Exporting to tape in Apple iMovie

on Sunday, October 31, 2010

Like most software from Apple, iMovie is entirely functional and to-the-point. And at no time is this more evident than when you want to export your movie to tape. iMovie doesn’t have the ability to export directly to an analog capture card, but it definitely can export video at full quality to your digital camcorder.
To export your finished movie to tape, follow these steps:

1. Connect your digital camcorder to the FireWire port on your computer, and turn the camera on to VTR or Player mode.
Make sure that you have a new, blank videotape cued up and ready in the camcorder.

2. In iMovie, choose File➪Export.

3. Choose To Camera from the Export menu.

4. Adjust the Wait field if you want.
The Wait field controls how long iMovie waits for the camera to get ready before it begins export. I recommend leaving the Wait field set at five seconds unless you’re exporting to a video converter (such as the Dazzle Hollywood DV Bridge) connected to your FireWire port. In that case, you may want to increase the wait to about ten seconds or so to ensure that you have enough time to press the Record button manually on your VCR.
Whatever you do, don’t reduce the Wait field to less than five seconds. Virtually all camcorders need some time to bring their tape-drive mechanisms up to the proper speed, and the Wait gives the camcorder time to get ready.

5. Adjust the two Add fields to determine the amount of black video that will be recorded at the beginning and end of the tape.
I recommend putting at least 30 seconds of black video at the beginning and end of the movie.

6. Click Export.
iMovie will automatically export your movie to the tape in your camcorder. If you’re exporting directly to a digital camcorder, iMovie will automatically control the camera for you; there’s no need to press the Record button on the camcorder. But if you are exporting through a video converter, you’ll need to manually press Record on your analog VCR.

Exporting Movie


After your hardware is set up properly and you’re sure that your movie will look good on a regular TV, you’re ready to export the movie. Regardless of what software you are using, keep in mind that — like video capture — video export uses a lot of memory and computer resources. To make sure that your system is ready for export:
  • Turn off unnecessary programs. If you’re like me, you probably feel like you can’t live without your e-mail program, Internet messaging program, Web browser, and music jukebox all running at once. Maybe you can’t live without these things, but your video-editing software will get along just fine without them. In fact, the export process will work much better if these things are closed, and you’re less likely to have dropped frames or other quality problems during export.
  • Disable power-management settings. If you’re exporting a movie that’s 30 minutes long, and your hard disk is set to go into power-saving mode after 15 minutes, you could have a problem during export because the computer will mistakenly decide that exporting a movie is the same thing as inactivity. Power management is usually a good thing, but if your hard disk or other system components go into sleep mode during export, the video export will fail. Pay special attention to this if you’re working on a laptop, which probably has pretty aggressive powermanagement settings right now.
  • On a Mac, use the Energy Saver icon in System Preferences to adjust power settings. Crank all the sliders in the Energy Saver window up to Never before you export your movie.
  • • In Windows, open the Control Panel, click the Performance and Maintenance category if you see it, and then open the Power Options icon. Set all of the pull-down menus to Never before exporting your movie.
  • Disable screen savers. Screen savers aren’t quite as likely to ruin a movie export as power-management settings, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  1. In Windows, right-click a blank area of the Windows desktop and choose Properties. Click the Screen Saver tab of the Display Properties dialog box, and choose the None screen saver. (That’s my favorite one, personally.)
  2. On your Mac, open the Screen Saver icon in System Preferences and choose Never on the Activation tab of the Screen Saver dialog box.

Whenever you export a movie to tape, I always recommend that you place some black video at the beginning and end of the movie. Black video at the beginning of the tape gives your audience some time to sit down and relax between the time they push Play and the movie actually starts. Black video at the end of the movie also gives your viewers some time to press Stop before that loud, bright static comes on and puts out someone’s eye. Some editing programs — like Apple iMovie — have tools that allow you to automatically insert black video during the export process. I’ll show you how to insert black video using iMovie in the next section. But if you’re using some other software that doesn’t have this feature — like Pinnacle Studio or Windows Movie Maker — you’ll need to add a clip of black video to the beginning and end of the project’s timeline. You can usually do this by creating a blank full-screen title, and I’ll show you how later in this chapter. The most common failures encountered on VHS tapes are mangling or breakage at the very beginning of the tapes. Employees at video rental stores are quite skilled in the art of VHS tape repair, and they often repair beginning-oftape problems by cutting off the damaged tape, and then re-attaching the remaining good tape to the reel. If you put 30 seconds of black video at the beginning of your VHS tapes, about three feet of tape can be cut off before any of your movie is trimmed away. And if you ever need such a repair performed, head down to your local video store. You should be able to find someone there who will do the job for a couple of dollars.

Setting Up Your Hardware


Getting your hardware ready for exporting a movie to tape isn’t so difficult, really. The easiest thing to do is connect your digital camcorder to your FireWire port and turn on your camcorder to VTR or Player mode. (Oh yeah, and insert a blank tape into the camcorder.) After your movie is recorded onto the tape in your camcorder, you can connect the camcorder to a regular VCR and dub your movie onto a regular VHS tape if you want. I strongly urge you to use a fresh tape that has black video recorded on its entire length. This will prevent errors in communication between your digital camcorder and your computer.
If your master plan is to eventually record your movie on a VHS tape, you may want to skip the middleman — that would be your digital camcorder —and record straight from your computer to a regular VCR. To do so, you have three basic options:
  • Use an analog video-capture card. Analog capture cards (such as the Pinnacle AV/DV board) can usually export to an analog source as well as import from one. When you export video using an analog card, I strongly recommend you use the software that came with that card. Most analog capture cards come with special utilities to help you import and export video. The Pinnacle AV/DV board uses Pinnacle Studio to capture and export video. To get Studio ready for analog export, follow these steps
  1. Connect the analog outputs for the card to the video inputs on your VCR.
  2. Make sure the software that came with the capture card is set to export to the correct ports. The Pinnacle AV/DV, for example, uses the Pinnacle Studio software. In Studio, choose Setup ➪ Make Tape. The Pinnacle Studio Setup Options dialog box appears. On the Make Tape tab, choose Studio AV/DV analog in the Video dropdown list.
  3. Make sure that the right analog output ports are selected. The Pinnacle AV/DV board has both composite and S-Video outputs, so choose the one to which you have connected your VCR.
  • Use a video converter.
  • Use your digital camcorder as a converter.
I know, I know, I said I was going to show you how to avoid using your camcorder as the middleman when you export to VHS tape. But if you don’t have an analog-capture card or a video converter, you might be able to connect your digital camcorder to your FireWire port, and then connect a VCR to the camcorder’s analog outputs. If nothing else, this arrangement reduces wear and tear on your camcorder’s expensive tape-drive mechanism. Some digital camcorders won’t allow you to make this connection, because some models can’t send video out the analog ports at the same time they’re taking video in through the FireWire cable. Experiment with your own camcorder and VCR and see whether this arrangement will work for you. If you are exporting to a VCR, make sure that a new, blank tape is inserted and ready to use, and make sure the VCR is set to the right channel. (Many VCRs have to be set to a special “AV” channel to accept video from composite video cables.) As a last step before you begin your export, preview your movie on a TV connected to the VCR to make sure that the VCR is picking up the signal.