SAN FRANCISCO (04/06/2000) - If you'd like to turn your home videos into Fellini-like masterpieces (or try, anyway), the new generation of digital camcorders--working in tandem with a PC equipped with a special add-in card and editing software--can get you started.
Because digital camcorders, as their name implies, produce all-digital video, you can load the video footage directly into your PC, edit it, and rerecord the finished product back into the camcorder without any loss of quality.
Conventional camcorders produce analog video that must be converted to digital for PC use (with the help of an analog capture card), then converted back to analog to produce a finished tape. Each conversion results in a slight loss of quality.
To load video from your digital camcorder into your PC, you need an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) capture card--an ultra-high-speed serial interface. These cards are widely available, both as stand-alones and bundled with video editing software.
Here's how to install an IEEE 1394 card in your PC, including instructions on how to configure your PC and hook up the parts of a digital editing setup.
Before You Begin
1. Perform a full backup of your PC.
2. Scan and optimize your hard drives. Open My Computer, right-click the drive icon, select Properties, click the Tools tab, and click Check Now. When that's done, click Defragment Now. Repeat both steps for all hard drives in your PC.
3. Make sure your PC doesn't have any hardware conflicts. Select Start*Settings*Control Panel and double-click the System icon. Select the Device Manager tab. If you see any exclamation marks, highlight each entry one by one, select Properties, and follow the directions to resolve the conflict.
1. Install the IEEE 1394 card. Turn off your PC, unplug it, and remove the cover. Consider using an antistatic wrist strap (available at most electronics store) to minimize the possibility of electrostatic damage. Find a free PCI slot, and remove the metal slot cover behind it. Carefully insert the card, press it firmly into the slot, and screw it down.
2. Install the driver software. Make sure the software that came with your card (usually on CD-ROM) is nearby. Turn on your PC. Windows should detect the new card and start the Add New Hardware Wizard. Check Search for the best driver for your device and click Next. Insert the CD-ROM into your PC, check the CD-ROM Drive box, uncheck all the other boxes, and click Next. Follow the remaining directions to finish installing the drivers.
Important: Do not install Windows' default IEEE 1394 FireWire drivers. For optimum software performance, you must install the drivers that come with your specific card.
3. Check to make sure that the board is installed correctly. Follow the directions in step 3 of the 'Before you Begin' box to ensure that your card is correctly installed. If problems continue, call the card maker's technical support line.
4. Install the software and start capturing and editing video. Follow the directions to install the capture and editing software (procedures vary by maker); then connect your digital camcorder to the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) card using the cable that came with the card, and get to work on your cinematic masterpiece.
The Top Down
Benefits: Ability to capture and edit video from digital camcorders on your PCCost: IEEE 1394 card $175-$600; complete editing packages (with IEEE 1394 card) $200-$800Time required: 30-60 minutesTools required: Phillips screwdriver, antistatic wrist strap (recommended)Other requirements: Purchase and installation of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 98 (Windows 98 Second Edition preferred) if you're not already running itExpertise level: Intermediate.