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IT Guy vs The Video Tape…

Sony Handy CamIt should have been so straight forward, a friend called up and asked, can I help her transfer video from a camcorder to hard drive as she had left the cables in the US.

“Sure no problem!”, I said, confident this would be a trivial task.

Tina came over, camcorder (Sony DCR-HC96) in hand with docking station, sans-cables, we plugged it in and set it up on my desk.

Initially I dug out a micro-USB cable, plugged it into my iMac, fired up iMovie and …. Nothing…  The only camera’s detected were the pair of iSights.  Hmmm….

Usual checks, Power on?, Cables connected?, is the CamCorder in playback/edit mode? Check!

Rebooted the machine (not that you really need to with Mac’s), still no joy.

Ok, no problem, let’s see what Mr Google, Bing and Yahoo have to say about this…  The feedback implied that a USB cables aren’t compatible between Mac and this model of Camcorder, instead use Firewire – MiniDV cable instead.

No problem, I grinned inside, dove into my drawers, pulled the cable out the bag, turned my iMac around to access to ports on the back and…

The new iMac’s no longer have Firewire ports, just a pair of Thunderbolt connectors, 4 USB 3.0 Ports, and an inconveniently placed SD Card slot.

Right, not one to be thwarted, I know I have an Iomega Mac Companion drive, and if memory served, that has a spare Firewire port on the back.

Denied!  I’d forgotten the drive has Firewire 800 and my cable was Firewire 400 to Mini-DV.

I roll up my sleeves, (I have more tricks up my sleeve 🙂 ), take a look at my MacBook Pro, and again… denied, FW800.

I was annoyed with myself, I didn’t have the right cable to do the right job, and Amazon wouldn’t be able to get one to me until Tuesday.  Tina said, don’t worry, I’ll pick up a cable from town tomorrow and we’ll give it another go.

Monday, Tina brings a FW800-Mini-DV Cable, I plug it into my Mac Companion, Fired up the camcorder, and…

Nothing 😦  Tina said, I saw something flash, it said iLink.

What?!? I pulled the cabled in and out, it would flash up momentarily, then disappear for good.  Right, so my iMac is recognising it, so it may be iMovie.  I reboot the machine, still no joy… Fire up Adobe Premiere (Just in case its software and not driver related…), no joy.  Once again thwarted by technology and Tina was no closer to getting her video transferred to hard drive.  Tina leaves, and I’m left with much head scratching…  The second time I’m thwarted by technology…

Not happy with this, I put my thinking cap on, and then realise…  I too have a Sony CamCorder (DCR-HC22E) that I put into storage after I upgraded to HD a couple of years ago, now where is it and will it still work with Mountain Lion?!?

I finally found the camcorder and docking station, confirmed it was a Mini-DV and Firewire connection, then realised I couldn’t plug it in.  Now I remember, my wife’s old iMac (2008) has Firewire 400 ports on the back!

Yay! And Doh! Why didn’t I remember this on Sunday? Any hoo, that iMac is running LION (10.7) the camcorder fired up into iMovie and tape transfer was established!  The tape contained footage of me making home made Pizza Dough and some old Guitar footage.  (Yes, that’s me playing guitar very badly, it was the first time I’d picked it up in a little over a decade).

So, I message Tina, The tape and hard drive are dropped off and we have lift off…. Sort of…

The video footage took an hour to transfer as expected, I then transferred the 13gb of files across my network to my new iMac, plugged in the Hard Drive and … Denied!… The HD was formatted as NTFS and not FAT/FAT32.  OSX can read NTFS drives, just not write to them without a 3rd party driver, which i no longer have on this new machine…

Thinking caps on, and I remembered, I have Parallels installed, and I’d recently transferred my old BootCamp WindowsXP Partition and Windows7 Virtual Machine installations.  Starting these up I discovered that Windows XP could play the DV files created, and Windows 7 couldn’t (But that may be because i didn’t have Quicktime or iTunes installed).

Hooked the hard drive up to the Virtual Machine, and after some gaffing, it finally took about an hour to transfer those files.  (USB2.0 is slow….)

Now Tina, wants to dropbox the data to another friend who will do editing for her, 13Gb at todays upload broadband speeds can be a tad slow, I’ll be nice and re-encode them.  Using OSX Encode Movie option, 13Gb of files turned to 1.3Gb of m4v file format.  The quality on screen comparing them side by side, I couldn’t see any difference.  And the plus side, my new iMac Core i7 and 32gb of memory made mincemeat of that video and encoded the lot in minutes 🙂

Finally, job done, one happy Tina, my IT Rock-God Like Status restored, and a surprise bottle of my favourite tipple, Jack Daniels landed on my desk 🙂

In summary (if you are looking for a similar solution), the transfer was as follows :-

  • DV-Tape on Sony DCR-HC22E connected to Lion (OSX10.7) via Firewire 400 to mini-DV Cable to an iMac 2008.
  • Transfer Data from 2008 iMac to new 2012 Model iMac via internal home network.
  • Encode Files using Mountain Lion (OSX10.8) inbuilt encoder
  • Parallels 8.0 with a Windows 7 Virtual Machine running on Mac Mountain Lion
  • USB2 Hard drive connected to the Windows 7 VM (Parallels will ask which machine to connect the USB device to).

NB. If you connect the Hard drive to Mac, whilst it is recognised by the VM, you will encounter permission errors trying to create a folder or write to the drive, this is why it must be connected direct to the Virtual Machine.

Yes it’s a convoluted route taken, and there are easier solutions, like maybe using the Virtual Machine in the first place…


Update – 1st June 2013

My Firewire 800 to 400 adapter arrived and I plugged my camera into the Mac Companion Drive, and … Nothing, not a sausage on my new iMac, however, I remembered my Thunderbolt display has a pair of Firewire 800 connectors on the back, plugging the Firewire cable directly to the monitor and everything sprang to life!  I guess the advice is, the Mac Companion doesn’t seem to support pass through on the Firewire for additional non hard drive devices.

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