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How to transfer footage for video editing

Video editing
(Image credit: Image Credit: StartupStockPhotos / Pexels)

Before you can start editing your videos and footage, you need to get it onto your computer. There are a few ways to do this, depending on your operating system and the camera you used to shoot the footage.

In this article, we’ll look at the most common and practical ways to transfer footage for video editing and how you can directly import into some of the best video editing software available.

How to transfer footage for video editing: Preparation

There are a few things you’ll need to do to get ready to transfer footage from your camera or mobile device to your computer for video editing.

First, make sure you have enough space on your computer’s harddrive. If you’re just transfering over a few videos from your iPhone, this probably won’t be a problem. For two hours of 4K footage from a handheld camcorder, you’d need about 80GB. 

You’ll also need the right cable, unless your devices can connect wirelessly or via Bluetooth. Know that wireless transfer speeds are slower than when using a cable. For big videos, you’ll want to physically connect your devices. This is especially true if you’re using your computer to transfer footage from your device to an external harddrive. 

If your camcorder has a separate cable for charging, plug this in first. Transferring large video files can take a long time and lots of battery power, and you don’t want your device to die in the middle of it. Connect the AC adapter to your camera, plug it into the wall, and turn on your camcorder. Smartphones and tablets draw power directly from the computer they’re plugged in to, so you can skip this step. 

Finally, the import method may differ depending on the file type of your recording. If you’ve been shooting video on a mobile device, it should be compatible. If you’re using a camcorder, you may need to convert your file after transferring it, depending on your video editing software. You can find the file type in your camera’s settings, and may even be able to change how videos are saved in order to skip this step in the future.

Step 1: Connect your camcorder or device

Using the cable that came with your camcorder, connect your mobile device or camcorder to your computer. If you’ve lost the cable, you may be able to use one from another device. Otherwise, you’ll need to order one from the manufacturer. Otherwise, if your camcorder uses removable media, like an SD card, you can simply insert it into an SD card reader connected to your computer.

Step 2: Install the driver, if necessary

If you’re connecting your device for the first time, your computer may need to install a device driver. If this doesn’t happen automatically and you aren’t able to proceed with the next steps, visit the website of your device’s manufacturer to install the driver.

Step 2: Transfer your video footage

Some devices and all SD cards enable you to simply browse your device’s file system like you would an external harddrive. You can simply drag and drop to move video files onto your computer. Sometimes the file systems can be hard to navigate, however, in which case it’s best to use importing software.

Both Windows and Mac come with built-in video importing software. For Windows, simply right-click on your device from the desktop or Windows Explorer and select “Import photos and videos.” On MacOS, you can use the Image Capture app with most camcorders and USB devices. 

Finally, most camera manufacturers also provide free software for importing footage, like Picture Motion Browser by Sony or PixelaMixer by Canon. The software will have either been provided on a CD with purchase, or will be available from the manufacturer’s website. 

Many video editing applications can handle importing from an external device. If you already have a favorite editing software that you use, this can help you save time and keep your imported files well organized.

Step 3: Convert your files

Before you start editing, you need to make sure that your video files are saved in a format that’s compatible with your video editing software. For most modern camcorders and software, this won’t be a problem. But if you need to convert your files, there are a number of free applications online. 

Step 4: Edit your footage

Now that you’ve successfully transferred your footage to your computer and it’s in the right file format, you’re free to start editing it. There’s no shortage of powerful video editing software available to you, but you’ll want to be sure you choose the right software for your needs (and that’s compatible with your camcorder).

We’ve put together a list of the best video editing software available today, and update it regularly as new software becomes available.

Summary

Transferring video footage from your camcorder, smartphone, or other recording device to your computer doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by making sure you have everything you need: power and connector cables and enough storage space on your computer. 

Connect your camcorder to your computer; you may be prompted to install a driver. If you’re not, it may already be installed, although if the next steps don’t work, check the manufacturer’s website and install the driver manually. To transfer files, you can either use a file manager like Windows Explorer or Finder on Mac, a native application like Image Capture, software from the manufacturer, or even video editing software. 

You may need to convert your files once you’ve transferred them to your computer, although the best video editing software can handle the most popular file types.