Get iMovie '08 to import 3GP files

I recorded a few video clips with my wife’s mobile phone today, and when I tried to import them into iMovie ’08, I found out that I couldn’t. Apparently, I’m not alone, because if you do a search for this on Google you’ll find there are plenty of other people with the same problem.

Fortunately, there are two ways to work this out, but neither is necessarily obvious. Pick one of them:

  • Open up the clips in Quicktime. I was able to open them up and play them right away. Now, export each clip as an MP4 file. You must specifically select File > Export, then select Movie to MPEG-4 from the Export drop-down menu. Don’t just Save the clip, because it’ll package it as a MOV file, which iMovie ’08 will still refuse to import. You must Export it as an MP4 file. You may also be able to export to other formats, but MP4 is what worked for me.
  • Open them clips in Turbo.264, then export them to some format (try Apple TV or iPod Standard, for example). There’s a catch here though. If the resolution of the clips is too small, Turbo.264 may not be able to convert them, and will give you an error. Best stick with Quicktime then.

Now open up iMovie ’08, and go to File > Import Movies, browse for them, and import to your heart’s content. That’s it!


26 Comments

  1. I must be the only one having this problem… I converted it to the .mp4 by opening the video in a finder window and simply renaming the file with the new extension, however, when I go to iMovie, it won’t import it?? I go to File > Import Movie, select the Event I wish to add the video to, and it opens a dialog box saying “Optimizing Video,” and once that is done, the video does not show up in the Event I specified over on the left hand side in the “Event Library.” HELP!!

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  2. Hooray! I didn’t want to pay for QT Pro, but changing the file name to .mp4 in the folder and then importing worked a treat! Thank you so much for this blog as I was about to pull hair.

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  3. Thanks Raoul for this site and thanks to everyone for the suggestions! My project is done!

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  4. Renaming had strange results for me: imovie did something very quickly, the file disappeared and there is no sign of it in iMovie or anywhere I can think of. Quicktime (non pro) worked for me. Open the file, save as HD 720, file is saved with a .mov extension, in iMovie import file. It’s the mac, it Just Works, right?

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  5. manually changing the file name to .mp4 worked for me too–not sure how or why, but it did!

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  6. changing the file extension in the finder to “,mp4” absolutely works for me. All I want to do is get the video into iMovie and this works like a charm. Now all the video i have shot on my blackberry can be shared or made into movies via iMovie.

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  7. Um. If you guys don’t have quicktime pro, simply rename the clip (.mp4) the mac automatically converts it. (This is so strange since I switched from a pc!)

    Anyways, once you do this, the clip will be an mp4 clip. Then go to File>Import>movies and find the clip in your documents.

    Walllaaa!!! it works…

    I wouldn’t recommend using youtube cus when you re-download it, there are often some screw-ups that happened in the transfer process…

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    1. Airye, that’s incorrect. Yes, the Mac will play it after you rename it — and it will also play it if you don’t change the extension, but that’s not the point of my article. It deals specifically with importing 3GP files into iMovie. Unless you’ve got some additional insight into that specific issue, then what you’ve just said is not going to help others very much.

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      1. FWIW the rename .3gp to .mo4 trick worked for me! OS 10.5.8, iMovie ’08, no Quicktime Pro in sight. 🙂

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      2. airyie, thanks for the info. worked perfectly the way you explained it. regular quick time will not export anything actually. thx!

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    2. airyie,
      Great stuff. i tried Raoul’s suggestion _ thanks BTW_ but i realised that i only had quicktime player. a quick rename and presto – all in iMovie and working well.
      thanks for sharing

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    3. This worked! The only thing is that you can’t drag the file from a folder straight to iMovie, which I tried doing. You really have to go to File > Import Movies. Thank you so much! 🙂

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      1. this worked for me too… renamed to mp4 and then imported directly into imovie ’08.

        Thanks… I was getting frustrated trying to find a free program that would do this that I was sure was legit.

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  8. just click on the video in your finder, when it brings up the preview to the right, click on the “more info” tab at the very bottom, then just change the video extension to .mp4 in the name and extension bar, and now you can import it and edit it in imovie-

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    1. That was the first thing I tried, and it didn’t work for me. This is what works for me, so that’s what I’m using.

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  9. Alternative:

    Upload 3gp to YouTube. Then you can redownload it from YouTube in mp4.

    I couldn’t be prouder of this little triumph!

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  10. C’mon, QT it’s good but limited. If you want to convert files you’d better use the Visual Hub app, It’s still great to do the job.

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