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How to Import to iMovie from DV Tape or Cassette Using iLife '11

DV and mini-DV camcorders not only record digital video onto tape — they also can play back the tape. When the camcorder is in Camera mode, its microphone and lens are ready to record when you press the Record button. When the camcorder is in VTR (video tape recorder) or VCR (video cassette recorder) mode (also known as Play mode), the camcorder plays the tape when you press the Play button and you can also rewind and fast-forward the tape. You can use these tools to import videos to iMovie in iLife.

If your camcorder has Sleep mode, make sure it’s disabled or set to a time increment long enough to allow your video to play in full at normal speed. If possible, connect AC power to the camcorder during this process to save battery life.

To start importing from a FireWire camcorder tape, follow these steps:

  1. Turn the camcorder to VTR/VCR mode, and then connect it to your Mac with the supplied FireWire cable.

    The Import window opens automatically, showing a blue screen for the viewing area.

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  2. Choose your camcorder from the Camera pop-up menu in the lower left corner of the Import window.

  3. To import the whole tape, skip to Step 4; otherwise, click the Automatic/Manual switch in the lower left corner to Manual and move to the portion you want to import.

    You can then use the Rewind, Fast Forward, and Play controls in the Import window to review your tape first and decide which portions to import.

    Import only the part of the tape that’s playing.
    Import only the part of the tape that’s playing.
  4. To import the entire tape, click the Import button; to import only a portion of the tape, start playing the tape before the moment you want to start importing, and then click Import.

    After you click Import, the tape is paused and iMovie displays the Save dialog to choose a hard drive and an event for the video.

  5. Choose a hard drive from the Save To pop-up menu, and then choose Add to Existing Event and an event from the pop-up menu, or choose Create New Event.

    If you choose Create New Event, you can change the title of the event and have the Split Days into New Events option to create separate events for each day of video recording.

  6. (Optional) Choose the After Import Analyze For option and select Stabilization, People, or Stabilization and People.

    After importing, iMovie can immediately start analyzing your video for stabilization or people (or both).

  7. Click the Import button to start importing.

    If you chose automatic importing, iMovie rewinds the tape in the device and imports its contents from beginning to end, separating the scenes into clips. iMovie does this by automatically detecting a break in time, which happens when you stop recording with the camcorder, even for just a few seconds. After the import is finished, the Import window closes.

    If you chose manual importing, iMovie starts playing the tape and imports the video as the tape plays. Click Stop to stop importing. Start and stop recording as often as you like — every time you stop recording, iMovie takes a few moments to generate thumbnails for the video. You can then use the Fast Forward and Rewind buttons to find another portion of the tape, and click Import again to import another portion. Every time you start recording again, the dialog appears so that you can create a new event or continue adding to the same event: Choose which one you want and click Import. When you’re finished importing, click Done.

    After the import is finished, the clips appear in the Source Video pane, assigned to events that appear in the Event Library.

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