Firewire cards are the mechanism
by which you can connect your camcorder to your computer. A firewire cable runs from your camera's DV port to your computer's
DV input. Firewire runs at a higher speed than a USB cable and has a smaller interface than SCSI, making it an ideal
transport for moving digital video to your computer. That's a quick definition of Firewire. Many computers do not come with
Firewire cards, so you may be in the position of buying a card. You just found out that your video card is NOT the same
as this firewire card. A video card works internally with your computer to enhance the quality of the graphics that can be
seen on your computer. A firewire card allow you to connect the computer via the expensive firewire cable. So you begin shopping
and you find out that you can spend anywhere from about $40 to over $5000 on these cards.
Why the difference in price?
I am only going to cover three major factors but each of them end up being huge differentiators in price.
1. OHCI Drivers Versus Manufacturer Drivers
OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface) means that your card will allow for "plug and play" in the Windows and Mac OS.
This means the Firewire card manufacturer did not include their own drivers, and didn't have to pay software developers to
write these drivers. The operating system (Windows/Mac) already has these drivers pre-installed. OHCI compliant cards
usually cost around $100. These cards usually do not allow many advanced features of the more expensive cards including
2. Real-Time Capabilities
Video editing is like word processing in the fact the you can drag and drop your video files from one place into another
and never disturb the quality of the video image, allowing for many different combinations of possibilities with transitions,
effects, and video layout. However, video editing is totally unlike word processing when it comes to saving your final
video. In a word processing document, you can just hit the save button and you are all set. With video editing, the
save process can take from minutes to hours depending on the complexity of your video. In general, the more effects,
transitions, and layers to your video - the longer it will take to save. The official video term for this saving
of the final video is called rendering. Some cards allow for many transitions and effects to be processed by the
card itself or by a combination of the card (hardware-based) and the drivers (software-based). Since you don't have to wait
for these renders to happen, they are called real-time effects. Having real-time effects can save hours on a small project
and days on a feature length project. The more real-time effects you get, the more you will pay.
3. Bundled Software
Some cards just come in a box all by their lonesome. Open the box and you technically have the ability to capture
video, but no software to control the process or the editing. My advice is to look for a card that comes bundled with
both. Look out for cards that include cheaper versions of editing packages, as you will have to upgrade to get what you need
to do a decent video. Look for a card that comes with a full-fledged version of a good editing program. My recommendations
are outlined below.
Summary and Recommendations
Whether or not you are buying a Mac or a PC, you have three major considerations to consider which will influence your
purchase of a Firewire card. Consider whether or not they are OHCI-compliant. See if the card has any real-time effects. Look
to see if you can get a great video editing software package at the same time.