8 Replies Latest reply: Aug 13, 2011 12:03 PM by AppleMan1958
pomme4moi Level 1 (35 points)

Hi.  I want to buy a camcorder, shoot some video, connect the camcorder to my MacBook Pro, import the video directly into iMovie 11, and then edit the video to produce my own finished product to import into iTunes.  I have been doing some online research to identify camcorders that "just work" with Mac's, but am confused.  A lot of the online commentary suggests that many camcorders do not work well with Mac's -- Mac does not recognize camcorder when plugged in, iMovie does not recognize format of camcorder video, camcorder must be trans-coded before importing into iMovie -- that kind of stuff.  Is this really true?  I don't want to have to deal with issues of this type.


I have a Canon point-and-shoot digital camera that also takes video, and it "just works" with the Mac.  Don't all modern (i.e., 2011) camcorders, like the Samsung SMX-F50BN, just work with Macs? If not, what do I need to look for in a camcorder that works easily with Macs?


One additional item: I plan to purchase Final Cut Pro at some point, and will want the camcorder to work easily with that software too.  Any advice appreciated.  Thank you

MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.7)
  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    My best advice is to look for the name "iFrame" or the Works with Mac logo. iFrame is the format Apple has been trying to get manufacturers to adopt for a while. It imports directly into iMovie because it doesn't need to be converted or transcoded. It is literally the same size and format as the native iMovie editing format. Pansonic and Sanyo both have iFrame cameras in their line ups. So look for that in the specs on the camera and you'll be guaranteed that it will just work. I bought a Panasonic HM-TA1 last winter when the Apple store was trying to sell out of them. Price dropped about $30 and I paid ~$135 just before Christmas. It has iFrame as one of the options in what format it saves in. Time spent importing just a few minutes at most for 1 hours worth of video. And you're ready to edit as soon as it's copied into the iMovie Event Library. fast,fast,fast

  • pomme4moi Level 1 (35 points)

    Thanks for the response.  I looked at camcorders on CNET with a filter on "iFrame".  There were only about 7 cameras that appear to be capable of recording and playback in iFrame format.  I'll have to do some more research ...

  • hughmass Level 3 (575 points)




    Above, Apple talks about what camcorders work with what. I have to disagree a little with the previous response. I really don't think iFrame camcorders are the best way to go. While Apple has made their software work with some of them, one limits oneself by getting a camcorder that only records in that way.


    You didn't mention your price constraints. I am a big believer in Canon camcorders, and own an older HFS 100 that does wonderful video, and acceptable photos. And I own a Sony DSLR, the SLT-33, that does the opposite, wonderful photos and pretty **** good video.


    Just saying...look around, and when you have brought your choices down to two or three, post here to get reactions.


  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 (27,415 points)

    Personally, I like AVCHD camcorders that record to an SDHC card.

    Avoid camcorders that record to DVDs like the plague.

    Camcorders that record to a hard drive are OK, but I prefer one with no spinning parts.


    An AVCHD camcorder records in a highly compressed format in a group of pictures compression scheme. This works by taking 1 "full frame", with all the pixels. Then for the next 24 or so frames, the compression algorithm lools for what his changed from one frame to the next, what has stayed the same, the direction of motion, etc, and creates partial frames that can be decoded to create the movie, but are useless without the full frame.

    Think of a duck flying across the sky. The camera compressed this by taking a full resolution (1920 x 1080) photo of the duck. Then it notices that the background is moving left to right, the ducks wings are moving up and down, etc. and uses this for the next 24 frames to capture the images in a much smaller amount of space.


    This is great for capturing on a camera, but when you are editing, it is best to have all "full frames", because obviously, if you edit out the full frame, the rest are worthless. And it puts a huge load on your computer, because for every edit, it not only has to do the edit, it has to do all these calculations to see what is really in the frame. If you think of something as simple as a fast motion effect where you select every 4th frame to give the appearance of fast motion, this is easy to do if you have all full frames, but very difficult if you have partial frames.


    So in iMovie, AVCHD is converted to Apple Intermediate Codec. It takes more room than AVCHD - up to 10 times more room (but not 24 times more room because the compressed frames still takes up some room),

    In Final Cut Pro, the AVCHD is converted to ProRes422, which is a high end intermediate codec for pros.


    So don't be scared of AVCHD, but if you get into video as a hobby, be prepared to buy external disk drives.

  • elikness Level 4 (2,635 points)

    AppleMan1958 is absolutely right with the suggestion to buy External HD. Do it at your earliest convenience, that way you won't run into the problems others do of having to shift things around and re-arrange when you run out of internal Mac HD space.

  • pomme4moi Level 1 (35 points)

    Thanks AppleMan1958.  If I shoot 60 minutes of video in AVCHD, about how long will it take to load into iMovie?  Is it necessary to convert AVCHD into another format to edit it in iMovie?  Thx

  • pomme4moi Level 1 (35 points)

    To alikeness:  I'm all set with the external HD.  I have a 3TB G-Tech drive (and back-up) connected via FireWire 800.


    To hughmass: I hope to stay at $500 or less.


    Thank you both ...

  • AppleMan1958 Level 7 (27,415 points)

    It depends on your computer. It will either be slightly less than real time, or if you have an older Intel Mac, it may take up to 1.5 times real time. As I mentioned, it is converted to Apple Intermediate Codec as part of this process.


    What I usually do...

    There is  an option on the import screen to create an archive. This produces a copy of the original AVCHD on your hard drive. This is very fast. I then import into iMovie from the Archive copy. Once the import is finished, I know I have a backup and I go ahead and reformat my card.