Sometimes even Apple software sucks

In Eureka to San Francisco at 10,000 MPH, I posted a time-lapse movie of part of a driving trip from Eureka to Los Angeles. I purchased the wonderful TimeLapse application for the iPhone to take a picture every 15 seconds along the trip.

It was a little bit of a challenge to get the iPhone set up on the dashboard of my car: I hadn’t planned on doing this, so the only thing I had available to stabilize it was a roll of weatherstripping. Nevertheless, the ad hoc stand served its purpose well, and I captured over 1000 frames along the trip, until the iPhone’s battery gave out (I didn’t have a car adapter with me).

Then the hard part started.

First, let me say that I use a Mac all the time, and have for years. I’m very happy with it. In general Apple makes great software — some might say insanely great — so take all of this as coming out of love (or at least strong like).

So the first thing was to turn 1000 images in iPhoto into a movie. I have the latest versions of iPhoto and iMovie installed, and yet there seems to be no way to do this. Really? No one at Apple has ever wanted to make a time-lapse film?

Well, it turns out someone on the QuickTime team did at some point, because the QuickTime Player application can do this — if you upgrade to QuickTime Pro. Okay, that’s another $30 (the TimeLapse app itself was a very reasonable two bucks).

But here’s the hard part: QuickTime Player will only make a movie out of photos by opening up a folder and selecting one of them. No, you can’t select photos in iPhoto and drag them into a QuickTime Player window. That would be too easy.

The next hurdle is the fact that QuickTime Player will only do this based on the naming of the photos. This isn’t supposed to be a problem because cameras normally number picture files sequentially, so you’re all set, right? Not if you have to restart the TimeLapse app partway through the trip because you didn’t select a large enough limit on the number of pictures to take. Then the numbering changes, and your pictures import out of order. iPhoto gets the order right, so if you could select and drag from iPhoto to QuickTime Player, you wouldn’t have this problem, but you can’t, so you do.

Fortunately I remember enough of what I’ve read about QuickTime Player in the past to remember that one of the additional features of QuickTime Pro is the ability to cut and paste in movies. So I do two separate imports, then splice the movies together. Voila, almost there.

Almost because the movie is too big. TimeLapse offers three size choices, and I chose medium. That turns out to be 800 x 600, which results in a 90MB movie — too big for the web. So I set about resizing the movie. Here’s where the fun really starts.

This is the Apple page for resizing a QuickTime movie. Looks simple, right?

  1. In QuickTime Player, choose Window > Show Movie Properties.
  2. In the Properties window, select a video track and click Visual Settings.
  3. To resize the movie, type new numbers in the Current Size fields.To keep the same height-to-width proportions, select Preserve Aspect Ratio.

Step 1, no problem.

Step 2, no problem.

Step 3, no Current Size fields.

As Jeff Goldblum once asked, “There’s no step three?” Yep, apparently there’s no step three. There are three “size” values displayed: Normal Size, Display Size, and Scaled Size. Only Scaled Size is editable.

Changing the Scaled Size values immediately resizes the movie visually, but it hasn’t actually resized it; saving the movie at this point still takes 90MB.

The Help within the QuickTime Player gives the same inaccurate directions. While we’re on the subject of Apple’s built-in Help, why does it take longer (much longer) to search the QuickTime Player’s Help than to use Spotlight to search the entire hard drive? And further, who thought it was a good idea to make the Help windows float over not just the windows of the application you’re getting help for, but every application? As I type this I’m having to deal with the fact that the QuickTime Player’s Help window is in the way of typing this in a Safari window.

I never did find help that described how to actually resize a movie. It turns out that if you change the Scaled Size and then export, that will actually resize the movie. If you change the Scaled Size and then copy the movie to another window, that won’t actually resize the movie. If you change the Scaled Size and click the Extract button in the Properties window, that will create a new movie, but it won’t actually resize the movie.

This isn’t about Apple, but…

Once I had the movie ready, I tried to upload it to WordPress. WordPress told me the file type was a security violation. I could upload the file to YouTube and reference it there, but I didn’t want to let them translate my clean QuickTime movie into a Flash movie. It turns out WordPress doesn’t actually consider QuickTime a security violation, they just want me to buy a space upgrade. I don’t begrudge them that, but it would be good if they were more clear about what they want. The punch line is that WordPress translated the movie to Flash anyway.


6 thoughts on “Sometimes even Apple software sucks

    1. gcanyon Post author

      Thanks for the suggestion! I downloaded a trial copy and it looks like it would work, but it’a a bit overkill for what I need it for, and although you can drag in photos from iPhoto, it apparently imports them by name rather than by the order iPhoto shows them in. So I’d still have to do two imports and then splice them. Next time I create a time lapse film I’ll do it in one go, so that won’t be a problem. I’ll have to decide whether the $50 is a reasonable investment given that I’m not likely to make my own Wallace and Gromit movies anytime soon.

  1. Cherie D.

    I recently had this trouble too… It boggled the mind just slightly to be told to follow such clear, simple steps… only to find there was no ‘step 3’.

    Though your suggestion to Resize (via Scaled) and then Export came in very handy. 🙂


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