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The Secret Video Woes of Macintosh

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 7/15/2009

Macintosh is a wonderful platform for graphic design, photography, and of course video. Provided you don't get into some of the latest technology. There are issues with Mac and certain types of video, and they're issues every Mac owner should be aware of!

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    Mac and Video

    Macintosh owners know that some great software is included with every shiny new Mac. iPhoto, Garage Band, iDVD, and of course, iMovie. Absolutely fantastic multi-media support comes standard on a Macintosh!

    What many new Mac owners don't know is that there are some compatibility issues that Mac has yet to address regarding video support on our wonderful systems. Specifically, the latest round of camcorder technology seems to lack the appropriate support on a Macintosh. It's a fairly devastating realization.

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    Hard Drive & SD Camcorders

    Over the past few years more camcorder manufacturers have started offering a new line of camcorder. Tapes and Min-DVDs are no longer the rage in camcorder circles. Hard Drive Camcorders and Flash Memory camcorders are the latest video capture devices on the market, and they're in great demand.

    There's no wonder the latest offering in portable video capture devices has started catching the attention of the consumer level video market. No tapes to carry around, no DVD cases, almost nothing in tow! Instead video can now be recorded on the hard drive that's built in to the camcorder, or on to a tiny little SD card that takes no space at all.

    Both styles of camcorder offer immense recording capacity. A 30GB hard drive camcorder can record more than 7 hours of continuous video. To achieve that with tapes you'd be carrying around 7 tapes (if recording on high quality). Talk about saving some space on your next vacation. And talk about saving money as well (no additional media to buy pays off quickly).

    Unfortunately, the Mac crowd has been left on the fringes of this revolution, and most Mac owners don't have a clue. Why?

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    Standards Anyone?

    The plain and simple truth is that no one standard for digital video recording is out there. Video formats seem to come in all shapes and sizes. AVI and WMV files pop up everywhere in the Windows world. QuickTime & MPEG4 seem to be the darlings of Macs. It would stand to reason that these latest cameras would then support these formats as well, right?

    Absolutely wrong!

    Many of the latest hard drive camcorders on the market are using a lower quality MPEG format. That particular format is not supported by Mac. What that means for you the consumer is that you'll be sorely disappointed after recording your child's first recital. Sure, the camcorder will hook up to your computer. You'll be able to see the files on the new drive that appears on your desktop. But when you copy the files and start to play them you'll be in for quite a shock!

    Video without sound. Not really useful, is it?

    A similar scenario waits for buyers picking up their first SD Card camcorder. The card shows up when connected to your Mac, but the video files contained in it turn up useless.

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    How to Convert Incompatible Video Files

    So, is that it? Are Mac owners left on the outside looking in? Should you have gotten a Vista system?

    Please tell me you didn't actually just think that! Perish the thought!

    See, years ago I personally decided I needed a camcorder. I researched all of the options, and in the end I selected a hard drive camcorder even after learning the dirty little secret that my Mac wouldn't play nice with it at first. My solution was not a Windows laptop that I kept hidden away when friends came over, that would be too much to ask of myself. No, it was much simpler.

    Instead of losing all hope at ever using a Hard Drive camcorder with my Mac I did a little searching. As it turns out there are Mac users out there wanting to utilize the latest video technology. And there are software companies out there willing to generate a little profit to help us out. These companies are kind enought to create video conversion software.

    Got an AVI that you want to make a .MOV? How about an MPEG file that you'd like to see as an MP4? These software packages can handle those conversions for you, and more.

    One of the companies offering video conversion software even goes so far as to give it away. MPEG Streamclip is a free program from the good folks at It's a great little program, and I've been using it for years. That is, ever since I purchased my hard drive camcorder for use with my Mac.

    There are other great software packages out there as well. Capty MPEG, Flip4Mac, and Visual Hub to name a few. All work well, and all rest happily on the dock on my computer. While Streamclip is free, the other packages do have financial costs associated with them. Check them out for yourself. And by all means, don't rule out the latest camcorder technology.