There are two ways to "transfer" or "upload" the video. It reads like you are using iPhoto and iMovie to do that importing and manipulation. More on this later... Good for you for backing up your data. I'll try and start with the last set of questions.
1) I suggest recording in highest quality. To use your words: "want the best possible video...why not...its available". Also, one can alway downsample and reduce quality - but not the other way.
2) USB is fine - The HDMI terminal is out-bound only (for connecting to an external monitor) not inbound. If you are interested in using HDMI to bring video into the Mac, check into the external boxes from Black Magic Designs. I *think* they would connect to a Mac using Thunderbolt - I don't think your Mac has a Thunderbolt port, but in case it does or you decide to get a new Mac, it is worth knowing about. USB2 is fine it is what is on the camcorder and the Mac.
3) You said your options for importing to iMovie are stabilization; Full (original size) or Large (significantly reduces file size with little image quality loss). The way iMovie works with stabilization is that it "crops" the video so there is an area that can be used when stabilization is needed and the edges of the screen are not black. It is a great feature and works well - but you lose some video. If the image was stable (like it a tripod was used, so no shake), then you just lose video. Personally, I would import the video with no change and Full. The "Full" setting maintains the best available quality. The lack of anti-shake maintains the integrity of the video and you can always include anti-shake when editing. When the video is imported to iMovie, it is prepared for editing, so it is decompressed. That's why the size balloons so much. We can go into how the compression happens - and how the decompression makes the files so large, but we can save that for later.
4) Stabilization is important - if it is needed. Use of some sort of a steadying device (tripod, shoulder-mount, chair, rock, table, etc provides stabilization so the software stabilization is not needed. You might not be a "pro" but you can capture video like them. If you have seen news crews around town or the camera crews at sports venues, 99% of the time, the *good* video comes form a camcorder on a tripod, shoulder mounted or on some sort of stabilizer - not software stabilized after the fact.
5) There are lots or tutorials at apple.com and on YouTube. Just start watching them and experiment. I like Final Cut because of the multi-track video and audio capabilities. If you think you want to do something in particular, look for that specific capability. We don't know where you are. There may be a Macintosh User Group in your area - they can be lots of help, too.
6) You listed what we needed. We can extrapolate processor by the age. Ballpark is fine.
7) The SDHC chip you use in the camcorder? Apparently - you keep filling them. If it was not the right chip, the camcorder would tell you.
Your Time Capsule back up is great. Whether it is "best" depends on your needs and budget. The only "better" method would be to use a Network Attached Storage system with multiple huge drives in a RAID1 configuration. This way, if the computer fails or is stolen, the NAS has the data - and if one of the drives dies, the other has the same data and you hot-swap the dead drive for a working one and it replicates itself from the working one...
Ok...A little information...then my question(s).
First of all, I am no computer genius...quite the opposite. However, I do try and educate myself as much as possible to understand what I'm working/dealing with, but there are some things(many things) and terms that I simply do not understand. I'm not trying to become a genius at this stuff, just get a general understanding so I can record, manage and create home videos.
I bought the Panasonic HDC-SD100 back in 2009 (or so) to record vacations, kids events...typical home movie stuff. I wanted a camera that could record HD because I want the best possible video...why not...its available.
I also have an imac which I also bought around the same time. I have iMovie and iPhoto, but I rarely use them and plan to start...My iMac has a 1 TB harddrive. I also have a 1 TB Timecapsule. I subsequently bought a 1 TB External harddrive, and then another 2TB External Harddrive. I'll explain why in a minute.
When I first got my Camera, I set the recording to the highest possible setting...HA1920. The Chip I bought and have been using is a ScanDisk Ultra II, SDHC 4, 15 MB/s, 32GB.
So I recorded a lot of things and eventually filled the chip and then proceeded to empty the chip on my iMac. At this point, I wanted to make sure that after recording in that highest possible setting, that I would retain most if not all of that quality by choosing the best possible settings when transffering the info to my iMac. So I think I remember choosing the stabilization option as well as Full (original size) as opposed to Large (significantly reduces file size with little image quality loss).
It did take a while to transfer that info...but I figured..."Hey that's the price to pay for high quality!". So with an empty chip, I began recording again...all this was over a time span of roughly 1-2 years(not sure how important that info is, but I thought I would mention it).
The chip eventually filled again so I did the same thing, and emptied the chip.
Then one day...My iMac wasn't working properly. The screen wasn't loading properly and such and I couldn't figure out why. I still had warranty through Apple so I brought it to the Apple store. Turns out my internal hardrive was broken, or corrupt...not sure but they installed a new harddrive...thank god for the timecapsule!!
I get home, reconnect my iMac and do a backup or whatever its called...to get the info from my timecapsule back to my iMac...but I think it kept failing...not enough space. I suspect that even though my iMac and Timecapsule have the same size...the iMac also houses the operating system along with games, apps...whatever...that occupy space. So its possible that the Time Capsule had 800GB's of info and the iMac only had 700GB's available?
So the reason I bought those external harddrives was due to the fact that the amount of information that I was transffering from my camcorder to my imac was huge! A hell of a lot bigger than the 32GB chip in the camera, which leads me to believe that there is a compression thing happening as I record onto the chip and then when it gets decompressed to the computer...it expands...a lot! but not sure how much.
So first question stems from the beginning of the recording process. Lets compare recording in HA1920 or one of the other setting (HG1920 or HX1920...forget HE 1440...I don't think I would ever use that one anyway).
Now lets say that I fill the 32GB chip once with everything recorded in HA1920...when I transfer it to the computer...it obviously decompresses but is it 5X or 10X? And what if I recorded in one of the other, slightly lower setting... is the decompression ratio any different or is it still the same 5X or 10X? That's the 1st thing I need to know because if there no difference...then that doesn't affect my decision my making process of which setting to use.
The next thing is transffering the info to my iMac. What options should I chose? I've read that some people say that some camcorders don't actually record in full 1080p (or 1080i...not sure what the difference is and which is better).
The other thing I should mention is that I need to understand how I should properly save all this video or picture data. Is storing the data, or backing it up...whatever you call it, to an external harddrive the best option? and what about accessing this info to use in such programs as iMovie and iPhoto? I think I'll cut and paste this same question in my question list to follow
Maybe I should just make a list of questions...but please add in more suggestions. I just need to understand what I should be doing because even after I manage all this data...I still need to learn how to use iMovie to make those fantastic home movies to impress my wife and kids =)
1-What setting on the camcorder should I record in?
2-What cable should I use to transfer the data from my camcorder to the iMac? I have a USB but I think that is also an HDMI terminal...should I use that? Also, how do I know if I have the right kind of USB? I read that USB 2 should be used?
3-What options should I chose to transfer the info to my iMac?
4-Isn't stabilization important?
5-Any suggestions on how to learn to use iMovie and/or iPhoto?
6-Is there anything I should mention regarding my iMac? processor speed or whatever...?
7-Is the chip I'm using the right kind of chip?
8-Is storing the data, or backing it up...whatever you call it, to an external harddrive the best option? and what about accessing this info to use in such programs as iMovie and iPhoto?
If you have taken the time to read my whole thread and comment...then I can't thank you enough. If you can help me, I will be so appreciative even though I won't be able to show you...so a big thank you! in advance.