Best format to import into iMovie 11

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by SimonFTB, Jun 13, 2012.

  1. SimonFTB macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    Devon, United Kingdom
    Hi all

    I've looked at a number of previous posts on this subject but am not 100% clear that I understand the right answer, so forgive me if I'm seeming thick! I'd be very grateful for some advice...

    I have a fairly old Sony camcorder which records onto miniDV tapes. As I can't download these directly onto my computer, I have a stack of miniDV tapes to send off from my local photographic shop to another company to convert to a digital file format to use in iMovie 11 (which I'm yet to actually use, as I haven't yet got any converted files to work with, hence the post).

    When I took the tapes in last week to send away, the bloke in the shop said I needed to specify on the envelope precisely which video format I wanted the tapes converted to, to which I said, "Ah - I have no idea!" and came out of the shop to research the answer.

    The forum posts I've read seem to suggest either DV or MPEG-4 would be best, but would either be possible from miniDV? I read that DV files are pretty much or entirely uncompressed, so end up being huge. I would receive the converted files back on a CD-ROM, so presumably I should ask for MPEG-4 to make sure the entire 60 minute miniDV tape fits onto one disc. Is that right?

    Would a different file format be better?

    As the miniDV quality is relatively low (compared to modern HD camcorders, anyway), I'm scared of losing image definition even further.

    What do people think?

    Your kind advice would be very much appreciated.

    Many thanks

    Simon (in Devon, UK)
  2. MisterMe macrumors G4


    Jul 17, 2002
    miniDV digital video is imported via FireWire into iMovie and other video editors. Why can't you do that?
  3. SimonFTB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    Devon, United Kingdom

    So I should be able to plug a Firewire lead into the camcorder and download directly to my Mac?! I didn't realise that! I imagined that being a tape-based format, miniDV wouldn't be able to do that. Again, I'm sorry for sounding so thick, but I didn't know I could download like that.

    Looking now at the connections panel on the side of the camcorder, there's a mini USB socket, S-video and "DV in/out" with a kind of "i" symbol - does that mean Firewire? I'd looked in the camera's manual, but it wasn't very helpful in describing how to get data off.

    If I plug a Firewire cable into the side of the camcorder (assuming it's the "DV in/out funny "i" connector), what do you think the connection would be at the computer end? Does it go into a USB socket? There are two other possible sockets on the back of my Mac: one has a lightning symbol, the other is like a Y. I have no idea what they mean!

    Many thanks in advance!
  4. beh44118 macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2007
    miniDV to Firewire

    The in/out iLink on the Sony camera is a 4 pin firewire connection. You will need to get a cable that is 4 pin on one end and 9 pin on the end that connects to you Mac.
  5. simsaladimbamba

    Nov 28, 2010

    Also know, that one hour of DV encoded footage takes up 12 GB of storage capacity.
  6. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    You'll want to do what I've been doing (seemingly for ages!) -- import the MiniDV tapes yourself into iMovie. iMovie will save the data as .dv files, in the best possible quality (from what I understand), but large file sizes. As someone said above, each 1-hour tape takes about 12 GB, so you might need to get some more drive space. No, a one hour tape will not fit on a DVD, so I think you're best off doing the import yourself instead of using the service. Be aware that it is time-consuming, though -- the import happens in real-time, so it takes a full hour to import each full tape...

    After one or more tapes are imported, you can make projects in iMovie and then export the movie in a variety of compression formats, sacrificing image quality for smaller size if desired. If you keep the imported .dv files, as I do, you can make more movies with the same clips or re-make a movie for higher quality, if desired. Of course, the storage and backup of those large .dv files becomes a challenge.

    Look at simsaladimbamba's excellent graphic. You need a firewire cable with two "plugs" from the picture: one end with the FW400 (4-pin) plug to go into the camera, and the other end either a FW400 (6-pin) plug or a FW800 (9-pin) plug to go into your computer, depending upon which firewire port(s) your computer has. If your Mac is old enough, it might have just FW400 ports. (Mine has both.)

    Turn your camera off, probably plug it into its charger, and connect your new cable to the "DV in/out" port and the FW port on your computer. Then turn the camera on in "VCR" or "Play" mode (not "Record"), and (I believe) iMovie will start up and open the camera import window for you. From that window you can start/stop/f-fwd/rewind the tape and position it to where you want to start importing (probably just at the beginning).

    I've not had good luck with the "automatic" import -- it seemed to think the end of the tape had come too early -- so I always do the "manual" import and just let it run to the end of the tape.

    Good luck!
  7. SimonFTB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    Devon, United Kingdom
    Enormous thanks

    Hi guys

    Thank you so, so much for taking the time and making the effort to explain so clearly how I can attempt to download the miniDV files directly to my (wife's) Mac! The company I'd be sending the tapes off to want something like £20 / $30 for each tape, so your kind advice may well save me a great deal of money, which is an added bonus!!

    The graphic of the Firewire cables so wonderfully idiot-friendly, even I stand an outside chance of getting it right!

    I really do appreciate your kind efforts and look forward to trying it out as soon as I've bought a Firewire cable.

    Yours in grovelling appreciation,

  8. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    Just be aware that there can be problems getting a Sony camcorder to be recognised by iMovie. There have been quite a few topics where people have been having trouble.

    Just to clarify that statement, a one hour tape will easily fit on a dvd if you are producing a dvd for playing in a dvd player.
  9. emmdee macrumors newbie

    Jul 8, 2012
    it worked with earlier versions but not iMovie 11

    Like SimonFTB I am trying to import footage from a miniDV camcorder (Sony DCR-TRV900E) into iMovie. This worked fine on older macs with earlier versions of iMovie, but with my current setup (Macbook Pro running Lion 10.7.4) what happens is strange: iMovie recognizes the camcorder is connected, controls it (I can fast forward/play/stop/rewind from my screen), and when I say "import" the timer moves forward in real time and the camcorder plays. But no image is visualized on my computer screen, and after it's all "done" and I click on my supposed new event, iMovie says "No video clips match the current selection." This is confirmed by the event's folder being empty in the Finder. I've tried various combinations of restarting, orders of connections, etc. Any suggestions? It seems to me if the program can recognize and control the camera it ought to be allow to import the video...
  10. emmdee macrumors newbie

    Jul 8, 2012
    whoops, wrong version of iMovie

    I don't have iMovie 11, I have iMovie 9.0.4. Sorry.
  11. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    iMovie 9.0.4 is the same thing as iMovie'11. Just two ways to refer to the same product.

    Anyways, your problem sounds wierd. I've not had this issue nor have I read about it. I have a few suggestions that may work, or at least shed some light on the situation.

    1. Confirm that the Import function works by importing video using the built-in iSight camera.

    2. Try another miniDV camcorder if you have access to it.

    3. Try another FW cable.

    4. If you're connecting to a FW port on a daisy-chain, try connecting it directly to the MBP.

    5. I'm not sure if iMovie'06 is still available or if it's compatible with Lion, but maybe you could successfully import it that way.

    6. Do you have another computer available to use?

    7. Not sure if Lion is compatible with the Firewire SDK, but one of the apps in the SDK is DV capture (or something like that). Maybe that would work.

    not sure what else you could try. Maybe you could bring your miniDV camcorder, FW cable (and adapter if needed) to an Apple Store to see if your gear works with their Macs.

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