Unlocking iMovie '09 & '11
UPDATE: The 7.1 software update created a very easy way to accomplish this. Although this post is still useful for those wanting a more powerful, flexible method of creating stills, I have written another post on the simpler method.
A lot of recently upset Mac users are keeping two lists. List A is a list of all the iMovie HD features missing from iMovie '08. List B has all the iMovie HD features that are found in iMovie '08. Their complaint is that list B is too short and list A is too long. In all fairness, there ought to be a list C, containing all the features of '08 not found in previous versions of iMovie, but I can't blame them for neglecting list C. I was among the first who started out only keeping two lists.
So it's time for everyone to pull out list A. Scan down the list to where it says that iMovie '08 can't capture a still image from a clip. Cross that out. Now pull out list B. At the bottom of your list, write down, "iMovie '08 can capture a still image from a clip". Here is how you capture a still image from a clip.
A little nagging thought kept telling me that there would be a relatively easy way to capture a still image in iMovie '08. I just felt that it had to be in there somewhere, somewhere I hadn't yet thought to look. So I went feature diving. It turned out it didn't take long to find, but I think I got lucky. After all, who thinks of Quicktime when thinking about still images?
Exporting to Quicktime offers more choices than I ever picture myself using. I have no idea, for example, what an AU or an FLC is. But exporting as an Image Sequence seemed promising. It's more than promising, it's perfect. For those who want to skip the rest of this post, you can just isolate the frame you want to capture in a new project, export it with Quicktime as an image sequence, using the image settings that you want, and find the image or images in the folder where you sent the export. For those wanting a sample walkthrough, read on.
Before you export anything, you need to select the frame or frames you need images of and add them to their own movie project. For help selecting specific frames, go to this post on frame-precise editing.
How to make frame precise edits
I called my project "Image" because I plan on keeping this project around for any footage I plan on capturing into still images. Once I have selected the appropriate footage and added it to my project, I am ready to proceed.
Remember that any footage in here will get the full treatment, and there are up to 30 frames per second in your footage. If you add a full second of a clip to this project, you will have up to 30 still images to sort through. This may not be a bad thing, as I will discuss below, but just be aware of what you are going to get.
Go to the Share menu, and choose "Export using Quicktime...". In that window, choose the menu option, "Movie to Image Sequence."
Once you have this selected, you can choose among the preset export options:
Or you can click the "Options" button and choose your own image type, frame rate, and even compression settings specific to your image format. (The compression settings are found by clicking the next "Options" button.)
I chose to export mine with a custom setting of JPEG at highest quality. You will probably want to do the something similar, but if not, it's probably because you know a lot more about image formats than me.
Your export window won't look much different when you have changed your settings, but be sure to take a moment to choose the destination folder and a name. The name will be repeated with image numbers behind it.
Go ahead and click "Save" and head on over to your destination folder. There you will find one or more images with the image name you gave and a number.
If you have multiple images to review, it's really easy to do so by selecting all of them and opening them in Preview. (Preview is a photo and PDF viewing application in your Applications folder. Double clicking on them all will probably open them in Preview by default.) Here you can figure out which to delete, which to keep, and even which to add to iPhoto if so desired.
The most humorous part about all of this is that this export setting is available in iMovie HD. Who knew? I guess with such easy access to the menu option "Save Frame..." under the File menu, I never thought to look.
Using the image in iMovie
Most of you probably want to capture a still image in iMovie to actually use it in iMovie. Doing so is as easy as ever. Just like in iMovie HD, you can add the image to iPhoto and grab it from your Media Browser, or you can just drag it from the Finder and drop it into your project. Obviously the way you actually use it in your project is a whole other ball of wax, so I won't go into that here. Just remember that if you are using the image to "pause" your footage on a particular frame, and have the footage resume after the image, head over to the previously referenced post on frame-precise edits if you need more help.
Hooray for List B
I'm still convinced that list B will grow with time. Still, with High Definition cameras now becoming so common, it's nice to know that we don't have to wait for Apple to add back in this particular feature. In fact, I really like this way of doing things. It doesn't have the convenience of a single menu item like in iMovie HD, but it does give me a lot more control over what I am getting.