Understanding Firewire Video Capture for Computer Video Editing

With the emergence of Full HD video cameras with the capability of capturing video in MP4 and AVCHD formats via memory cards, Firewire technology may seem a little outdated.



However, if you're just starting out in videomaking with a low budget, you can get hold of a used mini-DV video camera for cheap and this is when Firewire connectivity comes to your aid to help capture quality video.

Firewire port in your computer
 If you're new to computer video editing, you have to understand that you can't directly connect a standard digital mini-DV video camera to your computer like you would connect a scanner or an external hard disk through USB.
 
This is because most digital video cameras come with  Firewire ports.  Before you can transfer video to your computer, you must ensure that your computer is equipped with a Firewire port, which is different from a USB port.

You will then connect your camera to your computer with a Firewire cable.

Firewire cable connector
 

Does My Computer Have a Firewire Port?

Some Mac Computers come with Firewire ports, but only selected Windows models are Firewire-ready.

If you're purchasing a Windows desktop computer and it doesn't come with a Firewire port,  you could ask to include a Firewire card for additional cost.

Firewire capture card
 
But My Camera Has a USB Port
Some video cameras in the market have both Firewire and USB connectivity. There are also cameras with only USB connectivity.
While video capture is possible via USB, you had better avoid these type of USB-only cameras, especially if you're going to use it with an older computer.

Most of these cameras come with USB 2.0 connectivity and if you're transferring video to a computer with a USB 1.1 port, then the transfer rate is going to be very slow. In some cases it may fail all together.

So, as far as possible, get a video camera with a Firewire port and to avoid technical glitches when capturing video to your computer.
 

What's the Big Deal About Firewire?
Firewire makes it a breeze to transfer video from a video camera into a computer and edited footage from your computer back to the tape.

Firewire is also known as IEEE 1394 or iLink for Mac parlance. In fact it was developed by Apple and is not only used for video transfer, but also to connect other computer peripherals like external hard drives, scanners and disc burners, among others.


Actually, you don't need Firewire to transfer video to a computer for editing. If you're having an older type of analog video camera, all you need is a video capture device to convert analog video to digital and then edit it. However, the digital video quality will not match that captured via Firewire.

So, what makes Firewire a favourite among digital videomakers?

Transfer Speed  
Digital video's data file size is huge if you're aiming for lossless quality. Firewire 's transfer speed capability makes video transfer  to the computer fast.  Firewire can accommodate transfer rates  of up to 400Mbps (megabits per second).

Multi-Platform Compatability
With Firewire you can undertake video transfer to both Windows and Mac computers. All you need to do is plug your camera into the Firewire port of your computer and your camera will be detected automatically. This is unlike other video capture cards where you would need to install software. drivers to enable video capturing.

Your video editing software, even the basic ones, like Windows Movie Maker is enabled to detect a video camera connected to the computer with a Firewire port.

Hands-Free Operation
If while capturing video you decide to pause your camera, you don't have to fiddle with the camera buttons. You can manipulate you camera with the pause or stop button in your video editing software. 


So, Firewire adds a lot of convenience to your video capturing process.

Hot Swap Connectivity

With Firewire, you don't have to turn off your computer to plug or unplug a connection to your camera or computer. 


You may have a Firewire cable already connected to your computer with the other end hanging loose. When you're ready to capture video, all you have to do is just plug the cable into your camera without having to turn your computer off.

Video captured via Firewire may not match Full HD video quality, but it's certainly good enough for web video production.