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What is Firewire / iLink / IEEE 1394

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

The official name for Firewire™ (aka Sony iLink™) is IEEE 1394 (although most people refer to it as Firewire), which refers to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers' specification number for this technology. The 1394 Trade Association provides the following information about this technology at their web site:

"The IEEE 1394 multimedia connection enables simple, low-cost, high-bandwidth isochronous (real-time) data interfacing between computers, peripherals, and consumer electronics products such as camcorders, VCRs, printers, PCs, TVs, and digital cameras. With IEEE 1394-compatible products and systems, users can transfer video or still images from a camera or camcorder to a printer, PC, or television, with no image degradation.

The 1394 digital link standard was conceived in 1986 by technologists at Apple Computer, who chose the trademark 'FireWire', in reference to its speeds of operation. The first specification for this link was completed in 1987. It was adopted in 1995 as the IEEE 1394 standard. A number of IEEE 1394 products are now available including digital camcorders with the IEEE 1394 link, IEEE 1394 digital video editing equipment, digital VCRs, digital cameras, digital audio players, 1394 IC's and a wealth of other infrastructure products such as connectors, cables, test equipment, software toolkits, and emulation models."

For digital filmmakers, IEEE 1394 is an essential tool as it is the technology used to connect digital video cameras to computers (which allows editing). Unfortunately because Firewire was originally an Apple product, a good deal of PCs do not come with Firewire support by default (although this is slowly changing). To get your PC Firewire-equipped, you need to purchase a separate firewire card and install this in your PC (requires basic knowledge of PC hardware upgrading). Firewire cards retail for less than $50 USD and are available from most computer shops. A large number of companies produce them; however some which use the Texas Instruments (TI) chipset have been known to cause problems with certain non-linear applications.

Recommended manufacturers of firewire cards are ADS and SIIG.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 04-Nov-2004

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