Chapter 4. Camcorder Meets Mac

Phase 1 is over. You’ve captured the raw footage on your camcorder, you’ve now assembled the ingredients you need, and you’re ready to enter the kitchen. Now it’s time for Phase 2, the heart of this book: editing your footage on the Mac using iMovie. This chapter introduces you to both iMovie and FireWire, the highspeed cable system that transfers footage from the camcorder to the Mac; gives you a tour of the iMovie window; and walks you through your first transfer.

iMovie: The Application

So far in this book, you’ve read about nothing but hardware—the equipment. In the end, however, the iMovie story is about software, both the footage as it exists on your Mac and the iMovie program itself.

iMovie on a New Mac

If you bought a new Mac since January 2006, iMovie 6 is probably already on your hard drive. Open the Macintosh HD icon → Applications folder. Inside is the icon for iMovie itself (called iMovie HD).

Its icon is probably in your Dock, too.

iMovie for an Existing Mac

If your Mac didn’t come with iMovie HD, you’ll have to buy it as part of the $80 iLife ’06 software suite, a DVD containing the latest versions of GarageBand, iMovie, iPhoto, iWeb, and iDVD. (It’s available from Apple’s Web site, or popular Mac mailorder sites like and

Apple says that iMovie requires a Mac OS X machine (10.3.9 or later, or 10.4.3 or later) with at least 256 MB of memory; a G4, G5, or Intel processor; QuickTime 7.0.4 or later; 10 GB of free hard drive space (for all of iLife), and a screen that can show at least 1024 x 768 pixels. In addition, more memory and a faster processor are always better. (For high-definition video, you need 512 megs of memory and either an Intel chip, a 1-gigahertz G4 chip, or something faster—and that’s the bare minimum.)

If you want to transfer footage from your DV camcorder, you also need a Mac with FireWire ports. Of course, iMovie can also edit footage you’ve copied from a Mac that does have FireWire, or video from one of those pocket-corder things that store the video as files on a memory card or hard drive.

And if you simply want to edit your movies on your Mac, without involving the camcorder—movies taken with a digital still camera, for example—then almost any Mac OS X–compatible machine will do. It doesn’t have to have FireWire circuitry.

If you’ve bought iLife, run its installer and choose which programs you want. When the installer is finished, you’ll find an icon called iMovie HD in your Applications folder and in your Dock.


If you’ve got some previous version of iMovie already on your Mac, the installer automatically upgrades it to the newer version. (iMovie HD can open and edit projects from the older iMovies, too.)

If you want to back up your older iMovie copy so that you can return to it if you don’t care for the new version, rename your older copy. Call it “iMovie 5,” for example. You’ll wind up with both programs in your Applications folder: “iMovie 5” and “iMovie HD” (which is version 6).

“.0.1” Updates

Like any software company, Apple occasionally releases new versions of iMovie: version 6.0.1, version 6.0.2, and so on. Each free upgrade adds better reliability to the program. In general, they’re well worth installing.

You don’t have to look far to find them. One day you’ll be online, and the Mac’s Software Update dialog box will appear, letting you know that a new version is available and offering to install it for you. (You can also download the updates from

When the updater is finished with its installation, your original copy of iMovie, wherever you’ve been keeping it, will have morphed into the newer version of the program. You’ll find it in the same place it was before, but now it has the enhancements of the updated version. (One way to find out what version of iMovie you have is to open the program and then choose “.0.1” Updates → About iMovie HD.)

This book assumes that you have at least iMovie 6.0.1, which is far more reliable and stable than the 6.0 version was.

Get iMovie 6 & iDVD: The Missing Manual now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.