no mini-disks... but miniDV tape. SO, the external drawer loading drive is not needed.
As for the digital tape... Hopefully the camcorder used during the capture - or similar - is available. Knowing which miniDV tape camcorder manufacturer and model will be very useful to determin which firewire cable and which resolution (standard definition DV - high definition HDV) we're working with. Back to 2001 gets us in the standard definition DV format area...
Connect the Mac's firewire port (not USB) to the camcorder's DV port (not USB).
If the computer was off, turn it on.
When at a stable desktop, power the camcorder up and put it into Play/Edit/VCR mode (it depends on the camcorder).
Launch iMovie and Import or Capture the video. This is a "realtime" activity. 60 minutes of video on the tape will take 60 minutes to import. 60 minutes of imported Standard Definition video will consume about 14 gig of computer hard drive space; 60 minutes of imported High Definition video will consume about 44 gig of computer hard drive space.
I read through the other thread you've been working through with mrmacfixit.
The firewire cable you need to connect the miniDV camcorder is most likely a 4-pin (camcorder DV port) to 9-pin (iMac firewire800 port) cable... knowing the camcorder to be used for importing can confirm this.
I think I don't agree with one thing he wrote - in an early post in that thread:
"iMovie does not produce 1080p/i movies."
As I recall, in iMovie, after editing, when you are ready to render, under Share, select "Export using Quicktime". As posted earlier in this thread:
... select "Export using Quicktime conversion"... Format: Quicktime movie, select Options, in Video settings, select Compression type h.264, Compressor quality is High, click OK; then in Video size, select Dimensions 1920 x 1080 and put a checkmark in the "De-interlace Video" box. This will render a 1080 horizontal line resolution video. I guess technically, it is not iMovie doing the rendering, but Quicktime from within iMovie...
HOWEVER, if the video was captured at standard def, there is no reason to render at high def. Doing so unnecessarily uses hard drive space and there will be no "improvement" in video quality.