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The standard digital output in Mini-DV camcorders is IEEE 1394, otherwise known as Firewire. Before you set out to film any events, you want to be sure that you can get the video from your camcorder to your computer when you get home. So take a look at your machine. Does it have a firewire port? Many desktop PCs have 6-pin ports (be sure to check the front and back of the computer), while many laptops come with 4-pin ports. Refer to the illustration (above right) to determine which your computer has. If your computer has neither a 4-pin port nor a 6-pin port, you will want to acquire a firewire card.

For desktop PCs, you will want to shop for a “PCI Firewire Card” that will need to be installed into one of the free PCI slots in your computer. Due to the infinite array of possible computer configurations, installation instructions and assistance are beyond the scope of this guide. It is not, however, beyond LifeHacker. Click here to read their instructions on installing a PCI card.

For laptops, you will want to shop for a “Laptop Firewire Card” that will plug into the card slot on your laptop. If your laptop’s cardslot is already occupied, the upshot is that you can remove whatever card is currently installed, plug in the firewire card to transfer your video, and then switch back with ease.

All Apple computers, to my knowledge, come with built-in firewire ports standard. Simply check your machine to identify whether it has 4-Pin or 6-Pin ports.

Once you’ve determined whether your computer has a 4-Pin firewire input or a 6-Pin firewire input, take a look at your camcorder. Chances are that it has a 4-Pin firewire output. Now it’s time to shop for a firewire cable. You’ll want to shop for a “firewire cable” and make sure that one end will plug in to your camera and that the other will plug in to your computer. There are three possibilities, in descending order of commonality: 4-Pin to 6-Pin, 4-Pin to 4-Pin, and 6-Pin to 6-Pin.

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