movie, select either New Movie Recording or New Audio Recording from the File menu. Click on the record button, and you’re on your way to becoming the next Scorsese. (Or not.)

The iSight is useful if you’re making a talking-head recording of yourself for a podcast or a personal video message. But QuickTime Pro can also accommodate camcorders, Web cams, or any combination of camera and microphone. Just connect the camera to the Mac, and QuickTime should recognize it. You can record directly from the camera or play back captured material and record that.

Of course, you could use iMovie to do the same thing. But if you just want a simple movie—for instance, one that you can quickly post to a Web site—QuickTime Player is generally faster and requires less effort. It also has some capabilities that even iMovie doesn’t have.

Combine movies

Despite its simple interface, QuickTime Player provides some pretty powerful editing tools. For instance, you can delete a segment from a movie or combine clips from two different videos. Let’s walk through an example that intercuts footage from a piano recital with clips from a second video—one that depicts the admiring audience.

Nab the Footage Start by opening the secondary video (in this example, the audience movie) and summoning the Movie Properties window (Window: Show Movie Properties). In the track list at the top, highlight Video Track, and then click on the Extract button. A new version of your movie will appear, containing the video track without sound (see “Creative Options in QuickTime”).

Next, it’s time to mark off the footage you want to paste into your main video. In the extracted video track, click on the movie timeline to bring up a pair of tabs, called in and out markers. Move the left marker to the beginning of the footage you want to grab, and the right marker to the end. Alternatively, you can make a selection by moving the playhead to the start of the footage you want and pressing the I key, and then moving the playhead to the end and pressing the O key.

Whichever method you use, you can fine-tune the placement of your markers by using the left- and right-arrow keys to step through the footage, frame by frame. When you’ve finished marking your footage, select Edit: Copy to store it on the Clipboard.

Add Your Footage Open your main video (in this case, the performance movie). Move the playhead to the point where you want to insert the audience footage, and select Edit: Add To Movie. This is preferable to using the Paste command because the added clip ends up overlaying a section of your performance video while leaving the original audio intact. The movie’s overall length remains the same, and you continue to hear the piano play even while watching video of the audience reaction. (Using Paste simply adds the new video, along with its associated sound, to the middle of your movie.)

Let It Scale You can also get a little more exact with your cuts. For instance, say there’s an eight-second segment in your performance video where you accidentally jostled the camera and lost focus, yet the audience clip you want to replace it with is nine seconds long. By using QuickTime Pro’s scaling capabilities, you can nudge that nine-second clip into a shorter space.

First, use the in and out tabs to mark off and copy the nine seconds of footage from your audience video. Next, go to the performance video and use your markers to define the eight-second segment you want to overlay. Select Edit: Add To Selection & Scale.

When you apply this command, QuickTime Pro scales (speeds up or slows down) the inserted segment so that it matches the length of the marked clip. This technique works best, of course, if both segments are approximately the same length; that way, speed changes aren’t too noticeable.

Create picture-in-picture

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to focus your movie. For instance, what if your pianist crescendos to a particularly impressive set of chords, yet you also want to show the audience clapping? Luckily, you don’t have to decide: using QuickTime Player, you can produce a picture-in-picture effect that showcases both subjects—the pianist in the main window, and the audience in a small corner window. The key to this effect is QuickTime Pro’s ability to handle layers—something even iMovie can’t do.

Reveal the Window Employ either the Add To Movie or the Add To Selection & Scale command, as described previously, to insert your audience clips into the performance movie. Then bring up the performance video’s Movie Properties window and select one of the tracks you’ve inserted (they will be named Video Track 2, Video Track 3, and so on).

In the Visual Settings tab, locate the Scaled Size dimensions. Decrease the first pixel number to about one-third of the original size, and make sure the Preserve Aspect Ratio option is selected (it is by default). This should shift the second number accordingly. Your inserted audience clip will now appear in a small window in the upper left corner of your movie. To reposition the window, play around with the Offset settings.

Make It See-Through If you don’t want to completely obscure the corner of your main video, you can make the picture-in-picture clip translucent. Under the Visual Settings tab, go to the Transparency pop-up menu (located at the lower left) and select Blend. A Transparency Level slider will appear. Move it toward 100% to increase transparency, and toward 0% to decrease transparency.

Make a mask

To add a little visual interest to your movie, consider breaking it out of its rectangular box and placing it inside an oval or a circle. To accomplish that, you’ll need to create a video mask, which lets you frame your movie inside a certain shape (see “Make a Video Mask”).

Quick and Dirty Masking Start by opening any graphics-capable program, such as the $649 Adobe Photoshop, Apple’s Pages (part of the $79 iWork suite), or The Omni Group’s $80 OmniGraffle. Draw a solid black oval, circle, or whatever shape you want against a white background. This shape represents your mask, so make sure it’s big enough to accommodate the main action in your video.

Next, take a screen capture of your mask. Press 1-shift-4, and then drag a frame around your drawing to take the screenshot. Make sure it’s about the same size as the frame of your movie. Open your video in QuickTime Player and call up the Movie Properties window. Highlight Video Track; then select the Visual Settings tab. Drag your screen capture from the Finder straight into the Mask box on the left side of the window. The next time you play your movie, the picture should appear within the mask area.

Gussy Up Your Mask Now that you know how to create a simple mask, it’s time to get more creative. Building upon your mask video, you can add a still image, a slide show, or a movie in the background. Imagine using this effect for something like a movie-review podcast: your Ebert-esque commentary video plays within the mask, while clips from the film appear in the background.

To accomplish this, open the movie you want to use as your background and, yet again, bring up the Movie Properties window. Highlight Video Track and click on Extract. Select the entire extracted track (Edit: Select All) and copy it to the Clipboard. Next, open the movie that contains the mask and choose Select All again so that the in and out markers span the movie’s entire length. Choose Edit: Add To Selection & Scale. At this point, you will most likely see the background movie and nothing else. Don’t worry! All you need to do is move the background behind the mask layer.

Return to the Movie Properties window, and highlight the track that corresponds to the video you added (most likely Video Track 2). In the Visual Settings tab, locate the Layer box at the bottom of the window and use the up arrow to increase the number listed there until the mask becomes visible. Done! Save your work, play your movie, and enjoy.

Creative Options in QuickTime: You’ll find most of QuickTime Player’s moviemaking tools in the Properties window.Make a Video Mask: Once you’ve upgraded to QuickTime Pro, you can use some complex effects. Here, a video plays inside a mask within another video.
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