I just picked up a new Flip Video and was dismayed to find out that it used a custom app to import its movies, and that this custom app was PPC. I was also dismayed to find out that iMovie ‘08 refuses to import AVIs even if you have the appropriate codec installed. So after some hacking, I put together an Automator workflow that will convert all your Flip videos into DV and import them into iMovie. You can download it here.

Update: I’ve put up a new version of the importer that has a much longer timeout when waiting for Quicktime to export each movie.

27 Responses to “Flip Video importer”
  1. What’s the “appropriate codec” that’s installed? Can you open the Filp Video AVI in QuickTime and get format info from the Movie Inspector (Command-I) or with some other method? There might be a way to get iMovie ’08 to import it directly.

  2. The “appropriate codec” here is “Perian”:http://www.perian.org. And no, iMovie ’08 apparently rejects all AVIs out of hand. I could try renaming the file to a format iMovie ’08 likes, but I expect it to reject the file once it realizes it’s not a built-in codec.

    Even if you can somehow convince iMovie ’08 to accept the AVIs, there is still a benefit to re-encoding as DV, which is that generating thumbnails and scrubbing (and presumably other operations) are significantly faster.

  3. I was wondering specifically which video codec the Flip Video AVI contains and have since found “Advanced Profile MPEG4 AVI ” in the product specs, where I could have checked before asking.

    iMovie ’08 is able to import Motion JPEG video that my Canon SD800 digital camera records in AVI containers, but possibly relies on QuickTime plugins installed with Canon’s ImageBrowser software. That’ll be easier to confirm after upgrading to Leopard relatively soon, before installing ImageBrowser again (if at all; I’d prefer not to).

    It might be possible to put that Flip Video’s MPEG-4 in a QuickTime container that iMovie can import though converting to DV might be preferable anyway if you don’t mind the larger files.

  4. I tried wrapping the AVI in a .mov but iMovie ’08 still refused to open it. And disk space is cheap – I can always re-encode if I want the space back.

  5. Kevin,

    Great script and thanks for creating this. I had to make a couple adjustments because either my computer is much slower, or my videos are longer. I added a ‘with timeout of 1800 seconds’ around the QuickTime Player loop. I don’t know if it’s worth adding to your version as well.


  6. Maybe I’m misunderstanding because I don’t use iMovie, but I just treat my Flip Video as a drive and copy the movies directly out of the right place in the directory structure, same as I do with my old Fuji digital camera. No special programs for me.

    But as far as special programs go, it’s pretty awesome that Flip puts theirs on the device itself instead of on a separate CD (other media/web site/whatever).

  7. Larry Vaughn says:

    I have osx 10.4.11 and the flip video camera and I-Movie HD. I installed Perian, dragged the flip files from folder in the filp onto my hard drive. I can drag and drop them into I-movie and they play, but without any audio.

    After installing Perian, I can play the files with QuickTime and hear the sound. How do I make the sound work in I-Movie HD?

  8. Larry, I can’t help you there. You’re using iMovie ’06

  9. This is awesome, thanks! Is there any way to make this work with videos that are already saved to my hard drive?

  10. Erik: The easiest way would be to mount your Flip and put them in the DCIM/100VIDEO folder on the Flip’s drive. Alternately you could open it up in Automator and edit the path it searches for videos.

  11. Michael Wright says:

    I just got a FlipVideo, however, my mac mini (os x v.10.5.3 – 1.33 ghz and running leopard) doesn’t recognize it on input. Any help (FlipVideo provide none)?

  12. Michael: You mean you plug it in and it doesn’t show up as a mounted volume? I don’t know what to tell you. Sorry.

  13. Brilliant! Just copied this workflow to my camera. Thank you so much. This makes the whole camera worthwhile.

  14. Thanks for this – thats the perfect solution – seamless

  15. I downloaded both the codec and your application. When I run the script with my flip plugged into my computer it seems to go through the export process yet once it’s finished nothing happens. I can’t find the exported file nor does it show up automatically in imovie. Am I missing something?

  16. Sean: The version of my automator action that’s up right now doesn’t change the timeout. If exporting one of the movies takes too long, the automator action will shut down.

    I will replace it today with the new version that works better.

  17. Hello. I’ve downloaded and when I run w/ the Flip mounted, I get this error: AppleScript Error System Events got an error: Can’t make temporary items folder into type constant.(-1700)

    Any idea what I’m doing wrong? Thanks… this promises to be a giant help…

  18. Kevin – Cool script, though I’d like to share a couple of comments.

    I’m using a MacBook running the latest Leopard and QT updates. I had trouble converting the AVI files on the Flip camera into something useable. I tried several output options (MPEG-4 and QT), but the resulting clips were blank, white screens with audio. The Perian plug in seemed to do the trick, and exporting the video to .MOV at 640×480 (I don’t recall the other settings off hand), preserved the video quality.

    Using your script to import as DV, the clips more pixelated than the ones I imported manually (after converting the AVIs to QT movies in QT Pro with the Perian plug in). I see where you set the import to “DV” in your automator script. Is there an easy mod to the script to import as a higher quality QT movie? I’m referring to this line: set last item of components to “DV”

    Three other minor comments/suggestions – First, if you’ve added video clips to your iPhoto library (my digital still can capture video clips), when iMovie is launched, it’ll prompt you to create thumbnails of those clips. This seems to error out the script. My workaround was to simply complete the video thumbnails creation in iMovie and relaunched the script. You may either want to find a way to trap this “create thumbnail” prompt through the script or suggest users do this manually before launching the script.

    Second, and this is probably an iMovie behavior, when the script is completed, iMovie automatically opened a camera import window which shows a couple of clips. The “camera” named after the user’s short name, contains what appears to be video clips from the “My Flip Video Library,” (I tried using the software that came with the camera). Having deleted that folder, and rerunning the script, the process seems to work okay without iMovie opening up the camera import window. Again, this may be more of a documentation issue, as it’s more likely an iMovie behavior than your script. Perhaps in your documentation you can suggest that users delete the folders created on the Mac by the Flip software (remembering to first move any needed videos to an appropriate location like back to the camera).

    Third, with the warning against moving the mouse and using the keyboard, I sat at my system for a while before taking a peek at the event library, worrying that there might have been some background process running which would get derailed. But, upon clicking on the 2008 collection in the event library, I saw the new events created by the script. It would be great if the script could issue a “done” message or change the view in iMovie to the recently added event so the user can see the video has been successfully imported. For me, the hint was my MacBook’s fan and my Activity Monitor dock icon settled down , suggesting that the heavy lifting was done.

    I appreciate your efforts on this script and hope you can incorporate some of these suggestions into your next revision.


  19. KK: Are you sure the other formats you tried simply aren’t blurring out the pixelation? DV should look identical to the source AVI.

    Unfortunately I don’t think there’s any way to trap this thumbnail creation. The iMovie ’08 scripting is a complete hack – there’s no scripting dictionary whatsoever, so I had to resort to UI scripting (using the universal access stuff). This is why I pop up the dialog (in the new version) that warns you not to touch anything while it’s fiddling with iMovie.

    Similarly with the My Flip Video Library, I was prompted to create this script when I launched the app and saw how terrible it was. I immediately deleted the app entirely. This means I have no idea where it stores its library or how iMovie decides it’s something to import.

    As for letting you know when the script is done, the automator “app” icon disappears from the dock and all activity ceases. And for me, iMovie does select the new event. I will think about ways to improve this, though.

  20. I have a new macbook. When I plug in my flip, iphoto automatically opens. Once my videos are in iphoto i click on them and QT opens. I have heard of people seeing the video but having no audio…i’m just the opposite. I can hear sound but the screen is black. I’ve downloaded xvid, perian, QT Amateur, nothing is fixing the problem. I can view my videos from the flip software but not on QT or in iMovie 08. Does anyone know why i can not see the video in QT? I end up downloading these apps and have no clue what to do with them.

  21. Whitney: check your QuickTime codecs. You probably have some third-party ones installed that are interfering. Remove divx/3ivx and anything else you know is third-party, then install Perian. Really, Perian is the only codec you need.

  22. Has anyone been able to re-encode their edited movies into a format that the Flip camcorder can play? We want to show off some of the edited movies to Grandma and She does not have a computer. I thought it would be pretty straight forward to put videos back on the Flip and play on her TV. Apparently the videos are MPEG-4 in an AVI container. Something I have yet to figure out how to replicate.


  23. THANK YOU – You’re script has fully redeemed my recent Flip Mino purchase. Thank you for creating / posting this script, it’s seriously made my week.

  24. Great Script!

    After converting the videos to DV, I know they can be played in iMovie, but can they also be burned to a CD/DVD with the ability to be played on a DVD Player for a television?

    I have a DVD player that plays almost any type of video including Divx. Thanks. I want to buy one of the Flip Mino’s, but I want to be sure that they can’t only be played on a computer.


  25. just got the flip and was super disappointed i couldn’t import it into iMovie!!! i have installed your program but how long is this suppose to take to import a 10 minute video? i’ve tried it once and it like got stuck at 24% completed so now i’m trying again and it’s very slow….any advice? so happy to have found you in google!

  26. First of all great Automator action. What’s even better for me is that your advice on removing older codecs worked for me to get my audio back. Thanks!

  27. […] after some more searching around I found this solution, which if you read the comments the author recommends removing old QuickTime video codecs and only […]