In 1993 I began recording inline skating on a malfunctioning VHS-C camera that captured video with a blue tint and then edited the footage together with two VCRs to create very rough sections. That is why the first skate video I made with VCRs was called No Budget, Lo-Fi. The following year I purchased a Hi-8 camera and invested in video editing hardware and software for my computer. This equipment brought me into a new world of production and gave my videos a professional appearance. In 1997 I transitioned away from the High-8 format and began recording with a MiniDV camera. I traveled the world to document inline skating until 2009, producing nearly a dozen videos during that time using the MiniDV format. After 12 years of recording, I accumulated a sizeable collection of MiniDV tapes. External hard drives were expensive and did not have enough storage space to archive even a fraction of my collection. Regrettably, to save money, I recorded over a quarter of my tapes, erasing irreplaceable skating history.

Making New Technology Work With Outdated Technology

Today, external hard drives are affordable and have more than enough storage capacity to archive all of the tapes I have. While organizing my office a couple of months back, I came across boxes of MiniDV tapes. I’ve been moving these tapes around for almost two decades from city to city and shelf to shelf. It was at that moment I decided it was time to transfer them to my Macbook Pro and then archive them onto an external hard drive. The dilemma I immediately faced was, how do I capture footage from a MiniDV Camera with a FireWire 4-pin port to a Macbook Pro with only Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports.

In the past, all my hardware was either FireWire 800 or FireWire 400 compatible, which made capturing footage a breeze. Now I was at a loss of how to make it work, so I reached out to some friends for suggestions. One friend told me to buy a USB-C hub with a FireWire 800 port that cost several hundred dollars, while another friend recommended I send my tapes to a company that would digitize them for over $20 each. Neither one of these options was affordable or appealing to me. My goal was to find a way to capture my tapes without spending too much money.

Is This Even Going to be Possible?

After much research, I figured out what I needed to do to capture MiniDV footage onto my MacBook Pro. The only way to make this work, without spending an arm and a leg, was to buy multiple adapters made by Apple and piecing them together to connect the camera to the computer. To learn exactly how I achieved this, watch the video below. Further down, I’ve posted links to purchase all the adapters and cables you need to make this work.


Does Your MacBook Have Thunderbolt 2 or Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) Ports?

  • If you are running a MacBook with Thunderbolt 2 Ports, you will need the Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter. And either the Firewire 800 to Mini-DV cable or the Firewire 800 to 400 Adapter and a Firewire 400 to MiniDV cable.
  • If you are running a MacBook with Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) Ports, you will need the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter together with the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter. Then you need either the Firewire 800 to Mini-DV cable or the Firewire 800 to 400 Adapter and a Firewire 400 to MiniDV cable.

Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter

The Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter lets you connect Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 devices to any of the Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports on your MacBook Pro. If you have a MacBook Pro with Thunderbolt 3 ports, you will need to buy this and the Thunderbolt to Firewire Adapter below to be able to capture MiniDV footage to your computer. – Purchase Here


Thunderbolt to FireWire Adapter

This cable connects your Thunderbolt 2 Equipped Mac to a FireWire 800 device. If you have a Mac with Thunderbolt 3 ports, you will have to buy the Apple Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) to Thunderbolt 2 Adapter above. – Purchase Here


Firewire 800 to Mini-DV

The FireWire 800 9-pin to FireWire 400 4-pin MiniDV cable will connect directly to the Thunderbolt to Firewire Adapter above. – Purchase Here


FireWire 800 to 400 Adapter

The FireWire 800 to FireWire 400 Adapter is for connecting a FireWire 400 Cable to the Thunderbolt to Firewire Adapter. – Purchase Here


FireWire 400 to MiniDV

The Firewire 400 6-pin to 4-pin MiniDV cable can be connected to the Firewire 800 to 400 Adaptor above. – Purchase Here


MiniDV Camera Head Cleaner

One of the first problems I ran into when capturing was getting bars across some footage when trying to capture it. This had to do with the heads of the MiniDV camera being dirty. After using the head cleaner, the problem when away. When logging footage having a head cleaner available is a good idea. – Purchase Here


Lacie Rugged 4TB USB-C External Hard Drive

If you have a sizeable collection of tapes that you plan on capturing, then I recommend getting the Lacie Rugged 4TB external drive. I’ve been using these durable drives for years with zero issues while traveling and working on numerous video projects. – Purchase Here


Software

Now that you have all the adapters you need to connect your MiniDV camera to your MacBook Pro you will need to decide what software to get to capture footage onto your computer. A simple solution is Life Flix ($100). This software allows you to capture your footage, convert it, and do minor editing. This is a perfect solution for those who only want to capture and archive their clips. If you want to edit your footage, you will need basic software like Apple iMovie (Free), Adobe Premiere Elements ($59.99), or Filmora ($45-$70). These programs will not capture your MiniDV footage and only compliment Life Flix. If you want software to both capture and edit your footage, then I recommend Apple Final Cut Pro ($299) or Adobe Premiere Pro ($20.99 per month).


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Jan Welch

Founder and creator of bigwheelblading.com

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