Even if you don’t currently own a Mac or MacBook, it may be worth adjusting the setting. After all, you never know what will happen in the future and whether the iPhone videos will end up on an affected Apple computer after all. But what is actually the problem?
Newer iPhones record videos in a special format. Curiously, this is not compatible with many MacBooks. In order to be able to view and edit iPhone videos later on the Mac, you only have to change a small setting in advance.
Compatibility issues with iPhone videos
In the discussion forum on the Apple site, users complain again and again that videos recorded with the iPhone no longer work properly after being transferred to the Mac. A variety of problems can arise: Sometimes, for example, the file cannot even be loaded into editing programs such as Final Cut Pro because the start and end points are not recognized or videos cannot be played at all. If the upload works, however, it can happen that there is no sound.
But why is that? The short explanation: Newer iPhones record videos in a very efficient format in order to save space on the iPhone and in the iCloud for the very memory-hungry 4K resolution. However, the format requires certain requirements that are often not met with older Apple devices.
High Efficiency versus Maximum Compatibility
The detailed answer: Apple has already brought the very efficient HEVC and HEIF codecs to its devices with iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra. The high-efficiency codecs – HEVC stands for High Efficiency Video Coding and HEIF for High Efficiency Image File Format – were introduced to meet the problem of ever-growing videos and images. HEVC (also: H.265) and HEIF replace the older formats AVC (also: H.264) for videos and JPG for images.
AVC and JPG have been available on almost every computer, mobile phone and smartphone since around 2001 and are therefore much more widespread. This makes AVC and JPG much more compatible with older devices. Any reasonably new computer – and all smartphones and tablets anyway – can play these two codecs without any problems. In Apple terms, that means: high efficiency vs. maximum compatibility.
Usually no problem on new devices
The high-efficiency codecs can save up to 40 percent storage space compared to AVC/JPG with the same image quality. Newer smartphones, laptops and tablets have built-in hardware support for the new codecs. That is, they can decode iPhone images and videos in this format quickly and efficiently. Older devices often do not have specific hardware, for example in the form of an additional image processor. You must therefore render HEVC and HEIF via software decoding. That’s why it can happen on an older laptop, for example, that a HEVC video stutters during playback if other programs are still open.
Just as an example, pre-2016 MacBook Pros don’t have a built-in HEVC decoder and must therefore utilize the processor to play video encoded in this way. However, since the processor is also responsible for running all other programs, there may be delays in video playback. Newer MacBooks no longer have the problem, since their Intel or M1 processors have a special HEVC decoder that is only there to play back this codec efficiently.
When to change the codec
Simply put, you don’t have to worry about video compatibility if you still have an iPhone with a 3.5mm jack. HEVC and HEIF are only supported from the iPhone 7 onwards, and the even more efficient 10-bit HEIF format only from the iPhone 8 onwards. However, Apple has made sure that you can use HEVC videos and HEIF images recorded with a newer iPhone were still able to open on older iPhones. iPhones that cannot record the new codecs but can play them are the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the iPhone 5S.
If you have a newer iPhone and a Mac that was released before 2016 or is still running macOS Sierra or earlier, it’s best to set the video format to Maximum compatibility switch You can easily access the option for this on the iPhone at settings > camera > formats. By default is here High efficiency selected, so tune in Maximum compatibility around.
But be careful: On the iPhones, HEVC is required, among other things, if videos with a particularly high resolution or particularly smooth videos are to be recorded. 4K resolution with 60 frames per second (FPS) is only supported with the high-efficiency codec. As well as slow-motion video recording in 1080p resolution at 240 FPS. If you switch to one of these options in the camera settings, the codec is automatically activated again High efficiency switched.
Also interesting: 15 Secret iOS Features You Should Know
You can do that if you have already filmed in HEVC
If you’ve captured HEVC video and can’t open or further process it on Mac, there is a relatively simple solution. Open the video with the Quicktime player and click on the tab in the taskbar file. Then navigate to Export as and choose the highest available resolution out. Save the video in any folder. After the conversion process is completed, the video should be compatible with all programs.