How to Import Video from Camcorder to Mac OS X

If you like shooting video, you probably have a camcorder. It's a must-have to record video. For editing video on Mac, iMovie is the first choice. It's not only totally free to use, but makes video editing an funny activity. To edit your video with iMovie, the first thing is to connect your camcorder to your Mac using either a FireWire or USB cable (Mac OS X Mountain Lion included), and then import footage from the camcorder into iMovie.

iMovie makes importing easy. After that, it automatically converts your video into individual clips so you can easily add to the movie project for editing. If you have imported your video to Mac but can't import to iMovie, convert your video to iMovie compatible format first. This article includes 3 parts: 

Part 1. How to Import Video from Camcorder to Mac

Step 1: Connect your camcorder to Mac machine with cable (1394/FireWire/USB/Wifi)

Step 2: Switch to PC/Computer mode depending on your Camcorder model

Step 3: iMovie will automatically open the Import window. Or you can open it by File > Import. If DVD Player opens, quit it.

Step 4: Choose the video  or select "Import All"(make sure your camcorder's switch is set to "Automatic")

Step 5: If "Manual" is set, you can import some clip to iMovie

Step 6: If you import from video from tape camcorder (DV/HDV), iMovie will automatically revise tape and import all videos.

Step 7: iMovie will automatically create video thumbnails after imported.

Further Reading: How to import camcorder video to Final Cut Pro, how to import camera video to iMovie,  and how to connect camcorder to Mac.

Part 2: How to Convert Camcorder Video for Editing

If you're failed to import your camcorder video for editing, ensure it's supported by your video editing software. If not, convert camcorder video to the supported format with a camcorder video converter. Here I take iSkysoft Video Converter for Mac to show you how to convert camcorder video to iMovie compatible format in 3 steps.

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Convert video formats on Mac OS X

Part 3. Useful Tips to Import Camcorder Videos

iMovie automatically detects your camcorder

iMovie will detect whether a camcorder is connected. When you have your camcorder connected with a cable, but is prompted "No Camera Attached", ensure your camera is powered on and re-connect your camcorder to your computer properly via a FireWire or USB cable. Also make sure your camcorder is set to VCR, VTR, or Play mode. Also click the Connection Help button for more suggestions.

iMovie supports different video formats

iMovie only compatible with limited video formats. For importing video from your camcorder, choose between DV, DV Widescreen, HDV 1080i, and HDV 720i. If you will add MPEG-4 files from your PDA or phone, select MPEG-4. If your cam video is incompatible with iMovie, read this tutorial: How to Import Camera Video to iMovie (iMovie 11 included).

Import video as one clip (iMovie HD, iMovie '09)

Rather than importing your video as separate clips, you can set iMovie to import your MTS video as a single clip. This may be very useful if you're importing a movie that you've already edited and you just want to make a minor change. Do this: from the iMovie menu, choose Preferences, click Import, and then deselect the "Start a new clip at each scene break" option. 

Make an HD video with iMovie

HD camcorders store more pixels than a standard camcorder, letting you record high quality video footage. iMovie supports importing and editing video from HD camcorders (HDV 1080i or 720p). But you decide whether to import HD camcorder video, or just large video. To make this settings, go to iMovie > Preferences > Video. 

Import video to Mac before importing to iMovie

Many digital still cameras, PDAs, and mobile phones let you record videos in the MPEG-4 format, a standard compression that is used to significantly reduce the file size of video. While iMovie doesn't know how to import video from these devices directly. Therefore, you can copy them to your Mac first and then drag them into the iMovie Clips pane from Finder or import them using Import from the File menu.

Using video from your connected or built-in iSight camera

It's a good idea to use your iSight camera to record video directly into your iMovie project. To doso, connect your iSight camera to the FireWire port of your Mac and click the Record button to start recording. If you have more than one camcorder connected, such as an iSight and a camcorder, or an  built-in iSight with iMac, you need choose iSight from the pop-up menu that appears when you switch to camera mode.

Monitor free disk space remaining on your Mac (iMovie HD, iMovie '09)

Digital video clips may consume a large amount of hard disk space. Generally, 5 minutes of DV footage uses approximately 1GB of space. The same amount of HD video can occupy between 2GB to 4GB, depending on codec and resolution. To save hard disk space, import and edit your video in segments instead of editing all at one go. Through the monitor located in the lower-right corner of the iMovie window, you're able to see how much space remaining on your Mac's hard drive.

Adam Cash
Dear Carol Please ensure that your camcorder is well connected with your computer. Or you can just connect the memory card with your computer directly too. For more questions, please leave them here. Thank you so much for your support.
Carol
Hi, I have been told by iSkysoft that I can import and edit digital video from my camcorder. I\'ve tried today to import from my Panasonic mini dv camcorder but the option \'load camcorder files\' is grey\'d out. Can anyone give me any suggestions? Thanks.
Ami Aga
I have the same issue. My camcorder is not listed as a compatible device with iMovie. Do i have an alternate software. ?
Rsiggy
hello cloud geniuses. does anybody know a work around to import from my 8mm sony dcr-trv330 via firewire? apple website does not list as a compatible camera. Thanks in advance.
stan
why does\"nt my mac running os lion recognise footage imported from a sony camcorder using premier elements 11
Employee
Hi, Frankiemac, to burn DVD, you need a DVD Creator like iDVD or iSkysoft DVD Creator for Mac. Since iDVD isn\'t pre-installed in Lion, the latter is highly recommended: http://www.iskysoft.com/dvd-creator-mac.html
Frankiemac
i have copied from my sony camcord to imac via 800 firewire. It has been edited and is ready to go. I would like to burn a dvd but I am soooo lost. I see it in itunes and I can even open and watch but can\'t seem to burn to dvd. I do have the right disc just can\'t figure it out... HELP PULEEEZE
Employee
MP4 format is the \'safe\' format recognized by both PC and Mac. Since you\'re the one who has a Mac, you can use iSkysoft Video Converter for Mac to convert almost any format to MP4 for play on PC and Mac. http://www.iskysoft.com/video-converter-mac.html
Ritagaul
I have a complex question, hopefully someone can help me. I need to download from aprox 4-5 diff BRAND video cameras to an Ext Hard Disk (formatted inExFat ), to store as Master Files, in Folders for each camera owner, ie: Jack_Sony: Fred_Panasonic: Rose_Canon etc. So that I can download each persons footage at the end (or during) the trip (5months) for them to take home. I am the only one with a Mac computer and do not wish to convert their footage to Mac and then find they cannot use it when they return home???? I wish to then import useable footage into my project from these files, I probably will use FCProX to make the documentary.. I have a Macbook Pro with 8Gig Ram, 64 bit system with BOOTCAMP for PC. I expect to have at least 2-3 x 2Tb hard drives. One for Master, 1 for Scratch Disc, 1 for Backup. Is there a Universal Program with which to download from all cameras either for PC or Mac? Please can anyone assist me or am I trying to do the impossible??? Thanks Rita
Employee
Sorry to hear that, iMovie sometimes sucks, Sony also doesn\'t provide good transfer software. I\'ve found a PMB (Picture Motion Browser by Sony) for Mac version, but I don\'t know whether it works with your model. Since it\'s a camcorder with flash memory, you may also transfer the MTS video files to computer and use a video converter to get the format you want. Naturally, I recommend iSkysoft Video Converter for Mac. http://www.iskysoft.com/video-converter-mac.html
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