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Easiest way to transfer MiniDV footage to PC and edit it

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / September 5, 2008 5:20 AM PDT

Hi. I have a desktop, which is more than six years old, running Windows XP Professional with the latest service packs. I also have a six-month-old laptop running Vista Home Premium, with 2GB RAM and a 200GB HD. I know the laptop is the better choice for this, but I am still fumbling on how to get this done.

Having taken a lot of hours of movies with my MiniDV Sony camera, I need to do two things. First, transfer the footage to DVDs. The laptop has a DVD burner built-in, so that makes it the better choice, again. And second, once I have transferred the footage, I will want to edit it.

How can I make the transfer as easy as possible first, to the laptop's hard drive, then burning the movies to DVDs? I am guessing that DVD-RW is the best medium, so that I can move things back and forth while I edit and refine the movies I have taken. Can you suggest the best ways to do these tasks? Move the movies from the MiniDV to the Laptop's HD, and then edit the movies. Thank you all, very much.

--Submitted by Alex H.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this member's question.

Converting your MiniDV to DVDs --Submitted by Watzman;posts#2850659

Mini Digital Video (DV) to DVD--Submitted by surfingtheweb;posts#2851235

First the basics--Submitted by slappie;posts#2852885

If you have any additional advice or recommendations for Alex, please click on the reply link and submit it. Please be as detailed as possible in your answers. Thanks!
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Can you give a little more info?
by massassi / September 5, 2008 2:11 PM PDT

Hi Alex,

Can you give a little more info? Specifically, what are the specs on the desktop, the laptop, what kind of ports do they have (USB, Firewire, PC Card, etc.), and does the MiniDV camcorder have a firewire port (most do, but you never know).

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Transfer & Edit Movies
by cesareDH / September 5, 2008 2:23 PM PDT

"Hi. I have a desktop, which is more than six years old, running Windows XP Professional with the latest service packs. I also have a six-month-old laptop running Vista Home Premium, with 2GB RAM and a 200GB HD. I know the laptop is the better choice for this, but I am still fumbling on how to get this done."

Put a good DVD Burner on the desktop and add a large HDD for storage, RAM if you need it. Now all you need is The USB connection from the camera to the computer so you can transfer the movie files, and a good editing program to edit your movies. There a number of good editing programs available like VideoStudio 11 or Pinnacle or any number of others.

This is just personal: I hate Vista. I have upgraded numerous machines for friends and family from Vista to WinXP Pro. I have a friend who has his own computer business and retail site, he teaches computer stuff to others and does computer repairs and upgrading in half of Oklahoma, and he switched his machines over from Vista to XP Pro, also. If it were mine, I'd do the same to your laptop and have a much better machine. Again, that's just personal stuff.

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sony vegas,, try it, its magic
by iriantoivan / September 12, 2008 3:37 PM PDT
In reply to: Transfer & Edit Movies

transferring or capturing miniDV to Laptop then burn it to dvd, may as a simple as we think.. hehe
i used to use sony vegas 6.0 to do that job, transfer from camera to laptop then edit..then render it to mpeg2..
after that, we can burn it to dvd with other software, e.g nero(specially nero vision express), dvd architect, or other burning program..

why i used to edit by sony vegas, coz its the friendliest editing software to ur laptop, hehe i think.. u can edit anything you want, cropping, coloring, or even mastering the audio, without loosing power/energy ur laptop.. ehhehe
n if ur interest.. with vegas u can use network rendering, i mean if u in a hurry, u can use three laptop at the sometimes to render the video..
just share,, sorry such a bad english huh?

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The best computer for the job depends on several factors
by Jim Morris / September 5, 2008 2:51 PM PDT

Alex, the thing you have not told us is whether or not either one of your computers has a Firewire port to connect the camcorder to. This is the only way to transfer digital video from a MiniDV camera to your computer for editing. This has to be a factory built in option on your laptop. On the desktop PC you can buy a card for about $30 to $40 to add the capability. Oh - note that Firewire is also called IEEE-1394, and iLink by Sony.
Assuming you have the right connection, Windows XP includes "Windows Movie Maker" which is very basic editing software, and I am sure Vista includes something similar. Other low cost editing programs are available, but all will work in a similar manner. You will copy video from the camcorder to the camera, ending up with multiple video clips that you then edit into your finished "movie".
The big issue for you will be that it takes 1 hour to copy 1 hour of video to the computer, AND each hour of MiniDV footage will take 13GB of hard drive space.
Due to the size of the footage, even a single MiniDV tape would take 3 DVD-R or DVD+/-RW discs to store! Once you "encode" the video to a DVD, its no longer in an editable format unfortunately. The DVD encoding process to produce a 2 hour video DVD on that 4.7GB DVD-R disc is lossy, and the video has to be extracted, again very time consuming, if you want to ever do anything with it again - and that is at a loss of quality.
Your long term best bet is to purchase a large hard drive - I use a firewire hard drive that I can daisy chain with my camcorder, and I use it for most of the video capture and editing. This way you do not fill up your main hard drive with video. (Note that most USB drives will not sustain the throughput to capture video - firewire can). Edit and work on your projects, and when finished, burn your finished DVD, and then delete the big 13GB worth of raw footage. If you ever need it again, you can get it from the original tape.
I hope all this helps. Good luck!


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My thought was in addition...
by Kegtapper / September 12, 2008 10:55 AM PDT

Why not burn 2 copies (sets),and store the second- by the time you will need to record again, and by today's standards your PC may look like a betamax the next time you need to do this - when you really think about it.

And youngsters will forward to asking, "What's was a mouse used for?"

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by cdcguard / September 16, 2008 1:00 AM PDT

"This has to be a factory built in option on your laptop."

If your laptop has a PCMCIA port (as most laptops I've seen in the last decade), you can add firewire. It costs a bit more than it does to add a card to a desktop but it is certainly "doable".

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Transferring MiniDV with Firewire
by BatangPasig65 / January 29, 2014 6:35 AM PST

I bought a portable HD that has a firewire port and daisy chain it to the USB port of my computer. I also connected the firewire port to my Camcorder that has Firewire 400 output. I played the miniDV but for some reason, I cannot see anything on my computer to show the video coming out of the camcorder. Is there an intermediate software that I need to communicate with the portable HD. I use the moviemaker to view it but I don't see anything.

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Transfere Mini DVD
by Ned Neflow / September 5, 2008 2:52 PM PDT

Invest in Scenalyzer Live to capture your video.

I've used it for years instead of the packaged capture programs in Premiere et al. It's inexpensive, portable, tight and clean.

Then you can cut, edit and do whatever you want.

Look at

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Ulead studio editor
by moonfighter / September 12, 2008 11:19 PM PDT
In reply to: Transfere Mini DVD

i think that,,,, the easiest way to transfer the dv ,have to use the ULEAD VIDIODSTUDIO EDITOR and follow the instructions, but it takes longtime.

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Video camera
by rmailman / September 5, 2008 2:58 PM PDT

I think this is pretty easy. Windows Movie Maker (free from Microsoft) will play your movie from the camera and then transfer it to your hard disk IF you camera is not too old and has firewire or mini-USB connectors.

1. Make sure the camera is on the charger (or has a fully charged battery).

2. Turn on the video preview mode, and cable the camera to your notebook. Wait for the usual new hardware messages to stop.

3. Open MovieMaker and select Import, From VideCamera from the top of the menu choices. Voila!

4. Moviemaker can then be used as an editor if you wish, and also to publish the files in a variety of formats.

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just get Windows movie maker????
by duopodcast / September 12, 2008 10:30 PM PDT
In reply to: Video camera

Like, how?
It's not a separate program. It's part of XP professional.

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Windows movie maker download location
by svhayes / September 13, 2008 12:39 AM PDT
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Just to add
by DADSGETNDOWN / September 16, 2008 10:50 AM PDT

Good Link.

It is part of Windows XP Home, W/ SP2.
It's in the SP2 Update, it CAN also be downloaded seperately.

Movie Maker 2.1 is available for download with Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2).
You can also download SP2 and Movie Maker 2.1 from Microsoft Update. If you cannot use Automatic Updates or download SP2 via Windows Update, order a CD.

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Reply to Mailman - movie maker
by Katcee1130 / September 14, 2008 12:20 AM PDT
In reply to: Video camera

you said a variety of formats from Movie Maker. That is what I am looking for. And please explain each format and hot its used.

Thanks !

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my computer doesn't detect my JVC Camcorder
by mastasteve / January 5, 2010 2:44 PM PST
In reply to: Video camera

I can use the program(Multimedia Navigator)that the JVC came with to do what I thought was transferring and editing, but I can't use Win Movie Maker because my comp doesn't detect the camcorder.

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Transferring MiniDV to your PC
by berryjooks / September 5, 2008 3:04 PM PDT

There are a couple of different ways to transfer DV to your PC.

The best way is to use a hardware video capture card and video capture software. Plugging a device into one of the inputs and turning it on cause?s Windows to open the video capture/editing software.

If your PC has a Firewire port, you?ll want to use it for digital video transfer. This is the most desirable method as it keeps the video in a digital format start to finish. You can use the RCA (Composite) jacks but you will be converting the camera's digital data into analog to use this connection, then back into digital on the PC, and this will affect the picture quality.

For software I use InterVideo WinDVD Creator. I?ve found it to be a very powerful tool and easy to use, but there are many options (Pinnacle, Ulead, etc., features and prices vary widely). You can add video, stills and music to the storyboard, and then add titles and transition effects. There are options for editing and stretching both the audio and video, capturing stills and setting the length of time a still frame is shown. Once you?re satisfied and are ready to burn it to DVD or a file, the software will render your project into whatever output format you choose.

If you don't want to install a video capture card, you can purchase an RCA to USB video capture device that will come with drivers and capture software for about $40.

One last thing. Video editing and rendering is time and resource consuming. For instance, recording a 1 hour tv show on my pc uses about 6 Gigabits of disk space (DV tapes (avi files) are even larger). Editing that same show ie: trimming out comercials, taking snapshots or screen caps of the video to use on the title pages, etc. can take quite a while, depending on how Spielbergesque you want to get, and finally the rendering and burning to DVD part of the process takes about one and one half hours for every one hour of video.

Also, you need a pretty high end machine to have the processing power and speed to create good videos, and even then you'll need to stop every other process, including your antivirus software, before you begin. The most common problem encountered is choppy video or audio in the finished product. This can be quite frustrating if you've just spent 4 or 5 hours working on it.

Hope I didn't scare you off. It can be a lot of fun, and you can really turn out some slick productions.

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Rotating MiniDV footage during edit
by theresa27 / September 13, 2008 1:18 AM PDT

I took a wedding video on my Sony MiniDV, during the first dance of the Bride and Groom (It was a waltz) I turned the camera to get a full length video, then turned it back, now you have to turn the moniter during the video to see that portion correctly. When I experimented with editing ( I didn't get too far, but I bought the Adobe Premier Elements, Pinnacle Studio Media Suite10.5, Sony Vegas Movie Studio, and My Book external hard drive.)I was able to turn a frame sideways and there was a black area and it was a different proportionally from the other frames. I never succeeded in getting it edited. I tried for a month, I quit and plan to try again. Someone told me you are not suppose to turn the camera and the MiniDV movies are not made to edit. Can the rotation of the frames be successfully edited into the video and burned onto a DVD?

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rotating a clip in premier pro
by WendyLeahDee / September 14, 2008 7:47 PM PDT

The way I would rotate your video clip which is the wrong way round (an unneccisary time consuming thing and I wouldn't recommend it again Happy is the following:
In Premier, import the clip into your project (file - import)
Drag clip into the timeline and click on it to select it. Use the razor tool ( if you don't know where this is in the tools panel, hover over the icons until you get the razor tool)to cut the clip from the time you rotated the camera. Cut it again at the end of the rotated section. You will have created a portion of the clip which can be edited independantly of the other bits of your footage. Select that portion, and in the source panel at the top open the effects panel. A rotation menu will allow you to rotate the clip. Make sure that your marker (playhead) in the timeline panel is at the beginning of the clip, since I dont know what your defaults are. This will ensure that the rotation starts at the beginning if the clip. Hope this helps.

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Converting you Mini-DV to DVDs
by Watzman / September 5, 2008 3:08 PM PDT


This is fairly straightforward, actually. And while you have mini-DV, it really wouldn't matter what format of camcorder you had as long as we were talking about a digital camcorder (coming from an analog camcorder is different and requires some different hardware).

Most digital camcorders have a Firewire (sometimes known as IEEE 1394) interface. Most modern computers, especially laptops, also have a Firewire interface. If not, your first task is to get a Firewire interface for the target computer. If necessary, this is an independent task that is not directly related to the video task. You may also need to get a suitable cable (4-pin, 6-pin or possibly 6-pin on one end to 4-pin on the other).

[Some camcorders will have USB interfaces instead of or in addition to a Firewire interface. If so, fine, but in many cases the image quality from the USB interface (if there is one) will be inferior to that from the Firewire interface.]

You will probably next need to install Windows drivers for your camcorder on your PC, so that the camcorder will be recognized by the PC when they are connected. The drivers should have come with the Camcorder, or should be available on the web site of the camcorder manufacturer.

Finally, you will need to install some video editing software that can capture the video from the camcorder and also allow you do some editing. To some extent, this depends on the video format that comes out of the camcorder ... it may be Uncompressed AVI (actually the best format for editing in SOME ways, but the files are HUGE (more than 10 GIGABYTES per hour), it may be MPEG or it may be MPEG2. In a few cases, it may be yet something else. The video software has to be able to deal with the file format that is output by the camcorder. It's likely that most video software will work with most camcorders, but it's something to be aware of as in some cases it may limit your choice of software. Again, it's very possible that such software came with the camcorder. You can also use Microsoft Windows Movie Maker, or you can buy a product like Pinacle Studio that has this capability. Another thing to note for the burning step (below) is that the full retail versions of the two major CD & DVD burning programs (Roxio (now Sonic) Easy Media Creator and Nero) both have all the software that you will need in most cases, but in neither case is their editing software necessarily the best available.

Whatever software you select, this software will need to let you get the video from the camcorder and save it on the PC as a file (the file size will be large, gigabytes per hour probably and in some cases tens of giabytes per hour). That completes the first step.

The next step is to edit the video into your desired content. This is entirely a function of the video editing software that you use. Simple software (Windows Movie Maker) can do cut and paste; more complex software can do eleaborate video production with multiple video streams being merged, often with "chroma key" (blue or green screen used to put part of one video stream (often a person) "into" another video stream). There are a lot of choices here, with a wide range of cost and a wide range of ease of use.

Finally, you need to do DVD authoring, which is where you will (if you want to) create "menus" and "chapters" for putting the video onto a DVD. Some of the major editing software packages (Pinacle) have both the video editing and the DVD authoring functions built-in, while in other cases you will use one program for video editing, and another program for DVD authoring. For example, Windows Movie Maker, which has reasonable cut-and-paste video editing, does not, by itself, have the DVD authoring capability. But Pinacle, and the Roxio and Nero products, do have both editing and DVD authoring. The final step of DVD authoring will actually write the DVD from the video. Note that if the video has to be re-encoded into MPEG2 (very likely) this step can take a LONG time (hours; on some computers, more than 12 hours for a one- or two-hour video).

I hope that gives you an overview of the process and what is involved. Look for some user reviews of the available software packages. In general, there is a very large trade-off between capabilities and ease-of-use, but most people are only looking for simple "cut-and-paste" editing and not for the capabilities that would in used by commercial video production applications.

By the way, do NOT use DVD-RW media. I don't recommend RW media (either CD or DVD) for ANYTHING. It is not a good archival media and precisely because such media is not "permanent", sometimes data written to such media "fades" over time (I will accept both that it should not happen, and that if it does, it's because the hardware was defective ... that doesn't matter ... it DOES happen, too often). On top of the RW media is slow to burn and expensive. With CD media at about a penny per disc and DVD media at about 20 cents per disc, just use one-time media, and if you want to redo the project, use a new media. It's cheap enough that the cost just shouldn't be an issue, and it's faster (a lot faster), cheaper and more reliable and permanent than RW media.

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Converting you Mini-DV to DVDs
by rv.dealmeida / September 12, 2008 11:00 AM PDT

I agree with almost that Watzman wrote, but I would added that it should be useful to have a dedicated HD for capturing and editing video procedures, since this HD won't be subject for the constant windows scan/updating that can interfere with the software in use for such tasks (mainly in the capturing process). In this way, I have a 2nd 80 Gb HD as the target device for capture. Before the editing and DVD burning process has been completed, I simply delete the file I had created and so my HD is again ready to another convertion.
Finally, I'd beg your pardon for any writting mistakes, since English is not my native language.

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MiniDV to DVD
by liamsisk / September 13, 2008 3:14 AM PDT

Before the editing and DVD burning process has been completed, I simply delete the file?

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Before editing?
by cpsoares / September 19, 2008 10:25 PM PDT
In reply to: MiniDV to DVD

I' m sure he meant "after" rather than "before"

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by willum08 / September 12, 2008 8:21 PM PDT

Quote "[Some camcorders will have USB interfaces instead of or in addition to a Firewire interface. If so, fine, but in many cases the image quality from the USB interface (if there is one) will be inferior to that from the Firewire interface.]"

That comment is Just Not True...................Particularly now that most modern USB connections are USB2 !!

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USB vs Firewire and RW discs
by ryserfan / September 15, 2008 12:32 AM PDT
In reply to: What??

Absolutely correct...using USB has no effect on DIGITAL video quality. It will be a slower download due the constraints on speed of USB vs. Firewire but it's all "1's and 0's" either way and there will be no degradation in video quality. I also agree that you do not want to use RW discs of either format (+ or -) as you don't EVER want to accidently overwrite something like a home movie!! Regular DVD's are typically less expensive anyway so go that route. I work at a TV station and use Final Cut Pro as my editor so I cannot speak to any of the consumer or prosumer editing packages but a bit of net research should lead you to something that will work well for you. Best advice I can give is to not be intimidated. Once you play with it for a bit, it'll become as easy (and enjoyable) as anything you've ever done on your computer. It is very satisfying to succesfully edit a project!!

Good luck!!

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Yes and no
by cdcguard / September 16, 2008 12:57 AM PDT

True, 1's and 0's are 1's and 0's. BUT, with my older JVC Mini-DV camera, the only way to utilize the USB interface is utilizing the software that came with the camera. When you do so, you you get hugely compressed files (AVI's if I remember right) in a resolution that's along the lines of 320X240. So, in this way, yes the USB becomes inferior. Perhaps something like that is what the original poster of that response was referring to.

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Maybe too much info
by SeniorSlacker / September 14, 2008 12:18 AM PDT

If you buy the Pinnacle software package, it will have ALL the software you need. Once your camera is connected to the FireWire port, Pinnacle can transfer the video to the PC. You can edit with the excellent Pinnacle software, and then Pinnacle can burn the final DVD. In my experience, you really don't need any other software.

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A comment on Pinnacle & short rec. to use scene detection
by arroyoboy / September 14, 2008 3:27 AM PDT
In reply to: Maybe too much info

I noted you had some "older" pc equipment; just a caution that Pinnacle is not very compatible. I use it all the time and also highly recommend it, but my current version 9.4.3 cannot be upgraded. I tried 10.5 and 11 and neither would install correctly. It is common advice for Pinnacle users to attempt installation many times, which I did, & still no luck. My pc is an Intel Celeron 2.93GHz/WinXP-SP3. Also note that this software goes on some really awesome sales with rebates.
Finally, a general tip if you are going to burn the whole tape to DVD; use scene detection, it will be way easier to import only the files you want into an editor.

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Maybe too much info
by fdm2000 / October 3, 2008 11:17 PM PDT
In reply to: Maybe too much info

Question for Senior Slacker: I have an early version of Pinnacle (8) and wonder how you deal with the following situation:
I captured a video from my camcorder and in the Edit mode I moved the video scenes to the story board - after moving all the video clips I then wanted to add some photos - to my disappointment I was only able to include 1/3 of the photos I wanted. The story board windows or whatever they are called were all filled (total of 27)and I could not determine a way to add more story board windows or more photos.

What am I not doing correctly?

Thanks for any insights,


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Question for Pinnacle Users
by fdm2000 / October 6, 2008 12:48 AM PDT
In reply to: Maybe too much info

I have an early version of Pinnacle (8.12) and wonder how you deal with the following situation:
I captured a video from my camcorder and in the Edit mode I moved the video scenes to the story board - after moving all the video clips I then wanted to add some photos - to my disappointment I was only able to include 1/3 of the photos I wanted. The story board windows or whatever they are called were all filled (total of 27)and I could not determine a way to add more story board windows or more photos.

What am I not doing correctly?

Thanks for any insights,


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by mikesey_97 / September 15, 2008 5:42 PM PDT

I save all pictures & vids to that format. Those discs have a life of 250 years, noted by all Experts.

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