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Problems with importing .MTS files into iMovie

4173 Views 6 Replies Latest reply: Feb 7, 2012 7:02 AM by tmercier RSS
baz201 Calculating status...
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Jan 12, 2012 6:48 AM

OK, it took me ages to figure this out, even after SONY telephone help told me it wasn't possible! It's a bit long winded, but works and avoids having to purchase .MTS > .MOV software, which isn't always of the best quality. This tells you how to import .MTS files that are not sitting on your camera into iMovie. .MTS is the high definition video format used by camcorder manufacturers such as SONY or Canon, and unfortuneately it's mostly directed at the Windows PC market. iMovie turns .MTS files into much larger apple friendly .MOV files when they are imported directly from your camcorder. It would appear this is the only way to import .MTS video into iMovie, on!


If you want to archive your video footage, it's not always suitable to archive in .MOV format because of its large size, so it's perhaps best to archive your video in the original high definition .MTS format in which it came directly from the camera. iMovie turns .MTS video files into .MOV files when it imports them.


iMovie doesn't recognise lone .MTS files on their own, they just appear as greyed out when you try to import them. (Apple SHOULD really fix this problem in their next iMovie UPDATE). The trick is you need to FOOL the iMovie software into thinking you are inserting a camera into your computer, as that is the only way that iMovie can import .MTS video files. For this, you will need access to a Windows PC with an SDHC memory card reader (these are the memory cards used with most modern camcorders and still image cameras), and a suitably sized USB memory stick.



Firstly, install the SONY PMB (Picture Motion Browser) software that came with your camera onto the Windows PC with the card reader (or download it from the net and install). Then copy all your archived .MTS files onto the Windows PC and import them into the PMB software. They should order themselves into the dates you originally imported the .MTS files onto your mac. You will need to transfer these .MTS files from the PMB software onto your SDHC memory card, as follows:


Insert the SDHC card to the reader and dismiss all the windows asking you to open files from it or import from it. Select all the video and still image files displayed as thumbnails in the PMB software you wish to export to your SDHC card. Make sure that you don't select too much data that it won't fit on the card. Go to the menu heading "Manipulate" and choose "Export media files...". Then a window will open saying "Select a device or media to which media files are exported". Choose the memory card from this list and click "next". A window will appear showing you how much data you have chosen and if it will all fit on the size of SDHC card you have inserted (typically a 16GB or 32GB card is suitable here). If it's all OK, click "Export". A window will appear saying "Exporting videos in TS (AVC) format may take a long time because management information must be created.." It is exactly this management information that you will need to fool iMovie, so click OK and all this information data will be generated onto your SDHC card, along with the original .MTS video files.


Unfortunately there does not seem to be any suitable PMB software for MAC, thus the need to do this on a Windows PC.



When this process is completed, a window will appear telling you it is done. click OK and safely remove the SDHC memory card from the PC and insert it into your camera. Make sure the camera recognises the inserted card. MENU > SETUP > MEDIA SELECT > MEMORY CARD should do it (well, that's the formula on my SONY camera).


The data is now all in a file on the SHDC card in the format you will need to keep it archived in. Now you will need to transfer all the data generated on your SDHC card onto your External Hard Drive, or Computer Hard Drive, wherever you'd like to archive it. If you choose to do a direct transfer from the camera to an external Hard Drive or memory stick, 2 folders will be transferred: AVCHD and AVF_INFO. It is the AVCHD folder that is the important one for our purposes. You can disregard the AVF_INFO if you wish. If you plug your camera directly into your Mac, download the AVCHD file which is inside the PRIVATE folder, onto the Mac's Hard Drive, which should be in the "NO NAME" (or the name of your camcorder) icon on your desktop.


Inside the AVCHD folder you'll find the following > BDMV (folder)  > CLIPINF (folder) & INDEX:BDM (file) & MOVIEOBJ.BDM (file) & PLAYLIST (folder) & STREAM (folder). In the STREAM folder you'll find all the original .MTS files, which may have been renumbered. in the CLIPINF folder you'll find a corresponding number of .CPI files to the .MTS files. In the PLAYLIST folder you'll find a small number of .MPL files. This is now your video archive format. Don't worry, all of these non .MTS files are quite small, but essential.

You'll need all these folders and files exactly as they come to fool iMovie. ALWAYS keep them archived together in this format.


Now to import the video files into iMovie, copy the archived AVCHD folder as described above onto an external USB memory stick. Here's the clincher: the AVCHD file is exactly as it would appear on your camera after you have shot that digital video footage that is contained in the .MTS files on it. Take the USB stick out of the computer after copying is completed. Open iMovie, and after it has opened, insert the USB stick into the USB port. iMovie will think it's a camera as all the files are there it needs, and a dialogue box will appear saying "Camera detected" and a list of video thumbnails of all the .MTS video files on the stick will be generated, just as they would, had you inserted your camera directly.


IMPORTANT: You will need to archive the .MTS files together with all the files generated in the AVCHD folder, otherwise it will not work in future. Don't delete this data that was generated as you need it to fool iMovie again to import the video files. If you lose this additional data, you'll have to go through the whole process above and generate new .CPI .BDM & .MPL files in the AVCHD folder.


good luck with archiving,


iMovie '08, Mac OS X (10.5.8)
  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)
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    Jan 12, 2012 7:48 AM (in response to baz201)

    In the future, you will not need to do all this. There is an archive feature on the iMovie import screen. It will make an identical copy of the files on the camera and place it in an archive. You can import from there using FILE/IMPORT FROM ARCHIVE.

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 Level 7 (27,335 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 12, 2012 8:49 AM (in response to baz201)

    OK The Archive Feature was introduced with iMovie 09, and continues in iMovie 11. It was not in iMovie 08.


    For iMovie 08, the best way to create an archive is to make a Disk Image. You can do this in Disk Utility.


    First look in the Finder on your SDHC card. Right click and select GET INFO so you can see how much data is on the card.  You will want to create a blank disk image that is this big and a little more.


    In Disk Utility,

    1. Click "New Image". Give it a name. And a place to save it.

    2. For size, select Custom and enter a size that is slightly larger than the contents of your SDHC card

    3. For Image Format, choose Read / Write Disk Image

    4) For Format, choose Mac OS Extended (journaled)

    5) Then click CREATE

    6) You should now have a blank Disk Image in the location where you saved it. If you do not see it mounted in the Finder, double click it to mount it. It should open as a Finder Window.

    7) Open a Finder Window for you SDHC card. Now click EDIT/SELECT ALL and make sure you drag ALL the contents of the SDHC card to the Disk Image.

    8) Once it has copied, you can eject the SDHC card.

    9) Now you can eject the disk image. This is your archive.

    10) When you are ready to import to iMovie, mount the disk image and open iMovie. iMovie will recognize the disk image as a camera, and you can import.

  • bogwoman Calculating status...
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    Feb 4, 2012 8:53 AM (in response to baz201)

    I got around this by converting files using open source software from handbrake

    download here:

    but I recently downloaded imovie 11 app and managed to import files directly.

  • Karsten Schlüter Level 7 Level 7 (29,465 points)
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    Feb 4, 2012 9:14 AM (in response to bogwoman)

    bogwoman wrote:


    I got around this by converting files using open source software from handbrake ...

    as long as you keep the whole AVCHD structure intact, the mts was embedded with, there's no need for any conversion.


    plus, HB is by far the worst 'solution' to that problem: it converts from h264 (the codec inside mts) to h264 ... this multiplies artefactes, compression errors etc.


    better practice: re-wrap the mts to a m4v ... read the last 3 methods mentioned on my site:

    (two are free too.,....)

  • tmercier Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
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    Feb 7, 2012 7:02 AM (in response to baz201)

    Frustrating, ridiculous, infuriating. Some of the words I'd use to describe what should be a simple process. It seems around every corner I'm wondering why I forked out so much dough on this late '11 iMac. Conversion during import, anyone?


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