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Ask Max: IMovieHD, HD, and Video Cards

Asked on 05/26/2006:

I recently purchased iLife '06, and a new Radeon 9800 Video Card. I had hoped that the increase in Video throughput would speed up the performance of iMovie HD. It still takes a healthy hour to letterbox plain DV footage, and I still can't get my machine to import HD footage. For that I have to go to another machine, a dual core G5. Which uses iMovie HD quite well and generally has no complaints about importing.

I haven't yet tried to manipulate footage captured on the G5 with my twin G4. My guess is that my G4 will deal with the footage, however slower than the G5 does. I am planning to test that theory later this week.

Is there something I am missing about video processing? I read on the iLife box that the video card had to be capable of displaying 1280X1024 resolution, so I dumped my stock video card, and got the 9800 Radeon, which is capable of displaying 2048X1536.

I thought that by getting a mightier Radeon card, the machine could handle the increased burden of HD Processing. I have spent an evening on the phone with apple tech support and they too seemed confused as to why the machine would not accept the HD footage. In addition, the actual compatibility of the Sony camera/video data output was not known to the tech I spoke with.

I'm stuck! Please help.


Unfortunately the speed and power of your video card will not help with importing of video or rendering video. That work is still done by the G4 processors. Graphics cards only help with the viewing of video once it is on your system. The 9800 card will speed up the previewing of edits and effects, but once you commit to those changes then your G4 Chips are doing all the hard work.

You should be able to import though. One thing to check is that you create your iMovie project as the correct format. When iMovie asks you to name your new project and pick a location to save it, there is another hard to see option. Below the "Where" selection is an arrow with "Video format" printed next to it. Clicking on the arrow will expose a new pull down menu. From that menu select "HDV 1080i" which is the HD format of your camera. Now click on "Create" and try to import from your camera to that new project.

If iMovie HD is still is not importing then you may try using a PCI FireWire card. I have heard that this can solve problems similar to yours.

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