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Unlocking iMovie '09 & '11

iLife '06 had the impressive and easy ability to send projects back and forth between the different iApps, so easy in fact it was like playing ping-pong with your project. Adding a custom score? Pop. Send to GarageBand. Dropping it into your blog? Pow. Send to iWeb. Burning it to a DVD?... Sigh. You get the idea.

Among all of the new concepts in iMovie '08, the new Media Browser is one of the most pivotal. iMovie now not only listens to, but talks to other iLife applications through the Media Browser. (For brevity and to sound like an expert, I will be referring to it as the "MB" from now on.) This post covers how the MB works and how to get a movie there.

The Grand Central Station for iLife
The MB operates a lot like its older version. It is used to share media between iLife apps without having to browse through folders to find files. The new MB is much like the old one, with the difference that there is a new iMovie source listed. More importantly, you must export from iMovie to get a movie listed here. Not a big deal, but good to know.

Adding a movie to the Media Browser
Getting a movie into the MB is quite easy. There are only a few things to understand. First, in iMovie go to the Share menu and select "Media Browser..."

Selecting it will bring up this window (Click for larger view):

You will notice that this movie has four different size options available. This is because my source material here is 720p HD. (Pretty high quality.) If your source material is of a lower quality, some of the size options will not be made available. This is because iMovie will not export at a size or resolution greater than your source material. Also notice that the window indicates for which devices a given size is appropriate. One glaring omission here is DVD quality. So you know what size works, standard DVDs can be authored up to 480p quality. Don't worry about this too much, however, since iDVD will scale the video so it fits. Unless hard drive space is too tight, just make sure to always choose the highest quality.

Export may take a long time
Exporting to the MB may take a lot of time, depending on the speed of your computer, the length of the movie, and the quality of the source material and of the export settings. If it doesn't take a long time, it might take a long time. On my older iMac G5, a 16 second movie of 720p video took about five minutes to export to all qualities. That is pretty slow, but my computer is on the slow side too.

Using the MB in other iLife apps
Once you have exported your movie to the MB, you will be able to find it in the MB of iDVD, iWeb, and GarageBand. Your list will look something like this:

Notice that your Event Library is also available. This means unedited footage is already in the MB. No export required. Also notice that once you select a movie in the list, all of the available sizes will be listed below it.

As mentioned above, you generally want to select the highest quality version to work with for iDVD. For iWeb, you may want a lower size version depending on how big of a file you want to put on your site. (Note: Publishing to iWeb and publishing to your .Mac web gallery are different things. The .Mac Web Gallery will upload all available sizes and let the viewer choose his or her desired quality.)

Now that your movie is in the MB, what happens if you make a change to it? Like an ever vigilant guardian of the MB, iMovie will swoop in at the first change to your movie and give you this:

If you decide to make a change anyway, you will need to re-export your movie to the MB. As long as you don't make changes to your movie, the Share menu will also keep track of it. If you have already sent a movie to the MB, the option to do it again is greyed out. Instead of that, the option to remove it becomes available.

I hope this helps you understand the MB, iMovie, and iLife better. As usual, if you have any comments or questions, please fire away in the comments below.

14 comments: to “ How to send movies to the Media Browser

  • Jean-Paul
    August 14, 2007 at 3:19 PM  

    I am very concerned about not having DVD resolutions. And even more about not having PAL resolutions. When you have source material at DVD resolution you don't want it upscaled and then downscale it again. The footage will be rubbish. It is a silly ommision really...

  • Aaron
    August 14, 2007 at 5:53 PM  


    This concerns me as well. I discussed this in the new post on sending movies to iDVD, but I will need to run a couple of tests and see how dramatic the difference the Media Browser makes.

    I don't have any PAL footage to test, but I got the impression from elsewhere that iMovie '08 works with PAL from importing to iMovie all the way through burning a DVD. But, I am not a video expert. (That should be obvious.)

  • Anonymous
    August 19, 2007 at 11:59 PM  

    @Aaron. This is not what Jean-Paul was commenting on. A standard definition PAL video output of 720 x 576 pixels has been omitted from the application, so that you can only export at 640 x 480. At least to the media browser. You can however export to Quicktime PAL at full native resolution. But then you can't add chapters in Garageband. Going the Media Browser route, will downscale the video and then you need to upscale for output in iDVD. Not only does this downgrade the video quality, but is really stupid and I cannot understand why Apple would go this route, they have effectively made thier applications harder to use and more inefficient.

  • Aaron
    August 20, 2007 at 9:24 AM  

    @ Anon,

    Thanks for clearing that up. It seems shortsighted of Apple to not include the PAL DV resolution as an option.

    You can probably still add chapter markers using a DV export and GarageBand. The Media Browser automatically recognizes movie files that you save in your Movies folder in your home folder. You could export the correct PAL resolution to the Movies folder, then use the Media Browser to pull it into GarageBand. It should still work the same as movies sent directly to the Media Browser from iMovie '08.

  • leigh
    May 19, 2008 at 9:39 PM  

    hi ~ i am trying to upload video to my iweb page. i have followed all of the steps you outlined and am able to create a video clip in the "mobile" size. once in media browser, i drag my mobile clip into iweb, but when i play the video on my iweb page, it seems to only have exported the audio.

    any ideas? eek, totally frustrated....thanks in advance.

  • Anonymous
    June 19, 2008 at 10:33 PM  

    Once I've shared my movie, where is the file? I wanted to copy the file to my laptop, but I didn't want to wait another hour to export it. I couldn't find it by name.


  • Matt Monkhouse
    September 22, 2008 at 9:17 PM  

    Everytime I try to transfer my movie to the media browser, imovie unexpectedly quits around 1/8 of the way through. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

  • Anonymous
    September 30, 2008 at 8:36 AM  

    in earlier versions of iLife suite I was able to import DV @ (640x480) into iMovie , create chapters and read the chapter markers in iDVD without the applications re-compressing or scaling the DV.

    Now in iLife '08 if I want to chapter DV in iMovie my only option is to allow iMovie to re-compress the original DV into H.264 producing unusable results .......

    I guess we;re supposed to buy Final Cut Studio .... what a drag

  • Anonymous
    October 7, 2008 at 2:09 AM  

    No.. You can make chapters in iDVD... you just don't have EXACT Control over where they go. You are stuck at minute intervals Equidistance apart.

  • Anonymous
    October 21, 2008 at 11:55 AM  

    When you export to "media browser" where does it store the files? For example I have all of my imovie projects stored on a WD My Book Studio Edition. If i export to media browser does it store them there also (the location of the original project) or does it stick them on my HD somewhere?

  • Anonymous
    October 21, 2008 at 8:27 PM  

    When you export a file to "Media Browser" it actually appends your iMovie file behind the scenes and enables you to use the imovie file in iDVD or any of the iLife suites. When you go to Media, click on your iMovie file, and you see samples of the movie at all the sizes you shared it as.. For example... if you shared it 720X540, and then also 320X280.. you'll see both of them once you click on the file from the media browser in iDVD or GarageBand. Then you drag the one you want to use into your project.

    You will not see the actual files you create in the finder unless, after you have "shared" the movie.. right click on your iMovie file and choose the "Show Content Package" option. Once you do that.. you'll now see the Hidden video files associated with your iMovie file. If you want to create a copy of it.. you can do it there. If you move it though.. You'll have to either it back or share it again from iMovie. I hope this makes sense.

  • mus429
    December 28, 2009 at 12:56 AM  

    I've been using media browser for 12 months with no problems, however I've just used it again and it all works as normal but when I open iDVD and go to 'Media' the project I just exported (2 hours) can't be found. If I try to export it again it is greyed out indicating it has already been exported but as I said I can't find it.
    Any ideas please

  • Helsbels
    January 18, 2011 at 4:16 PM  

    I am very frustrated when trying to save my imovie project to media browser. None of the options are highlighted and therefore not active. Is this because i have imported the original footage from my DV camcorder in too large a size? It is not an HD camcorder so please can anyone tell me what to do when I am at this stage as it is for a project I need on DVD tomorrow!!

  • Michael Dreyfus
    January 21, 2011 at 12:17 PM  

    Is the movie in the Media Browser available in iMovie? I edited a clip and want to save it in the Events library so that I can reuse it in future projects. It would be nice if I didn't have to export it as a movie and then import it to make this work.