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So, it looks like FireWire is dead, and, along with it, all those FireWire ports on Mini DV cams and A/D converters from the 2000's. So what options exist today for getting Mini DV and Hi-8 tape footage into Macs that only have Thunderbolt (and USB)?

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Well for MiniDV, you want to find yourself should budget permit, the Canopus ADVC Conversion Unit. It is by far the best realtime hardware (external small box about the size of a VHS tape), that will allow you to on the fly input in HDMI, FW-400/800 and component video and output over HDMI or FW. (So it's flexible).

The encoder is handsdown leaps and bounds better than any of the cheap capture cards, and even the BlackMagic pocket adapters.

Hi8 Tape is Analog, unless it's Digital8. In which case you'll need to capture via Analog, and output via HDMI into your Mac. If your Mac supports HDMI capture, that will work, or you can buy an inexpensive BlackMagic h264 ProCoder to handle the input.

You will still need source decks. The Canopus box I mentioned, (which is no longer made) you might find on eBay (I found my 2nd one there). It also supports HDV, the high-definition mini-dv format, with virtually zero loss in quality (visually).

Other than that- you are going to have to set up a DeckLink card (really the only "better cheapest easiest" option in terms of a one card fits all.

You might be able to get a DeckLink card which handles all the input types you need (they have a lot of models, which differ in what they allow in/out). I'm guessing around $1500.

Then connect your decks, and capture.

As for Thunderbolt. I am sure the newest DeckLink cards support it (I would think), but will be very pricey if they even do.

My advice, either find the Canopus box I mentioned, or get a H264 ProCoder by BlackMagic; pair it with the appropriate BlackMagic converters ($300 each) to get your deck to feed to the ProCoder (Which only takes HD-SDI in), and then capture over USB 3.0. EDIT: The newest ProCoder may accept HDMI in/out... I'd look at BM's website to see what their current lineup offers.

Hope this helps.

  • They sure don't make it easy these days. I remember that Canopus converter. Somebody I knew had that back in the day. If only I could remember who! I still have an old Formac A/D unit and an old Mac I might be able to import with. I gave up on Macs a few years back but was trying to help my sister get footage off her Mini DV cam (she has only Thunderbolt on her iMac). Secondarily I was curious what my options for Windows (Premiere) importing be will be when I get around to it. I have tons of Hi-8 and Mini DV tapes. Good info! – bubbleking May 29 '16 at 22:57
  • Our production studio abandoned the Mac line a decade ago. Apple makes toys. iPhones, iShuffles, iPods, Watches and the like, that doesnt mean their computers dont work. They use the Intel chipsets now. But their architecture is totally not geared toward "real power". - In terms of windows; Premiere can capture off basically any 1394 FW Capture card. For analog, you'll need a DA converter. I have some Canopus DV Storm2 cards I'm getting ready to sell. The DV Storm2 is a unique system; in that- you can simutaneously capture 3 streams of FW / Analog at the same time. Provided you have 3 decks. – McFlySoHigh May 30 '16 at 15:01
  • I'd recommend looking for one of those, and throwing it in an older XP system. You will get rock solid 3 stream capture with the Storm2 (that has the extra break out box). Meaning you can capture 3 tapes at once, which is a huge time saver. If you're interested let me know, They are scarce on ebay but you can try there first. – McFlySoHigh May 30 '16 at 15:04
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Maybe I missed something but I use the FireWire/Thunderbolt adaptor and the cable that fits my old DV cameras. Works for live input from the old Firewire400 iSights too.

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FireWire's not dead, it just needs an adapter. Your gear will connect fine over Thunderbolt.

https://www.apple.com/ca/shop/product/MD464LL/A/apple-thunderbolt-to-firewire-adapter

I use a FW400 to FW800 plug and the Apple Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter to have deck/transport control of my MiniDV Sony camera from the Mac. Works well in El Capitan.

Most of the time it's handling a daisy chain of external FireWire drives.

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