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What is the highest quality format that can be edited in iMovie?

549 Views 17 Replies Latest reply: Nov 25, 2012 10:01 AM by sbhabyn RSS
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Ugan77 Calculating status...
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Nov 22, 2012 5:55 PM

What is the highest quality format that can be edited in iMovie? I shot a film using my HD camera (panasonic hdc sd700) and the files are .mts so I will convert to edit in imovie but I'm not sure which format to convert to. The film is for a film festival so it needs to be the best quality possible...please help!

iMovie '11, Mac OS X (10.7.5)
  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)

    You do not need to convert. Just import from the camera. iMovie will convert to Apple Intermediate Codec.


    If you have Final Cut Pro X, you can import directly from the camera  into ProRes 422. iMovie can edit ProRes 422 if FCP is installed, but if you have FCP, I would suggest editing in FCP.

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)

    If you attach your camera via USB make sure the camera is plugged in to wall power - not batteries only. Or if your camera has an SDHC card you can plug it in to a USB card reader and you don't need to worry about power.  iMovie should see it automatically but if not, use File/Import From Camera.


    Also, for iMovie to import from your camera, you need the entire card structure, including any empty folders. If you move the mts files off the card by themselves, iMovie cannot recognize them.


    If that still does not work, let me know.

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)

    OK I think a hint is that your card is called "generic USB Storage".  Somehow iMovie does not see it as a camera.

    First, click on "Create Camera Archive" at the bottom of the import screen so that you have a copy of what is on the card. Then try to import from the camera archive.


    Second, do you have any blank SDHC cards? If so, put one in your camera. Then, using the camera menus, choose Format Card or Initialize Card. Shoot some test footage. Then try importing in iMovie. Now iMovie should recognize the card as a camera.


    If that works, we just have the problem of how to retrieve the clips from the original card if they are valuable to you.

    To work on that, open the card in the Finder and post the directory structure of the card.

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)

    Let me add, if the contents of your card are totally out of context, meaning that they are not in the original camera file structure, perhaps caused by someone dragging the .mts files out of their folder and to a different card, then you may need a third party conversion utility. I hate to mention this because they are expensive, and your camera should work directly.


    Two that I am aware of are Clipwrap and Voltaic HD.  You can use these tools to convert loose mts files to Apple Intermediate Codec for editing.

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)

    I have not used either personally. Based solely on hearsay, if I was buying one, I would probably try ClipWrap.

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)

    Mov is a container.

    AIC is a codec.

    So you can have the AIC codec within an mov container. This is what you want.


    Think about the container as an envelope, and think about the codec as the English language. So you can have an English language letter within an 8 1/2 by 11 envelope.

  • sbhabyn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Hope this is relevant ! This post has added to my limited understanding,  but do you think that converting AVCHD files to mov before import into iMovie is a good idea ?

    Is there any quality loss, as this is most important for my project?

  • Karsten Schlüter Level 7 Level 7 (29,465 points)

    sbhabyn wrote:

    … do you think that converting AVCHD files to mov before import into iMovie is a good idea ? …

    there is no such thing as an 'AVCHD-file'.


    AVCHD is at first a folder structure.

    aside other folders such as CLIPINF or PLAYLIST, you'd notice a STREAM folder, which - finally - contains .mts files.

    these are the 'video clips'.


    and, again: mts is just a media-wrapper/container.


    there're lots of tools, so-called re-wrappers, allowing to 'strip' the mts and re-package its content into mov WITHOUT converting!


    'cause, inside an mts is regular h.264.

    it's an endless & fruitless discussion, to edit h264 straight or convert it into a more handy intermediate (such as iM does to AIC or FCPX does to proRes) ....


    in short: AVCHD HAS to be 'converted to mov' - otherwise iM doesn't handle it

    … but iM does this automatically on Import from Cam.

  • sbhabyn Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)

    Thanks Karsten and sorry about my loose terminology! I am OK with the folder structure - "show package contents" etc


    I have imported AVCHD direct into iMovie in the past, but on occasions it does error, and I thought that by converting the mts to mov before importing would be a safer way to handle this. (As a by-product I get a back-up copy of my original video in mov format). I was trying to find out if I was wasting time doing this.


    Another question. Can you point me in the right direction: I have been converting the mts to mov using iskysoft but if quality is all important, what resolution setting do I select for conversion. The original video was shot using a Panasonic HCX900m with 1080/50i setting at HA1920 (if you are familiar with the camcorder). I can (and have) used iFrame, but for this project I was aiming for a better quality. The use of iMovie for editing and (usually export via iDVD) has been a joy, but the more I try to read and understand what settings to use for import to get the best quality at output, the less confident I become.



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