Choosing The
Best Firewire Card

Confused by Firewire or IEEE 1394 technology? Don't know which Firewire card or device to buy? Let's see if we can answer some of your queries.

Firewire can be a confusing concept for some beginners in digital videography. It's made worse by the fact that many camcorder manuals do not document Firewire concepts clearly.

The term Firewire refers to a technology for transmission of data. It achieves extremely high transfer speeds (much faster than USB). As a result, it is able to transfer video (with almost zero loss in quality) from your camcorder to the computer.

A Firewire cable runs from your camcorder DV output port to your computer's DV input port. Let's see what factors need to be consider when purchasing a good Firewire card.

1. OHCI and Manufacturer Drivers

Some Firewire cards are OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface) compatible. This simply means that you can plug and play the card in the Windows or Mac environment. OHCI Firewire cards depend on the native software drivers that are included in Windows or Mac operating systems. They tend to be cheaper and are a good choice for the average home user.

Other cards incorporate manufacturer drivers, which means that the manufacturer (e.g. Pinnacle) wrote their own specific software drivers for usage with the Firewire card. These cards tend to be pricier but they allow sophisticated features like real-time effects.

2. Real-Time Effects

If you're into video editing, you'll know that rendering a video can take a long, long time. Rendering is the process of compiling all the screen effects, transitions, titles and video layers in an edited video so that a finalized version can be produced. If you get a higher-end Firewire card, then many transitions and effects can be processed by the card itself, speeding up the rendering process. Of course, the more real-time effects you need, the more expensive the card.

3. Bundled Software

Many Firewire cards come bundled with video editing software. These are great products as they help you save you from purchasing a separate video editing package. However, be wary of those Firewire cards that come with a 'lite' or scaled-down version of the video editing package. I'd recommend those that come with the full fledged version of the video editing software - such as Pinnacle Studio 9 AV/DV.

4. Recommended Firewire Cards

Let's now take a look at some of the Firewire cards I personally recommend which are available in the market today.

Belkin Firewire cards

Belkin manufactures some very cheap and good good Firewire cards. The data transfer is 800 Mbps which means it is good enough for real time video capture, as well as professional sound and graphics editing.

LaCie Firewire cards

Another brand you want to consider is LaCie. The have some good Firewire cards like this one which retail at rock bottom prices. The data transfer rate is at 800 Mbps too.

Conclusion

To choose a good Firewire card, you should always consider the above factors: OHCI-compliance, availability of real-time effects and bundled software. My feel is that for home users, just get a simple card like the ones from Belkin. In future, when you become more experienced, you can always upgrade to higher end cards.
 

Find out more about the Firewire card I use for my home PC.


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