You would use either of the two SD card slots to record your video, then you'd just copy the files to your computer. You could also copy using the USB cable. It won't take nearly as long as you think because the data rate for this camera is very low. You'll want to use the highest quality recording settings. The data is only 24Mb/sec which is lower than standard def DV footage so don't expect miracles or noiseless images.
Actually, Rick, not much lower: Standard-def DV or 1440x1080 HDV has a bitrate of only 25 Mbps. And though the maximum bitrate of the HF-S20 series is 24 Mbps, the average bitrate in that mode is closer to 21 Mbps. But while DV and HDV are compressed using an alogarithm similar to MPEG-2, AVCHD compression uses a different alogarithm. Thus, it is probable that AVCHD can produce image quality that's higher than either DV or HDV (in fact, I've seen worse images from DV/HDV @ 25 Mbps than from AVCHD at only 15 Mbps).
I know the s21 isn't exactly 35mm film but I figured it would be a good entry level. Thanks again both of you!
I'm just getting into editing and have always heard the way to import footage is via firewire. I haven't bought my camera yet but have been looking at the canon hf s21, but it doesnt have a firewire port. So does this mean I can only use the usb 2.0? I don't want it to take 10 days to rip 20min's worth of footage.
I just need to know if this camera will be compatible with adobe after effects and premiere.
Don't worry about the camera being USB2 instead of FireWire. Most, if not all camcorders that record AVCHD won't have FireWire anyway. But don't worry about the transfer speed either. USB2 transfer rate is 480Mbps, and FireWire is 400Mbps. While USB2 may seem faster in specs, practically it isn't always true. It depends and many things, but for all intents and purposes, they are about the same speed.
Now, will transferring the footage from the camera connected to the computer be faster or slower then taking out the SD card and putting it in an SD card reader on your computer, will depend on the camera and the SD card reader. But in theory, it should be about the same speed. Although, with a good USB3 SD reader, with class 10+ cards, you'll be able to transfer faster. Mind you, because AVCHD is at the most 24Mbps, it will transfer very quickly anyway. Faster then realtime. Whereas, with FireWire, it's realtime only.
As for the camera being compatible with after effects and premiere, don't worry about it. File based cameras like the Canon, are not really an issue. The question you have to ask yourself is "Is my computer fast enough?" Because, AVCHD is a very CPU intensive codec. And while PPro and AE can read natively this codec, running it smoothly in another matter altogether. A fast CPU with enough RAM is what you really need to edit efficiently. I'd actually be more worried about this, then the actual transfer speed.