Home movie makers, start your Software Updater, for Apple has released an update to iMovie ‘09. The latest version, 8.0.5, brings the usual improvements in compatibility and fixes for “minor issues,” but the real story here is the introduction of a brand new video format called ‘iFrame.’
iFrame (not to be confused with the troublesome iFrame HTML tag) is a video standard based on Apple’s hugely successful H.264 Video and AAC Audio codecs. Just as we’ve come to expect from those codecs, iFrame offers reasonably high quality audio and video with low file sizes. Smaller files are ideal for those of us who make home movies with digital camcorders, keeping to the absolute minimum the time it takes to import video from a camcorder into iMovie.
The smaller sizes are not surprising, considering iFrame records video at a resolution of 960×540 (at 30fps). While a little higher resolution than SVGA, it’s still shy of HD’s lowest standard offering, (1280×720). Apple released a support document on its website briefly describing iFrame:
The iFrame Video format is designed by Apple to speed up importing and editing by keeping the content in its native recorded format while editing. Based on industry standard technologies such as H.264 and AAC audio, iFrame produces small file sizes and simplifies the process of working with Video recorded with your camera.
For your Mac, smaller files can potentially mean less time spent crunching numbers during an edit. That’s assuming, of course, you’re tweaking a short video of your pet cat falling off the couch, not cutting an epic feature of Lucasfilm proportions. (If you are, you won’t be using iMovie to do it.) There’s no word yet from Apple on whether it plans to add iFrame compatibility into its pro-level Final Cut software, though it’s probably only a matter of time; after all, Final Cut supports just about every other format, one more can’t hurt.
Cameras with native support for iFrame offer faster imports into iMovie because the files they create will not require the usual (often lengthy) conversion that takes place when importing other formats.
iFrame already has some native hardware support in the form of the latest iPod Nano, which uses iFrame as its default format. In addition, earlier this week Sanyo announced the availability of two dual cameras (digital cameras which capture both still images and full speed video)…the snappily named VPC-HD2000ABK and the VPC-FH1ABK. Both provide full iFrame support in addition to the more typical MPEG-4, H.264 video formats.
It’s easy to imagine next year’s iPhone upgrade including native support for iFrame. The iPhone 3GS records video in the .mov file format, managing a measly 640×480 (VGA) resolution. Nevertheless, shortly after its launch the iPhone 3GS quickly became one of the most popular portable devices used for capturing and uploading video to YouTube. If that trend continues, I’ll welcome iFrame for the improved quality it brings to video sharing networks.
For casual movie making, iFrame should be very well received. I wonder whether competitors in a similar space will take it seriously?