There’s a support document on Apple’s site iMovie ’09: About the iFrame Video format. But it's hardly that informative:
The iFrame Video format is designed by Apple to speed up importing and editing by keeping the content in its native recorded format while editing. Based on industry standard technologies such as H.264 and AAC audio, iFrame produces small file sizes and simplifies the process of working with Video recorded with your camera.
And then adds to select: "960x540 30fps"
Now the 960x540 size isn't exactly new to iMovie; it's the default "Large" video resolution that iMovie uses when you import video (iMovie converts all imported video into a format it prefers.) The step forward appears to be that Apple has got Sanyo to make cameras that output files that iMovie can ingest without having to recompress or convert.
Which brings us to the fact that 960x540 is not 720 (1290x720) or 1080 (1920x1080) It is 16x9 and it is half (in both dimensions) of 1920x1080…
When I first read that the cameras captured at 960 x540, and the prices were $499.99 and $599.99 I thought they were way overpriced for such low resolution cameras. But it turns out that while the cameras reportedly default to iFrame format, they can record in 1080HD as well.
Curiously, reading the current specs for both cameras, the picture modes don’t seem to include iFrame:
Full-HR: 1920 x 1080 (60 fps/ 24Mbps) Full HD: 1920 x 1080 (60fields/sec 16Mbps)
Full-SHQ: 1920 x 1080 (30 fps/ 12Mbps) HD-SHQ: 1280 x 720 (30 fps/9Mbps)
TV-SHQ: 640 x 480 (30 fps/3Mbps)
Web-SHR: 448 x 336 (240 fps/8Mbps) Web-UHR: 192 x 108 (600fps/8Mbps)
I'm not a big user of iMovie; I’ve used it mainly for quick things I wanted to throw together. It is a nice simple program to use, though one of it’s disadvantages is that it forces you to recompress everything you import to a format it likes to deal with. That can take a bit of time, but it won’t edit highly compressed formats natively. Now there’s lots of pros and cons to that method of operation (and to iMovie) but I’m a little unsure whether changing the way the cameras capture the video is the way to go; particularly if it means dumbing down the picture quality.
iMovie is intended for home users, but I can't help thinking a lot of people who hook up the camera straight to the TV will wonder why it can produce a better picture that way, than if they capture in iFrame and edit it in iMovie.
- Sanyo press release: SANYO Dual Cameras are World’s First with iFrame Video Format
- Apple iMovie ’09: About the iFrame Video format
- Appleinsider article talks a bit about iFrame and how it compares to other formats.