A short iMovie wishlist

I do love the way iMovie keeps getting better and better, but I have a few wishes I’d love to see as features:

  1. The ability to truly archive a project and all its files. I know that I can drag and drop a project onto an external hard drive through iMovie, and I’ll get the choice of moving the project, or the project and all its files, and that’s really nice, but sometimes, it doesn’t really move all the files, and let’s face it, I’m still left with separate folders on that external hard drive for the events and the projects. I’d like to truly archive a project and all its files, to a single, standalone archive file (maybe a DMG), where everything I used in the project, including photos, sounds, or loops from the iLife library, is included, so that I can open that project archive years down the road and still be able to access everything I used for that project, and not have to worry about losing files or folders.
  2. Proper watermarks for projects. I shouldn’t have to hack a watermark by employing a PIP effect, which requires more processing power during edits and more processing time during exports. Watermarks should be applied during the export process, after iMovie lets me configure them, Lightroom-style, through a menu that lets me pick the transparent PNG I want to use, and adjust its size, location and opacity.
  3. The ability to merge projects. I’d like to be able to drag and drop a project onto another project, and be given the choice of merging the two projects, or copying the content from one to the other and keeping them as two separate projects. This would allow me, for example, to work on a common intro that I use for a particular show, save it to a project, then drag and drop that intro into projects I use for new episodes. (I already know about duplicating projects, but this has other uses, and it’s also a cleaner way of doing it.) Or even better, I’d love to be able to…
  4. Create my own video loops and store them in the loop library, under a certain category. This would once again help with common project elements, stuff that gets re-used now and again. But when I’d bring these loops into my current projects, it would bring them in with all their component elements intact, allowing me to make changes to them just as if I were working within the original project where I made them. This would allow me to tweak the way these common elements show up in different projects, ensuring they’re never boring.
How To

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!

How To

If iMovie '08 crashes…

You can try bothering with the preferences files, or the codecs, or the color profiles, as the forums tell you to do, or you can do the following:

  1. Go to your home folder > Movies > iMovie Events. Locate the folder with the last clips you imported. Delete the iMovie Cache and iMovie Thumbnails folders.
  2. Restart iMovie. For most of you, that’s all you’ll need to do.
  3. If it still crashes, that means one or more of the actual clips themselves weren’t closed properly by the video camera (perhaps you ran out of battery, space on the card, etc.). Open them up in Quicktime (if you have Quicktime Pro) or some other application (like the software that came with the camera) and snip 1-2 seconds off the end of each clip. Save them, then delete the iMovie Cache and iMovie Thumbnails folders (in case iMovie re-created them).
  4. Now restart iMovie. It should work fine now.

A few words to explain some things:

  • If a movie clip doesn’t open at all from the Finder, then it is corrupted. Perhaps only its header is messed up for some reason. At any rate, I have not yet found software that will fix those movie clips. I searched enough, and only found spyware that promises to do it.
  • If a movie clip opens and plays fine in Quicktime, but iMovie crashes when trying to import it, then its ending is corrupted, as explained in step #3 above. Cutting 1-2 seconds off the end of the clip in some software other than iMovie will restore its ending and let you import it without crashes in iMovie.
  • The method I described above has worked reliably for me on three occasions now, and this is after I wasted hours on the phone with Apple Support. It only occurred to them to let me re-import video clips after having me try all of that other stuff, including a re-install of iMovie ’08 and also the creation of a new account to see if the problems re-occur there. Pointless. I say go to the root of the problem and take care of it right away, don’t beat around the bush.

Hope this helps you too.