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Monks Make Mac Movies (Magnificently!)

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Thanks to Apple, complete amateurs can make impressive video productions and share them with friends on DVDs. All that is needed is a digital video camera, a Macintosh computer with a Superdrive (one which will burn DVDs), and the iLife suite of applications which normally come with Macs, and of course, a bit of good taste and discretion. This I know from actual experience, and I’ll try to share how it can be done.

In February of 2003, monks from Atma Jyoti Ashram, a small Hindu monastery in Southern California, went on a pilgrimage to India, visiting holy places throughout the country. Being lovers of India, we wished to record outstanding events from out journey so we could share them with friends and relive them ourselves through our videos and photos. We took over twenty hours of video in our two month sojourn, and when we returned, we faced the task of editing the footage to make viewing more manageable.

We had a 1 Ghz iMac and iMovie–Apple’s entry level movie editing application–so we proceeded to hook our Mini-DV camera up to the Mac with a fire-wire cable and import footage using iMovie’s import feature. There was a lot of footage that was either poorly filmed, too long, or uninteresting in retrospect. That still left lots of film to work with. We began by getting an overview of what was available, and putting together a mental picture of the story we wanted to tell with the video. Then, by placing bits of video in the “timeline” of clips, the story we wanted to tell began to take shape.

To learn the best way to make a video that did not have the hallmarks of amateurism, a search on Google yielded gobs of tutorials, tips, and techniques for using iMovie, and video editing in general.

When the clips were arranged to our satisfaction in the timeline, we proceeded to add audio and music (using iTunes–iMovie is well integrated with this and other iLife applications) to supplement the audio on the clips so as to make for more continuity. Then we added transitions (which iMovie provides in abundance) between clips to give the video a more polished look. Then came the titles, subtitles, and effects, which began to turn what started as a mess of random footage into a cohesive, semi-professional looking (O.K., at least not totally amateurish) bit of video. Then came the agonizing step of taking an objective look at the end results and pruning out footage to make it more succinct, then tweaking features to give it the final finished look.

After creating a few short features of this sort, we then used iDvd to create an accomplished looking DVD. iDvd makes it easy by supplying quite an array of professional looking Themes, or allowing you to modify and edit existing Themes, or create your own. We then imported the final video featurettes into the desired Theme, and proceeded to burn our DVD. Earlier versions of iDvd were a bit buggy in the burning process, but have improved in later releases.

Those wishing more options for video editing and DVD burning can use Apple’s mid and pro level applications, Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro and DVD Studio Pro.

The end result surprised us and those we showed it to. So our pleasant experience has solidified us as Mac addicts, though we needed no convincing as to the usefulness of Apple’s products.

Swami Tarakananda is a monk at Atma Jyoti Ashram in Borrego Springs, California. ( To see an example of the final product of the India Video footage, visit Ganga Arati, a short video of Worship done at the banks of the Ganges River in Hardwar at the foothills of the Himalayas.


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  • Posted On October 27, 2006
  • Published articles 283513

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