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I do not know iMovie, but would assume that the MOV format, with something like the Animation, PhotoPNG or PhotoJPEG2000 would be good.
For WMM, WMV at the highest bit-rate would be a good choice.
Your AVCHD is already highly-compressed, and for that point, given the choices, would go with the MOV with one of those CODEC's, as WMV will add even more compression.
Check that iMovie CAN Import MOV, with one of those CODEC's. I would be surprised if it cannot.
For Windows Movie Maker that would be dv-avi.
Bill, Thanks for your prompt reply. Helpful as usual. Let me back track one moment. What I really want to do is clean up my clips, do a few basic edits, adjust audio, and perhaps a little color correcting. Then I want to pass these clips on to my client - again with minimal edting experience. What's the best method to try to stay closest to the original quality (Windows Movie Maker or imovie)?
Perhaps there is a better way than exporting to a different format.
Do you mean
Format: Microsoft AVI
Preset: NTSC DV Widescreen for Windows Movie Maker?
Well yes. dv-avi is less compressed then wmv. I assume the footage will end up on a dvd.
Best is to edit native and dont convert. Might want to check which files and resolution WMM actually supports.
I still think that I would go the Mac route, and just keep it simple by Exporting to MOV and using the Animation CODEC. I assume that iMovie can handle what would essentially be its "native" format, and I would also assume that all Mac's have that CODEC already. Last assumption - that iMovie would be more powerful than WMM, and especially if it's the newer WMM Live, which can only output to WMV. Please remember that I am not a Mac-person, but get a fair amount of 3D animation from Mac-users, and the MOV [Animation] works perfectly for me. The files are large (the PhotoPNG, or PhotoJPEG2000, if available would probably be a bit smaller), but they are lossless, and quite lovely.
Ann is correct about DV-AVI Type II, being good for WMM. It will only compress about 5%. I thought that you were working on HD material, so did not mention that, but then reread - I just mis-remembered. Do check the client's version of WMM, and if it's the Live version, and she needs to output in something other than WMV, you might want to point her to iMovie.
I-movie supports h.264, DV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and AIC. So if you give them h.264 video inside the .mp4 container it will work. If you give them WMV files it won't work with I-movie if they end up using I-movie.
i-movie supports mainly the .mov container and .mp4 containers from what I've read, I'd recommend sending your client test clips though via the internet first.
i-movie supports these codecs
Apple Intermediate Codec
Here is the link where I got this info
Here are the formats supported by Windows Movie maker, although it doesn't list codecs...
Basically you need the person to pick which one they want to use, if they want to use windows movie maker then I'd recommend using the Microsoft AVI format with the DV-NTSC codec. But if they want i-movie then obviously avi isn't gonna work out.
best format for me to convert her footage to
None. Give her the original media.
As I spend more and more time on this, I have come to the same conclusion - "give her the original media"