Import .mov files in to iMovie

Trying to import .mov files in to iMovie doesn’t always work first time round as I’ve just found out. I was ready to start editing the Industry Conference videos, went to import the .mov files in to iMovie and they were greyed out.

I could swear I’d important .mov files in to iMovie before without any problems, so double checked with some older video I’d imported and I was right. They had worked fine. After doing some much required googling I found that most .mov files do in fact import into iMovie just fine. There are however a small few which can’t for specific reasons and Tim Johnson answered the reasons better than I could myself;

In iMovie 11 (current version) click FILE/IMPORT/MOVIES… and navigate to your .mov file. iMovie will import it.

It is important to realize that MOV is a container, not a codec. iMovie will only import codecs that it can edit.  For example, iMovie cannot edit DIVX, so if your MOV file contains DIVX, iMovie will not import it. Codecs that iMovie can handle include AVCHD, h.264, Motion JPEG, Apple Animation, Apple Intermediate Codec, DV, HDV, etc. 

The audio codec must also be compatible with iMovie. AAC and AIFF work well.

Further, iMovie cannot edit MOV files with extra tracks such as closed caption tracks, chapter tracks, tween tracks, manual advance tracks, and the like.
If your MOV file contains these, you can delete these tracks using Apple’s QuickTime Pro.

If the MOV file contains extra tracks, or contains a video or audio codec that iMovie cannot edit, the MOV file will be grayed out and not selectable in the import dialog box.

You can determine which codecs and tracks your MOV file contains by opening the file in QuickTime Player (or QuickTime Pro) and clicking WINDOW/INSPECTOR (or Command-I). The codec information will be listed next to the word FORMAT in the inspector.

The above explains the problems I was facing. The new videos I had to import for Industry Conference were filled with codec’s not normal within iMovie. This incurred a slight bit of panic that I’d have to have the files resent to me (about 600gb worth) I found that it wasn’t so bad.

How you can import .mov files in to iMovie

It is easier than it may seem although it might cost you just a little bit of money to do so. There are a couple of apps that you can use to convert your .mov media which won’t import in to iMovie into .mp4 files which you can use.

Firstly there is the Bigasoft iMovie Converter for Mac which you can download a trial of and use to convert a small file to see how it works before purchasing a licence.

Secondly there is the iSkysoft Video Converter for Mac app which you can also download a trial of and use to convert a file, however, they create a watermark over the demo’d conversion.

I downloaded both demo’s and opened them up, Bigasoft was visually displeasing on the eye and looked older than iSkysoft. Quickly navigated through the conversion process on iSkysoft and converted one of the smaller videos which wouldn’t import in to iMovie hoping that no quality would be lost nor the audio out of sync. Everything was perfect.

So the way to import .mov files in to iMovie if they’re greyed out is simply convert them first with iSkysoft. They’ll convert in to .mp4 files which you can then import edit, export and upload to where you want them to be.

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Lead Interaction Designer at DigitalDWP. Organiser of Industry, The Practical Web Conference..