iMovie 6 or earlier: Cannot see or control camera

Learn how to troubleshoot issues connecting and using DV cameras with iMovie 6 or earlier. For iMovie '08 and later, see iMovie '08 or later: Cannot see or control camera.

You may encounter the following issues when:

  • You try to use a DV camera or device, iMovie says it can't see the camera
  • You try to import or export video to or from a DV camera or device, iMovie unexpectedly stops importing or exporting
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Use the following guidelines to troubleshoot the connection between your DV device and iMovie.

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

    Many DV cameras include both a USB and FireWire (also known as iLink or IEEE 1394) connection. The USB connection on DV cameras is usually designed for downloading still images and not video. Use the FireWire connection when working with iMovie. If your camera does not have a FireWire port, it will not work with iMovie.

  2. If your camera is connected via FireWire and 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 at the camera as well. If the camera is connected through a FireWire hub, try connecting the camera directly to the computer.
    • Make sure a tape you know works is in the camera. Eject and reinsert the tape to make sure it's correctly in place. Try more than one tape.
    • Try disconnecting any other FireWire devices that may be connected to your computer. If disconnecting an iSight camera appears to resolve the issue, make sure that you have applied iSight update 1.0.2 or higher.
    • Quit and reopen iMovie.
    • Restart the computer.
    • Try another FireWire cable, and/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. See iMovie: MPEG artifacts or blank video bands in footage for more information.
    • If iDVD is open, quit iDVD and iMovie HD and then reopen iMovie HD.

  3. Open Apple System Profiler (it's in the Utilities folder) and check 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 FireWire or USB device and check again.

  4. Check the documentation that came with your camera, or consult with 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 save battery power. If your camera unexpectedly disconnects 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. For additional information, see iMovie: Automatic Scene Detection Requires That Camera Clock Be Set Properly, and your camera's documentation.
    • 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 preferences to update your computer's software, including QuickTime. iMovie 3 users should update to iMovie 3.0.3 and QuickTime 6.3 or later. See iMovie Updater 3.0.3 for Mac OS X: Information and Download and the QuickTime Download page.

  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 the following:

    Tip: Devices that are not on the qualified device list may still work. Results will vary depending on the device. Consult with the camera's manufacturer for additional compatibility information.

  7. Make sure your camera or device is designed to send DV data when communicating with a computer.

    Some video cameras record data to the camera's memory, a card inserted in the camera, or a writable CD or DVD. iMovie is designed to work with the DV format transmitted over FireWire. If your camera does not support sending DV data from a FireWire connection to the computer, or does not have a FireWire connection, iMovie will not see the camera.

    Depending on the format in which the footage was captured on your camera, you may still be able to use it in iMovie. If you can copy the footage from the camera to your computer's hard disk you may be able to import it. From the File menu, choose Import and select the file copied from the camera. Check the documentation that came with your camera for more information on downloading video to the computer.

    For best results, footage should be in DV format. If the footage is in another format, you may experience unexpected results such as reduced video quality, loss of audio, or audio/video synchronization issues. See the following documents for additional information:

  8. If you are using a DV converter you may need to set the option in iMovie to "play through to camera" depending on the converter model and the version of iMovie you are using.

    See iMovie: Unable to Export Movies Using Sony DVMC-DA2 for additional information.

  9. Some older camera models may not import or export when an external FireWire drive is connected to the computer.

    See Macintosh: FireWire Issue With Some Canon Mini-DV Cameras.

  10. 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. See "iMovie 3: Unable to Play or Import Clips on Power Mac G4 Cube" if you have a Power Mac G4 Cube.

  11. If you are using an iSight for recording in iMovie, you must use iMovie 4 or later.

    In addition to DV FireWire camera support, iMovie 4 adds compatibility with some IIDC-based FireWire video cameras including iSight. See iSight: "No Camera Attached" Message in iMovie for more information.

  12. If you are using Mac OS X 10.3 or later and you have Fast User Switching turned on, make sure another user is not attempting to use the same camera from their account. See iMovie: Fast User Switching and DV Camera Control for more information.

  13. Check Audio MIDI Setup to make sure the audio sampling rate is set to 44100.0 Hz. If the audio sampling rate is set to a higher value, a camera may not be recognized properly by iMovie. See Mac OS X: No audio from certain multimedia content for more information.

When using an HD camera

  1. If you are using an HD 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 have 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.

  2. HD cameras may have 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 which came with your camera for more information.
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.
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