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If you are having problems capturing into your Avid or Final Cut Pro system using a DV / firewire connection, you might want to check the length and quality of the firewire cables that you are using.


I've run into the follow problems that all turned out to related to a firewire cabling issue.

- Bad / Distorted Video Signal
- Missing / Inacurate Timecode
- Dropped frames while capturing
- Audio Pops while capturing
- No Deck Control
- An audio signal with no video signal
- Audio interference
- Audio sync problems while capturing

- Intermittent capturing problems

When purchasing firewire cables, keep these important factors in mind.....

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- Shorter is better
- Thicker cable, indicating a better shield is generally better
- Purchasing firewire cables at retail store are going to be more expensive, with limited choices.  Use a specialized cable company to get the length and size needed.

You can purchase short firewire cables from a company called Angeled Cables.  They also sell specialized cables that can connect at an angle in case your firewire port is partially blocked by another device.

This leads to the next question.  So, why do they make 50ft firewire cables? A longer firewire cable will work for basic data-transfer, but it will not work reliably in a non-linear editing environment.  You’ll more than likely encounter errors while trying to capture with a super long cable.

Most computers only have 1 firewire bus.  If you want to hook up a DV / fireware based camera, you’ll need to free up your port if you have external firewire drives connected to it..

The solution is to loop your camera into your hard-drive, and then connect the hard-drive to your computer.  Now you’ve got everything connected through one chain that travels through one bus.  You can also add additional drives to the loop. 

firewire-loop-through-deck.gifIt’s important to keep the cable lengths are short as possible.  Keep in mind that adding additional drives, adds to the overall cable length.  You’ve also have to account for the internal wiring inside each drive.  The maximum recommend cable length that I’ve seen in a working environment is around 6ft.

*By looping all of your devices together, this will allow you to capture directly to an external firewire drive while using only 1 firewire port.  One catch, since DV devices feature use firewire 400, it will slow down your entire chain to the firewire 400 speed. 

It may seem a bit strange connecting your DV / Camera device directly to a hardrive, but it's a necessary step to keep everything in the same loop.

If you have firewire 800 drives connected to your drive chain, you should re-power your entire system with your DV / Camera device turned off.  This includes recyling powers to the hard drive chain.  This will restore the firewire 800 speed within your drive chain. 

*Even if your computer has more than 1 firewire port, the two ports might communicate through the same bus. 

dual_firewire_ports.gifThis leads to all sorts of problems when trying to hook up a DV / firewire camera to a firewire port, while having external firewire drives connected to another port.  The two ports will basically fight with each other, and you’ll more than likely encounter problems while capturing. 

This is especially true on laptops.  Just remember to keep everything connected to one loop when capturing through a DV / Camera device.

Only a few high-end workstations include more than one firewire bus.  In particular, the latest Mac Pro has separate firewire busses. (1 bus on the front, and 1 bus on the back).  Therefore it would be perfectly fine to attached your hard-drive(s) to one bus (the back of the Mac Pro) , and your camera to the other bus (the front of the Mac Pro).

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