The Low End Mac Mailbag

Importing Video into iMovie, Jumping the Gun on G3s and Leopard, Interference Robustness, and More

Dan Knight - 2007.09.18

Importing Video into iMovie & Making DVDs

From Rick Lawson:


If you get a chance would you address the following question in one of your articles ?

Like most folks over 30 I have a large collection of videotapes I need to digitize. I would like to know the most affordable Mac to digitize VCR tapes into QuickTime movies and also burn to regular DVDs.

Rick Lawson


I wish I had a simple answer to your seemingly simple question. I have an XLR8 ProView USB ($99 from Daystar), and I can report that it works like a charm. You need a Mac with OS X 10.3.5 or later, USB 2.0, and either analog audio input or a Griffin iMic adapter.

The problem isn't importing the video - it's knowing enough to pick the right settings. Which compression scheme do you want to use, and which settings for that compressor? What resolution? How will you deal with interlacing if your do the full 640 x 480 resolution? (For the record, Gary Dailey of Daystar Technology suggests importing using Photo JPEG at this resolution.)

Then there's the next set of questions: How much space will it take on my hard drive? How long will it take to import into iMovie? How much space will the iMovie file take? Do I have a big enough hard drive?

Finally, there's the iDVD set of questions: Is this going to fit on a single-layer DVD? If not, do I have a dual-layer SuperDrive? And can I find dual-layer discs at a reasonable price? (Not often!) And do I have enough space on my hard drive to master the DVD? And should I choose DVD-R/RW or DVD+R/RW?

On top of all this, there's the question of patience. On my dual 1 GHz Power Mac G4, video conversion takes a long, long, long time. It's the kind of project I let run overnight. And on the MacBook Pro, while it's a lot faster, it's still a long, slow process - about two hours to import a one-hour video into iMovie.

Importing video is the fast and easy part, as it only takes a bit over an hour to set things up and save one hour of video to your hard drive. (BTW, 90 minutes is roughly the point at which you need to move to a dual-layer DVD.)

I've tried to research the best settings, I've done a couple of projects, and I'm frankly quite frustrated with the whole process.

I've set up a community on Google Groups, Mac Video, to discuss issues like this. You may be able to get more help there.


Jumping to Gun on Leopard Compatibility with G3 Macs

From Abraham Brody:


The problem with starting this now, is that as a frequent contributor to Apple Discussions and a Level 4 helper there, I field questions about Leopard every day which basically ask to violate the Terms of Use of the board there. Until Apple makes such specs public, relying on developer preview reports alone is going to lead to a lot of mass confusion, because people may think the official specs have been released, when they haven't. It is important to note in such articles where your sources are. I did not see the sources in your article saying it is the Developer release. Without noting the source, people might think it is time to buy a new computer, when it might not be.



We do our best to qualify what we say about Leopard - sources indicate, it appears to be the case, it doesn't look like, we expect. If people jump from there to believing that we have hard knowledge of Apple's official system requirements for Leopard, there's nothing we can do about it short of not preparing people for a future in which G3 Macs will at some point not have any support in the current Mac OS.

Based on field reports, what we read on the Web, and experience with Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3, and 10.4 on G3 Macs, we're making the case that 10.3 is probably the best version of OS X for most G3 Macs, that 10.4 tends to work well on these Macs only with lots of RAM (512 MB+) and a fast hard drive with an 8 MB or larger buffer. Even if Leopard can be made to run on G3 Macs, whether supported by Apple or not, we expect it to be a poor user experience.

Mac OS X 10.5 is going to be very dependent on Core Image support, which requires a G4 or later. One report we've shared notes that the Developer Version can run on a Power Mac G4 Cube, although it can't be installed directly, and that performance was downright poky. That's on a six-year-old 450-500 MHz machine with AGP 2x graphics.

Granted, there may be extra debugging code in there that slows things down, but if it's poky on a G4/450, it's going to be downright excruciating on a 300 MHz G3 with PCI graphics.


Intel Macs Support 802.11a WiFi

From Ed Hurtley:

I know it's PR, but the comment about the QuickerTek Wireless adapter has some technical incorrectness. It states "Most notable is the addition of 802.11a wireless - a feature not even available from Apple." All of Apple's Intel wireless cards can do 802.11a. From the first MacBook Pro to the Mac Pro, to the current 802.11n equipped Macs. All have the ability to connect to an 802.11a 5 GHz network. (I use my first rev this way on an 802.11n AirPort Extreme set to "802.11n, a-compatible mode") An editorial comment might be appropriate. (I am also writing to QuickerTek to complain about their 'false advertising'.)

Ed Hurtley


Thanks for writing - and for contacting QuickerTek. We don't have the resources to verify claims made in PR pieces, which is part of the reason we clearly mark them as PR in our news roundups.

Thanks for sharing this info, as I'm sure most Mac users are not aware that the Intel Macs support 802.11a, a protocol Apple never supported in the past.


Interference Robustness

From Brian:

Hi Dan,

Regarding the article you linked to about the Interference Robustness feature, that's basically the upside-down of how I understood it to work.

The normal 802.11 behavior is to drop down to lower bit rates when faced with high error or retry rates (it's how you get 11 Mbit/s in a small cell around an 802.11b AP but can still get 1 Mbit/s quite a bit farther from it). This results in packets (the same size packets in bytes, mind you) taking longer to transmit because of the lower transmission rate. Because there's a longer window of transmission, there's more opportunity for a periodic interference source (like a microwave oven) to trample your packet. My understanding of the interference robustness feature is that it makes the radio less willing to negotiate down to lower bit rates, keeping the transmission window narrower for individual packets due to the higher bit rate, and increasing the chance of getting those packets through the periodic interference.

I agree that you wouldn't normally want this left on - the normal behavior of stepping down the bit rate is actually the proper and helpful response in most situations. But if you're having troubles and it helps . . . well, then it helps. :)

BTW, it's not Apple-proprietary. It was introduced, I believe, by Broadcom (that's at least where I first saw it, anyway), and it should work with other vendors' APs as well. The feature is present on both Broadcom- and Atheros-equipped Macs.

[I tried to find some corroboration of this in Google, but like the original article notes, there's not much out there. I'm sure of the 802.11 normal behavior part; I'm pretty sure (but not absolutely positive, because I don't remember where I read it) about the robustness feature.]

- Brian


Thanks for writing. "Interference robustness" isn't something most of us have ever heard of, and Arbi Karamians tries to explain it for the average user, and he's right in pointing out that it has been widely discussed but rarely or poorly explained. Unfortunately, his explanation isn't especially clear, but at least it's a step in that direction.

Here's my layman's take: Wireless networking throughput can suffer from interference, whether it's another wireless router on the same frequency, one on an adjacent frequency, or certain classes of wireless phones. Way to deal with interference include changing the channel and dropping to a slower protocol. Apple's solution (whether unique to Apple or not) of using smaller packets sounds far from optimal, but if there's not a clear channel to choose from, transmission at any speed is going to experience interference, so sending smaller packets than can be resent more quickly may result in better throughput if the interference is intermittent.

In short, it's making the best of a very bad situation, and the cost in throughput is high, but if regular WiFi settings aren't working, it may make it possible to maintain a WiFi connection that would otherwise be useless.

Maybe this article will prompt someone who really understands interference robustness to write a far more detailed and accessible article.


USB Options for a Beige Power Mac G3

From Robert M. Krautheim:

Thanks Dan,

I have to admit to being a bit dumb on matters like these. I just remember you first saying that it had to be:

"chipsets that support OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface) tend to work, while OTPI cards tend not to work (although Keyspan seems to be an exception)."

...and I couldn't find if it was OHCI online (or from the description). I guess for $20, it's worth a shot, and it says it can be returned to a Target store if it doesn't.

I guess I'm a bit trepidation. as it is USB 2.0, but that shouldn't matter too much as it is backwards compatible. I seen some other items like this online (eBay/Amazon z-shops) for a bit cheaper, but this one seems like it has less frills.

Again, thanks a ton for your help on this!


Followed a while later by this:

OK, it won't work . . . just found this: distinctly says will not work on Beige . . . guess I'm still looking!


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Dan Knight has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. Mailbag columns come from email responses to his Mac Musings, Mac Daniel, Online Tech Journal, and other columns on the site.

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