A. FireWire lets you connect digital camcorders and disks to your computer. It provides a data transfer rate of up to 400Mbps (i.e., 50MB per second) and is very useful for capturing digital video (DV). Win2K has built-in support for most FireWire cards. After you install the card, you should see it under the "IEEE 1394 Bus host controllers" section of the Device Manager. Once you've installed your card, you can plug in your device and the system will automatically recognize it.

Ian Middleton of BMV sent me some great FireWire tips:

  • Use Win2K or Windows 98 Second Edition (Win98SE).
  • Use expensive cables. We had unpredictable results with cheap cables. In fact, a cheap 6-to-4 pin for a camera was even wired incorrectly. We have had both video (100Mbps) and high bandwidth disk drive access (400Mbps) working over multiple hops of 4.5m cables.
  • Use amcap.exe for testing cameras. This is a very basic DV display application that we used extensively to test our products without having to install bulky video editing suites. Amcap.exe comes from the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) software development kit (SDK). We found a reference to it in the July 2000 MSDN SDK but no reference in October 2000. If you would like to download a zip file with amcap.exe in it, click here.
  • European DV cameras don't allow FireWire in. If they did, they would be classed as a video recorders and subject to a 10 percent duty tax. Either use American cameras (although they have lower resolution), purchase a non-European PAL model (e.g., Australian or Japanese), or modify the camera to record. Below are some Web sites to help you if you want to modify a European camera: