Friday, November 19, 2004
Posted 8:37 AM
Listen to My Interview with "The Cult of Mac" Author Leander Kahney
On November 10's edition of Point & Click Radio, a weekly computer radio show that I cohost here in the wilds of Mendocino County, I interviewed Leander Kahney, author of The Cult of Mac, a fabulous celebration of Mac zealots and enthusiasts. We talked about his book and about what's special about the Mac and its users.
I've posted our 15-minute interview as a 3.5MB AAC file (what, I should use MP3?!). To download it to your hard drive, Control-click on this link and then save the file. After it has downloaded to your hard drive, drag its icon to your iTunes library and enjoy.
And while you're shopping: Did you know that there's a two-hour instructional DVD packed with tips and tutorials on all five iLife '04 programs? There is, and it's included with my book. It's the only computer book of its kind, and it's $20.99 on Amazon.com.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Posted 3:56 PM
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.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Posted 8:48 AM
Using MPEG Movies from Sony Cameras with iMovie
A reader writes: "I have a Sony digital camera that takes small movies in MPEG format. I'd like to use these with iMovie, but I get an error message when I try to import them. If I use QuickTime Pro to export them as DV streams, I lose the sound. Please help!"
As an owner of a couple of Sony digital cameras, I feel your pain. Fortunately, pain relief is free. Simply grab a copy of MPEG StreamClip, a free utility from Squared 5.
MPEG StreamClip can slice and dice MPEG-format video in a variety of ways. Peruse the utility's home page, and you'll see it's designed primarily to decode and process video saved by personal video recorder products such as El Gato's EyeTV. Working with some types of MPEG files can be technically tricky, but it's a cinch to whack movie files from Sony digital cameras into a format compatible with iMovie.
Start by dragging the MPEG movie into MPEG Streamclip's window. If you want to convert just a portion of the movie, use the Select In and Select Out commands in the Edit menu. For example, to lop off the first few seconds of the movie, drag the movie controller to the desired in-point, then choose the Select In command.
Next, glide up to the File menu and choose Export to DV. You'll see a variety of options in the Export dialog box, but the most important is the Standard pop-up menu: use it choose between the NTSC standard (for the United States, Canada, and Japan, among others) and the PAL standard (for much of the rest of the world; link to list of world video formats).
After you've chosen the desired video standard, click the Make DV Stream button. Type a name for the converted movie, stash it on your desktop for convenient access, and press Return. MPEG Streamclip will do its thing, demuxing the MPEG video and creating a DV stream in which iMovie will be happy to splash.
When the conversion is complete, simply drag the converted movie into the iMovie window. iMovie makes a duplicate of the converted movie in your project's Media folder, so you can throw away the copy on your desktop.
"Ah, but Jim," you say, "most digital camera movies look pretty crummy once you add them to iMovie. Why bother?"
That's a different story, one that I'll share with you tomorrow.