What is iFrame?


You, like me, probably wondered what the heck iFrame is when you saw it listed in the recent iMovie Software Update. My initial reaction was that the consumer video space needs another format like a kid's sandbox needs cats. As is usually the case with Apple, there's more to the story.

iMovie Friendly
It turns out that iFrame is a new format Apple is promoting. Based on h.264 and AAC, the format is optimized for iMovie. How so? Well, it doesn't require lengthy conversion times before you can edit it, the way AVCHD does. It also comes in a default resolution of 960x540, the same size that Steve Jobs said was plenty big when he first introduced iMovie '08. This, presumably, is more processor friendly than typical h.264 clips that suffer in skimmability while editing. Basically, iFrame video is ready to go and smoother to use as soon as the files get off your camera and onto your Mac.

Being in the middle of a YouTube generation, the difference between iFrame's resolution and HD seems to not matter a whole lot. If you're putting your masterpiece out there, you'd choose HD. But if you posting the birthday party footage for your friends and family, a video format that's easy to edit and share fits the bill nicely.

The (Near) Future
Sanyo is the first manufacturer to offer iFrame capability in any of its cameras. Today, it announced the VPC-HD2000A and the VPC-FH1A. Both look like nice hybrid cameras, since they also shoot 8-megapixel stills. They can also shoot 1080p video, in what appears to be MPEG-4.

Finally, don't expect Sanyo to be the sole purveyor of iFrame cameras. After all, Apple is making a heavy-duty move into the consumer video space through its iPods and iPhones. I expect all of Apple's video recording devices to shoot in iFrame before too long. If shooting HD on an iPhone has too many space/power/battery life limitations, I'd be okay with "HD-esque". After all, I'm recording it on an iPhone, not a Red One.


andypiper said...

Ah, this is great info - just the kind of thing needed to help to make more sense of Apple release notes :-)

Spencer M said...

So if I understand correctly, if I convert my MPEG2 pal AVI to h.264 and AAC with a custom resolution of 960x540 iMovie will perform better and require less time to export the movie? Or should I do just do a straight convert to DV of my footage and match the video properties within iMovie to speed up the export? - Thanks