Import video from a tape-based (FireWire-equipped) camcorder

To watch your recorded video or create a project with it in iMovie, you first need to transfer the video—import it—from your camcorder into iMovie.

This topic explains how to import from a tape-based camera. For best results, import the video using the same camcorder that you used to record it, and close all other open applications on your computer while your video is being imported.

If your camcorder records to DVD or hard disk drive (HDD), or if it’s a flash-based camcorder or digital still camera that records video, go to this topic instead: Import video from a USB camcorder or camera.

To check whether your camera is compatible with iMovie, go to the following support page:

iMovie ’11 Supported Cameras

To import video from a tape-based camcorder to your computer:

  1. Turn on the camcorder and set it to VTR or VCR mode (this mode may have a different name on your camera).

  2. Connect the camcorder to your computer using a FireWire cable (the one that came with your camcorder or any other FireWire cable).

  3. If this is the first time you’re importing from a device that records high-definition (HD) video, an HD Import Setting dialog appears. Even if you aren’t importing HD video now, select Large or Full, and then click OK.

    You can change this preference later if you do import HD video.

  4. If the Import window doesn’t open, choose File > “Import from Camera.”

  5. If you have multiple devices connected to your computer, choose the device you want to import from the Camera pop-up menu.

  6. Set the switch on the lower-left side of the window to one of the following:

    Image of Automatic/Maual switch

    • Automatic:  Automatically rewinds the tape, imports all of the tape contents, and rewinds the tape again.

    • Manual:  Lets you rewind and fast-forward the tape so that you can import only the footage you want. Use the controls to set your tape to the point where you want to begin importing.

      Image fo playback controls

  7. Click Import.

  8. Choose the disk where you want to store the video from the “Save to” pop-up menu.

    You can choose any hard disk that’s connected to your computer. It takes 13 gigabytes (GB) of space to store about one hour of video in standard (DV) format and 40 GB for video in high-definition (HD) format, so make sure your disk has enough available storage space for the video you’re importing. The amount of free space on each available disk is shown in parentheses next to the disk’s name in the pop-up menu.

  9. Choose how you want to organize the imported video in your Event Library:

    • To add the imported video to an existing Event, select “Add to Existing Event,” and then choose its name from the pop-up menu.

    • To create a new Event, type a name for it (for example, “Birthday Party”) in the “Create new Event” field. If you want to create a new Event for each day on which the video was recorded, select “Split days into new Events.”

  10. To have iMovie analyze your video for stabilization, or to analyze it for the presence of people, select “Analyze for stabilization after import,” and then choose an option from the pop-up menu:

    • Stabilization:  Analyzes the camera motion in your video so that any shaky parts can be played back more smoothly. It can be time consuming, so if you have over an hour’s worth of video to analyze, you might want to let iMovie do it overnight or while you’re going to be away from your computer.

    • Stabilization and People:  Analyzes the camera motion in your video so that any shaky parts can be played back more smoothly; also analyzes video for people so that you can later sort your video to see just the footage that contains people.

    • People:  Analyzes video for the presence of people so that you can later sort your video to see just the footage that contains people.

    If you don’t set iMovie to analyze video for stabilization at this point, you can always do it later. You can also analyze it for people later as well.

  11. If you’re importing HD video, choose a size from the “Optimize video” pop-up menu.

    The option you choose overrides what you chose in the HD Import Setting dialog the first time you imported from a device that records HD video (see step 3).

  12. Click Import, and then do one of the following:

    If you’re importing automatically, you can leave your computer and come back when the import is complete.

    If you’re importing manually, click Stop (in the lower-right corner of the Import window) when the section of video you want has been imported. Then use the import controls to set your video to a point where you want to begin importing again, and repeat steps 7 through 11. Continue in this manner until you have imported all the video you want.

The video plays as it’s importing. It takes as long to import the video as it takes to watch it at normal speed; it might take longer to import HD video.