Converting .M2T Files to .MOV Files

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the February, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]


The native format of HDV isn’t QuickTime, its .M2T.

M2T, otherwise called an MPEG-2 Transport stream, is not the same thing as the standard MPEG-2 file that we create in Compressor to use in DVD Studio Pro. I was told recently that there are 14 different versions of MPEG-2, which I find strangely reassuring. Why should there be any more standardization in compressed files than there is in video formats?

Sigh… the world is perverse.

Anyway, while working on my latest book, I needed to convert .M2T files into something that Final Cut can edit. Final Cut likes lots and lots of different files – but not .M2T.

This means that if someone captures an HDV file in another application, such as Adobe OnLocation or Adobe Premiere, then sends it to you, you’ll need to transcode it to QuickTime before bringing it into Final Cut.

Note: You can not use QuickTime Player to preview an M2T file. The Finder displays it as a generic document icon.

There are a variety of ways of doing this, but the two easiest are:

* Compressor
* MPEG Streamclip

The benefits to using Compressor is that you already own the software, its fully integrated with Final Cut Pro, it supports batch processing, and it works.

The benefit to using MPEG Streamclip is that it is free, which means you can use it on a system which doesn’t have Final Cut installed, and it supports transcoding into far more formats than Compressor.

Both are good choices.



To convert a clip in Compressor, click the Add Clip icon in the top left corner to import your file.


From the Settings tab twirl down Apple, twirl down Advanced Conversions, and select the HDV option that most closely resembles the footage that you shot. In this case, I’m using HDV 1080i/60.

Note: You can also transcode the .M2T file into another format for editing. For my projects, I would probably transcode into ProRes 422. (Not the HQ version because HDV doesn’t have a high enough quality to justify the increased file size.) However, as our goal was to create an HDV file compatible with Final Cut, we will transcode into HDV for this example.

Drag the setting on top of the file we just imported into the Task window. With Compressor, you only need to set the OUTPUT. Compressor will automatically determine the file type of the source file.


From the Destination tab, select where you want the compressed file to appear.

In this case, we want the compressed file to be stored at the same location as the source file, so we select Source and drag this destination on top of the file we just added the Setting in the Task window.

Note: In real-life, I create a custom Destination, called “Compressed Files” on my second drive, which is where all my compressed files get stored. This makes finding compressed files a lot easier because I don’t need to remember where the source file was stored.

Once you’ve applied a Setting and a Destination, click Submit in the lower right corner of the Task window to begin the compression.

At this point, you can quit Compressor, as it is only used to set up a file for compression. Other software does the actual compression.


MPEG Streamclip, by Squared 5 Software, is designed as a general purpose video converter.

This free utility is like the Swiss Army knife of video – it converts almost anything to almost anything.

Here’s a quick look at how it works.

MPEG Streamclip

Start MPEG Streamclip and drag the file you want to convert on top of the five blue dots. (Normally, I would say “into the center of the window.” But, how many other applications have very kindly put five blue dots in the center of their application? It makes my life easier.)

MPEG Streamclip

Here, for example, is a green screen shot that I want to convert from M2T to HDV to illustration problems with shadows in keys. (This is Andrew, by the way.)

MPEG Streamclip

From the File menu, select Export to QuickTime. Just as with Compressor, you only need to tell the application how you want the file output. It will figure out what kind of file the source is.

MPEG Streamclip

With dozens and dozens of different video formats to choose from, I selected HDV 1080i/60. Again, we could just as easily transcode this to ProRes, or some other format.

Note: In talking with Graeme Nattress, I learned that converting HDV to DVCPRO HD is not a good option as both are compressed formats and tend to degrade the image more than necessary.

MPEG Streamclip

This screen looks more frightening than it is. Mainly because almost all the defaults are fine. Once you’ve selected the codec (HDV), slide the Quality slider to 100%, then…

MPEG Streamclip

.. click the Make Movie button.

Your video immediately starts to export.


UPDATE – Feb. 3, 2009

Tom Wolsky points out:

If you don’t have Final Cut Pro installed, or some other pro app, you will probably need to purchase from Apple the MPEG Playback Component, which is I think about $20.

Larry replies: Thanks, Tom, for the update. (I also fixed the graphic.)

UPDATE – Feb. 7, 2009

As soon as I released my newsletter, I had several people tell me about ClipWrap, a new piece of software. Dave Barnard’s comments were similar to what others wrote:

An alternative to re-compressing HDV .M2T files is to use Divergent Media’s Clipwrap software, which re-wraps the files to an FCP compatible Quicktime format much faster than transcoding. It also doesn’t need the extra disk space transcoding requires, very useful when you have several hours of material.


I used Clipwrap very successfully recently for a direct-to-disk multi-camera recording system for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. A few minutes after a performance, over 4 hours of HD footage was ready for multicam editing in Final Cut – everyone was amazed!


Great work on the newsletter, always good to read – including the make-up tips! 🙂


The Powder Gel looks well worth having around for any studio shoot situation – thanks for the heads-up


Good to see you are doing the Pro Techniques seminar in London, see you then

Larry replies: Thanks, Dave. I always like hearing from people that are using the product. See you in London!


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9 Responses to Converting .M2T Files to .MOV Files

  1. Robin says:


    I was in a great trouble with m2t file to edit in Final Cut Pro.I was not able to convert this file to .mov.I had asked to many people to solve this problem.Anybody can’t solve this problem.Your advises are helped me lot.Now Iam able to convert the m2t file to .mov.
    I am really Thankfull to you for your advise.



  2. Diyana says:

    Hi Larry,

    The latest version of Compressor does not want to import the MT files. I will download the other software mentioned and try that. Thanks!

  3. Colin says:

    I am trying to convert M2T files for FCP7 as per your guide above using compressor. The problem is when you try to Add the files to be converted they wont load. They show up as grey files. You cant add them. Both the M2T file and the .IDX file

    • dave garcia says:

      Go to this Sony Pro site and download this plugin for FCP and M2T files. I have been using it for years and its free. No need for any other programs. The ONLY draw back is that you can not see the import because of the nature of the file. But it works fine.

      The other thing to keep in mind is that this plugin will not work on FCP X. I tried and then called Sony and they confirmed it and said they had or have no plans to create one for X. But it works for 7 and earlier.

  4. amos says:

    Cannot import M2T files with compressor 4.1.1, think I will have to go back to linux

  5. Murali. says:

    I am editing videos with my Final cut pro 10.2 I got three cameras two of the are ok because I can bring the files straight into the time line.As you know my DSLR footage have no issue like always. But I have a SONY HVR Z5 an old one always had problems converting files. Some times the footage gets an awkward line in moving shots. Please advise me.

    • Larry says:


      Ah. You are probably shooting HDV, and the 1080i format is interlaced, which creates the lines that you see.

      The best thing is to shoot progressive video, which eliminates this problem. For existing footage, it would be best to convert it to progressive, either using Compressor – before editing – or FCP X – during the edit.


  6. Murali. says:

    Please advise me to convert Sony HVR Z5 camera footage to Final Cut Pro

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