Firewire - How to use firewire to capture camcorder video


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FireWire Guide - How to Capture Camcorder Video with FireWire

firewire symbolFireWire, also know as IEEE 1394, and iLink is the primary transfer mechanism for capturing camcorder video from miniDV camcorders.   FireWire is needed for capturing your video because digital video is captured in real-time (as the tape plays on the camcorder), and FireWire has a high enough transfer rate to keep up with the playback of your tape.

See the capturing camcorder video page for more information on how to import video from your camcorder onto your computer.

Can you use a USB cable to import camcorder video?

No, the transfer rate with USB is too slow to keep up with the real-time capture of video from a tape based video camera.  Unfortunately many camcorders come with a USB cord for transferring digital pictures from your camcorder which leads many consumers to believe they can transfer video from their tape based video camcorder to their computer via USB as well.  You need to use FireWire to import camcorder video. firewire cable

What does FireWire look like?

FireWire cables come in two variations 4-pin and 6-pin.  Most camcorders have a 4-pin 4 pin and 6 pin firewire portFireWire output, commonly labeled DV.  Your computer can have either a 4-pin or a 6-pin.  They make FireWire cables where both ends are 4-pin, both ends are 6-pin, and where one end is a 4-pin and the other end is a 6-pin.

What if your computer doesn't have a FireWire port?

Pretty much every computer has a USB port, but FireWire ports are less common, especially in older computers.  They make a FireWire to USB adaptor cord, but as described earlier the transfer rate with USB is too slow, so the adaptor cord will not work.

Fortunately, you can easily add a FireWire port to your computer: PCMCIA Firewire Card

For a laptop you need a PCMCIA FireWire card as shown on the left.  These cards range from $10-$30 and can be purchased at most consumer electronics stores.  These cards are vary easy to install and require no tools; you simply insert the card into the PCMCIA slot on the side of your computer.


PCI firewire cardFor a desktop you need a PCI FireWire card as shown on the right.  These cards range from $5-$20 and can also be purchased at most consumer electronics stores.  Installing a PCI card may require a Phillips screwdriver to remove the cover of your computer tower but is simple to install.  You just insert it into an available PCI slot.

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