Recording video direct to Mac hard disk (updated)

I have re-written this original post. I discovered that upgrading to Snow Leopard destroyed my ability to record from a Firewire HDV camera direct to the Macbook.  Apple has buried in a support note on their web site that this, apparently, previously relied on Final Cut Pro native HDV support. As of Snow Leopard, support for Final Cut Pro 5.1 was terminated and all users, especially those using HDV, must upgrade to FCP 6 or the newest version 7.

However, it appears there is still a work around to make this work, without any version of Final Cut needed for basic HDV capture live from the camera. And it even works with the new Quicktime X installed by Snow Leopard. (FYI – the older version of Quicktime Pro, if you had it, is moved to the Applications / Utilities folder so you can still use that too).

What you need to do

Go to and download and install Perian on your system.

Go to this university web site and download the Perian HDV and MPEG2 components. These are ZIP files. Double click to unzip the PerianHDV.component file and the PerianMPEG2.component file.

Using Finder, navigate to the Library / Quicktime folder. Move the above two component files into the Quicktime folder.

Launch Quicktime X.

Choose File / New Movie Recording

When it starts, it shows the view from the built in iSight camera (if on a Macbook notebook). On the bottom of the screen are the video record controls. At the right hand side there is an inverted triangle. Click on that. This shows a pop up menu with a selection for Camera, Microphone and Quality. Select your camera, then select your camera also for the Microphone, and then set Quality to High. In “High”, Quicktime will capture your video in the HDV native format. Captured video will be saved to the folder listed in the “Save to” pop up menu item; you can change that if you want.

Then select the Red record button to record your video.

After capturing the video clips, I imported them into Final Cut Pro 5.1, which I have on my notebook. FCP gave a warning about these clips not being optimized for FCP, what ever that means, but I was able to drag them into the project timeline and edit without any problems. I assume this would likely work in FCP 3.5 HD also, if you don’t have version 4.

Sure wish I could have figured this out before last Saturday. Then, I did do some recording direct to disk using a work around of importing through iMovie. But this was gawd awful. I fed the live Firewire video into iMovie and captured the video. If you turn off the camera before stopping the iMovie capture, iMovie crashes. If you do it right, iMovie than starts creating “thumbnail” images. Which took 4 to 7 minutes for each clip! I didn’t have that much time before I had to start recording the next event!

I had to use Force Quit to kill iMovie, then restart iMovie and set up the capture all over again.

iMovie does not capture in native format either – it transcodes to AIC format and your 13 GB/hour HDV video grows to about 40 or more GB/hour, quickly using up your hard disk space.

While this work around using Perian will let you capture native HDV on your Mac notebook, you will still need either Final Cut to edit the native HDV file, or you can import to iMovie – which will then transcode in to AIC and make the file bigger.

Apple’s success seems to be causing them to turn into Microsoft in terms of their deleting functionality during upgrades and not adequately testing software, like iMovie.