DV Camcorder questions
Aug 1, 1999



Q: I'm thinking of getting a low-end digital camcorder which will work with my Mac G3/Firewire. It'll mainly be used for personal projects, and I need to get it for less than $1,000. I'd like to be able to:

1) Output Quicktime movies from G3 to VHS.

2) Input from VHS as well as the camcorder.

3) Outputted video need not be "broadcast quality," but should be "demo quality".

There's a Sony consumer model (DCR-TRV 103/110) which is for sale in the $800s range...Would that work? There are three RCA plugs (video, and audio L&R)... what's stumping me is... are these for in, or out? I need both!

A: All DV camcorders in the consumer space that I'm aware of have analog video out (i.e. they have RCA audio and RCA and S-Video video output) as well as Firewire. Firewire allows you to transfer the video from the camcorder to the computer and back, providing you have appropriate software and a large enough hard disk on your computer. To get output from the computer to VHS you'll have to go through the camcorder; Firewire to the camcorder, analog connnection to the VHS recorder. It should definitely be "demo" quality.

The tricky part is if you want to get video from a VHS source onto the computer. You have three choices;

1) Use an analog capture device such as the Iomega Buz ~$300

2) Use an analog to Firewire converter such as Sony's DA-MAC1 ~$400

3) Get a camcorder with analog-in capabilities.

While there are pros and cons for each, probably the best option for you would be to get a camcorder that has analog inputs. Not all do, but the DCR-TRV103 does. Other models that do include Sony's TRV-900 and Canon's Elura, which are both miniDV cameras.

I don't have any direct knowledge of the TRV103. It's based on Sony's new Digital 8 format. These cameras use Hi8 tape instead of miniDV tapes to record, though the data should be the same. The Digital 8 format was introduced about three months ago. The advantage is that they also play old Hi8 analog tapes, so you get some backward compatability.

A note on price; you might want to check out www.cameraworld.com, which has the TRV 103 for about $100 less. I've bought from them before and they are pretty good.

One note of warning, Apple's had a bit of a problem with their Firewire connection to some newer Sony camcorders. They've been working on fixing this problem, so if you have the original G3 FireWire/DV drivers you might have to upgrade them. Also, depending upon the Firewire editing app you use you might need to do some QuickTime juggling (i.e. EditDV doesn't work with QuickTime 4.0 I believe, etc.)


Q: What should I get to connect a DV camcorder to a PC? Which hardware and software is best? - SS

You've stumped me. I can't personally recommend any of the solutions that are currently available for the Windows platform. However, you should find everything you ever wanted to know at the "The Silver List of Open System DV & IEEE-1394 Non-Linear Editing Solutions for PCs" which contains lots of useful information.

Hope this helps! Good luck.


Got a question? Send them to "Ask the Guru"


Complete Guide to Digital Cameras | ASK the Guru | Multimedia Online Reference
Multimedia Musings | About Multimedia Workshop

Copyright 1999 by Multimedia Workshop. All rights reserved