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Pismo Firewire and miniDV transfer

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I got my hands on a Sony miniDV tape viewer/tranfer station recently with a FW output.

I guess the PB Pism FireWire implementation is one of the earlier ones. It seems FW400 came in different flavours with transfer speeds ranging from 98 to 393 Mbit/s.

The main bottleneck is probably the HDD. I have a SSD sata gen.2 that might be a suitable canidate for a replacement with an adapter.

But what about the cpu? G3 400MHz is too slow I suspect.

Has anyone here tried it? Is it even  possible?


Edit: BTW, is there a suitable capture software for MacOS Classic that accept FW as the input stream source?

Edited by John_A
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I guess I need to get the cables and try then. According to the dv-specs it's 720x576 at 24fps (PAL).  25Mbit/s  with the dvc compression, plus the audio. 

As I recall, the PB Lombard had a mpeg-2 card besides the graphics card to decode the dvd stream, while the Pismo has that function built in into the GPU. Found a image that seems to confirm it's also accelerates dv-capture, so you are right about that it probably will work..


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In my experience, literally any G3 with any hard disk from the era that hasn't died can do this. From there on out, DV capture was typically easy and reliable. This is a featured point of the slotloader iMac G3 review in like January 2000. (MacWorld/US.)


At least with miniDV. DVC is a slightly different related format that offered higher bit-rates for pro video usage. (along with, say, DVCAM.)


Just put "any hard disk that's from 1999 or newer" in your Pismo, and use iMovie or Final Cut 1/2/3 and you should be good to go. PremierePro 6.5 might also do it. My experience back in the day was always with final cut pro 2 or 3 and one of the early-ish OS9 compatible iMovie versions.


On my G3s, I usually did this in 9 but on my G4s, OS X also does this fine.

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DVC is a slightly different related format that offered higher bit-rates for pro video usage. (along with, say, DVCAM.

Yes, you are correct. I thought at a quick glance that DVC was a compression method of DV, but DVC is as you pointed out, a slightly improved format with a wider track pitch when recorded on tape. It's quite a technological djungle actually, I found at least 5 different variations on the DVC format itself :lol: all remains from the time when the Japanese corp giants competed..

DV seem to use the Discrete Cosine Transform compression method, as JPEGs, Mp3s etc.

Edited by John_A
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8 hours ago, Daniël Oosterhuis said:

For what it's worth, the iMac G3 DV, which was specifically designed to work with digital video like MiniDV, was a 400MHz G3 as well.

Yes, at the time it was a luxury to connect your camcorder to a computer..


What make me hesitate is the hard disk requirement.. At a closer investigation 13gb / hour is needed. Thats 200Mb / minute.

So, compression is a must, but thats not a viable option on an old G3, although it would be interesting to see how many hours/days that would take :lol:or if its burning through my desk due to heat..

Copying 13gb over usb 1.1 is not exactly tempting either.  You can of course do it chunks, since the tapes consists of many different video recordings from different occasions. 

A task for a grey and gloomy sunday.

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DV as a file format (basic MiniDV/digi8 DV) and the compression it used was pretty reasonable. My G3/450 handled playback and simple editing with ease. (Maybe not "ease" but it was good enough at it.)


In terms of moving stuff around, yeah, USB would be an option. Firewire HDDs exist as well, or you could use a network share. 


Almost any non-dead upgrade or replacement disk for some Mac from the year 2000 or better is going to be fine at this.


In terms of chunks: I recommend this if you can, but you don't have to. On iMovie and Final Cut, you can mark in/out points on the tape and set segments to record into separate files which will appear in your project bin.


The gotcha, of course, will be if your time-code is weird, and, something that if I could go back and tell myself as a kid to do would be to just record a base timecode onto the tape before I used it, to avoid situations that will confuse iMovie/FCP like timecode suddenly jumping from 00:06:12 to 00:00:00 at the transition between different projects.


You can always split the files later and in terms of actually editing, iMovie and Final Cut doesn't care all that much if your projects involve different parts of the same big giant file, so long as you've got the disk space to handle it. (I did that a couple times, capture like an hour of footage at once that was recorded randomly and then sequence it on the timeline.)


In terms of re-compressing it to something more palateable for modern systems, you could do that re-compression on a modern system.


As general meta about this kind of thing being luxury: I'd say that January 2000, specifically, is the break point between it being luxury and it being reasonably attainable.


It always seemed to me back in the day the biggest limitation was always disk space. That step-up iMac DV+ had a 13-gig disk, but the storage ecosystem hadn't quite caught up at that point, so there was this awkward time where you could import most of a whole DV tape to your computer's boot disk, but you'd have nowhere really to put it once you did. USB hard disks were nowhere near as affordable to buy as disposable/archival media s they are today. (The other day I was looking and, on sale, a local retailer to me has a 5TB 2.5-inch USB disk for $105 USD).  APS did sell LaCie FW and USB externals in this moment, which were priced thusly:

  • 20GB/Firewire $499
  • 20GB/USB $389
  • 10GB/USB $259

CD burners would have been theway to go for cheap bulk storage in that moment, and they weren't that cheap, and for archival it doesn't even matter that much if they're fast (they wouldn't have been), but the problem is splitting big files. (To be honest, I still have this problem.)



Back to the modern issue of capturing DV: 


Another thought here is that you could use one of your newer systems for this, if you were just looking for the transfer and weren't looking to do something with OS 9 or a G3 for specific aesthetic reasons. Like, whatever version of iLife you've got on your 2006 Mac mini should still do firewire capture. Then, a 2006 Mac mini will be able to reasonably-ish convert the captured DV footage to, like, h.264, if your main intent is to "have it on a computer before the camcorder kicks it" which is a reasonably solid idea at this point.

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An update:

It works! Actually better than I thought it would. The major issue is of course getting the files off the PB, i only have a USB HDD and copying large files are extremely slow.

So, I went down to our storage and dug through the piles of electronics, found a HP nx9240 17" with a FW input, totally forgot I even had that laptop :lol:

Win 7 and a C2D 2.23 with USB 2.0 is a "bit" quicker.. I have 15 tapes to capture..


A note on the newer codecs.. I tried the newest HEVC H.265 codec (wich BTW is not included in win10, I had to purchase it). It was too heavy of an workload for the HP laptop, I had to

copy the files to the most powerful computer I have, a AMD Ryzen 7 laptop. The H.265 codec does an amazing job though, a full tape went from 13 Gb to 1 Gb with preserved quality..

But oh boy, the cooling fans went up to "hurricane mode" on the AMD.. :lol: 

Amazing technology though, 12x compression. I wonder what kind of hardware you need for 4k H.265 editing or higher..

Edited by John_A
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Update 2:

So, I tried today to compare some older videos, compressed with h.264 and recompressing the original files with h.265 and push the bitstream to really low levels. Honestly, I cant se much of a difference at 720x576 comparing the results.

Original file:

DV video  28895Kbit/s  total size: 3.14 GB

h.264 compression 1864Kbit/s total size: 217Mb

h.265 compression 485Kbit/s total size: 69Mb


The purist would of course be in horror seeing the bitrates. But now its actually an option to put the whole thing in the cloud, sharing it with family since its mostly family related stuff anyway. 

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Oooh, very nice!


Not surprised a Core2 can't play h265 well, it could probably do the conversion, but you're right, it would take forever.


I did some time trials recently on bulk converting some 1366x768 h.264 files to h.265 (long story, it was the worst possible way to get what i needed but I was bored) and the least bad option was my desktop PC. I very briefly considered whether a powered USB adapter for my iPhone might be able to do it faster, but mostly for hilarity reasons.


In terms of editing h.264, your Ryzen 7 laptop will probably do it just fine. My older PCs and even Macs can do it fine, the biggest problem I had was when I was doing screen captures (h.264) and stringing them together with Final Cut Pro 6, which will do that, but it's very unhappy with the format and I think my Mac mini 2011 was not the best choice for that work either. [newer] iMovie worked.

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