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Lesson 8. Shooting and Assembling a Very... > Getting Video into iMovie

Getting Video into iMovie

Unlike iPhoto, iMovie doesn't automatically import your video when you plug in your camcorder. Still, it's pretty easy. In Lesson 7, you saw how iMovie can get video from the iSight camera; it's just as easy to get video from your digital camcorder.

Plug your camcorder into your Mac with a FireWire cable.

FireWire is the standard type of computer connection for digital video (and other high-bandwidth computer connections). Its technical name is IEEE 1394, but it's also referred to as i.Link, Sony's brand name.

FireWire jacks: A 4-pin jack on a digital camcorder (left); and a 6-pin jack on the back of a Mac (right)

At each end of your FireWire cable is a different type of connector. The tiny one, which tends to plug into a camcorder, is a 4-pin connector. The big one is shaped like a D and is called a 6-pin connector. A 4-pin-to-6-pin FireWire cable, then, is the essential link between camcorder and Mac.

FireWire connectors: The smaller 4-pin side (left) and the D-shaped 6-pin side (right)


The common connector between a Mac and an external hard drive is a 6-pin-to-6-pin FireWire cable.

Make sure your camcorder is turned on and set to play back your tape.

That setting is probably labeled something like VCR; it's often a switch located near the red Record button on the back of the camera.

In iMovie, change the mode from editing (the scissors) to capturing video (the camera).

If you have an iSight camera plugged in, you'll need to select your camcorder from the pull-down menu under the camera icon. If not, just switch it to the left.

Now iMovie is looking at, and controlling, your camcorder.

If you click the big Play arrow under the display, your tape will start rolling, and you can watch it on your Mac.

Click Stop (the square).

The tape stops and the screen goes blue.

Click the Rewind button onscreen.

The camera goes into a fast rewind. (If you click Play and then hold down the Rewind button, it will go into slow rewind, and you can watch the video onscreen.)

You'll also see a number on the top of the display in iMovie—this matches the timecode number on the videotape and should help you locate where you want to be, provided you're using timecode to keep yourself organized.

Christopher got home after the party and rewound his tape just to the point where he started recording that morning. Then he clicked Play to watch it. Of course, if you're going to take the time to watch a tape, you've got the time to import it.

When the tape is rolling and you find the beginning of the material you want to put in your Mac, click Import.


For most video you shoot, import the entire bunch of material you will use for editing, and avoid starting and stopping the import process to find small bits you think you want to edit. By grabbing all the video in one big chunk (or at one time), you save a great deal of wear and tear on rather fragile consumer camcorders. Getting everything in the computer has the additional benefit of sometimes revealing small gems of video that you might have missed if you imported discrete moments from your tapes.

Again, as you saw in Lesson 7, the video you import immediately shows up in the Clip pane. iMovie is pretty smart about video playing from a tape. Whenever it “sees” that you stopped the camera and started recording again—even though there is no discernible break in the picture on the tape—it ends one clip and starts making another. (This works only if you have already set the date and time on your camcorder.) This is usually very useful (although in Lesson 11, you'll learn when it's not as useful). For Christopher's video—just like yours—he started and stopped his camcorder three times, and so there are three clips in the Clip pane.


Funny thing: Getting digital content into a given application is generally known as importing. Still, tradition tends to confer other names to this process. Getting songs into a computer is sometimes called ripping. Getting video into a computer is often called capturing. Truth is, the words all mean the same thing.



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