Connecting Professional Video Devices

Regardless of what format or video interface you use, the same basic steps apply when you connect a VTR or camcorder to your computer.

Connecting Professional SD Video Devices

If you’re using a format other than DV, such as Betacam SP or Digital Betacam, you need to install a third-party video interface that supports the proper signal for the format you’re using. Some video interfaces can digitize analog video input and output (for analog formats like Betacam SP), while others capture video only if it is already digital. In either case, the video interface encodes the video information using a codec, which may or may not apply compression to the video data to make it smaller while stored on disk. Compression settings used by video interfaces are typically controlled by software and use a variation of the M-JPEG codec (although the name of the codec itself may not reflect this).

Unlike DV video devices (which use a single FireWire cable), third-party interfaces send and receive video, audio, and device control data on separate cables. For remote device control connections on professional equipment, 9-pin (DB9) connectors are used.

A Recommended System Using a Third-Party Video Interface

To set up a system using a third-party video interface, you need the following equipment:

  • Your computer and display

  • A non-DV format video device (a camcorder or deck)

  • Audio and video cables for your system

  • A third-party capture interface installed in or connected to your computer

    Note: Some third-party video interfaces have a breakout box connected to the card with a special cable, which is included.

  • A USB-to-serial adapter or internal modem serial port adapter

  • An RS-422 video deck control cable

  • A blackburst generator, with the appropriate cables to connect it to both your third-party video interface and your video and audio devices

The following illustration shows a typical SD setup:

Figure. Illustration showing a typical SD setup.

Following are basic instructions for connecting a video device to a third-party video interface in your computer, as well as connecting remote device control.

To connect video and audio outputs from your VTR to your third-party video interface
  1. Install a supported third-party PCI Express video interface in your computer or connect a FireWire or USB video interface.

    For detailed information, see the documentation that came with your video interface and your computer.

  2. If you are using a PCI Express card video interface that came with a breakout box, connect the breakout box to the PCI Express card using the cables provided.

  3. Connect the video output of your VTR or camcorder to the video input of your video interface.

  4. Connect the audio outputs of your VTR or camcorder to the audio inputs of your video or audio interface.

  5. Connect the 9-pin remote device control cable to your deck, and to your breakout box or serial port adapter.

  6. To genlock your video interface with your camcorder or deck:

    1. Connect one of the blackburst generator’s outputs (there should be several) to the genlock or external sync input on your deck (usually you use a cable with a BNC connector).

    2. Connect another of the blackburst generator’s outputs to the genlock or external sync connector on your video interface.

  7. Plug in and turn on your blackburst generator.

  8. Turn on your deck.

  9. If you’re using Soundtrack Pro or Final Cut Pro to control your camcorder or deck, make sure that the device control switch on your VTR is set to Remote.

    For more information about VTR settings, see the documentation that came with your VTR and your video interface.

For information about synchronizing Soundtrack Pro to an external video deck or audio recorder, see Synchronizing Soundtrack Pro to External Timecode.

Note: Some broadcast-quality video output devices receive both the video and audio from a project. When you use a video output device that supports both video and audio output, Soundtrack Pro automatically routes your audio output to this device to provide the best possible synchronization of the audio and video.

Connecting Professional Component Analog Video Devices

The most prevalent component analog video format still in use today is Betacam SP. It is an SD video format, but because it is analog, your video interface must have analog-to-digital converters to digitize the analog signal before encoding it and writing a digital media file to the computer hard disk. Unlike digital capture interfaces, analog-to-digital interfaces often allow you to adjust luma and chroma levels (using controls in the Final Cut Pro Log and Capture window) when you digitize.

The steps for connecting an analog VTR to a video interface are essentially the same as for digital SD and HD devices. The main difference is that you need to make three physical connections, one for each of the three analog video components: Y, R-Y, and B-Y (also called YUV or Y′CBCR, depending on the country and the specifics of the format). For more information, see the Final Cut Pro User Manual. To connect equipment, see Connecting Professional SD Video Devices.

Connecting Consumer Analog Video Devices

If you want to digitize video from an analog consumer format, such as VHS or 8 mm video, you need a video interface that has an analog composite video input. Also, older consumer decks rarely support remote device control, which means you can’t remotely control the deck or capture timecode from these formats. If you need the ability to recapture the video accurately using timecode, it’s often easiest to dub (copy) the video to a digital format like DV, or a professional format you are using for your project.

There are fairly inexpensive capture interfaces that can accept an analog composite input and convert it to a DV video signal transferred via FireWire. Some more expensive interfaces may also accept an analog component input.

Connecting Non-DV Devices to a DV Converter

You can use a DV converter to convert a device in a non-DV format, such as Betacam SP or Digital Betacam, to DV. This allows you to capture footage using the built-in FireWire port on your computer. However, unlike a complete DV FireWire setup, this kind of deck still requires serial (RS-422 or RS-232) remote device control.

This kind of setup is used mainly for low-resolution capture and offline editing. Because Final Cut Pro can edit DV video natively, you can capture your video as if it were DV footage, edit at DV resolution, and then recapture only the necessary media files for your finished movie at full resolution using one of the third-party video interface solutions described earlier.

Important: If you plan to recapture footage later, make sure timecode is captured accurately.

A Recommended Non-DV-to-DV System Using Serial Device Control

You need the following equipment:

  • Your computer and display

  • A non-DV format playback device, such as a Betacam SP or Digital Betacam deck

  • An analog-to-DV or digital SDI-to-DV converter

    Note: Some DV camcorders and VTRs can also act as an analog-to-DV converter.

  • A 4-to-6-pin FireWire cable, available at an electronics store or an Apple Authorized Reseller

  • A USB-to-serial adapter or internal modem serial port adapter

  • An RS-422 video deck control cable

The following illustration shows a typical non-DV-to-DV setup:

Figure. Illustration showing a typical non-DV to DV setup.
To connect video and audio outputs from your VTR to your analog-to-DV or digital-to-DV converter
  1. With your DV converter turned off, connect the 6-pin connector on the FireWire cable to the FireWire port on your computer.

  2. Connect the 4-pin connector on the FireWire cable to the DV converter.

  3. Connect the video output of your VTR to the video input of the DV converter.

  4. Connect the audio output of your VTR to the audio input of the DV converter.

    Note: The DV converter mentioned above could possibly be a DV VTR that can convert analog video and audio input to DV FireWire. Some decks need to be in record mode to allow this conversion. Other decks may not support this.

  5. Connect the remote device control.