How Are Minidv Tapes Copied To A Computer

MiniDV cameras are fitted with a single DV IN/OUT for video capture with IEEE 1394.

Mini-DV tapes are copied to a computer in a process called “video capturing.” Capturing DV video differs from video importing, as it is done in real-time rather than individual or batch downloading of video files from SD or hard drive camcorders. Most video editing programs support video capturing from MiniDV tape camcorders, but capturing does require the computer to be equipped with an IEEE 1394 (Sony iLink or Apple FireWire) card.

MiniDV Format and File Size

MiniDV tapes record and store high-quality video images using Digital Video compression. DV has been the broadcast industry standard since the early 1990s, with MiniDV tapes coming on the scene late in the same decade. Although DV offers high-quality video resolution, this equates to large file size when copied to computers. Five minutes of MiniDV tape footage can use up to 1GB of hard drive space, or around 12GB per tape if filled to its one-hour capacity.

Mini DV Capture Options

Although the best quality and most reliable MiniDV capture requires an IEEE 1394 card, it is possible to capture DV using S Video or Composite Video connectors on older computers or those not equipped with IEEE 1394. The process is essentially that same other than the use of different connection cables, but image quality will suffer due to the nature of “S” and composite video signal separation. For best quality, go with the IEEE 1394 route if possible.

Getting Ready to Capture

Open the video editing software, connect one end of the IEEE 1394 connection cable to the DV in/out jack on the camcorder and the other end to the computer’s IEEE 1394 jack. Turn the camcorder on and turn the camcorder mode switch to “Play.” Some software programs will automatically detect the DV connection and open a dialog box, while other programs will require you to select “Capture Video” from the file menu. The dialog box will include controls to rewind, fast forward, stop/pause and play the tape, and will provide an on-screen monitor of the footage.

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Capturing MiniDV

When you are ready to copy MiniDV video to the computer, you will be asked to choose a name and file location for the video. Hit the “Rewind” or “Fast Forward” button in the capture window to locate the video clip you wish to capture and hit “Play” to begin copying. Once completed, press the “Stop” button in the dialog box. Your MiniDV tape will now appear as a computer file, found under the name and location you’ve chosen.