The 'Unofficial' iMovie FAQ

Switching to NTSC or PAL

Last edited: 28 November, 2004
Author: Lennart Thelander
Daniel Slagle
Bob Spofford

Switching to PAL from NTSC or vice-versa

You can do it using ResEdit (if you know what you are doing) in OS9. ResEdit can be downloaded from Apple and has documentation here.

In OS X you will need a Programmers editor like Text Wrangler or BBedit. Plus it will be a bit harder to do. If you have OS 9 I suggest you boot it.

for Mac OS X version 2 of iMovie

  1. In the finder Open your Mac OS X disk
  2. Open Applications/
  3. Open the folder "Contents"
  4. Open the folder "Resources"
  5. Open the folder <YourLanguage>.lproj i.e. "English.lproj"
  6. Open the file "Localized.rsrc"
  7. Look for "STR#" and PAL or NTSC"
  8. In capital letters replace PAL or NTSC.
  9. Save file and quit

for Mac OS 9 version 2 of iMovie

  1. Start your Mac in 9.x.
  2. Start ResEdit, click away the splash screen and you will be presented with a file Open dialog.
  3. Open the "iMovie 2.x" folder (which contains an iMovie folder and an iMovie alias)
  4. Open the "iMovie" folder
  5. Open the "Resources" folder
  6. Open the "Languages" folder
  7. Open the file named after your language (There is normally only one language and one file)
  8. Open "STR#"
  9. Open ID 11 "Default to PAL or NTSC"
  10. In the box titled "The string" you enter which system you want to use, in capital letters AL or NTSC.
  11. Save file and quit ResEdit.


Switching to PAL, a last ditch effort

  1. Delete your preference file
  2. Shut down your Mac
  3. Plug in your camcorder to the FireWire port and the electrical outlet
  4. Put the camcorder in VCR mode
  5. Boot and pray (if you do that type of thing)
  6. Open iMovie


The "Boot and Pray"

I spent several months going back and forth between PAL and NTSC earlier this year, and here's what I figured out about the the whole Firewire/iMovie thing (Caveat: this was all in the context of OS9.1 and iMovie 2, YMMV)

  1. The same copy of iMovie will run both PAL and NTSC projects. You can't mix the two formats in one file, but the program will simply default to the format of the clips in the "media" folder when you Open an existing project. When you start a new project, iMovie defaults to the format you were last using. So, if you've only worked in one format, you may need to use the hack in the unofficial iMovie FAQ to create a 2nd copy of the program that Opens in the "other" format. (or you may not, I don't remember. You may be able to force it to PAL simply by importing a PAL clip as the first bit of media)
  2. The Firewire connection itself is flagged to either NTSC or PAL based on the first signal it sees after re-boot. Once this is set, it will NOT recognize the other format until a re-boot. iMovie apparently reads this firewire flag, not the camera itself. If iMovie is working in NTSC but the firewire is flagged for PAL, you get the message about "Camera connected is the wrong video format."
  3. Most camcorders, when they are on but idling put out a signal announcing that they are either NTSC or PAL, depending on which format they RECORD. However, most camcorders will actually play back both formats equally well. AND, when an NTSC camera is playing back PAL the firewire sees PAL, not the native format of the camera.
  4. To set the firewire connection to either PAL or NTSC, do the following:
    1. Re-boot the Mac, with no camera connected to firewire
    2. Start playing back a tape in the format you want to use
    3. NOW plug the firewire into the camera. This will set firewire to the
      format of the tape playing, and it will stay there until the next re-boot.
    4. If you now Open an iMovie project in this same format, it will happily
      read this format from the camera through multiple tape changes, camera
      power-offs, disconnections etc.

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