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iMovie: Can't see or control camera or camcorder

Symptoms

If you're using iMovie '08 or later with a built-in or connected camera or camcorder, 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". 

Learn how to troubleshoot this issue and other general issues with using your built-in or connected camera with iMovie '08 or later.

Resolution

All Cameras - General Troubleshooting

  1. If you have Fast User Switching turned on in OS X, 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. If your camera is tape-based, ensure it is not a Hi-8 or Digital-8 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 and later does not.

If the general troubleshooting steps did not resolve the issue, find your device type in the list below and follow steps in its section.

 

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.
    • 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 it and iMovie, then re-open iMovie.
  3. Open Apple System Profiler (from the Utilities folder) to see if your camera appears in the FireWire section. If you don't see your camera (under USB or FireWire) 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. Make sure that no other applications, such as iChat, Messages, or Skype are currently using the same camera. Try quitting any other applications which could be communicating with the camera.
  5. Check the documentation that came with your camera or consult the manufacturer for information on connecting and setting up the camera 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.
  6. Make sure your software is up-to-date. For best results, use Software Update to update your computer's software, including QuickTime, iMovie, and OS X.
  7. For best results, use a qualified device. iMovie works with most DV cameras that have a FireWire connection. For information on cameras that Apple has tested and qualified for use with iMovie, see:

  8. 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.
  9. OS X Snow Leopard 10.6.8 and earlier: 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.
  10. 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.

  11. 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 camera

These devices connect to your computer using a USB cable.

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

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

  1. For best results, use a qualified device.
  2. An Intel processor is required for AVCHD video support in iMovie ’08 and iMovie ’09. iMovie ’11 and later run on Intel processors only.  AVCHD DVD camcorders do not work with iMovie.
  3. 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.
  4. Make sure that no other applications, such as iChat, Messages, or Skype are currently using the same camera. Try quitting any other applications which could be communicating with the camera.
  5. 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 the same version of iMovie.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.)
  8. Make sure you're 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.

 

Built-in FaceTime HD Camera or iSight Camera 

iMovie supports the built-in FaceTime HD or iSight camera on your Mac. If one of these cameras is not recognized, follow these steps.

  1. Open Apple System Profiler (from the Utilities folder) to see if your camera appears in the USB section.
  2. Make sure that no other applications, such as iChat, Messages, or Skype are currently using the same camera. Try quitting any other applications which could be communicating with the camera.

 

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.

For iMovie 6 and earlier, see iMovie 6: Cannot see or control camera.

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: Sep 5, 2014
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  • Last Modified: Sep 5, 2014
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