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Chapter 4. Capturing DV > Connecting for DV Capture

Connecting for DV Capture

Before setting up for DV capture, quickly review the section “Preparing Your Hard Disks” in Chapter 1.

I'm assuming that you have a FireWire connector or card installed in your computer. If you don't, start there, and make sure it's up and running. Don't spend too much money on the connector; for your purposes, virtually all cards will serve equally well, from the $19 variety on up, and they all plug into an available PCI card slot inside your PC. Choosing one with at least two ports will allow you to connect both your camcorder and a FireWire hard drive, if you need additional storage space for your captured video.

To connect a camera and computer for DV capture

Plug in your DV camcorder to AC power.

Battery power should work, but it doesn't work with all cameras.

Make sure that the camcorder is in VCR, VTR, or Play mode.

Connect your FireWire cable to the camera's DV connector (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1. The DV port on the Canon GL2 camera. Note the single analog A/V connector for composite video and both audio channels.

Virtually all cameras use a tiny four-pin connector like that shown on the left side of Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.2. A four-pin (on the left) to six-pin DV cable. DV cables also come with dual four-pin and dual six-pin connectors.

Connect the FireWire cable to your computer using either of the FireWire connectors shown on the left in Figure 4.3, and using the larger six-pin connector shown on the right in Figure 4.2.

Figure 4.3. The typical six-pin DV connector, which looks like either connector on the left, is found on most—but not all—computers.

Note that while most computers use a six-pin port, some computers (like my Dell Latitude D800 laptop) use a four-pin connector identical to that in most cameras. So identify which connector your computer has before buying a cable, which comes in three varieties: four-pin to six-pin, four-pin to four-pin, and six-pin to six-pin.

You're now ready to run Windows Movie Maker and enter Capture mode.

✓ Tip

  • Speaking of buying a cable, basic FireWire cables are priced between $12 and $50, depending on brand and store. If you're buying, check out www.cables.com, which offers a complete line of FireWire cables at very reasonable prices.

FireWire to the Rescue

FireWire technology was invented by Apple Computer and then standardized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers as IEEE 1394. Sony's name for FireWire is i.LINK and companies refer to the connectors as FireWire, DV, or IEEE 1394. Whatever the name, they should work together seamlessly.

Some newer DV cameras, like the Canon GL2, have Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports to transfer still images from camera to computer, but USB can't transfer DV video—it can only transfer still images. To capture DV, ignore this connector (and the traditional analog connectors) and find the FireWire port.

File System Format Limitations

Windows XP lets you format your hard disks using one of three file system formats: NTFS (Windows NT File System), FAT 32 (32-bit File Allocation Table), and FAT 16 (16-bit File Allocation Table).

Most systems purchased with XP installed use the NTFS file system, which is the fastest and most flexible. For example, although you can capture files of any size using files formatted with NTFS (up to the capacity of the disk itself, of course), FAT 16 disks can't capture files larger than 2 GB (about 9-1/2 minutes of video), and FAT 32 formatted disks are limited to 4 GB (about 18 minutes).

The only way to change the file system is to delete all the data on your hard disk and reformat the disk, a definite pain when the disk is your system drive (usually C). However, if you purchase a second disk drive just for video, which is highly advised, be sure to format it using the NTFS file system.

To determine the file system format used for a particular hard disk, select the disk in Windows Explorer, right-click, and choose Properties. This will open the dialog shown in Figure 4.4.

Figure 4.4. The Video Disk Properties dialog identifies the file system used on that disk.

To format any disk other than your system disk with NTFS, select the disk in Windows Explorer, right-click, and choose Format, which will open the Format Video Disk dialog (Figure 4.5). Remember: do this only if you're ready to delete all the data on the drive.

Figure 4.5. Here's how you format your hard disks. Note that formatting deletes all data on the disk.

Time Code: What You Need to Know

As you shoot, your DV camcorder stamps each frame with a sequential time code that looks like this:


Here's what it stands for:


Time code enables your DV camcorder and programs like Movie Maker to locate and access any particular frame on the DV tape.

Note that DV tapes don't come with time code embedded; these codes are stored on the tape by the camera as you shoot. Ideally, time code is consecutive from start to finish, so each frame is unique. If there is a break in time code, the camera starts counting again at 00:00:00.01, which means duplicate time codes and potential confusion.

Breaks can occur, for example, when you watch video that you've recorded and play past the end point of the recorded video. If you start recording anew from that point, the camera restarts the time code from the beginning.

Movie Maker handles time code breaks fairly well, but other programs don't—especially higher-end programs that use continuous time code for features like batch capture. For this reason, it's good practice to maintain a continuous time code on each recorded tape. You can accomplish this in one of two ways:

  • Put each tape in your DV camcorder with the lens cap on and record from start to finish. Then rewind and start your normal shooting, which will overwrite the previously recorded frames but maintain the time code structure.

  • Whenever you film with your DV camcorder, be sure you don't start beyond the last previously written time code segment. This will be apparent if you see nothing but lines in the time code field.

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