Encore Lab has two Sony HDD camcorders. The camcorders record videos in MPEG-2 format. I normally copy videos from the camera as MPEG-2 raw files to my MacBook Pro/Leopard. However, the QuickTime Player on my MacBook Pro cannot play the MPEG-2 video. I realized that Leopard does not have MPEG-2 codec (Apple MPEG-2 Playback Component) installed. Then, I installed a MPEG-2 codec. This time, QiuckTime player can play the MPEG-2 video, but unfortunately without audio.
VLC is a very good player. It can play the MPEG-2 video even without the MPEG-2 playback component. The reason that I need QuickTime to be able to play MPEG-2 video properly (with audio) is that the video data analysis software I am using, Transana, depends on QT. If QT cannot play video properly, then Transana will have the same problem.
By googling Internet, I learned the reason that QT cannot play the MPEG-2 video properly is that the MPEG-2 videos that many camcorders generated are muxed MPEG-2 videos (with 5.1ch audio). Thus, to play these videos properly, I need AC3 codec on my computer. I thus downloaded and installed several AC3 codec, such as the one from Trac and Perian. Unlucky, I was still not able to play my MPEG-2 video files with audio with QT. I googled Internet and found a webpage saying that the AC3 codecs from the above providers are not working with the newly updated QT (version 7.5.5).
Some googling results suggest to buy QT pro. I tried, it did not work on the Macs I have tried. Some other Internet resources also said that installing QT pro was not working. Still, only video, no audio.
The only solution that seems to work is to convert the MPEG-2 videos to other format that QT can play properly.
I once thought of using iMovie'08 to solve the problem, say using iMovie'08 to convert the MPEG-2 files to other format. However, not only was my problem not solved, I also found some problems with iMovie'08.
My answer to the question "Which HDD camcorder works with iMovie?" is "no one works" and "every one works".
The reason to say "no one works" is that iMovie'08 can import neither MPEG-2 videos (.mpg files) nor MPEG-4 videos (.mp4 format). It can only import .mov files. Thus, if you want to copy the video files directly from you camcorder to your hard drive and then use iMovie'08 to deal with the videos, no one camcorder can satisfy you, because most camcorders, such as Sony, Canon, JVC, Panasonic, etc. generate videos in muxed MPEG-2 video format.
The reason to say "everyone works" is that iMovie'08 can import video directly from camcorders. Thus, if you do not copy the video files directly from you camcorder to your hard drive, instead, you import videos from camcorder with iMovie'08, any camcorder can satisfy you. Here is a list of HDD camcorders that works with iMovie. However, the problem of this method is that iMovie'08 converts the videos to .mov format. And the .mov files is about 20% bigger than .mpg files. I cannot afford such quick consumption of my HD space! Also, you must connect the camcorder to your computer with firewire. If you connect your camcorder using a USB cable, your camcorder will be recognized as an external HD. iMovie cannot import MPEG2 file from HD.
Thus, no matter what type or what brand or what level (home use or professional use) the camera is, if the camera generates video in MPEG-2 format (most mini DVD cameras also save video in MPEG-2 format) and you copy the video files directly from the camera instead of importing videos using iMovie (which will use more HD space than directly copying video files), then you still cannot play your videos (.mpg format) with QT. Thus, do not spend your time on figuring out which camera works with QT. I've spent so much time on this, you should not do this again. Please spend your time on other features of camera, such as if the camera has mini jack connector for using with external microphones.
I recommend two software: MPEG Streamclip 1.9.1 and ffmpegX. MPEG Streamclip requires that your Leopard has Apple MPEG-2 Playback component installed. ffmpegx has its own codec, and thus does not require Apple MPEG-2 Playback component.
I do not think these two cameras are not good. The problem we (Cheryl and I) have encountered is that we want to copy the MPEG-2 files directly from the cameras to our HD instead of using iMovie to import videos from camera. Thus, if you do not need to import movies from camera with iMovie'08, then the camera has no problems at all.
The reason that we wanted to copy the files directly from camera is to save time and to save HD space. Importing videos from camera with iMovie'08 takes both time and HD space.