Importing MPEG files from Sony Handycam to iMovie and iDVD

Quicktime error message

The video files created by the Sony DCR-SR72 Handycam are not playable on MacOS if you just copy them from the camera in USB mode. VLC will play them, but they can’t be opened by Quicktime, iMovie or iDVD:

The document "filename.mpg" could not be opened. The movie is not in a format that Quicktime Player understands

The videos can, however, be imported to iMovie if the camera is connected in “Disc Burn” mode. It may also be called “DVD burn” or something similar.

Connect the camera in disc burn mode, then open iMovie and select the “Import Movies…” option. Navigate to the folder on the camera where the MPG files are located, and click the import button. iMovie will then import all the files and save them as MOV files in the event library. This can take quite a long time if you have many movies. Also be aware that the resulting MOV files are larger than the original MPG files, and iMovie creates thumbnail versions which consume quite a lot of disk space. Make sure you have plenty of space available before starting.

Now the files are playable in iMovie and Quicktime, but there is still one more issue to fix. If you have recorded movies in 16:9 format, they will be rendered as 4:3 when you add them to a project in iDVD. To make them work properly you have to export them from iMovie to yet another MOV file.

This whole process is very frustrating. Not only does it take a lot of time and effort, but the double conversion of the files ends up consuming around 3 times more disk space than if the original files could be copied off the camera and used directly.

Apple offers a Quicktime MPEG2 Component which might make the original files playable, but it’s not clear to me if that will remove the need to import/convert them before using in iMovie/iDVD. Also it’s a bit annoying that it costs USD19.99 on the US store, but JPY3400 (almost double!) on the Japanese store.

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14 Responses to “Importing MPEG files from Sony Handycam to iMovie and iDVD”

  1. David Says:

    A couple more tips:

    The Camcorder sometimes does not get recognised if you connect it while iMovie is already running. Connect it before starting iMovie.

    If there are lots of movies on the Camcorder, it takes ages for iMovie to start the import process after it detects the camera. I guess it’s doing some indexing in the background. Furthermore, iMovie is not clever enough to figure out which ones have already been imported, so will list them all. I removed all the old ones and then the import process started much quicker.

  2. Want to import MPEG files from Sony Handycam to iMovie and iDVD? « Chicago Mac/PC Support Says:

    […] to import MPEG files from Sony Handycam to iMovie and iDVD? This post tells you how. Its pretty straightforward.  It is unfortunate that Apple doesn’t pay the cost for the MPEG2 […]

  3. Jonathan Birt Says:

    David – Do you still recommend connecting in disk burn mode as recommended above your response as I have loads of clips but cannot get imovie 11 to recognise my dcr – sr72!

    • David Says:

      Yes, connecting in disk burn mode is still the only method that works for me.

      Bear in mind that if you have a lot of clips it will take some time and might look like it’s not doing anything.

      I am using an older version of iMovie – I don’t know if that makes any difference.

  4. Nomad Yogini Says:

    I am using the latest version of iMovie and it tells me that none of the files in the directory are compatible and it doens’t work. I’m annoyed with Mac.

  5. Nomad Yogini Says:

    I was able to connect in USB connect mode and then went to import movies…and it actually worked, even though it looked like nothing was happening.

  6. beanmost@hotmaIL.COM Says:

    I connected in Disc Burn Mode with my Mac Book Pro OSX 10.4 to my DCR-SX41 Sony HandyCam and it says “error – quicktime cannot parse it 2048”

    I just want to burn the damn files so I can film my son’s first few years and because I can’t figure this out I am missing out on so much! Its too expensive to keep buying sd cards.

  7. healthybaby Says:

    Usually, iMovie does allow the import of MPEG files. However, if MPEG (MPG) files are muxed (multiplexed) MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 video, iMovie will refuse to import the MPEG (MPG) files. Then you need to use some converter software to convert MPEG to iMovie compatible format for use in your iMovie project.

    Just google search Step by Step Guide on How to Import Muxed MPEG-1/ MPEG-2 into iMovie by Converting MPEG to iMovie Compatible Format

    you will find a simple solution

  8. Robert Wagner Says:

    Just purchased the Quicktime MPEG2 Component for windows, an extra $20 after upgrading to Quicktime Pro, and it finally opened a .mpg file that I moved over from my handycam.

    No sound.

    All this technology (and money) and they still can’t make things compatible with one another.

    No support on Apple’s site, let the buyer beware.

  9. healthybaby Says:

    Just google search Step by Step Guide to Import Muxed MPEG-1/ MPEG-2 into iMovie by Converting MPEG to iMovie Compatible Format

    you will find a nice solution

  10. jesus Says:

    I wish I had known earlier about all this stuff about not being able to download video into my IMAC that I just bought 7 days ago. I am returning my IMAC before the 14 days expire to return it unless I get a clear answer on how to download my video footage from my Sony Handicam DCR-HC 26, and DCR-HC-30 and DCR-HC 46 camcorders that I have. I have years of footage shot on those 3 cameras and I can’t even download them on this expensive IMAC that I bought. PLEASE, CAN ANYONE HELP ? APPLE DOESNT SEEM TO CARE AND ONLY CARE ABOUT SALES. When I was searching to buy an IMAC, I specifically told the salesman and the online person that I wanted to do video editing with my IMAC. They didn’t warn me about all the prplbems about downloading from specific cameras.

  11. rick Says:

    Thanks for the info. Got this camera used at a pawn shop for my son, and ran into this issue. As a blogger myself, I know what it’s like to pass along info, and not get any feedback. So, wanted to pass along my heartfelt thanks.

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