Firewire/Thunderbolt or USB?

Firewire/Thunderbolt or USB?

We're constantly asked which technology is better for importing video. 

Firewire/Thunderbolt or USB? 

But first, a disclaimer.

LifeFlix only supports Firewire or a Firewire/Thunderbolt combination for importing video from old DV camcorders. LifeFlix will not detect video from a USB connection.

Back to business. Everybody would prefer to use USB to import ("capture") old video from their camcorders. Modern Macs don't have Firewire ports and USB is ubiquitous. Unfortunately, the USB port on a DV camcorder is only able to transfer still images or low resolution MPEG video. It does not support the direct transfer DV video.

If you're adamant about using USB, you will need a video capture device (sometimes called a video converter box or breakout box). There are dozens (maybe hundreds!) of these solutions on the market. The best known are Roxio Easy VHS to DVD or Dazzle DVD Recorder (both, incidentally, created by Corel). They are typically priced around $50.

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These video capture devices are great for capturing old analog video from 8mm, Super8, Video8, Hi8 or VHS players and camcorders. You connect the camera's analog video output (Composite or S-video) to the video converter box which converts the analog signal to a digital format. This digital format is MPEG-2 or MJPEG which unfortunately has lower image quality than DV video.

Video capture devices are less ideal for importing DV video from Digital8, MiniDV or HDV camcorders which use the DV format. This is because the capture device will first convert the DV video to analog and then convert back it again to digital in the lower quality MPEG format. LifeFlix will do a straight transfer of DV video without further compression. In LifeFlix you have the option to compress the DV video further using MPEG-4 (also called MP4 or H.264) which is of superior quality when compared to MPEG-2.

LifeFlix can also import old analog video. See this blog post for more information on this: Does LifeFlix support VHS import?

Finally, there are several Firewire-to-USB adaptors on the market. We do not recommend using these. They have never worked successfully for any of our customers. Reliably transferring DV video from Firewire to USB requires a video converter box.