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How to export Mac iMovie Project to DVD, Quicktime and Camera

Sep 21, 2013 12:02 pm / Posted by Nelson Peter to Mac CategoryFollow @MacDVD_Studio

What formats/choices are available?

Once you have finished your editing with Apple iMovie, it's time to export your project, and a number of choices are available:
Export to Camera
Export to Quicktime Movie
Export to DVD

Exporting to camera places a digital copy of your edited movie back onto tape in your digital video camera - it reverses the process of import. This is a great way to backup a completed project. Once on the camera, you can connect the camera to a DVD-recorder, a television, or a VCR to transfer the finished project again. The quality of this digital copy is pristine - the same quality (DV 720x480) you see within iMovie.

Exporting to Quicktime is a way to compress the video into a Quicktime file, using a number of different codecs (compression filters). Quicktime movies can be e-mailed, placed on the web, or burned to CD-ROM. This is a popular way to share videos-and you can control how large the file is.

Exporting to DVD. If you have a DVD-burner enabled Macintosh, you can export your project to iDVD-Apple's easy-to-use DVD mastering application. iDVD lets you add more than one movie project, too, to a DVD. The process for burning the DVD is outside the scope of this guide, but DVDs are high-quality presentations of your work, and are becoming very popular. DVDs you burn in iDVD can be played back on a variety of DVD players, and also in computers.

export imovie to camera

Exporting to Camera

Before you tape over your original footage, consider using a fresh tape to place your movie. An edited movie, with titles, transitions, and music is difficult to pull apart, should you want to re-edit the material you shoot for a future project. Saving the raw footage is valuable, but it does take up an extra tape.

When you are ready to export back to your camera, make sure the camera is on, in the same mode we used for importing, and in addition, make sure the camera is loaded with a fresh tape, re-wound to the beginning. Choose File > Share, and you will see a sheet emerge, pictured above, right. From this screen you can see some of the export options we've introduced. The only options for recording back to tape are how many extra seconds of black footage you want before and after the movie...; I recommend something like 4-5 seconds. Click Share, and the recording process should begin with your camera. iMovie should handle the record function on most cameras automatically. Note in older versions of iMovie, the Share command was called Export; the keyboard shortcut has remained the same.

export imovie to quicktime

Exporting to Quicktime

Collectively, Bluetooth, Email, Homepage and Quicktime all produce Quicktime movies in the 'Sharing' dialog box. This guide will cover the 'Quicktime' option proper, and settings to make when using this option. Movies you export to Quicktime can be placed online, burned to CD-ROMs, and kept as 'low-calorie' versions on your computer for archiving.

Once you choose to export in Quicktime, you have a number of choices to make about the intended destination for the file. These presets (such as Web, CD-ROM) are 'easy,' compatible compression schemes that will play back on a variety of Quicktime versions. They are 'safe' bets, but if you have Quicktime 6 or 7, it is best to choose your compression settings from the 'Expert' dialog box. Proceed to save under 'expert,' and in the Save as... dialog box, you can choose which settings to make for your saved masterpiece.

Video Settings

Under 'Video' you can choose your codec, size, and framerate. The technical aspects of all of these can be confusing. I will attempt a brief description here, but if you are not interested in these technical details, I will recommend two different settings below for exporting your movie files.

The different ways to compress video (similar to the ways to compress images, i.e., JPEG, GIF, LZW, etc.) are called codecs. Different codecs have strengths and weakenesses. Some do better at certain types of images (solid colors vs. photographic video), some are engineered for very small file sizes, and others are geared towards external devices (such as cell phones). MPEG-2 which is an add-on from Apple, is the type of compression used for DVDs. It's very high quality, and isn't designed for many of the uses we've discussed. MPEG-4, however, is designed for high compression with good quality. With Mac OS X Tiger, Apple also introduced Quicktime 7, which introduces a new type of MPEG compression called H.264. This is playable by users on Macs using Tiger or Panther, as long as they have Quicktime 7. This is the highest quality codec you're likely to find that can produce small file sizes-but when using it, you may be shutting out other viewers who haven't upgraded to the latest version of Quicktime.

Older codecs like H.263, Apple Motion JPEG, etc., can be played by a large number of machines, but aren't terribly good with compression like the newer codecs MPEG-4 and H.264. Another option is Sorensen 3, which is a standard for motion videon on the desktop.

The size of the video is a measure of the width and height of the movie in pixels. Standard TV resolution is 640x480. DV footage is 720x480. The numbers are always in a relationship of 4:3. 400x300 is a good intermediate size that can be 'blown-up' or enlarged, but still delivered online. 240x180 is a smaller size that is popular on the web.

Framerate is a count of how many individual frames, or pictures make up the movie, per second. Your camera records at 30 fps. As you strip-away frames, animation and movement becomes more choppy. Remember, more frames = better quality, but also a larger file size.

imovie setting

Audio Settings
Audio should also be compressed for your video projects. MP3 is probably the most popular form of compressed audio. iMovie provides several choices, that like the video codecs, offer different advantages and disadvantages. If stereo is not important for your project, you can cut your audio file size in half by choosing 'mono.'


Quicktime comes with a number of filters that change the appearance of the movie file... one good example is a film grain effect that makes the movie look old fashioned. I usually do not select any of these.

Internet Streaming

Is your movie going online? Will it be served by a streaming video server? If so, turn this feature on. Quicktime 6 and 7 users can choose 'Quickstart' which provides end-users a quicker playback time for the video-the video will begin playback before the entire movie is downloaded onto their machine.

My Recommendation

I'm a quality guy-I like high quality video. With Apple's H.264, they will be able to bring high definition (HD) to the desktop with Quicktime 7. I'll provide two examples: the first is 'high quality, latest codec' version, and a smaller, 'more compatible' version. Feel free to adjust these recipes for your own needs.

video setting

High Quality Export Recipe
Codec: MPEG-4
Framerate: 15 fps
Keyframes: 60
Size: 640x480
Quality: High
Audio: MPEG-4 Audio, 128kbit, mono

Smaller, More Compatible Recipe
Codec: Sorensen 3
Framerate: 10fps
Keyframes: 60, or automatic
Size: 240x180
Quality: High
Audio: QDesign Music, mono

When exporting Quicktime content to the web, consider the file size. 2-10 MB movies are reasonble for download over a fast connection. Larger movies (+10 MB) will not be downloaded readily by folks using a modem. Larger movies, when downloaded, can also eat up bandwidth quotas your service provider may have in place. If you're backing up to CD-ROM, the first recipe above, when changed to stereo audio, can probably fit 50 minutes of content on one CD (~700 MB). Remember that exporting your movie is a processor-intensive task, and you may wish to leave your computer to its compression and come back once it has finished.

Going to DVD

DVD is a popular new choice with Macs built over the past couple years. iDVD is a companion program that can take your iMovie project, and burn it into a DVD-complete with chapter markers.

Use the Markers menu in iMovie HD (5) to add chapters to your movie. This is great to do with larger productions-ones that you may wish to watch in the future from various points along the timeline. These are the 'scenes' you may be familiar with on commercial DVDs. iDVD handles the compression of the movie automatically to MPEG-2.

iMovie Preferences

imovie preferences

Be sure to check out the Preferences (iMovie > Preferences) in iMovie.

Since the release of iMovie 4, I recommend updating your copy of iMovie any time Apple releases an update. Their upgrades to Quicktime also affect iMovie's performance, and issues that may arise. Checking the box next to 'Check for iMovie updates automatically' is probably a good idea. New to this version of iMovie is the ability to change the default frame rate. Some newer cameras may function at the second choice, 25 fps.