Importing AVCHD video

iMovie 09: Importing AVCHD video

This guide will give you step-by-step instructions to importing AVCHD video.

Useful Information

Importing is the process of transferring video from the camera to the computer, ready for editing. It is also called capturing, although this normally refers to transferring video from tape, not SD card.

The main advantage of recording video onto SD card is that it is quicker than real-time to import into the computer. Tape takes real time to capture.

The main disadvantage is it requires a hard disk to archive the original camera footage, as you would normally re-use the SD card. Tapes are not normally re-used, but are kept as the archive.


  1. Open iMovie from the Applications folder
  2. Connect the camera to the computer with a USB cable, or remove the SD card from the camera and use a card reader
  3. Switch the camera on and choose the playback mode
  4. Select Computer on the camera's touch screen if required (Canon HF M306)
  5. The camera's SD card will appear on the Desktop, and in the Finder, as a removable disk:
  6. iMovie's Camera Import Window should open automatically. If not, choose File > Import from Camera
  7. Optional: select a clip and click the Play button to view it
  8. Choose Automatic to import all clips or Manual to select clips
  9. Click Import All or Import Checked:
  10. Optional: to import the video to your own external hard disk, choose it in the Save to menu
  11. Choose whether to add the video to an existing Event, or create a new Event, then click Import:
  12. After importing is completed, eject the camera's SD card by dragging it from the Desktop to the Trash, or by clicking the Eject icon next to it's name in the Finder
  13. You can now disconnect the USB cable and switch off the camera


Q: Is the video deleted from the camera when importing?
A: No. It stays on the SD card until you delete the clips using the camera menu, or format the card.

Q: Why can't I just drag the clips from the SD card like I would if they were still images?
A: The video is stored on the SD card in a format that is not directly compatible with iMovie, therefore it must be converted as part of the import process.

Q: I'm a technical geek. Please tell me all about the SD card format and what format iMovie converts the video to during import.
A: The video is stored on the SD card as an MPEG Transport Stream file (.MTS) which is encoded as AVCHD/h.264. iMovie converts this to a QuickTime movie file (.mov), encoded with Apple Intermediate Codec. By default, iMovie scales down the resolution to 960x540. To retain the original resolution, choose Full from the Optimise Video menu before clicking Import. The video will take up more disk space with this option.


  • Check you have enough free disk space to import the entire duration of your video, as iMovie will stop importing when the disk space is full.
  • The video files created by iMovie will vary in size based on the complexity of the image. A rough guide is that importing using the Large - 960x540 setting will create around 220MB/min video files. Using the Full setting will create around 440MB/min video files.
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