How to Record Video on a MacBook Pro

By David Weedmark

If you have a MacBook Pro, you have everything you need to start making your own videos. MacBook Pros with OS X Mavericks come with two applications that record video: Photo Booth 6 and iMovie '11. Photo Booth is a digital camera and video-recording application that's easy to use and great for making quick videos. Apple's iMovie app is a feature-rich video-editing application used to create professional-looking movies with titles, credits and effects like fade-ins. Both applications can record video using the MacBook Pro's built-in camera and microphone, or you can connect an external camera and microphone.

Built-in Camera Limitations

The built-in webcam on a MacBook Pro's screen is a 720p FaceTime HD camera. Yes, 720p still counts as high definition, but just barely. As a point of comparison, this is the same quality you would get from the second, lesser camera on an iPhone 5s -- the screen-facing camera used for FaceTime and Skype -- not the full 1080p HD camera that offers truly crisp HD resolution. So, if you're shooting a YouTube video, the MacBook Pro's built-in camera will serve you well. If you plan to play the video on a 70-inch TV, the video will be viewable but the resolution won't knock anyone's socks off.

External Camera Modes

For resolution higher than 720p, connect a 1080p HD video camera or a camcorder to the MacBook using the camera's cable. External cameras have the added benefit of being easier to move around than a laptop's built-in camera. If you plan to use iMovie to record your video, the camera must be set to PC Connect mode or VTR mode. The name of the mode and how you access it varies with different cameras. Most USB webcams don't have such a mode and work only in Direct Capture mode, which isn't supported by iMovie. USB webcams work with Photo Booth though, provided your webcam is compatible with OS X. Any external microphone compatible with your MacBook works with either program, too.

Recording Videos With iMovie

With your MacBook's iMovie app, you can record videos and then edit them for professional-looking results. Use the MacBook's camera or connect a video camera that's in PC Connect mode. Click iMovie's "Import" button and then select the camera from the left menu. You'll know the camera is ready to record when you see its live feed in the iMovie screen. Select a location to store the video by clicking the "Import To" menu and then click the red "Record" button. To stop recording, click the "Record" button again. Each recording is saved as a separate clip. Click the "Close" button when you're done to return to the main iMovie window where you can edit the recording.

Recording Videos With Photo Booth

A second way to record videos on a MacBook Pro is to use Photo Booth. Select which camera you want to use by clicking the "Camera" menu. Select the video option on the left -- in full-screen mode it looks like an old-style radio knob -- and then click the "Video" button to begin recording. After a three-second countdown, Photo Booth starts recording. Click the "Stop" button to stop the recording, and the video appears as a thumbnail below the video-feed window. Right-click that thumbnail to export it as an MOV file or delete it and try again.