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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Buslink 3 Port PCI Firewire Card
This is a very
cheap but good Firewire card. It retails for less than $40
online. The data transfer is 400Mbps which means it is good
enough for real time video capture, as well as professional
sound and graphics editing.
Pinnacle Studio 9 AV/DV
Want some quality bundled
software? Pinnacle Systems packages Pinnacle Studio (an
excellent video editing program) with a Firewire card for about
ADS Dual Link PCI Firewire Card
makers of the best-selling USB Instant DVD analog-to-digital
video conversion device, sells great Firewire cards as well. The
ADS DLX180 Dual Link PCI card is a OHCI-Compliant card and is
excellent value for money.
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 Buslink
3 Port PCI Firewire Card, or a software bundle like Pinnacle
Studio 9 AV/DV. In future, when you become more experienced, you
can always upgrade to higher end cards.