Quick Tip: External Hard Drives and iMovie

For those with a lot of footage or projects clogging your hard drive, iMovie '09 made declogging substantially easier by letting you store both events and footage on external drives. But there are some limitations, mysterious in nature because the iMovie documentation doesn't detail them. If your external drive is connected, shows up in the Project and Event lists in iMovie, but has a yellow caution symbol next to it, let's dispel the mystery with two important tips:
  1. Your drive needs to be formatted as Mac OS Extended or Mac OS Extended (Journaled), formats otherwise known as HFS+. If it's FAT-formatted, for example, you have a drive that iMovie will display in its list while taunting you with the caution symbol. If this is your problem, you'll need to use Disk Utility in your Applications->Utilities folder to reformat the offending external drive. Remember, "reformat" is the obscure technical term for "ERASE!"
  2. Your drive needs to be fast enough. Where does iMovie draw the line? Well, thumb drives and network drives are automatically disqualified. Editing video requires a lot of bandwidth between your computer and the drive storing the video footage. Thumb drives and network drives are usually too pokey. I'm told you can overcome this limitation with symbolic links, but at your own peril. If you don't know what symlinks are, this will tell you more than you need to know.
Hopefully these two little tips will get your footage and projects right where you want them.


Mo said...

A little off topic, but relevant, I think...

I've been using a Samsung HMX-R10, which is an SDHC-only device. The device is recognized by iMovie, but the files don't import fully, so my clips are all truncated.

I find that I have to use Finder to copy the files from the SDHC card to a hard drive (an external Mac OS Extended (Journaled) drive, in my case) and then import them into iMovie from the drive. Not a completely streamlined workflow, but fine nonetheless.

James said...

Thanks for the R10 hint. I think you can just important directly from the card and get the same result, no need to copy to the HD first.

I wish Apple would sort out the truncation issue though. Very annoying.

SteveHF said...

I have had problem loosing audio files, apparently since they do not get copied into the project and the original has been moved by me. After upgrading to Snow Leopard, I constantly get an error message because it can't find the files. It gives me the name of the file, but not what project it belongs in. This error message is very irritating. Any advise would be appreciated.

David said...

i there. Thanks for setting up this blog. I'd appreciate your advice on the following problem :

I hooked up an external drive to store Imovie projects and events.

Imovie does show the external harddrive icon in the events pane, and indeed I can store all events on the external drive,

But it does NOT show the icon in the projects pane, nor can I create projects on my external hard drive.

Anyone an idea? my hard drive is properly formatted (extended, journaled etc)

Thanks much, David

mklemm said...

I suspect there are technical reasons why volumes formatted in anything else than HFS+ and even Apple File Sharing Protocol (afp) network shares aren't supported by iMovie. Maybe iMovie uses some sophisticated memory-mapping or "seek" functionality only supported by HFS+, or it is because of certain metadata issues, where extended attributes or parallel streams are used, which are not currently supported by afp and other file systems.

Anonymous said...

You can tweak iMovie to accept a network drive, without any symbolic links.