Do a google search for "import minidv tapes to mac" and you'll get a rousing debate on the best methods to import tapes. How do you choose?
Full disclosure, I'm a founder of LifeFlix, one of the recommended methods. But I don't think it's best to rank them strictly 1 through 4, rather your choice should depend on what's most important to you or what kind of user you are. Consider the following: are you a technical user? Are you price sensitive? Are you less price sensitive and more time sensitive? How many tapes do you have? And finally, what do you want to do with the videos?
One thing is consistent with all MiniDV camera users, of the 150 million cameras sold, all those tapes (and memories) have remained stuck in a drawer or shoebox. That is why I founded LifeFlix and developed a technology that makes watching those memories easy. These memories were captured between 1995 and 2005 and most haven't been seen since. Other than curiosity about the memories on the tapes, and the potential of making your spouse cry when seeing the memories, it's important to understand that tapes deteriorate over time from oxidation. If you've seen old VHS footage that is shaky, yellowish and breaks up, that chemical process is happening to your MiniDV tapes now. (yes, that's me fear mongering you into taking action!)
Top 4 Best Import Solutions
Now the top four best ways to capture those memories onto your Mac (in no particular order). You decide what's best for you. Personally I use a combination of LifeFlix and Final Cut Pro X.
iMovie. iMovie is a basic video editing program designed for beginners, it's really nice (I've used it since 1.0). I would recommend this as a MiniDV import solution for those that don't mind a learning curve (because importing is one of 50 features) or if you don't have many tapes. Learn more
- Pros: lots of editing features like titling, cutting, color correction, stabilization, export and audio controls, one of the easiest to use editors, and it's free.
- Cons: a long list of features clutters the import and export experience, doesn't organize all tapes and video clips well, videos need to be moved into the editing timeline before uploading to YouTube or shared.
Tape transfer services. There are few services that allow you to ship your tapes to them, they capture the videos and send you a DVD or digital files to download. The two I would consider are iMemories (they are the big boys, and used by Walgreens) and Southtree. I recommend this service if you don't really use a computer, are less price sensitive (because it can get expensive), trust delivery services and are willing to wait a couple weeks.
- Pros: you don't have to do any work and you get DVDs and/or digital files.
- Cons: you pay per tape (about $10 per) and extra for DVDs, you have to ship your tapes then wait to see the videos a few weeks.
LifeFlix. LifeFlix is a dedicated import application developed for MiniDV, HDV and DVCAM camcorder tape capture. It is designed to have no learning curve and handle quick import of many tapes and allow instant viewing and sharing of memories. I recommend LifeFlix for those that don't want to mess with complicated software and want to just import, archive, watch or share taped memories. Also, if you've tried using iMovie, Final Cut Pro (or Premiere Pro) and can't figure them out or are unhappy with the import and cataloging features.
"I use Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Media Encoder, but for archiving old DV tapes, LifeFlix is a winner. - David B"
- Pros: no learning curve, good for multiple tapes, basic editing, direct to hard drive archiving and sharing, click and "walk-away" import feature.
- Cons: lacks extensive editing features, costs money.
Final Cut Pro X. Final Cut Pro X is iMovie's sophisticated big brother and is very similar in workflow and interface. But has more formats, audio and video layers & effects, finishing tools and handles things like multi-cam. I have used FCPX for a few years and love it for more sophisticated editing. Learn more.
- Pros: professional level editing quality, will grow with you, lots of great transitions, effects and titles, import multiple video and audio streams.
- Cons: Costs $300, has a relatively steep learning curve, if you just want to import tapes you have to navigate all the other features.
I hope this helped you decide, whatever you choose, please don't wait to rescue your memories!
I've been in the professional video space for 16 years and founded Red Giant, the number one developer of plugins for Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Final Cut Pro. I pride Red Giant on making special effects and color correction accessible to 100's of thousands of less technical (or still learning) users. I've since founded several small companies, done angel investing. which includes a $100 million acquired company called Buuteeq. I blog on a variety of topics here JustStartGO.com, but am most proud of living a balanced life for my family and teaching others to achieve the same freedom. If you'd like to send me an email, click here.
- Drew Little