Managing Canon 5D Mark II HD Video in iMovie '09


Editor's Note: I had a conversation on Twitter with Kip Beatty about the difficultly of editing HD video from the Canon 5D Mark II in Apple's iMovie '09. Kip said he had researched a solution, and I want to share his findings with our readers. Here's what Kip Beatty wrote.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II shoots stunning 1080p 30 fps video. However, if you're using iMovie '09 to edit your movies, you'll find using anything but a Mac Pro to edit the native .264 files from the camera will bring iMovie to its knees. In fact, Apple recommends using the "Large" (960 x 540) setting when importing movies from the 5D Mark II. Even if you don't encounter the unexpected quits mentioned in the support document, you'll likely encounter a lot of stutters, pauses, and sluggishness. A simple workaround is to convert the .264 files to iMovie's preferred AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec) format using the free MPEG Streamclip.

Copy your movie files from your CF card to your computer (you can, if you prefer, convert them directly from the CF card). Open MPEG Streamclip and open the movie you want to convert. From the File menu choose Export to Quicktime... (CMD-E). At the top drop down menu, change the compression to Apple Intermediate Codec and slide the quality slider to 100 percent. You may also wish to open up the Adjustments options and bump brightness, contrast, and saturation just a bit to get an exact match, but be very conservative with any changes to these sliders (I'd suggest running a couple of tests on a small file to get the look you like). Click Make Movie and you're done with MPEG Streamclip.


You'll find the resulting file, once imported, plays much more nicely with iMovie, especially on a MacBook Pro or iMac. Unfortunately, you'll also find the resulting file is much larger than the original .264 version. In my tests, it's almost twice as large. This is the main drawback to using AIC. Nonetheless, if iMovie is choking on your native files, it's a worthwhile tradeoff. If you're going to do a lot iMovie editing with AIC converted files from the EOS 5D Mark II, you'll need a lot of storage space. Look at it this way, it's a great excuse to pick up a DroboPro.

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In fact, Apple recommends using the "Large" (960 x 540) setting when importing movies from the 5D Mark II.

This is something I don't understand about iMovie.

If I have 1080i or 1080p video (I have a Canon Vixia HF11, which shoots awesome 1080i), why on Earth would I want something to import 1920x1080 at 960x540? Since when does one quarter the size of the original qualify as "Large"?

Or Am I Missing Somethingâ„¢?

You may not be missing something if you either have a LOT of time on your hand for editing (think in terms of weeks) OR you have a MacPro with quadcores...

The thing to keep in mind about Apple's recommendation Riot, is that for most intended uses of the video (YouTube HD, Vimeo HD, AppleTV, DVD, televisions under 50", etc.) there is virtually no visible difference in quality between the 960 x 540 and the "Full" 1080 import. Basically there is nothing to gain with "Full" if the final destination is 720p or less. However, there IS a ton of space and processing time that is saved.

If, however, your intended destination is Blu-Ray or 1080p, then it's worth it to import the "Full" file because there will be a noticeable difference in quality. As very few users intend to actually output true 1080p, Apple recommends the "Large" setting which is the better choice for the majority of iMovie users.

I would really appreciate if some can help me on this: After I bring in the 1080 video from 5D Mark II using Image Capture and therefore sitting on my HD as a, say 2 GB .mov file, what is the best way to make a DVD disc for it minimizing the degradation of the video quality? If I don't need to edit it then I don't need to bring into iMovie, I suppose. So then, the best thing I can do is to open iDVD and import it using the "professional quality" encoding? Or, does the use of iMovie in between still help in some way? I'm still using iMovie 6.0.4, since I dislike the new versions. iDVD is 7.0.4 and I use an iMac.

Well, what I don't get is why Apple isn't addressing this. I am running a Mac Pro with 10GB or RAM. Sometimes it handles the video fine. Other times it packs up and goes home like a spoiled child as soon as you drag the frames you want to edit. I don't get the inconsistency, especially since the first few videos I edited worked fine and then it got iffy after an update. Also, this has nothing to do with performance. When it works, it flies. When it fails, it's like it doesn't even get to step one.

Hehe these are the kind of video that I was looking for... :)

I have a panasonic camcorder that records in 1080i I believe. Does it make sense for me to import in "full" mode if I plan on watching on 1080p t.v. at some point?