I compared three similar pocket digital video recorders. My two simple evaluation criteria were “plays well with UVM basic web servers” and “plays well with iMovie.” Conclusions:
- The Kodak ZX1 plays best with UVM servers: video clips can be uploaded direct from camera to server and viewed on the web with no post-processing (conversion, reformat, resize, or edit).
- All played equally rough with iMovie HD (the original version, iLife 06 and earlier)
- All played equally well and shared nicely with iMovie 09 (and presumably with 08 as well)
- Saves files natively in .AVI container using an MPEG-4 codec
- Officially — meaning they give you an installer for it — the codec is of the XVid variety, and 3ivx in particular.
- 640 x 480; 30 fps, about 4.3 mbits/second
- You can upload .AVI files direct to www.uvm.edu. Will play if client machine has 3ivx or DivX installed. If not installed (but QuickTime is), prompted to get additional components for Quicktime; specifically, the Xvid component. However, installing Xvid component for Windows still did not allow .AVI file to be played using QuickTime browser plug-in. So, raw files not quite ready for web, need post processing
- comes with an application preloaded on drive for editing and sharing videos. When launched, prompted to install 3ivx codec, even if Divx already installed. Apparently it wants that installed before it will run.
- Once it does run (FlipVideo For Mac, that is), it immediately asks if you want a free upgrade. I said no, for now, just to see what’s what
- Chose Public Online Sharing for Upload to Other Websites. Took ForEVER for 1 minute movie. Produced 496 x 370 pixel; 30 fps; 840 kbit/second .MOV file using QDesign Music 2 (16 kHz) and Sorenson Video 3 codec. Yuck. Where’s my MP4 format go? Also note: movie NOT set for progressive download!
- Restarted FlipVideo For Mac, took them up on offer to install FlipShare (100 Mb download)
- Installed FlipShare, which in turn launched App, which in turn updated flash drive on Flip with new software
- Launched FlipShare. Chose Share… Online… Other Websites. Produced 640 x 480 pixel; 30 fps; 1171 kbit/second .MOV file using u-Law 2:1 (16 kHz) and H.264 codec.. This is an improvement, but once again movie NOT set for progressive download!
- saves in .MP4 container, Quicktime claims file is video: AVC Coding (another name for H.264), 1280 x 720, Millions Colors, Audio AAC Mono, 44.100 kHz, a whopping 10.43 mbits/s
- Apparently, though, movie is STILL not “optimized for internet” or “flattened” or otherwise ready for Progressive download.
- Post processing via QuickTime Pro: Export as MP4, select options, Video codec set to passthrough, audio to passthrough, streaming set to enabled produces a file claimed by Quicktime to be video H.264, 1280 x 720, Millions; audio AAC, Mono, 44.100 kHz, still 10.43 mbits/s. Progressive download now works fine.
- records in 720p HD or 480p SD (VGA). Also records in 720p HD 60 fps, but that mode wasn’t tested.
- saves in .MP4 container, Quicktime claims file is video: Ambarella AVC encoder, either 1280 x 720 (HD) or 640×480 (SD), Millions Colors, AAC, Stereo, 48.000 kHz, and a staggering 11.16 mbits/s for HD and 2.663.30 mbits/s SD
- Amazingly, movie IS “optimized for internet” or “flattened” and otherwise ready for Progressive download!
- Post processing via QuickTime Pro: Not Necessary!
Import into iMovie HD (version 6.03, iLife 06)
- started with iMovie HD (version 6.03, iLife 06). Created new project of type MP4.
- Dragged original Flip Ultra AVI into project. I waited while iMovie “down converted” from [DivX 6.0, 640 x 480, Millions Microsoft ADPCM, Mono, 44.100 kHz 4316.74 kbits/s] to [AAC, Stereo (L R), 48.000 kHz Apple MPEG4 Decompressor, 640 x 480, Millions 991.62 kbits/s]
- I used QuickTime Pro to export original as H.264, using mostly default settings and 640×480 dimensions. Resulted in [AAC, Mono, 44.100 kHzH.264, 640 x 480, Millions]. Dragged this into iMovie, it instantly copied file to project with no modifications
- I dragged the original Flip MinoHD MP4 file into project. I waited while in down converted from [1280 x 720 10.43 mbits/s.] to letter boxed 640×480 981.27 kbits/s.
- Created new project of type MP4.
- I dragged the original Flip MinoHD MP4 file into project. iMovie crashed. Tried again, same results as above — down converted from [1280 x 720 10.43 mbits/s.] to letter boxed 640×480 981.27 kbits/s.
- Clearly, new project of type MP4 is inappropriate for the MinoHD. This time tried HDV 720p
- I dragged the original Flip MinoHD MP4 file into project. iMovie up converted from [1280 x 720 10.43 mbits/s.] to [16-bit Integer (Little Endian), Stereo (L R), 48.000 kHz Apple Intermediate Codec, 1280 x 720 (1248 x 702), Millions] and a mammoth 32.75 mbits/s. My 91.75 MB MP4 was now 288.15 MB. I don’t know where the (1248 x 702) is coming from. Yes it works, but still not ideal.
- Now for the Kodak ZX1 files. Same results as with MinoHD
iMovie HD does not handle these cameras as well as it handles an old-school DV camera.
Import into iMovie 08/09
This is a whole different kettle of fish. MacOS and iLife treat these cameras as Still cameras, not video cameras. Hook one up to a Mac, and iPhoto launches and imports movie (and or still) clips. These are registered as “Events” and generally sorted by dates embedded in the photos (Strong Hint: Be sure your camera has the proper Times and Date Set!!).
iMovie has an Event Library Panel. Import from a file or DV camera can be set to create a new Event or add to an existing event. There is also an iPhoto Videos Event. Choose that, find a video in an iPhoto Event, drag it straight into project, watch immediately. Additionally, if you select import and navigate to your iPhoto Library, you can find the movie clips in iPhoto Events and import into iMovie Events.
Bottom line: iMovie 08/09 is far superior to iMovie 06 in terms of working with this class of cameras — if you can tolerate the remainder of the iMovie 08/09 user interface.