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iMovie '08 or later: Cannot see or control camera

Symptoms

In this article, you'll learn how to troubleshoot issues when you connect a camera to iMovie '08 or later. For iMovie 6 and earlier, see iMovie 6: Cannot see or control camera. If you're using iMovie '08 or later with a connected camera, you may receive one of the following messages:

  • "When you try to use a camera or device, iMovie may indicate that it can't see the camera".
  • "When you try to import or export video to or from a camera or device, iMovie may unexpectedly stop importing, exporting, or responding". 

Select your camcorder type to resolve your issue:

 

Resolution

Use the following guidelines to troubleshoot the connection between your device and iMovie.

All cameras

  1. If you have Fast User Switching turned on, make sure someone else is not attempting to use the same camera on his or her account. Refer to iMovie: Fast User Switching and DV Camera Control for more information.

  2. Check the documentation that came with your camera to see if the camera connects to the computer using a FireWire or USB port. FireWire ports are sometimes referred to as i.LINK or IEEE 1394.

DV and HDV cameras

  1. Make sure your DV camera is connected to the computer's FireWire port and that the camera is turned on. 

    Note: Many DV cameras include both a USB and FireWire (also known as i.LINK or IEEE 1394) connection. The USB connection on DV cameras is usually designed for downloading still images but not video. Use the FireWire connection when working with iMovie.

  2. If your camera is connected via FireWire and the camera is turned on, follow one or more of these tips to re-establish the connection to the camera.
    • Turn the camera off and back on again.
    • Disconnect the FireWire cable from your computer and reconnect it. Do the same with the camera as well. If the camera is connected through a FireWire hub, try connecting the camera directly to the computer.
    • Make sure the tape in the camera is one that you know is working. Eject and reinsert the tape to make sure it is inserted correctly. Try more than one tape.
    • Make sure the footage you recorded is not in Hi-8 format. Some DV cameras may work with Hi-8 footage, but iMovie '08 or later do not work with Hi-8 footage.
    • Quit and re-open iMovie.
    • Restart the computer.
    • Try another FireWire cable or try the camera with another computer running iMovie.
    • Damaged tape, dirty playheads, or mixed footage formats may cause a camera to stop importing unexpectedly.
    • If iDVD is open, quit iDVD and iMovie HD, then re-open iMovie.

  3. Open Apple System Profiler (from the Utilities folder) to see if your camera appears in the FireWire section. If after following the tips in Step 2, you do not see your camera in Apple System Profiler, try resetting the FireWire connection as described in What to do if your computer won't recognize a USB or FireWire device and check again.

  4. Check the documentation that came with your camera, or consult the manufacturer for information on connecting and setting up the device for use with a computer.
    • The documentation that came with your camera or DV device should include information on locating the FireWire port on the camera. This port is sometimes referred to as iLink or IEEE 1394.
    • Some cameras need to be set to "VTR", "VCR", or "DV" mode in order to communicate with a computer. Check your camera's documentation for information on how to set your camera to this mode if needed.
    • Some analog-to-FireWire converters (DV bridges) may require you to change the device settings by pressing certain buttons or switches on the device. Some DV bridges may also require the installation of a software driver or firmware update to properly control or recognize the device. Consult the documentation that came with your DV bridge, or check the manufacturer's website for more information.
    • Some cameras may automatically turn off to conserve battery power. If your camera unexpectedly shuts off during import or export, connect the camera's AC power adapter.
    • Make sure the date and time on your camera are set correctly. If the camera uses a backup battery to prevent the date and time from resetting, check this battery to make sure it is still good. See  iMovie: Automatic Scene Detection Requires That Camera Clock Be Set Properly and your camera's documentation for more information.
    • Some cameras allow you to record at different speeds. Make sure the camera is set to the highest speed (SP) setting before connecting it to the computer, even if your footage was recorded at a slower speed. For some camera models, the speed setting may affect how the camera communicates with the computer. Check your camera's documentation for additional information and try some sample recordings at different speeds to make sure the recording speed is compatible.

  5. Make sure your software is up-to-date. For best results, use Software Update to update your computer's software, including QuickTime, iMovie and the operating system.

  6. For best results, use a qualified device. iMovie works with most DV camcorders that have a FireWire connection. For information on cameras that Apple has tested and qualified for use with iMovie, see:

  7. Some camera models may not import or export when an external FireWire drive is connected to the computer. Try disconnecting external FireWire drives if you are unable to communicate with your DV or HDV camera.

  8. If your camera frequently disconnects during import or export, or if playback in the iMovie preview pane is jumpy or choppy, make sure your iMovie project is not stored in a FileVault directory. See iMovie: Using FileVault Can Affect Performance for information about iMovie and FileVault.

  9. If you are using an HDV camera and the import immediately stops when you try to import from the camera into iMovie, fast forward a few seconds into the tape and try importing again. If you have recorded over existing footage on the tape that is a different format, this may cause the import to halt. This can happen if there is still residual footage in the other format at the beginning of the tape.

    For example, you recorded 720p HDV footage over DV footage on a tape, but at the beginning of the tape there is still some DV footage that is being read first. iMovie interprets this as a DV project, then halts when it reaches the HDV footage because it does not match the current project format.

  10. Some HDV cameras include a setting for converting or setting the output format transmitted over FireWire. For example, on some Sony models there is a setting for iLink.conv — this should be turned off in order for the camera to communicate properly with iMovie. Consult the documentation that came with your camera for more information.

 

DVD, HDD or Flash memory based camcorders

These devices connect to your computer using a USB cable.

 
USB (computer or camera side)   Mini USB (some cameras)

If your USB camcorder is not recognized, follow these recommendations:

  1. For best results, use a qualified device.

  2. An Intel processor is required for AVCHD video support. AVCHD DVD camcorders do not work with iMovie.

  3. If your camera is connected via USB and the camera turned on, follow one or more of these tips to reestablish the connection to the camera.
    • Turn the camera off and back on again.
    • Disconnect the USB cable from your computer and reconnect it. Do the same with the camera as well. If the camera is connected through a USB hub, try connecting the camera directly to the computer.
    • Quit and reopen iMovie.
    • Restart the computer.
    • Try another USB cable or try the camera with another computer running iMovie '09 or iMovie '08.

  4. Open Apple System Profiler (from the Utilities folder) to see if your camera appears in the USB section. If after following the tips in Step 3, you do not see your camera in Apple System Profiler, try resetting the USB connection as described in What to do if your computer won't recognize a FireWire or USB device , and check again.

  5. If you are using a flash-, disc- or hard drive based camera and the camera and its clips are recognized in iMovie, but certain clips will not import, or import without audio -- try another flash card or disc in the camera. Alternately, back up the footage from the camera and reformat the camera's flash card or the drive from the camera. Record some new footage and see if this works properly. (Consult your camera's documentation for more information on how to back up and reformat the camera's contents.)

  6. Make sure you are recording your footage at the normal or 'high quality' camera setting. Some cameras allow you to set a higher compression rate to fit more footage on the camera's storage medium. Footage recorded in this format may not be recognized by iMovie.

 

iSight or other webcams

iMovie supports built-in and external iSight cameras. It also supports some third-party IIDC webcams. If your iSight or webcam is not recognized, follow these recommendations:

  1. If your camera is a built-in iSight, open Apple System Profiler (from the Utilities folder) to see if your camera appears in the USB section. If your camera is an external iSight or a webcam connected via the FireWire port on your computer, check to see if your camera appears in the FireWire section of Apple System Profiler.

  2. Make sure that no other applications, such as iChat, are currently using the same camera. Try quitting any other applications which could be communicating with the camera. If you have Fast User Switching turned on, make sure no one else is currently logged in and using iChat, iMovie or another application which could be using the camera.

  3. If you are using a non-Apple FireWire webcam, check with the manufacturer of the camera to see if drivers need to be installed for this camera to be recognized by iMovie. If so, make sure the drivers are up-to-date.

  4. If you have more than just your iSight camera connected (such as a DV camera or other webcam), try disconnecting the additional camera.

  5. If the camera is connected externally, try unplugging and replugging the camera into the computer. If it is connected through a hub, try connecting the camera directly to the computer instead.

  6. If after following the tips in Step 1 you still do not see your camera in Apple System Profiler, try resetting the connection as described in What to do if your computer won't recognize a FireWire device.

 

Additional Information

If you are using iMovie '09 or iMovie '08 with a built-in iSight camera and iMovie does not recognize the camera, see iMovie '08: Built-in iSight not recognized.

Important: Information about products not manufactured by Apple is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute Apple’s recommendation or endorsement. Please contact the vendor for additional information.
Last Modified: Nov 8, 2011
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  • Last Modified: Nov 8, 2011
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