Little Mac Chromakey Detail

I spent a great day in Flagler County, Florida, with some innovative, picture-2.pngeager teachers.  Mostly Mac based, they are excited about bringing their students’ content creation skills into curriculum-based videos from DES and the free chromakey tools on the Mac, such as Photobooth and iMovie 9.  Both will let students put themselves into videos and stills, to narrate, create, and internalize the content.

One little detail.  The new Mac OS tools, like Photo Booth and iMovie, only like QuickTime files encoded with H.264.  If they are not encoded that way, the files won’t play nice.  This includes much of the QuickTime in the known world, including many files at DiscoveryEducationStreaming.  (These same files are in Flash and Windows Media, where there are no problems.)  So here is a work-around if you find a movie file that won’t drag into Photo Booth or iMovie.

1) Download the QuickTime file.  In DES, make sure QuickTime is selected in Media photobooth2.pngSettings (under the player window).
2) Open iTunes and in the menu go to File>Add to Library.  Find the downloaded QuickTime video and select it (hit Open).  This brings it into iTunes.
3) Once it is in the iTunes library, highlight the video.  From the top menu select Advanced>Create iPod or iPhone version.  The wheel will spin, and you will get a new video with the same name, but a different extension (m4v orMPEG-4 instead of QuickTime).  Now you have a video that will work picture-28b.pngin Photo Booth, iMovie, iPhones, iTouches, and whatever else Apple throws at you.  Yes, this means you could move those videos into school iPods for student viewing on buses, at home, during tests (!).

You can find those video files in your hard drive User>Music>iTunes>iTunes Music>Movies.  Drag them into Photo Booth, etc.  Remember to drag the m4v version.picture-29.png

Some fun!  You can drag movies, stills, or original art into Photo Booth.  picture-5.pngPictures on this post show me in front of a still of red blood cells, narrating a movie.  In Photo Booth, drag in a still to Effects, hit Take a movie clip, and picture-3.pngyou’ve got it.  Also here, a parent walking into his child’s crayon-media artwork.  Mr. Wakefield takes an apple from Timmy Wakefield’s crayon world tree.  Think the effect on stpicture-2b.pngudents if parents walked into their math homeowork.   Questions?  Leave a comment.  Lots more on this in my NECC presentation “Eight Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do With Video (and Two You Did)”.  Monday, 6/29, 3:30 – 4:30 PM (EST).  Somebody will be feeding it…photobooth-movie.png


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  1. Jennifer Gingerich said:

    I have been frustrated with trying to get streaming movies into the newer versions of imovie on my mac. Thanks for the helpful steps Hall!

  2. Stephanie Kuhn said:

    I love what you can do with Photo Booth but am not familiar with it as my district does not use Mac. Is this only mac compatible? Is there something similar for non-mac users? This is a great post and very informative. Your step-by-step instructions are very clear.

  3. Vicky said:


    Thanks! I have asked Apple tech support and did not get a good answer on this one! My kids work on scripts for voiceovers for Discovery Streaming videos, they really missed doing this last year because my work around was to convert every file-too much for every class I work with. Thank you!!

  4. Hall Davidson said:

    In non-Mac districts, I like to recommend Adobe Premiere Elements. It does the chromakey easily and quickly. The danger of Premiere Elements is that it has almost too much power, which means students can get lost in it. What I recommend is dragging in clips, using the search function (the magnifying glass) in Effects to find “chromakey” and just use that. If you want to do more(and there’s lots more to do), then take about an hour for the tutorial that comes with the program. The program shouldn’t cost more than $50 for a school district (ed pricing). Unless that has changed since the last time I checked….

  5. Nicole said:

    Hi Hall,
    We are trying to get “editable” video out of Discovery Streaming into iMovie 09… I followed your conversion steps, but the video still won’t import into iMovie 🙁 We did get it to work using MPEG Streamclip AND though…


  6. Bobbi Gurney said:


    Thank You!! This has been driving me crazy! I am teaching a class next week and you have made my week a lot less stressful! You are the man with the “Golden Ticket” on this one! YEAH!
    Thanks again for all you share!
    Take Care,

  7. Hall Davidson said:

    Nicole, I’ll email you. Those steps should work. One it pulls into iTunes, when you export it should have all the necessary codec’s (compressions) for iMovie 9.

  8. Jude Kesl said:

    How do we do something like this without Macs? PC only district. Are there chromakey things in moviemaker?

  9. Hall Davidson said:

    Jude – On a PC, I like to use Adobe Premiere Elements. It is more powerful than iMovie or Photobooth, but not free. School prices depend on the state and the deal the district or school has with Adobe. Schools usually pay between $30-$60. Full retail is around $100. The old versions will do chromakey just fine. Latest version is 8 There are some tutorials around, including some by me, and a nice walk-through on the program disc. The Mac equivalent is Final Cut Express. MovieMaker, free on the PC, can do chromakey but it is really hard–hard enough to make $30-$60 worth the money. Program requires Windows XP or newer.

  10. Jenn Brooks said:

    I love coming across ideas that I NEVER would have though of on my own. I do a project in my biology class where students pretend they are small enough to be inside a cell and describe their journey as they travel. This year, we used voicethread so that students could add their own voice to the project. I’m sure it would take a bit of work but doing chromakey to have the students present over a picture or video of organelles would be awesome!

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