Posted Thursday, November 18, 2004

Using Digital Camera Movies with iMovie: Why Bother?

Yesterday, I shared a tip for converting MPEG-format movies created by Sony digital cameras into DV streams compatible with iMovie.

The task is generally easier with other camera brands. For example, I can import AVI-format movies shot by my Canon S-50 by simply dragging them into the iMovie window.

But let's step back and look at the greater question: why bother? Compared to the quality you get from a miniDV camcorder, the movies from most digital cameras look genuinely awful.

And yet there are some good reasons to consider using a digital camera movie in an iMovie project.

It's all you have. If you don't have a camcorder but you want to include some video in a movie project (as opposed to still photos and Ken Burns clips), use your digital camera. Adjust its menu settings to get the largest frame size and highest quality your camera is capable of. iMovie enlarges the video frames to fill the screen, so you'll get better results from larger movies.

For a special effect. Video producers often spend big bucks to get video that looks pixilated and has jerky motion. With digital camera movies, those "effects" are standard equipment. Have a camcorder? Shoot some footage using it and your digital camera's movie mode. Then cut between the two for a cool effect.

For the sound. When I was in Paris last month, I wanted to capture the sound of the many street musicians that play in Metro stations. I shot digital camera movies, then brought them into iMovie and extracted their audio tracks. (See page 178 of The Macintosh iLife '04 for instructions.) Then, I added still photos of the street musicians to the timeline and applied the Ken Burns effect to the stills. The result: a montage of still photos with an authentic soundtrack.

Those are just a few of the reasons why you might use digital camera movies in your iMovie projects. Can you think of more? Write to me and I'll share your ideas here.