Using Sony Handicams and Importing to FCP

Instructions courtesy of Stephen Elliott.  Cronkite News Service Director


Take a Deep Breath

Seriously – I want you to take a deep breath. Close your eyes and find a place of zen. Envision yourself turning on the camera, pointing it at something or someone you want to document, hitting the record button and capturing crisp video. Believe it or not, most video cameras today are this easy to use. This doesn’t make it easier to choose the right scenes and subjects, frame properly, etc., but it makes things a lot easier before you do. The camera you will use in this class also has a hard drive, making exporting video much easier than a camera recording on tape.

Camera Basics

Here is a rough representation of the business end of the Handycam, focusing on the few features you need to understand to make it work.

  1. This wheel turns the camcorder off and on.
  2. This button stops and starts recording.
  3. Here’s the viewscreen. Flip it out from the side of the camera.
  4. The battery goes here. It’s secured by a latch underneath.
  5. Direct view into lens. Just forget this exists. Use the viewscreen.
  6. These are various items on the viewscreen that it helps to know.
  7. Zoom lever.

1. Turn the camera on and off:

There’s a wheel around the record button with a small green button on it. To turn the camera on, depress the button and turn the wheel clockwise (it only goes a bit). The viewscreen should activate, and one of two lights just above the wheel will come on. Make sure the one on the left is on. It’s the one with the movie icon. If you push the wheel clockwise again, the right light will come on, meaning you’re in photo mode. Push it clockwise again to get back to movie mode.

2. Record.

Hit the button to record. Hit the button again to stop recording. You create a separate shot on the camcorder’s hard drive each time you hit record.

3. Viewscreen

The viewscreen should show whatever the camera is pointing at. We’ll get to the various touchscreen buttons and information below.

4. Battery

The battery should be fine at this point. If ever you need to remove it, push the latch at the bottom toward the front of the camera. To re-seat the battery, push the top end in first and then push the bottom end into the latch. It will snap into place. If it doesn’t, don’t try forcing it. Ask for help. To preserve the battery life, the camera will shut of automatically if you don’t use it for a while. Just turn it back on.

5. View into lens

Again, just forget this exists.

6. Viewscreen/Touchscreen Feature

There are three buttons on the viewscreen.

  • Bottom left: Video playback. You might have occasion to use this.
  • Bottom right: Sophisticated adjustments available here. As you start out, just forget this exists.
  • Top left: Home key gets you back to main viewscreen if you follow either button above.

Here is important information on the viewscreen:

  • Top left: Battery life remaining.
  • Top middle: In record mode, a green STBY says you’re ready to shoot and a red REC says you’re recording. A counter appears to the right showing the how long you’ve been shooting.
  • Upper right: You’ll see how many minutes of record time you have on the hard drive. You’ll never fill it.

7. Zoom

Push lever right to zoom in. Push it left to zoom out. You’ll see a guide on the viewscreen saying how wide or tight you are.

More Involved Camera Stuff

Everything in this section is strictly nice to know. You can accomplish your mission without using any of it.

Reviewing video: On the viewscreen, hit the play button at lower left. This will bring up a screen with all of the shots on the Handycam. You create an individual shot each time you hit record. To watch clips, hit them on the touchscreen. You can use touchscreen keys to get through the clips. To get back to record mode, either hit the camcorder icon at lower left or hit the home icon at top left and then hit “Movie.”

Sophisticated settings: Hit the button at lower right  for sophisticated settings such as white balance, record mode, microphone level. Tabs at the bottom of the screen will show the options. At this level, being here is more trouble than it’s worth.

Getting Your Video Files Into Final Cut Pro

Follow these steps:

  • Plug gray USB cord into camera and into computer’s USB port.
  • Tell the camera to talk to the computer.
  • Make sure you have established a unique folder for this project.
  • Log and transfer to Final Cut Pro
  • Save the data in Final Cut Pro
  • Disconnect the camera from the computer.

Connect USB Cord to Camera and Computer:

There is a sliding door the side of the camera next to the on/off wheel. Stick the smaller end of the gray cord in the lower port inside this door. Stick the larger end in a USB port, which is on the back side of the iMac.

Tell the Camera to Talk to the Computer:

When the camera is connected to the computer, the Handycam’s viewscreen will present some options. For a reason that escapes your instructor, there are two options saying “USB Connect.” Hit the “USB Connect” on the LEFT. Also for a reason that escapes your instructor, iPhoto might activate on your computer. Just close it. You can tell the camera is talking to the computer when a drive called “NO NAME” appears on the desktop.

While in Final Cut Pro select Log and Transfer.  Preview your clips.  Select those you want.  Add them to the cue. When they have finished transferring make sure you save them.

Disconnect Camera From Computer:

When you are done with the camera, drag the NO NAME folder into the Recycle Bin. Then it’s fine to unplug the camera.

Getting Your Video Files Into FinalCut

Follow these easy steps:

  • Launch FinalCut. Open the Log and Transfer window by hitting File>Log and Transfer.
  • Your shots will appear as clips on the left side of the window.  Double click any clip and you can preview or trim it in the right hand preview window.  You can also name and log information about the clip.
  • Select the clips you want and “add clips to cue.”  They will begin transferring immediately.
  • Proceed as you would normally in FinalCut.