No firewire on Macbook - use PC to transfer video from camera?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by weaselmtl, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. weaselmtl macrumors newbie

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    #1
    I will be purchasing a new Macbook but have a video camera that connects by firewire only. I have decided the Macbook will meet my needs - I don't want this thread to turn into a discussion on Macbooks vs Macbook Pros. I know the differences but my budget is such that I can only afford a Macbook.

    I have a Panasonic Mini DV video camera that connects to the computer via firewire only (USB can only be used to transfer stills on an SD card). The Macbook doesn't have firewire but I have 2 PCs in my house that are equipped with Firewire. Can I pull the video from the camera using a PC and then open up the file on the mac for editing? Are there any disadvantages to doing this other than just the extra step?

    Thanks!
     
  2. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    #2
    You can take a look at the Apple Refurbished Store to see if you can get a MacBook (Pro) with Firewire port.
    http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac

    It is possible to do what you want to do.

    But you have to have the captured video in a format that your Mac editing application (iMovie?) does read.

    iMovie and Final Cut Express don't work with the .avi container.

    You need to have a QuickTime file (.mov) using either the DV or the Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC).

    Search these forums via MRoogle to find some already existing threads about this.
     
  3. arjen92 macrumors 65816

    arjen92

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    #3
    to be honest, it is possible to import .avi's in final cut pro. But you would have to render all the time (which is a useless workflow of course)
     
  4. weaselmtl thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #4
    Thanks for the replies. So it sounds like this is much more than simply pulling the file from the camera onto the PC/external drive and then opening it up on the Mac. It I understand, for a full tape this would result in a lot of extra time spent in rendering/converting as well as potential video quality loss?
     
  5. spinnerlys Guest

    spinnerlys

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    Yes, as Windows applications most probably use the .avi container with some kind of DV codec, which FCP might read, but it wants to render it anytime you make an edit.

    I don't know if iMovie supports the .avi container and that DV codec your capture program might use.

    But you can use MPEG Streamclip to convert the .avi file into a .mov file, which uses either the DV or the AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec).
     
  6. notjustjay macrumors 603

    notjustjay

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    #6
    I've done it. It works fine. No need to render into intermediate codecs.

    Keep in mind that AVI (Windows) and MOV (QuickTime) files are just containers. It's the video format itself that is important, and when you are dealing with video captured over Firewire, it is always going to be the same raw DV video, whether you wrap it in an AVI or a MOV format.

    So iMovie and Final Cut can import the video just fine, but it might take a few seconds to import the file as it copies the raw DV data and wraps it in the format that it likes. It's not actually rerendering or converting anything, just copying the data into a different container. They might need to take an extra second or two when importing or working with the clips to convert the audio track (there are several different possible formats for encoding audio within the DV-AVI file), or when rendering edits such as transitions.

    I've done a few projects in iMovie (granted, iMovie HD, the older version) and Final Cut Express where I used multiple .AVI files originally captured from Windows PCs. They work fine, with the exception of the odd slower render as noted already.
     
  7. weaselmtl thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #7
    notjuistjay - that is very encouraging! What program are you using to capture the video on your PC? Is there any video quality loss when the file is opened up/converted on the Mac?

    What do you mean by this?
     
  8. notjustjay macrumors 603

    notjustjay

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    #8
    I haven't done much on the PC in a while, but back when I was doing it, I was using a shareware program called ScenalyzerLive. It cost me something like $30 to register, but I found it very useful. It can do timelapse recording, and it splits scenes into separate files, which I like because then you can delete the bad takes or unwanted footage and save lots of disk space.

    There should be no quality loss. Like I said, DV is DV, and the only processing that should be going on is unwrapping the video file and rewrapping it in another container.

    Note, however, I've heard people say that the newer iMovie does not handle DV video as well as iMovie HD does (something about it discarding fields). This would be true no matter where you captured the DV video from. Personally I prefer to use the older iMovie. You should be able to download it on the web if you don't already have it (Apple offered it as a free download for a while).

    What I mean by the short delays for rendering is that if you put two clips together and put in a transition, it might take a second or two to render a transition clip. Whereas if the two clips had been captured directly from the program you're using, it might not need to render the clip but instead do a real-time preview.

    Bottom line is, try it and see, I'm sure you'll find a workflow that works well for you.
     
  9. knello macrumors member

    knello

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    #9
    It could be that simple, it just depends on what software the PC is running. Quicktime Pro ($30) is capable of capturing DV over firewire, so that's an obvious choice.

    Personally, I use DVgrab for DV & HDV. It can capture straight to quicktime. It's Linux only, though. I'm not sure what a Windows equivalent would be.

    FFmpeg can do lossless wrapper converting, as well as firewire capture. Windows builds are here.
     
  10. weaselmtl thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #10
    knello - thanks. Seems rather simple. $30 for Quicktime Pro for Windows, grab the video from the camera and save to external drive. Open file on Mac in iMovie or Final Cut/ Final Cut Express?

    Any loss of video quality using this method or file format?
     
  11. notjustjay macrumors 603

    notjustjay

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    #11
    There should be no loss of quality because the video, already compressed by your video camera, is simply copied over as one big block of data. Just like copying a Word document from one computer to another will not affect the contents of your document.

    Here's a hint: with modern processors, DV editing should be pretty quick. Adding transitions, for example, should be nearly real-time, or at most take just a few seconds to render. If you are finding that the video quality looks unusually poor, or things are taking a long time to render, then double-check your project settings to make sure they match the files you are importing. I had a friend who took a bunch of DV video and was complaining that the editing was way too slow -- it was taking minutes to hours to render anything. Turns out he had the project settings wrong, so the editor was rerendering and recompressing every single frame, every single time.

    Before you spend $30 on QuickTime Pro for Windows, try to see if a free solution will work. Try the free version of the tool I posted about earlier, Scenalyzer Live. The free demo will watermark your video, but you can use it as a proof of concept to check if your workflow will work well for you.
     
  12. notjustjay macrumors 603

    notjustjay

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    #13
    The OP didn't specify what kind of MacBook he/she has. If it is one with a FW800 port, this will indeed do the trick.
     

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