Transfer Video to Hard Disk

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The instructions below pertain to transferring video from a Mini-DV camcorder to a computer running Windows XP. The process will differ depending upon your operating system.

In this video, I talk about the steps involved in transferring video from your Mini-DV camcorder to your computer while you watch the steps I take on my computer to make it happen. Click the “Zoom” Button to view the video in full screen mode

Before you connect your camera to your computer via the firewire cable, you’ll want to rewind your tape to the beginning of your footage, power off your camera, and plug it in to power. By doing this, you’ll have the tape cued up and also ensure that the battery doesn’t run out of juice mid-transfer.

Pop open the LCD display on your camcorder, and connect the 4-pin end of the firewire cable to the camera’s output. Connect the other end (either 4-pin or 6-pin, depending on which connection your computer has) to your computer’s firewire input. Once everything is connected, power on your camcorder to the playback setting (as opposed to the camera setting). On your computer, open the “Windows Movie Maker” program.

When you click on the link under #1 in the top left that reads “Capture from video device” a window will pop up prompting you to enter a filename for your video and to select a place to save it (with the My Videos folder being the default location). I like to name my videos using the date and the name of the primary person filmed. As you will see in the screenshots below (click for full size) I named this file “20070603-ChrisDodd” because I filmed Chris Dodd on June 3, 2007.

After you name your file and click next, you’re presented with a window that asks you to “Select the setting you want to use to capture your video.” Go with the second option, “Digital device format (DV-AVI).” The resulting video file will be huge, but if you’ve followed the advice in this guide, you’ve got ample hard disk space to handle it.

On the next screen you’ll have the option to capture the entire tape automatically, or parts of the tape manually. I recommend choosing the option to “Capture parts of the tape manually” because it will begin capturing video from the tape at the exact spot that you cued it up to. If you choose to capture the entire tape automatically, it will rewind the tape to the beginning, possibly capturing portions of the tape that are unnecessary. I also recommend unchecking the option to “Show preview during capture.” It’s unnecessary to have the preview display on the computer during capture because you can view and listen to the video on the camcorder’s LCD screen. The preview feature also puts your computer under additional pressure while the transfer is taking place, and you do not want to risk corrupting the transferred video!

The next screen is where the magic happens. If you want Windows Movie Maker to automatically create clips of your video when it’s done transferring, check the appropriate option here. In my experience, it is better to make your own clips–Windows Movie Maker (and all other video editing software I’ve used) is not particularly smart about making good clips, sometimes cutting mid-sentence, which is annoying. This screen also tells you how much hard disk space you have available. If you have 60 minutes of tape to transfer, you should have at least 12 GB free. If you do not have enough free space, you should free some up before proceeding. To start transferring video from your camcorder, click the start button.

While the video is transferring, you should be able to watch and listen via your camcorder’s open LCD screen and built-in speaker. This is a good time to make notes that will help you during the editing process. Noting the time on the tape at which your candidate begins speaking, or says something particularly awesome will help you find it when you go to make a clip. If you’d rather not sit through the video, feel free to close the LCD screen and walk away for now (you definitely deserve a break). If you do walk away, you should know that your tape will continue playing until the very end, but if it plays past the portion with video on it, it will not transfer blank tape to your computer. So if you set up a 60 minute tape with 20 minutes of video on it, and come back after it’s been transferring for 30 minutes, only the 20 minutes of video will be transferred.

After your video is transferred, click on the stop button. If you have another portion of the tape that you’d like to capture, advance the tape to the beginning of that section and repeat the step above. If not, click on the finish button.

Now the video is transferred to your computer! If you wish to edit it using other software you can close Windows Movie Maker at this point. Your video will be saved in the folder you specified with the filename you chose and the file extension of .avi. If you’d like to learn how to do some basic and effective editing in Windows Movie Maker, keep reading!

Click on the thumbnails to view the photos at full size