Import video from a USB camcorder or camera

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 video from USB devices, which record to DVD, hard disk drive (HDD), or flash-based storage media.

If your camcorder records to tape, go to this topic instead: Import video from a tape-based (FireWire-equipped) camcorder.

Note:  To import AVCHD video (a video format that’s used in the majority of consumer camcorders), you must use a Mac that has an Intel Core Duo processor or better. You can check which type of processor your Mac has by choosing Apple menu > About This Mac. The Apple menu is on the left side of the light gray bar that appears across the top of your computer screen.

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

iMovie ’11 Supported Cameras

To import video from a USB recording device:

  1. Turn on your camcorder or other device, and connect the camcorder to your computer with the cable that came with it or any other USB cable.

    Note:  If you’re connecting a DVD camcorder, plugging it into your Mac can cause the application DVD Player to open. If that happens, simply close DVD Player.

  2. Set the camcorder to PC Connect mode.

    The name for this transfer mode may be different on your device. For some digital still cameras that shoot video, for example, you need to set the camera to Browse mode. Your camera may automatically go into “connect” mode if you turn it on in playback mode while it’s connected to your computer.

  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.”

    The Import window displays all the video clips on the device. You can use the playback controls below the window to review the contents of the clips.

    Image of playback controls

  5. To select which video clips you want to import, do one of the following:

    • To import all clips, make sure the Automatic/Manual switch is set to Automatic, and then click Import All.

      Image of Automatic/Manual switch

    • To import most of the clips, set the Automatic/Manual switch to Manual. Deselect the clips you don’t want to import, and then click Import Checked.

    • To import only a few of the clips, set the Automatic/Manual switch to Manual, and then click Uncheck All. Select the clips you want, and then click Import Checked.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.”

  8. To have iMovie analyze your video for stabilization, or to analyze it for the presence of people, select “After import analyze for,” 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. Refer to the “See also” topics below for more information.

  9. 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).

  10. Click OK.

    iMovie can take several minutes to more than an hour to import the video and generate thumbnail images of each clip, depending on how much video you have. The progress indicator in the Import window shows you how long it might take.