Using IEEE 1394 Firewire port to capture video from VCR?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Joel T. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

Thank you for the wonderfully helpful articles on VCR to DVD / CD transfers [article 1 / article 2], but I am still left with one point of confusion. I had read so much about using a Firewire port to stream video to the PC, that I ordered a Firewire port with my new computer. I did not, however, specifically order a video capture card (I got a Dell with an Nvidia 6800 GTO card). Does this mean that the Firewire port on my new PC is not adequate for streaming video from a VCR or video camera? Am I still short a special capture card? Thanks again for your helpful articles! "

My response:

As far as I understand, Firewire (also known as "IEEE 1394") is similar to a USB port, but much more powerful -- even when compared to USB 2.0 standards (refer to this article for full techy details).

Firewire ports are ideal for video transfer from other Firewire *capable* devices (such as a digital video recorder, but not a run-of-the-mill camcorder, for example). Considering that most video files are significantly large in size, it would make sense that most people would want to transfer them quickly -- hence, the need for the Firewire standard.

Getting back to your question:

Firewire won't capture video. It will only transfer video from another Firewire capable device (such as a digital camcorder). So, yes, you will need a video capture card for your PC because 99.99% of VCRs on the market do not have a Firewire port. There are, however, special VCR + Firewire combos out there -- but be prepared to spend $muchos$ dollars for the convenience (similar to this one).

By the way, here's a really good short-but-sweet FAQ page on Firewire:

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