Best camcorder to interface with Final Cut Express
April 18, 2010 4:54 AM   Subscribe

Which camcorder should I buy if I edit with Final Cut Express and would prefer to avoid tediously converting video files from one type to another?

I bought a Sony camcorder from Best Buy, but it created .mpg files. Quicktime and FCE wouldn't open them. I went back and the Best Buy folks told me to get a Panasonic because it's totally compatible with all Apple products. Wrong. It created .mod files which were also unrecognizable to Quicktime and to FCE (although, oddly, iMovie opened them just fine - but that doesn't help me).

Now I'm starting to get frustrated. All I want to do is take video and get it into FCE, which doesn't seem like it should be that big a deal. I've been told that I can get Mpeg Streamclip plus a $20 add-on and it will convert these files to a format that FCE will read, but that's slow and clunky and probably reduces quality. So, I wanted to turn to you folks and see if there's a better solution. So, here are my questions:

1 - Is there a HDD or Flash memory camera that I can buy that will interface directly with FCE?
2 - If not, should I buy a MiniDV camera? Do they still make those? If I buy one do I risk not being able to buy tapes anymore a few years from now? Which one would be good if I were to go this route?
3 - I'd like to spend about $400 or less, so the mega expensive AVCHD cameras (which apparently work with FCE) are out.

What are my options? This can't be this difficult!

posted by crapples to Technology (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
AVCHD really is the correct answer. It's been around for a while, so if you shop around you should be able to get one cheaper.

HDV is also compatible, but most HDV camera still record onto tape, so you probably want to avoid that.
posted by Mwongozi at 6:12 AM on April 18, 2010

Here's a Sanyo AVCHD camera from for $329
posted by Mwongozi at 6:15 AM on April 18, 2010

The only camcorder that I know of to record in native Final Cut Quicktime is the JVC HD series.

This is the cheapest one, but it's still approximately $4k.

An HDV camcorder would interface fine, and actually a second hand HV20 would be an excellent piece of kit. I expect MiniDV tapes to be available for the forseeable future. The only problem is to get it into your computer you need to play it all back in real time, which can be boring.

You don't say exactly what camcorder you're using, but I wager it's probably not that difficult to get the files into Final Cut. Once you have a workflow down, it all gets a lot easier too.
posted by Magnakai at 6:36 AM on April 18, 2010

Magnakai - I'm not using anything right now. I was using an old Sony MiniDV, but it broke. If MiniDV is going to be around for the foreseeable future, then what's the downside of just getting a miniDV camera like this.

Mwongozi - thanks for the link. Is Sanyo a respectable brand name? I've always steered toward Sony, Canon, and the like just because I'm familiar with them. But I would love to move to a native format if this is a quality camera.

Thanks a lot. This helps.
posted by crapples at 6:55 AM on April 18, 2010

Actually I have a very high opinion of Sanyo. Their recent range of cameras, of which that is one, have been getting very respectable reviews. Feel free to have a Google for opinions.
posted by Mwongozi at 7:21 AM on April 18, 2010

I've stuck with MiniDV for the time being. So you have to change (and buy) tape, and upload in real time, but the quality is reliable, you wind up with an archive copy of your raw footage, and the workflow is time tested.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:15 AM on April 18, 2010

Follow up: I went with the Sanyo. The reviews are as good as they are for any other midrange camera (there are always some complainers for every camera I looked at). And it looks like it will pop the video right into FCE without any conversion or mess.

After several hours on the Apple discussion boards, and more time searching the internet, metafilter came thorough as always. Thanks a lot.
posted by crapples at 8:40 AM on April 18, 2010

I don't know if anyone is still reading this, but I have a follow up question. I just bought that Sanyo camera, but I could still cancel the order.

With some video formats, FCE will open it up just fine and even play in the preview pane, but when I move the video down to the sequence, I get the red bar that indicates that the clip has to be rendered. I hate that red bar! When you have to render every single clip as you use it, it makes the process tedious to the extreme. Is this camera going to give me that red bar?
posted by crapples at 8:58 AM on April 18, 2010

As long as you import the video using the "Log and transfer" function, that shouldn't happen, as the video will be converted to AIC on import.
posted by Mwongozi at 9:40 AM on April 18, 2010

Sweet! I don't know what "log and transfer" means, but I've got the FCE manual, so I'll figure it out. Thanks a lot for all of your help.
posted by crapples at 10:19 AM on April 18, 2010

Just for the people who marked this as a favorite: I have FCE 3.5.1 and I just found out that it does not have Log and Transfer. Therefore, I'm assuming that the files will not work well with FCE as I had originally thought.
posted by crapples at 11:02 AM on April 18, 2010

Oh, you're still using FCE 3? FCE 3 doesn't support AVCHD at all. You'll need to upgrade, or go through some kind of intermediary importing step involving iMovie or Volatic HD.

You should also note that all of these solutions require an Intel Mac.
posted by Mwongozi at 12:39 PM on April 18, 2010

Have you tried installing Perian? It'll considerably expand the number of formats that FCE is willing to work with.
posted by schmod at 5:52 PM on April 18, 2010

Importing and rough cutting first with iMovie is a pretty sensible plan regardless; much simpler than sorting through all the FC options and fussiness, many people think.
posted by dpcoffin at 8:45 AM on April 19, 2010

Maybe a little late to note this here, but in recent years, Sanyo has become a Matsushita brand -- the cheaper sister brand of Panasonic, to be specific. [Quasar used to be the Matsushita budget brand in the 480i days.]

I generally like Panasonic stuff, so recent Sanyo stuff is probably pretty good too.
posted by britain at 9:11 PM on April 1, 2011

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