Recording With A Digital Video Camera Straight To Your Computer

by on October 29, 2007

Q: Is it possible to hook up a digital video camera (Canon zr200) to a computer (HP laptop) and have the camera record directly to the computer? How do I do that? Is there a certain program I need to get? I want to be able to record for several hours straight and review it on the computer.

A: Yes, it is definitely possible! Since your laptop is an HP, I will assume that you are using Windows XP. Microsoft provides instructions for recording live from a digital camcorder in an article entitled Recording Video into Windows Movie Maker (Part 2 of 3). Windows Movie Maker is a program that should have come free with your computer. Microsoft states that you should be able to record audio as well as video from the camcorder. You may possibly be able to use similar procedures in Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and other computer operating systems. These instructions should work on other digital camcorders as well. You may also wish to consult the Canon zr200 Owner’s Manual while trying these procedures. It may also interest you to learn that your camcorder can function as a webcam in Windows XP using Canon’s DV Messenger 2 software! Here is a short summery in case the Microsoft article cited above disappears from the internet.

Connect your camcorder to your computer using FireWire (sometimes called IEEE 1394 or iLink). Next, put your camcorder into Camera Mode, or whatever mode your camcorder uses for recording using the appropriate switch on the camcorder. The camcorder will be ready to record at this point, but should not be recording yet. According to Microsoft, many camcorders will automatically turn themselves off after being in this mode for a certain amount of time. Microsoft suggests removing the digital tape from your camcorder to prevent this. There may also be a related option in your camcorder’s menus. Please consult your owner’s manual if you encounter problems.

In Windows Movie Maker, go File -> Record. A new “dialog box” should appear and when it does you want to click Change Device. According to Microsoft, you can then select your camcorder. Make sure that you have the correct camcorder selected. This should happen automatically if you have never used another camcorder with your laptop. Make sure that the Create clips checkbox is empty. This will enable you to have Movie Maker recognize your recoding as a single clip when you are finished recording. Also make sure that the Record time limit checkbox has been cleared. This gives you additional control over the starting and stopping of the recording process.

Microsoft suggests the Medium quality setting in its instructions. The lower the quality, the less likely it is that Movie Maker will encounter an error during recording. Experiment with the various quality settings until you are satisfied. You should now be able to click on Record. The video appearing will be your confirmation that your recording is being made. You can change the color and brightness settings directly from your camcorder. When you are ready to end the recording, click Stop. Everything else from here on in Movie Maker should work as if you have imported the video from a digital tape.

6 Responses to “Recording With A Digital Video Camera Straight To Your Computer”

    I’ve seen a few posts online about this that always specify Firewire, but most of the newer cameras don’t have firewire anymore, just USB 2.0.
    Can this be done with USB 2.0 also?


      You are correct. It seems like more and more newer Digital Video Cameras are coming with just USB 2.0 and not Firewire. If your camera comes with only USB 2.0 then you can transfer your video from the camera using the USB 2.0 connection. The methods in the answer should work for you.

      If your camera has both Firewire and USB 2.0 then chances are you can only get the video off your camera using Firewire.


    Hello Matt. Thanks for responding, but I need to clarify something. You state “transfer your video from the camera.” I specifically need to record directly to the PC from the camera. I don’t want the videos to be stored on the camera first, then transferred. I will be recording with the camera hooked to the PC and I need to make sure I can view and save the recordings on the PC live. I want to make sure I understand your answer. When you state “transfer,” are you meaning what I’m saying above or just the standard transferring of recordings already made.
    Thank you.


      I actually thought you were replying to a question about transferring your video to your computer, sorry about that.

      You should be able to do the same steps via USB 2.0 but you would have to test it out and/or read your manual to find out for sure.

      If you can tell us the model camera you have then we can research it for you.


    Hello Matt,
    Thank you for responding again. I totally understand the mixup.
    As it so happens, I was able to contact JVC, Panasonic, and Canon based on some cameras I was looking at and Canon was the only one that said that they could definitely record straight to a PC via USB 2.0 and Firewire. Both JVC and Panasonic told me they couldn’t. I’m going with a Canon camera which I found that fits all my requirements.
    Thanks again and have a great day.