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How to Import Video From a Tape-Based Camcorder into Mac’s iMovie ‘11

Before you can turn the amazing footage you’ve captured with your tape-based camcorder into an iMovie masterpiece, you must connect the camcorder to your Mac and import the video. Tape-based camcorders are not as popular as they once were, not by a long shot.

But you still may own or come across camcorders that employ MiniDV tapes, DV, or HDV, and when you do, you can follow these steps to connect it to your Mac.

  1. Connect one end of the FireWire cable to your camcorder and the other to an available FireWire port on the Mac.

    Tape-based camcorders typically connect to a Mac through FireWire, but remember, fewer and fewer Mac models have FireWire connectors, so you may need an adapter.

  2. Switch the camcorder to VTR mode.

    VTR is shorthand for video tape recorder mode. Camcorders vary though; some devices call this Play or VCR mode.

  3. If the camcorder you’re using can export high-definition video, you’ll see an HD Import Setting dialog; select Large or Full and click OK.

    In most instances, you’ll select Large. But for true broadcast quality or if you plan on using Apple’s Final Cut Pro X software, go with Full. Just keep in mind that under the Full scenario, you’ll be gobbling up more disk space.

    If an Import dialog doesn’t open, choose File→Import from Camera.

  4. Use the mouse to move the on-screen switch on the left side of the Import window to Automatic; then click OK.

    You’ll use this option to automatically rewind the tape and import everything on it.

    If you want to import only a portion of the tape into your camcorder, choose Manual instead. Then use the playback controls in the Import window that appears at the end of these steps to navigate to the section of the video where you want to start importing, rather than from the beginning.

  5. From the dialog that opens, choose the drive where you want to store the footage.

    Next, just click to either create (and ultimately name) a new event or select Add to Existing Event to do just that. Click OK.

  6. If you want iMovie to either stabilize the video to smooth things or find people in the footage, choose After Import Analyze For and select the appropriate pop-up menu option.

    Think before choosing this option. Stabilization and finding people can take a while.

  7. If you’re importing HD video, choose a size from the Optimize Video pop-up menu.

    You already made this choice in Step 3, but now you can override that decision. Besides, that HD Import Setting dialog in Step 3 shows up only the first time you import video.

  8. Click Import to rewind the tape to the beginning, import all footage, and then rewind the tape again when finished.

    You need not stick around and watch at this point, but you can if you want to. Know that you’ll only hear the sound through your camcorder.

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