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  1. The Steps of Making a Movie
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There isn't much more boring than an unedited movie, and home movies are no exception. This chapter will help you learn to edit your home movies with iMovie HD.
This chapter is from the book
Robin Williams Cool Mac Apps, Second Edition: A guide to iLife 05, .Mac, and more, 2nd Edition

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Robin Williams Cool Mac Apps, Second Edition: A guide to iLife 05, .Mac, and more, 2nd Edition

For more information on iMovie, visit our Digital Lifestyles Reference Guide or Macintosh Reference Guide or sign up for our Digital Lifestyles or Macintosh newsletters

Chances are that your first home movie experiences were similar to ours—you shot some video tape, connected the camera to the TV, watched it once, then never looked at it again. In fact, we just stopped carrying our video camera with us on trips because it was big and heavy and we knew that we would never get around to looking at the footage again when we returned home.

Why did this happen? Because it's boring to watch unedited movies! We see beautifully edited movies every day—at movie theatres, on TV, and on the Internet. We've become too sophisticated as viewers to enjoy sitting through unedited home movies that for the most part look like —hmm, what's a good phrase to use here—home movies.


That's where iMovie comes in and dazzles. Get rid of the boring and repititous shots. Toss the scenes that have bad lighting. Add titles and a music soundtrack from iTunes. Create special effects and put Hollywood-style transitions between scenes. iMovie makes all of this incredibly fun and easy.

When you connect a digital video camera to your computer with a FireWire cable and launch iMovie, you're ready to create home movies that you won't mind watching again and again.

The best part is that iMovie makes it easy to share your movies with others in a variety of ways. Create small movies files that you can email or upload to a .Mac Homepage. You can even use your movie to create a professional DVD that plays on any computer or almost any DVD player.

This is the FireWire icon.

If you didn't get a FireWire cable with your digital video camera, check the box your Mac came in—often there is a FireWire cable in it. If you don't have a cable, buy one at your local electronics store or order it from one of the many dealers online (search for “firewire cables”).

Digital video (DV) requires a lot of disk space—one minute of DV footage uses about 220 MB of hard disk space. A four-minute iMovie that contains soundtracks, transitions, and titles may use 4 to 6 gigabytes of disk space.

Once you've seen what a difference editing can have on the audience reaction to your “home movies,” you'll be inspired. If you don't have a digital video camera, consider getting one. Teamed with iMovie, even the least expensive video camera is enough to create fabulous movies that can amaze you and your friends.

The Steps of Making a Movie

Making an iMovie consists of five basic steps. This chapter walks you through each step.

Of course, you must first shoot some video! Keep in mind that when you shoot video, every time you start and stop the camera, iMovie interprets that as a separate movie “clip.” You will be able to rearrange those clips to create a simple storyboard (a visual outline) for your movie.

Once you've got footage, these are the five basic steps you will follow:

  1. Connect a camera, open an iMovie project window, and import the video.
  2. Edit the clips.
  3. Add clips to the Timeline.
  4. Add enhancements (transitions, titles, effects, chapter markers, etc).
  5. Save and share the movie in various formats.

Connect a video camera

Before you can import video footage, you must connect your digital video camera to your Mac. If possible, it's best to connect the video camera's AC adapter for power while you import video footage to preserve the camera's battery power. Insert a video tape in the camera that has footage on it you want to import.

To connect your camera

  1. Plug the 4-pin connector end of a FireWire cable into the camera's FireWire port and then plug the 6-pin connector end into your computer's FireWire port.
  2. Set your video camera to “VTR” (Video Tape Recorder) or “Play” mode (do not set the camera to “Record”).
  3. Open iMovie, if it's not already open.
  4. Turn on the camera. After several seconds the words “Camera Connected” appear in the Monitor area, as shown below.

Create a new iMovie project

  1. Open iMovie. The project selection window opens. Choose “Create a New Project” (unless you want to open a project you've already been working on, in which case click “Open an Existing Project”)

    If iMovie is already open, you won't see the project selection window shown above. Instead, go to the File menu and choose “New Project…” to open the “Create Project” window (shown below).

    If you've already created a project, choose “Open Project….” Find and select the project you want to open. Or choose “Open Recent,” then select a project you've opened recently (shown on the left).

  2. In the “Create Project” window (shown below), name your project and choose the location where you want to save it. Be sure to choose a drive or partition that has plenty of unused disk space! If you make lots of movies, consider buying an external FireWire drive to use just for movie projects. Do not click “Create” yet!
  3. From the “Video format” pop-up menu, choose a video format to use:

    DV (Digital Video) is the format most video cameras use. This standard video format, the same proportion that standard TV uses, has an “aspect ratio” (proportion) of 4:3. This is most likely the format you should choose for your movie.

    DV Widescreen is the same format as DV, but it uses the widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9. Some video cameras have a setting that shoots in the 16:9 aspect ratio. If your video was shot using a widescreen setting, choose this format for your movie.

    HDV 1080i is High Definition Video that uses a vertical screen resolution of 1,080 interlaced scan lines. The horizontal scan lines that make up an interlaced image are divided into even and odd scan lines. Any given instant in the video actually displays only half of the image—either the even scan lines or the odd scan lines. Choose HDV 1080i only if your video camera shoots in this format.

    HDV 720p is a competing High Definition Video format that uses a vertical screen resolution of 720 progressive scan lines. There are fewer scan lines, but any given instant in the video displays both even and odd scan lines (referred to as progressive). Choose HDV 720p only if your video camera shoots in this format.

    MPEG-4 is a highly compressed video format used by many consumer video devices, such as a digital still camera. If your video footage comes from a camera that used MPEG-4 format, choose it here.

    iSight is a video format compatible with the Apple iSight video camera. Choose this format if you plan to make a movie using video clips captured with an iSight camera.

  4. Click the “Create” button to open a new, empty iMovie window.

Preview the video footage in your camera

  1. In the iMovie window, click the Camera mode button.
  2. Click the “Play” button (shown on the left) to view the video from the camera in iMovie's Monitor.

    At this point you are just previewing the video. iMovie does not digitize and import any video until you click the “Import” button. Use the controls below the “Import” button to control the camera. Rewind, pause, play, stop, and fast-forward to preview specific scenes.

Import video footage into iMovie

  1. Click the “Play” button to preview the video footage in your camera.
  2. When you see the scene you want to import, click the “Import” button (shown above). The “Import” button turns blue when it is selected and importing files.
  3. To stop importing, click the “Import” button again. Each time you start and stop importing, iMovie places that segment of video, called a “clip,” into one of the square slots in the Clips Pane.

    If you have plenty of disk space, you can just let the camera run. iMovie will detect scene changes, import the individual scenes as separate clips, and place each one in the Clips Pane. If you need to conserve disk space, preview the entire tape and import only the scenes you definitely want to use in your movie. Of course you can always delete a clip after it's imported (see the next page).

Delete clips and empty the Trash

To delete a clip, select a clip in the Clips Pane (or in the Timeline), then hit the Delete key. Or Control-click on a clip, then choose “Clear” from the contextual menu.

As you delete unwanted clips, the number in the Trash pane gets larger, indicating that the deleted clips are going into the Trash.

Clips in the Trash take up disk space. To free up valuable disk space, you need to empty the Trash often: Click the Trash icon to open the “iMovie Trash” window. In this window you can play a clip's preview to make sure the clip is not important. You can select just the clips you want to delete, then click “Delete Selected Clips….” Or click the “Empty Trash…” button to delete all clips in the Trash.

Import live video with a video camera

You can import live video (without first recording it to tape) into iMovie with any compatible digital video camera, even an iSight camera.

  1. Connect the video camera to your computer with a FireWire cable.
  2. Set the video camera to “Camera” or “Record” (not “VTR” or “Play”).
  3. Put iMovie in Camera Mode (shown on the left).
  4. Click the “Import” button in the iMovie window.

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If you're using an iSight camera and can't get iMovie to recognize it, go to iChat's “Video” preferences, disable the option to “Automatically open iChat when camera is turned on,” then quit iChat. The “Import” button in iMovie changes to “Record with iSight.”

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The Mac Desktop is your virtual workspace in Apple's OS X. It's the starting point for all the work (and play) you do on your Mac, and the screen over which everything floats.

That can be a little confusing, because most people associate the word “desktop” with the computer you keep on your desk — as opposed to a portable one you might use on your lap, like a “laptop.”

But, I'm going to explain the basic characteristics of the Mac Desktop as you would use it in OS X.

So, what is the Mac Desktop? Let's start with why it would be called something so ambiguous…

Why is it Called the “Desktop”?

When Apple introduced the Mac to the world, personal computers were still new and foreign. In order to make it more familiar, Apple designed their operating system (OS) to be a metaphor for working at a desk in an office.

Because of that, you'll hear other office terms to describe your Mac experience. Words like “files” and “documents” to refer to the things you keep on your Mac (such as pictures, videos, letters, email and so forth). And “folders” to talk about how you organize those files.

“Desktop” is just another one of those terms.

At your office desk, you do your work on top of it — on the desktop. You keep tools such as your pens, calendar, stapler on top of it. You might take out a pad of paper and write a letter on top of the desk. If you need to read a book or document, you'll take it out and put it on your desk to start reading. Or, maybe you'll keep a pile of papers on your desktop so that you won't forget to review them that day.

The Mac Desktop is similar. It's the “clear slate” upon which you do your work.

When you start a program to type a letter, you'll see it as a little “window” on your desktop. If you have a few “documents” to read, they can be represented by a few “icons” that sit on your desktop.

Disorganized or busy people such as myself will likely have a cluttered desktop, with a lot of things sitting on it. In that case, you might not actually be able to see the desktop. For example…

Images: Clean Desktop. Cluttered Desktop.

Characteristics of the Mac Desktop

There are particular features of the Mac Desktop that distinguish it from other computer workspaces, such as Microsoft Windows.

The Dock

Sticking with the office desk metaphor, the Dock is a lot like the top drawer of your desk, where you would keep all your most commonly used office tools for easy access, such as writing utensils, a calculator, or your calendar or an address book.

On a Mac, those tools would be in the form of computer programs called “applications” (or “apps” for short). These apps are represented by little icons, which can be “docked” like little boats to the bottom of your screen. (That's why this strip of icons is called “The Dock”.)

It's a lot like tucking your stapler and calculator into your top drawer for quick-access and convenience.

The Menu Bar

The Menu Bar is a strip of words and icons across the top of the screen.

Clicking on each of these will reveal a different menu of specific commands that allow you to control your Mac and tell it what you want it to do. These menus will change depending on what program or “application” you are using at the moment.


Windows are little rectangular “views” into the different things you can do with your Mac. They hover over the Desktop, and you can have many of these Windows open at once — giving you many different views at the same time.

One Window might let you look at websites the Internet. Another will let you read, write, or edit a message or a document. Yet another gives you a peek into all the files you have stored on your Mac.

Each Window belongs to a different application, and has a different function.


I've already mentioned them a few times, but Icons are little images that represent various things on your Mac — those files, folders, documents, and apps. They are designed to make it easy to identify what they represent.

The icon for a document of words or text will look like a little letter. The icon for a folder (in which you store a collection of documents) will look like a manilla folder.

Icons make it easy to quickly understand what you have stored on your computer at a glance, without having to read too much.


At the office, you might want to personalize your workspace with a photograph of your family, or maybe some posters or stuffed animals.

You can do the same with the Desktop. If you don't like the image of outer space that Apple makes as your default, you can change it to an picture of an animal, a family portrait, photograph of a peaceful waterfall, your team logo, or whatever picture you like.

This means leaving out the smaller assistants, menu bar apps, browser plugins, and generally cut-down software. What Makes a Great Email Client for Mac?While reviewing dozens of dedicated email clients, we focused on 'full-fat' email experiences. Mac We've dug deep into the pool of email clients for Mac, and here we'll give you our picks for the best in breed.

Everyone's Desktop will look a little bit different.

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I hope this properly answers the question, “What is the Apple Desktop?” for you. If you have more questions that aren't answered here, or if you can clarify or add to these explanations for other newbies, please leave a comment below. I look forward to reading your feedback.