Monthly Archives: October 2012

Technical Tales of Woe – Standards? What Standards?

About two years ago I needed to retire my old G5 Mac and after months of research and consideration I finally bought a new 27” iMac computer. 1  It has tons of memory, a big beautiful screen for editing video and overall faster performance than my former G5.  At that time I was still using my MiniDV, tape based camera for shooting.  My research included assuring that this older camera would connect with this new computer and software.  It did, eventually, but not without an absurd amount of effort on my part to troubleshoot an issue that all boiled down to what brand wire I used to make the connection.  Apparently not all FireWire cables are created equal.

I knew something was wrong when I plugged in the FireWire 800 cable to the camera and saw the “DV-In” notice blinking furiously on the screen.  I only had the computer for less than a week and was already wondering if I got a lemon.  I checked all my connections to make sure they were fully engaged.  I researched the issue online, made sure all my drivers were up to date and even tried engaging the camera through different editing software programs.2  The results were the same.  The computer and camera were not making a steady connection.  I sent the computer in to the shop for assessment and it came back with a clean report.  I called Sony, the manufacturer of my camera, to see if they had any advice.  No luck there.

This went on for two weeks because I assumed the issue was with two of my main components to the technological equation.  After concluding the issue did not rest with the computer and that nothing could be adjusted on the camera I began to resign myself to the fact that I would need to upgrade to a newer camera.  It was an investment I knew was coming, but had hoped to put off for awhile.  But before I made that leap I decided I would buy another FireWire cable, just in case it turned out this issue was with a bad cable.

The original cable was a generic brand FireWire cable.  I really didn’t think anything of it when I bought it.  Firewire is FireWire.  A standard data transfer cable.  I spent months researching computers, software, hard drives and even cameras.  Of all the pieces to the technology puzzle I figured the FireWire cable was a no-brainer. Before buying the second cable I decided to read some of the user reviews.  I could only laugh and shake my head at what I learned.  The brand cable purchased did not play nicely with Apple computers!  Had I bought a second cable I would have had the same problem.

I began looking at other brand cables and reading the user reviews closely.  I found one that had positive reviews from Apple owners. The camera worked great with the new cable…for a few months.  I ended up needing to replace my 5 year old camera anyway do to aging mechanics.  Regardless, I learned something about standards….it varies from brand to brand and now I research even the smallest, least expensive components before buying.

  1. It may shock some of you that I am not a devout Apple owner.  I did have to think about getting another one. Two years later there are no regrets in doing so.  My computing needs, however, have changed since then and so has Apple. To keep my options open my laptop ended up being a Toshiba.
  2. Another Technical Tale of Woe in standards – Final Cut will not import AVCHD directly.  iMovie is needed to recognize the camera and capture the footage.  Final Cut, circa Pro X, was the semi-pro and pro option for editing the footage once it was captured.  Adobe CS4 would import AVCHD but crashed on a regular basis during editing.  Adobe CS6 is an improvement.
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