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Home >> Resources | Support >> Installation Guides >> 

How to Install Firewire and Digital Video

How to Install Firewire and Digital Video

Firewire and Digital Video

by Emil Polashek

You are encouraged to make links to this article from your website and tell your friends

The following article is based on years of experience. It is provided as a free service to our customers and visitors. However, Directron.com is not responsible for any damage as a result of following any of this advice.

Copying the contents for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without Directron.com's written consent. However, you are welcome to distribute these computer support tips free to your friends and associates as long as it's not for commercial purposes and you acknowledge the source. You are permitted and encouraged to create links to this page from your own web site.


This article describes how to install an IEEE 1394, or FireWire, card in a Windows PC, with reference to capturing video from a digital video camera.


So you took the plunge and bought a digital video camera. You figured out how to shoot video with it, now you want to move the footage from the camera to your computer so you can edit it. Good news! As long as your computer has an available PCI slot, it's easy to add a FireWire card, which is the most direct way to transfer video from a DV camera to a computer. The FireWire cable has a few variations, but usually it has these connectors:

FireWire cable, card end.

FireWire cable, digital video camera end.


Installing the hardware

IMPORTANT: Always use care to avoid damaging electronic components with static electricity. Touch the computer case before touching any components, including before you take the new card out of its anti-static packaging. An inexpensive grounding strap worn on your wrist with its other end clipped to the computer case provides good insurance against such damage.
  1. Look in your computer case and ensure that you have an unused PCI slot. It will look similar to the slot indicated in Figure 3.

    Unused PCI slot and its corresponding bracket position.

    Note: In some computers, older style ISA slots (usually black) and PCI slots (usually white) right next to each other share a position. Only one of these shared slots can be used at a time. Notice that the printed circuit board of a card is attached to one side of the card's bracket. ISA cards and PCI cards are attached to opposite sides of the bracket, so it's obvious when a shared slot is in use because the bracket of the new card bumps into another bracket instead of an empty bracket position.
  2. Purchase a FireWire adapter card. A simple one will do fine, though cards with multiple connectors and even combination USB/FireWire cards are exists. Figure 4 shows a simple 2-connector card. Figure 5 shows a fancier combination USB/FireWire card.

    FireWire card with two external ports.

    Combo USB/FireWire card with two external FireWire ports and three external USB ports.

    Tip: If you want software for digital video capture and editing that's more sophisticated than Windows Movie Maker, pay attention to whether or not the adapter card and/or DV camera comes with bundled software.
  3. Unplug the computer.
  4. Taking care to avoid static discharge, open the computer case and remove the blank bracket for the slot where you will put the new card. You will probably have to remove a screw to take the blank bracket out, though in some computer cases brackets are stamped out of the case metal, and you have to twist the original blank bracket free of small connecting pieces of metal.

    Tip: You may have to remove screws for adjacent brackets to free the one you want to take out, since the screws often overlap brackets.

  5. Take the new card out of its packaging and carefully line it up with both the slot and the bracket hole, then firmly press it into the slot. It should fit snugly and require some pressure to be seated well.

    Note: When the card is in the proper position, the bottom of the bracket should slide easily into the bracket hole. And when the card is fully seated, the top of the bracket should line up with the bracket retainer screw hole.

    FireWire card installed.

  6. Close the case and plug in the power cord.

Installing the drivers

Surprise! Installing the FireWire driver software will probably be very easy, in some cases entirely automatic. When Windows starts, it will most likely automatically find the new card and start an "add new hardware" routine. Check the documentation that came with your card to be sure, but for a simple card you can probably use the default Windows driver. For fancier cards, you may need to insert a driver CD.
  1. Turn on the computer.
  2. Observe what happens as Windows boots up and respond accordingly.
    • (In Windows 98SE, ME, and 2000) A new hardware found dialog box will likely appear and ask for the location of drivers. Check the documentation that came with your card, but for a simple card you can probably use the default Windows driver. For fancier cards, you may need to insert a driver CD.
    • (In Windows XP) Support for simple cards will be installed automatically. For fancier cards (such as the combo card), Windows will display the install new hardware dialog box and ask you to insert a driver CD. Check the documentation that came with your card for verification of what is required.

    Capturing video

    Whether you use the built in Windows Movie Maker software or something else, you'll follow a similar procedure for actually capturing video.
    1. Connect the computer and video camera with a FireWire cable. It's fine if the computer is running when you connect the cable? FireWire is designed to be hot-pluggable.
    2. After Windows is running, turn on the video camera. Depending on the video editing software you have installed, you may have to turn on the camera before you start the editing software, since the software may check equipment availability at start-up.
    3. Start the video capture software in one of these ways: Windows XP
    4. If you're running Windows XP, as soon as Windows notices you have turned on the camera, Windows asks whether you want to begin capturing video. If you click OK for "Record Video using Windows Movie Maker", the application starts and opens its capture video window.

      DV camera device detected, Windows XP prompt for what to do now. Windows ME
    5. On the Start menu, point to Programs, then Accessories, and finally click Windows Movie Maker. When the application opens, click Record

      on the toolbar to open the capture video window.

      Note: If you have more than one video capture device (such as an ATI All-In-Wonder video card or a TV tuner), you may need to specify the DV camera as the video source. See your software documentation for more information on capture parameters.

      Windows XP capture window.

      Windows ME capture window.
    6. By default, the capture resolution is set to "Video for e-mail and dual-channel ISDN (128 Kbps)." If you want to work with the highest resolution possible for consumer DV cameras, change the resolution to "DV-AVI (25Mbps)." Be warned, though, that this high resolution takes large amounts of disk space and a fast computer. How much more? On the 120GB drive for the Windows XP computer used to create the video capture, there was space for 1223 hours of e-mail video, but just 1? hours of DV-AVI video.

      Tip: If you're concerned about your computer's ability to handle the video capture task, select the "Disable preview while capturing" option to reduce the amount of processing the computer has to do at one time. You can preview the video as you capture on your video camera's screen or viewfinder.

      And yet another Tip: By default, the capture software is set to automatically detect scene changes within the video you capture. While this capability is handy for creating more manageable clips when you capture more than one scene at a time, if you are only capturing one scene you can avoid the post-capture processing required to detect scenes by de-selecting the "Create clips" option.

    7. To start the tape rolling, click the Play button in the digital video camera controls area.

      Windows ME capture window.. Digital video camera controls. Play button selected.

      Note: While in the capture mode, Windows Movie Maker does not play sound, even when it is actually capturing sound. Don't worry, when the selected Record option is Video and audio," the sound from the camera will be present when you play back the captured file.

    8. When you are at the point in the tape where you want to begin recording, click the Record button at the bottom right of the preview window.

      Note: The on-screen Digital video camera controls become unavailable while the capture is happening, and the name of the button at the bottom right of the preview window changes to Stop.

    9. When you've reached the end of the scene you want to record, click the Stop button. A "Save As" window appears.

      Windows ME capture window.. Save As window for specifying the name of the captured video file.
    10. Type a name for the file and then click the Save button. The Save window closes and a new "collection" of the name you entered appears in the Windows Movie Maker Collections list, and a thumbnail of the captured clip appears with the name Clip 1. If the captured video included multiple clips, multiple clips appear.

      Windows ME capture window.. Single clip in Windows XP.

      Windows ME capture window.. Multiple clips in Windows ME.
    11. Your video is captured. Now have fun editing your own movie!


    • Some higher end video cards, sound cards, and motherboards come with IEEE1394 (Firewire) ports. If you have such a device then an additional card isn't needed.
    • If you run out of IEEE1394 ports a simple Hub can be used to add additional ports.

    Related Items | IEEE1394 | Video Capture | DVD Burners |

    The above information has been provided as a reference only. Directron.com is not responsible for any damage or problem caused as a result of correctly or incorrectly following the instructions outlined therein.

    Last updated: April 29th, 2003

    (c) Directron.com, 2003. All rights reserved.

    If you find this article useful, please create a link to it from your website or tell a friend about it. If you have any comments or suggestions about this article, please email information@directron.us

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  3. What about other kinds of capture cards?

    FireWire usually is not the only way to get video from your digital camera into your computer; most digital video cameras have analog output through RCA or S-video connections. Although this port is normally used for connection to televisions, VCRs, or AV receivers, it can also allow you to connect the camera to your PC. Analog capture cards can convert the analog signal into digital format. However, the analog capture hardware is generally more expensive and complicated than a FireWire connection. Also, analog capture devices won't have the simple on-screen tape transport functions that are part of FireWire.

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