Apple’s iFrame video format setting the stage future devices?

Apple’ new iFrame Video format, which bowed yesterday in two new cameras from SANYO and Apple’s iMovie 8.0.5 release, 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.

According to Apple, “Setting a camcorder to record in the iFrame (960 x 540) format will result in optimized performance in iMovie ’09.”

Seth Weintraub writes for Computerworld, “So why does Apple go and create a whole new resolution stantard when 720P and 480P are already very popular? Apple not only created it but they’ve built the iFrame brand around the new standard with the logo above. This isn’t just some random resolution.”

“Is 960×540 a good resolution for a Tablet? Only a small, six-inch one in my opinion,” Weintraub writes. “It is also a good size for videoconfrencing over ‘almost-HD’ iChat. Perhaps this size allows for streaming over ‘ordinary’ pipes.”

“Its size, mentioned above, means that it will easily scale between iPhone size and Full HD. Maybe that’s just it. Apple wanted a default size for consumer video taking that would upand down scale easily an efficiently,” Weintraub writes. “We’ll find out soon what Apple has in store for us.”

Full article here.


  1. This iFrame thing seems to have come out of nowhere. I tried doing some research into it yesterday when the Sanyo cameras were announced and found pretty much zilch; even Wikipedia didn’t have anything to say about it. Interesting move on Apple’s part to try to create its own video standard. It’s not like most of their recent attempts to comply with industry standards, like AAC for music, or Webkit for the web.

  2. Since the appearance of iMovie 08 (the notorious feature-starved re-build), this was the “preferred” resolution for transcoding HD video. When you hook up an AVCHD camcorder, you get a capture window that allows you to transcode the stuff into a much friendlier AIC codec. You are presented with two choices: 960×540 and 1920×1080. The first one even has an explanation, along the lines of: “Best format for your HD movies, saves much more space without noticeably degrading image quality”.

    I believe Apple decided to offer this format for two main reasons. First, very few consumer HD camcorders can capture an image that actually takes advantage of all 1080 horisontal lines of resolution. With plastic lenses and tiny CMOS sensors, picture clarity/sharpness isn’t nearly as great as the available lines. Reducing this to half doesn’t dramatically degrade the original image.

    Second, vast majority of consumer camcorders captures HD as 60i (i.e. interlaced fields). By reducing image dimensions by half, there is no need to figure out what kind of de-interlacing would be necessary, should the timeline be some progressive framerate. Just keep the top field of every frame and you’re good.

    There is no doubt that many people will scream how this “HD” is nowhere near real HD, and it’s barely higher than the 480 pixels of height that NTSC SD provides (and actually worse than PAL SD, at 720×576). I’m not sure how popular this format is going to be, considering the rapid adoption of “full” HD (1920×1080) on consumer camcorders. Hell, even HDV (with its 1440×1080 resolution) is quickly fading away, with most manufacturers offering only one token HDV model among many AVCHD devices.

  3. I think the article is pretty accurate in it’s conclusion. 1080/30i (current HD broadcast standard) is really 540/60p since only HALF the vertical resolution is sent at any one time. Standard Def, which is 480/30i, could be thought of as 240/60p. So Apple’s standard, while not full HD is much better than standard def and works reliably on drives of varying speeds, most importantly for consumers, 4200rpm and 5400rpm drives.

  4. Geo,

    Broadcast HD is 60i (60 interlaced fields/second), but your point is still valid.

    On your second, point I would say though, rather than hard drive speed, it’s CPU horsepower they’re trying to work around… Even my good old 2.33 Core 2 Duo MBP won’t always play 1080p AVCHD reliably, regardless of what the storage medium is. That’s all about the CPU, though and that’s where “iFrame” comes in. And like predrag said, I believe the 960×540 choice was merely a convenient format that avoids any decision-making about how to de-interlace 1080i or scale 1080p… You just take a field or throw away half the pixels.

    Most consumers just don’t need Full HD 1080p… It’s a pain in the ass to work with even on higher-end systems.


  5. “Oh dear – anyone else noticed the similarity between the Apple’s new logo and Windows?”
    Hey, you’re right. Very similar. Even down to the iFrame logo having six columns of “pixels” trailing behind the logo. By the way…what an ugly logo.

  6. I don’t think that the public is going to be thrilled about a new technology that seems to cut your resolution in half. And most camcorders do have more real detail then could be held by 960×540 pixels.

    Another thing I don’t like about this is that it is only 30 frames per second. For handheld video, you 60p (or even the 60i from most 1080i cameras.) looks much smoother. Even on the 2.5 inch screen of my camcorder I can see the quality loss in 30p mode.

  7. I’m all for a format that will import seamlessly with iMovie and/or FCE.

    Two years ago I bought a JVC 60GB “HD” video camera that was “Mac” compatible. It came with a software work-around to convert the JVC’s “*.TOD” files to “*.MOV” files, thus allowing manipulation of the files via iMovie. The 10.4.10 Tiger update caused JVC’s Quicktime “emulating software” (for lack of a better term) to quit working. Using the free VLC codec I’ve been able to at least view my home videos on my computer, but I’ve not yet figured out a way to convert the JVC camera’s native *.TOD video format to a QT format.

    Any help from anyone on this forum would be greatly appreciated — thanks!

  8. I think the main thing apple is setting up here is a long term take over like they did to the MP3 player industry, the cell phone industry. Their next targets are the video and digital camera industries. With this format it positions them in a very competitive way for “casual” video recording, like what the iPod Nano is doing. HD isn’t even something they are looking at replacing with this yet, it is the standard (480) they are replacing with this. Making video recording for the next generation video cameras of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano, much more competitive with low res video cameras. HD is a whole different deal, they don’t look to replace with this…

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