• Written by Mark Charmer
    3 November 2011

I wrote recently about our emphasis at Akvo on keeping video really simple.

I deliberately avoided discussing the specific applications I use in that piece, because it’s easy to get bogged down in the editing when really the art is in how you actually capture stuff to keep the editing minimal, and there are tons of editing apps out there anyway. But here’s a quick overview for those who are curious. Getting QuickTime 7 Pro installed is a faff. I wish Apple would think through a modern equivalent that is even easier. But once you have it, life rocks.

I use Macs – all now running Mountain Lion. I once tried iMovie and it felt like it would lure me into doing far more than I need to (or had time to do). So I’ve deliberately avoided it since.

Instead I use a really basic video editor that is a £20 “Pro” upgrade of QuickTime Player 7, the version of QuickTime that used to come on Macs before OS X Leopard. While this might sound daft, it’s a lovely little application that allows you to open clips, mark in and out points, trim off each side beyond those, and copy and paste little intro and outro bumpers at each end. You can also slice and dice stuff a bit more than that if you like, too. The latest QuickTime application that comes with new Macs doesn’t have these “Pro” features available – it will only play stuff. You need the older QuickTime 7. Both sit quite happily on a Mac beside eachother, and the old software runs fine on even Mountain Lion (the newest version of OS X).

A couple of key points:

QuickTime 7 can be installed from the OSX installation discs themselves. It’s buried in there as an additional utility. Once you have installed the software, you need to fork out £20 for the Pro upgrade, on the Apple Store. Apple has recently (helpfully) added a link to the download from the Apple online store here (US) or here (UK).

All the video I shoot is in MP4 format – either on Flip cameras or Sanyo Xactis. Sometimes I shoot on my iPhone 4S, too. I try to shoot at 640×480. QuickTime 7 works great with these formats. I’ve never had luck using it to get video out of Sony cameras, and it’s not great with Windows Media formats (even with the Flip4Mac components installed that Microsoft offers).

It’s been the best twenty quid I’ve ever spent. Once you’ve bought the activation key, enter the code up in the top left “Registration…” menu item.

I create my front and back “Bumpers” – a logo clip that fades to black (or white) at the beginning, and a “please share” Creative Commons logo at the end – using Apple Keynote. Assuming you regularly use a standard bumper (like we do), you only need to create this once and just copy and paste them into the front and back end of your trimmed movies each time you do an edit. In Keynote, I create a 640×480 2-slide presentation, onto which I drag the jpeg logo into slide 1 and set a little fade routine to a blank slide 2. I then record this as a timed slideshow and then export the result as a QuickTime movie. They only take ten minutes to create once you get the hang of it.

Anyway, back to QuickTime 7 and the video itself… I trim my video using [Command I] to mark the “in” point and [Command O] for the “out” point, and then select “Trim to Selection”. I then go to the start of the clip and copy and paste in the front caption and go to the end of the clip and copy and paste in the end caption. That’s my video, finished.

I always export the resulting .mov file to a .M4V format. This format produces a smaller file (that uploads faster, especially when your bandwidth is poor) and it converts more reliably into services like Blip.tv, YouTube or Vimeo.

To do so I choose one of the “Export” presets in QuickTime 7 called “Movie to iPod”. Heaven knows why it’s called that, but it works really well. Typically it’ll take a few minutes to export a 4 minute movie into the final format. From there you just upload the resulting M4V file to Blip, Vimeo, YouTube or wherever. I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or think I’ve missed anything really important.

Here’s a video tutorial on the process, too:

Mark Charmer is a co-founder of Akvo. Vinay Gupta is the person who helped me find this lovely little routine – I’ll be forever grateful to you, Vinay…

Updated on 13 November 2012. Added tutorial video and updated some other details.