Transfer HD Video from iPhone or iPad to Your Computer

Aug 14, 2012 - 15 Comments

Did you record a great video on your iPhone or iPad and now you want the full quality version on a computer? If you’ve ever used the iOS built-in sharing tools to send a movie from an iPhone or iPad, you’ll undoubtedly have noticed the quality gets reduced from the high quality HD 720p/1080p video to a very low resolution. That is done for bandwidth conservation reasons and because many email clients won’t accept large files, even if both the iPhone and computer are on wi-fi. Sending through iMessage is slightly better, but it still won’t provide the original resolution movie, and that only works for Mac users.

Transfer Video from iOS to a Computer

If you’re looking to transfer full HD video recorded from an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to a computer, you’ll want to connect the iOS device to a Mac or PC and copy over the movies manually much like how you transfer photos to the computer:

Transferring Video from iPhone or iPad to a Mac

This is the quickest way to pull the full HD movie from an iOS device to a Mac:

  • Launch “Image Capture” found in the /Applications/ folder
  • Connect the iPad, iPod, or iPhone to the Mac via USB
  • Locate the video you want to copy over from Image Capture and click on it, select multiple videos by holding the Shift key – note the File Size of the HD videos will be much larger than the lower resolution videos
  • Pull down the “Import To” menu and select someplace meaningful like the Desktop
  • Click “Import” to copy the HD video to the Mac

Mac users can also use Preview, iMovie, and even iPhoto to transfer the video over, but ultimately Image Capture is the quickest and lightest weight.

Copying Full HD Video from iPhone/iPad to a Windows PC

Windows PC’s can treat the iPhone, iPad, and iPod as part of the file system meaning you can access video files and pictures with Windows Explorer:

  • Connect the iPhone, iPad, iPod to the PC with a USB cable
  • Open “My Computer” and find the iOS device in the list of cameras and connected devices
  • Open the iOS device and browse for the video(s) you want to copy over, copy them to the desired location as usual in Windows using copy and paste or otherwise

In a lot of ways, Windows is actually easier to access the HD movie files and pictures with, at least for those of us who are accustomed to working with a file system rather than apps like iMovie, iPhoto, and Image Capture.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

15 Comments

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  1. noel says:

    Or Dropbox it.

  2. JN says:

    What about PhotoStream – are those lower quality than doing it this way?

    • Justin says:

      Photo Stream downsamples the video as well, only way to get full HD I know of is through tethering to computer. File sizes quickly get to 100MB+ so it’s not surprising.

      • Robbert says:

        Photo Stream downsamples video? As far as I know Photo Stream doesn’t even support video. My iPhone 4S only uploads photos to Photo Stream, which actually makes it useless, because I also take a lot of video, so I always have to connect my iPhone to transfer my videos. Why should I use Photo Stream, when I have to connect my iPhone to transfer my videos? If I have to connect my iPhone to transfer videos, I can also transfer my photos.

        In my opinion this PC Free feature Apple announced when they announced iOS 5 is a big fail. Everytime I make a movie, I have to connect my iPhone with a USB cable, so it simply isn’t PC free.

        What I actually want is a feature in iPhoto to automatically recognize my iPhone when I come home, see if there are any new photos or videos on it and if there are any new photos or videos iPhoto just imports just imports them using WiFi.

  3. Jeff says:

    Or use the Apple USB camera connector plugged into the ipad and then connect the iphone using a standard USB-Dock cable. The iPad treats the iphone as a camera and you can import movies and stills directly into the iPads photo app.

  4. Iphonedoc says:

    Paul, great and timely article. I’m on vacation and we have been using the iPhone for HD video . It’s been great but each night I have to back up the videos in their original form. I use Dropbox for the pictures but with spotty wifi in the Caribbean it’s not that easy to do video.

    I brought my MacBook Pro with me this time and decided to use files connect on the iPhone and create an ad-hoc network on the MBP. Transferring 3gb data per night amounts to about 50 minutes at a constant 1mb/sec upload. Dropbox drops out a lot and so this is a good one to do especially when you are in a bind. Great article by the way.

  5. richard says:

    wow, very nice tip

  6. Rodney says:

    Why make it sounds so hard on a Mac? To import HD video I:

    1) connect iOS device by USB
    2) open iPhoto
    3) Import

  7. Iphonedoc says:

    @rodney

    Not a bad idea, it’s just that iPhoto is not without a lot of hiccups. Additionally on a personal note I have a disdain for iPhoto. Its file management system is horrible especially for multiple cameras. So if you have two cameras that are similar it becomes a matter of luck if the two numbers ie IMG0250 gets wiped out if the two images have the same Number. Sometimes that does not happen, sometimes it does. Therefore I now prefer to upload to a folder and change the names once uploaded and enter them into iPhoto or usually to the cloud for safe keeping long term. Additionally I believe someone here has stated that there is compression on saving for video. Not an option for some of the deep sea diving videos that I have.

  8. Sergio says:

    Once photos are selected in Image Capture, you can copy them to desktop (or to a Finder window) via Drag&Drop ….

  9. Karen says:

    Why are the file sizes slightly larger when I copy the video from my iPhone to my Windows PC using this method?

    • yasmine says:

      i’ve tried to import using iphoto and image capture and i get an error for both, any suggestions for a 50 minute video?

      • Robbertvdd says:

        Did your Mac go into sleep? This is what happened when I tried to import a lot of photos and movies. I started the transfer, but it took very long, so I walked away from my Mac to do something else. When I came back, I was surprised to see the Mac went into sleep. I woke the Mac and made sure it didn’t go into sleep again. When it was ready importing the last item, I got an error telling me one item couldn’t be imported. It was exactly the item the Mac was importing when it went to sleep. I imported the item again while making sure the Mac didn’t go into sleep and this time it imported without problems.

        I don’t know if your problem is the same, but in my opinion it’s ridiculous a Mac goes into sleep while importing files. It’s busy, so why does it go to sleep? What does Apple expect me to do? Sitting next to the Mac and make sure it doesn’t go into sleep?

  10. Mary says:

    Hi, I tried this method but the movie file I get when I open it to play, there is no video (only black) but there is audio. In the image capture window, the Img_xxx.mov icon has a green check mark on it.

    If instead of your method of clicking “import” from image capture, I just drag and drop another Img_yyy.mov to my desktop, the movie icon on the desktop shows the first frame of the movie clip and it plays both audio and video when I click on it.

    I’ve tried to drag and drop the Img_xxx.mov from the image capture window but it won’t let me. I tried quitting the program and unplugging the iphone and starting over but the green check just stays there. How to I get rid of the green check mark so I can drag and drop that movie file?

    I have an iPhone 5 and the latest version of iPhoto and running OX10.6.8. I tried to import the movie files into iPhoto when I imported photos from my phone and I always get the message that they are a file format that isn’t recognized. I hope you can help. TIA

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