Import Video Clips to iMovie on Your MacBook

Your MacBook is probably equipped already with the two extras that come in handy for video editing in iMovie — namely, a large hard drive and a FireWire or USB port. Because most mini-DV camcorders today use a FireWire connection to transfer clips, you’re all set. Oh, and since your MacBook has a FaceTime camera on board, you’re a self-contained movie studio!

Here’s the drill if your clips are on your FireWire mini-DV camcorder or mass-storage USB camcorder:

  1. Plug the proper cable into your MacBook.

  2. Set the DV camcorder to VTR (or VCR) mode.

    Some camcorders call this Play mode.

  3. Click the Camera Import button.

    iMovie opens a new window.

  4. Click the Camera pop-up menu (at the bottom of the Import window) and select your DV camcorder or FaceTime camera.

    Playback controls appear under the Camera Import window, mirroring the controls on your DV camcorder. This allows you to control the unit from iMovie. Keen! If you’re using a mass-storage camcorder connected by USB, you may also get Import All and Import Checked buttons as a bonus.

    To capture video from your FaceTime camera, click the Video Size pop-up menu to choose the dimensions of the clip and then click Capture. On the sheet that appears, choose the location where the video will be saved, and choose whether to add this video to an existing event or create a new event.

    Click Capture to start recording, and click Stop when your video is complete. (You can skip the rest of the steps in this section, which deal only with USB and FireWire camcorders.)

    iMovie can analyze your incoming video for one of three different post-recording procedures. Click the After Import Analyze For check box to select it; then choose Stabilization (which helps smooth shaky camera work), People (which marks a clip as including people, making it easier to locate), or Stabilization and People (which, predictably, does both).

    The Stabilization option is especially good if your camcorder doesn’t have a built-in stabilization function, but beware: Any of these settings will add significant time to the import process!

  5. To import selected clips from your FireWire DV camcorder, set the Automatic/Manual switch to Manual and advance the video to the point where you want to start your capture; then click Import.

    To import all clips, set the Automatic/Manual switch to Automatic; then click Import.

  6. (Optional) If you’re using a USB camcorder, click the check boxes next to the clips that you don’t want to import to deselect them; then click the Import Checked button.

  7. Click the Save To pop-up menu and choose the drive that should store your clips.

    You can choose to add the new clips to an existing Event or create a new Event. Heck, if the event spanned more than one day, you can create a new Event for each day. (How do they think up these things?)

  8. Click OK and admire your handiwork.

    iMovie begins transferring the footage to your MacBook and automatically adds the imported clips to your Event Library.

If your clips are already on your hard drive, rest assured that iMovie can import them, including those in high-definition video (HDV) format. iMovie also recognizes a number of other video formats.

Video Formats Supported by iMovie
File Type Description
DV Standard 4:3 digital video
DV Widescreen Widescreen 16:9 digital video
MOV QuickTime movies
HDV & AVCHD High-definition (popularly called widescreen) digital video, in 720p and 1080i
MPEG-2 Digital video format used for DVD movies
MPEG-4 A popular format for streaming Internet and wireless digital video, as well as handheld devices such as iOS devices and the PSP

To import a movie file, follow this bouncing ball:

  1. Choose File→Import and choose Movies from the submenu.

  2. If you’re importing 1080i video clips, click the Optimize Video pop-up menu and choose the Full quality setting.

    The Large setting saves you a significant amount of hard drive space, but the Full setting preserves the original resolution and detail. (If you’re not importing 1080i video, use the default Large setting and click OK. The Full setting demands all the CPU and RAM resources your MacBook can offer, so don’t expect to do much else while importing.)

  3. Click the drive that should store your clips in the sidebar and then navigate to the desired location.

  4. Specify whether you want to add the imported video to an existing Event or create a new Event.

    If you choose to add the video to an existing Event, click the pop-up menu and select an Event.

  5. Specify whether you want to copy the video (leaving the original movie intact) or have the movie moved (the original deleted after a successful import).

  6. Click Import.

    Alternatively, you can drag a video clip from a Finder window and drop it in the Project pane.

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