Note: These instructions do not apply to the Digital SLR cameras, which can also be used for shooting video.
The Canon Vixia HD camcorders can shoot 16:9 (current TV/Video) or 4:3 (older TV) aspect ratio in varying quality (compression) levels. They also have three choices for frame rates: 24 (progressive), 30 (progressive) and 60 (interlaced) frames per second. Since these are shared cameras, you should check the quality and frame rate settings before you begin shooting.
The simplest choice is to set the Image Quality to MXP and frame rate to 60i or PF30. This gives you 1080p widescreen video at the standard frame rate used in North America. You can record almost 3 hours of video on the internal drive of the camcorder at this quality. This is also the highest quality possible.
If you choose one of the lower quality settings (e.g., FXP), less information will be stored on the camera and/or you will not get full HD quality. So while the picture will not be as good, the files may transfer faster to the computer. If your eventual target is a service like YouTube, this may be acceptable.
Transferring Your Clips to the Computer
The Canon Vixia HD camcorder stores your video using AVCHD. This video format requires intermediary software to convert the data into something usable with video editing and/or DVD authoring software. Both iMovie and Final Cut Pro can be used to import your AVCHD data.
Regardless of which software you use, you will need to connect the camera to the computer via the included USB cable. The camera acts just like a USB drive once it is connected: a disk named “Canon” shows up on the desktop, and you need to “eject” that disk before unplugging the camera from the computer to avoid any possible problems with the files on the camcorder.
Before you start the steps below, make certain the camera is on and set to playback mode, with the power adapter plugged in to the back of the camera (bottom left corner, marked “DC In”) and the USB cable connected (right side, near bottom back corner, marked with “HDMI” and a USB logo). There should be a ‘do not disconnect…’ warning on the camera display once everything is setup properly.
Importing Using Final Cut Pro X
Apple has a detailed help file describing how to import from a camcorder like the Canon Vixia models we have.
Importing Using iMovie (current version)
Apple has a detailed help file describing how to import from a camcorder like the Canon Vixia models we have. If you have the 2013 version of iMovie, there is a slightly different version of the help file.
Importing .mts Files
For whatever reason, you may have copied the video files (with filenames usually ending in .mts) directly from the camcorder to some other storage device, like an external hard drive of your own. You cannot use these files directly in iMovie or Final Cut Pro. They still require importing (or, more accurately, transcoding) in order to be usable for editing. Some commercial software does this (Toast on the Mac, for instance), but most software (like iMovie and Final Cut Pro) only work when you trick them into thinking that the clips on your hard drive are on a camcorder. If you copied the entire BDMV or AVCHD folder from the camcorder, just place that folder at the root level of your external drive (by root level, we mean that it is not inside any other folder on that hard drive), then use the importing process above (iMovie or Final Cut Pro). If you only copied the .mts files, you can ask Lab staff to see if the camera you signed out is still available so that you can reimport the clips directly from the camera (if they haven’t been erased). If that doesn’t work but you still have the .mts files, Lab staff has a copy of Toast that they can use to rescue your clips — you will need to leave your external drive with Lab staff so that they can process the files.