Convert mpegs to iMovie files?
January 27, 2004 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Video amongst both a PC and Mac: I would like to edit home (i?)movies in iMovie on my iBook. The original movies are on VHS tapes. I have a TV tuner card on my PC which I have used to record things from a VCR, which it saves as MPEG files. If I go this route, how do I convert them into something that iMovie can use? Is there a better route to go altogether?

For example, are there (preferably free) programs for either platform that can convert things? I had heard QuickTime movies are split audio/video whereas MPEG files are mashed together so I may have to save each part separately first?

Also, once I edit my movie, how do I get them onto a DVD, for example? I have iDVD but no DVD recorder on the iBook. I do have a external stereo-component-style DVD recorder (but I have heard you can't burn with iDVD on anything except a SuperDrive). I am also not adverse to buying an external DVD burner for the computer, but I am unaware what is available for the Mac that would work in this situation.
posted by magnetbox to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
Well, for a start, if you want to do any serious editing, you need uncompressed video (an MPEG file is compressed video). OF course, you will need MPEG video to burn to a DVD.

Aaaggghh, I'm in over my head...
posted by ascullion at 7:31 AM on January 27, 2004

iDVD only works with built-in DVD burners supplied by Apple (although I believe there hacks to work around this limitation). You could, however, use the video-out port on your iBook to hook it up to your home theater system, hit "play" in iMovie and then hit "record" on your DVD recorder component, if you get my meaning.

Alternately, if you have a CD burner, you could use a program like Toast (which ships with many burners) to make a VCD, which you can basically think of "videos burned on a CD-R in a special format that will play back in a regular DVD player."

As for getting the MPEG files into iMovie, my first thought is that you probably need QuickTime Pro, which lets you import and export many formats much more easily. It's only like thirty dollars. If you have Pro, all you have to do is open the MPEG files on your mac in QuickTime Player and choose "File > Export > DV Stream," if memory serves.

Someone else might be able to recommend a free program to translate the file; now that Macs can run so many unix-y programs there are lots of open source alternatives.
posted by bcwinters at 8:34 AM on January 27, 2004

bcwinters is right; Quicktime Pro ($35ish) will import MPEG movies. Be sure and export them from the PC as MPEG-1, however - the MPEG-2 playback component (on top of QTPro) is another $20 I think. I bought both over a year ago and they've been very useful.

Just load the MPEG movie file into Quicktime Pro, export as a .mov (Quicktime), and then you can load that Quicktime file into iMovie.

For non-Mac-wizards, Toast is probably the best way of producing your own VCDs (it adds an "Export to Toast VCD" option in iMovie), but there are also freely-available software programs that will do the same thing with a little more effort on your part (ffmpegX combined with MissingMediaBurner).
posted by mrbill at 8:58 AM on January 27, 2004

As far as quality goes, I think I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't necessarily need it to be professional quality, but I know from doing it once that simply connecting the laptop through the AV cable and hitting play in iDVD doesnt quite do it for me... I haven't tried the VCD route, so maybe I will do that. I had seen/tried ffmpegx but couldn't get through it easy enough to understand what it could do for me.
posted by magnetbox at 9:35 AM on January 27, 2004

Unless I'm mistaken, mrbill, you have to export from Quicktime Pro as "DV Stream," although I haven't tried the v4 of iMovie, maybe it imports in other Quicktime formats.

magnetbox, if you really get into it, it's possible to upgrade your iBook to include a SuperDrive. I haven't done this myself yet, but I've heard decent things about them and I'm planning on it...
posted by JollyWanker at 10:06 AM on January 27, 2004

Go to the apple store and search for a Canopus ADVC-100. It sits outside your mac and connects via Firewire. On the canopus box, you can plug in VCRs and whatever you want (s-vhs, dv, etc). From there you can import into iMovie. It's about $300.
posted by mkelley at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2004

If you know someone who will lend you their digital camcorder, you can use it in a fashion similar to what mkelley suggests for the ADVC-100 (and it's about $300 cheaper).
posted by joaquim at 11:24 AM on January 27, 2004

I'm really only trying to take dead and/or dying VHS tapes and transferring them to DVD for posterity. In some cases I am taking multiple home movies and grouping them together on a single DVD with a nice/workable DVD menu system, and in other cases I am just saving golden cinematic classics whose tape is worn out and not available to purchase on DVD (as in Night of the Comet).
posted by magnetbox at 12:24 PM on January 27, 2004

JollyWanker, I've exported from QT Pro in lots of different formats and then imported into iMovie. I did a LOT of work on a hopefully-soon-to-be-major-motion-picture a year or so ago using only a G4 Cube and a Firewire-enabled MiniDV VCR.

mkelley: I love the DataVideo DAC-100 for "analog input to firewire" for interfacing things like a VCR to a Mac.
posted by mrbill at 3:04 PM on January 27, 2004

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