Distributing Your Movie

Watching a movie in iMovie is okay, but iMovie is not really intended to be a viewing application. After you have finished your movie and are ready to release it to the world, you export your movie from iMovie. What you export it to depends on how you want your viewers to be able to watch your movie.

People can watch your movie in three primary ways. You can record your movie on videotape that others can watch with a VCR. Or you can export your movie to a QuickTime file that can be viewed on a computer; you transmit your movie file to others in a variety of ways, including by e-mail, on the Web, or on CD-ROM. The third, and definitely the coolest, is to record your movies on DVD that can be played in a standard DVD player. The good news is that you can export the same movie by using any or all of these methods to get your movie to as many people as possible.

Distributing Your Movie on Videotape

Distributing your movie on videotape offers several benefits. The first is that the quality of your movie appears to be higher because you don't have file size or other technical limitations to deal with (as you do when you want your movie to be viewed on a computer). The second is that almost everyone has access to a VCR and TV, and it's pretty easy to watch a videotape. A third benefit is that it is very easy to store a movie on videotape (a tape doesn't hog valuable disk space, for example). Using videotape results in good viewing quality, as well as easy viewing and storage.

The first step to getting your movie on videotape is to export your movie from iMovie to your DV camcorder. This process works similarly to getting clips from the DV camcorder into iMovie.

Follow these steps to export your movie:

  1. Connect the FireWire port on your camcorder to the FireWire port on your Mac (this is the same setup you used to import clips from the camcorder into iMovie).

  2. Open your iMovie project. The Monitor will display the Camera Connected message.

  3. Use the iMovie controls to move the tape in the video camera to the point at which you want to begin recording your movie.

  4. Choose File, Export Movie.

  5. In the Export pop-up menu, choose To Camera (it is probably selected already).

  6. If you want more than the default one second of black to appear before your movie begins and after it ends, increase the value in the "Add _ seconds of black before movie" and the "Add _ seconds of black to end of movie" fields.

  7. Click Export.

Several things happen, all of which are automatic, so you can sit back and relax. iMovie sets your camcorder to record and then waits a few seconds to make sure that your camcorder is ready. The camcorder begins recording while displaying one second (unless you set it to a different amount) of black screen. After the black screen, your movie begins to play and your camcorder records it. A progress bar shows you how much longer you have to go (because your whole movie plays, the process takes as much time as your movie is long). You won't hear any sound while your movie is being recorded?this is normal operation.

When your movie is finished, iMovie stops your camcorder. You now have your movie captured on the camcorder; from here on, you can treat it just like any other movie you have recorded. For example, you can connect the camera to a VCR and record your movie to a VHS videotape.


Some DV camcorders enable you to pass-through a signal. This means that you can output to VCR at the same time that you are inputting to the DV camcorder through FireWire. This is good because you can make a first-generation recording directly on the VCR at the same time that you record it on your DV camcorder. In fact, you might not even have to record it on the DV camcorder at all. To find out whether your DV camcorder has this feature, connect it to a VCR at the same time as you connect it to your Mac. If you see a picture through the VCR while you export the movie to the DV camcorder, you can pass on through.

Distributing Your Movie Electronically

You can also distribute your movie as a QuickTime file for viewing on a computer. The primary advantage of this method is that it is an easier and much less expensive way to get your movie to many people than using videotape.

The primary disadvantage to viewing your movie on a computer is that the quality is largely dependent on the computer that is being used and the technical savvy of the person to whom you have sent the movie. (Although it's easy, playing a QuickTime movie requires a bit more knowledge than playing a videotape does.)

The steps to create a QuickTime version of your movie are the following:

  1. Choose File, Export Movie.

  2. Choose To QuickTime from the Export pop-up menu. You will see the Export Movie window; the window now has a Formats pop-up menu. You can use this menu to choose a format in which to export your movie.

  3. Click the Formats pop-up menu. You have several options to choose for the format of the movie that you want to export.

  4. Choose the format you want to use. The format you choose determines the size of the QuickTime file as well as its playback quality.

  5. Click Export. You will see the Export QuickTime Movie dialog box.

  6. Name your movie, choose a location in which to save it, and click Save.

iMovie begins to export your movie, and a progress bar that gives you an idea of where you are in the process will appear onscreen. You can also see the Playhead moving and the movie plays in the monitor in the background. Unless your movie is really short, the export process takes a long time, so plan on doing something else for a while. Eventually, the progress bar goes away. When it does, you are finished exporting the movie. This QuickTime movie can be viewed just like any other QuickTime movie (for example, in the QuickTime Player or on the Web).

To learn about viewing QuickTime movies, see "Viewing QuickTime Movies," p. 510.

The only complicated part of this process is choosing the format in which you want to export the movie. When exporting to QuickTime, you must always trade off file size versus quality. The better the quality of your movie, the bigger the file is (and the more resources that it consumes to send or store). For example, Table 18.2 shows the resulting file sizes for various export formats for the same movie, which is 5:21:20 long.

Table 18.2. File Sizes for Various Format Options
Export Format Choice File Size (MB)
Email Movie, Small 3.4
Streaming Web Movie, Small 7.9
CD-ROM Movie, Medium 25.5
Full Quality, Large 1,100.0

When choosing quality and file size, always keep the recipient of the movie in mind. If you know that the person to whom you plan on e-mailing it uses a 56K modem, keeping the file size small is important. If you are using a CD, maximize quality; it doesn't matter how big the file is (as long as it isn't bigger than the amount of space on the disc, of course).


You can decrease the size of the QuickTime file by muting soundtracks before you export the movie (muted soundtracks are not exported).

After you have created the QuickTime version you want to distribute, you can distribute it in many ways, including the following:

  • Attach it to an e-mail message

  • Post it to a Web site

  • Burn it on a CD

To learn about using Mail to send attachments, see "Sending and Receiving Files with E-Mail," p. 323.

To learn about creating a Web site, see Chapter 14, "Putting Yourself on the Web," p. 369.

To learn about burning CDs, see "Finding, Installing, and Using a CD Writer," p. 695.


You might want to create multiple QuickTime versions of your movie and distribute it in more than one way.

Using Expert Formatting Options

Most of the time, one of the standard format options will be what you need to use. However, you can use the Expert format to specify all aspects of how your movie is formatted. When you choose Expert from the Formats pop-up menu, you will see the Expert QuickTime Settings dialog box (see Figure 18.19).

Figure 18.19. You can control many aspects of how your movie is exported by using the Expert format options.


Although a discussion of the specifics of all the options you have is beyond the scope of this book, a quick overview will give you some idea of how this works.

Basically, when you export a movie, you control the image and audio settings for that exported movie and how the movie is prepared for the Internet. You can control the resolution of the movie's video, the compression that is applied to it, and so on. You can also control the compression and other settings for the audio portion of the movie. And you can choose the type of Web server that will be serving your movie (standard or QuickTime Streaming).

In the Image settings area, you can set the width and height of the movie (its resolution). If you click the Settings button, you will see the Compression Settings dialog box, which enables you to choose the compression, depth, quality, and motion settings for the movie.

If you click the Settings button in the Audio area, you will see the Sound Settings dialog box. You can use the controls in this dialog box to set the audio properties of the QuickTime movie.


It is interesting to select one of the predefined options and read the information box just below the Formats menu. There you will see the settings that Apple has input for the various format choices (such as for Streaming Web Movie, Small). This can give you some insight into the options you see if you use the Expert format settings.

Exporting Your Movie to DVD

Using the iDVD application and a DVD-R drive, you can put your iMovie projects on DVDs that can be played in a standard DVD player.

To learn about DVD, see Chapter 19, "Watching and Creating DVDs," p. 583.

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle