One of the most popular consumer electronic devices of all times has to be the camcorder. When the first camcorder's debuted in the '70s they became an instant hit as anybody was now able to record his own footage and play it back immediately. Previous film camera's always needed to have the film processed in a lab before the footage could be viewed. Naturally the camcorder has been perfected and miniaturized over the years and for the past two years digital camcorders have become available.
One of the strongest selling points of these digital camcorders, besides the excellent image quality, is the fact that they store the footage digitally and thus there's no quality loss during repeated playback or editing. Another added advantage is that the majority of them have FireWire connectivity, thus enabling you to copy the footage directly to your computer for editing or viewing and distribution.
Many of today's popular digital camcorders use MiniDV or Digital-8 and both formats support FireWire output from the camera. All camcorders naturally support Analog RGB or S-VHS output so you can just play back the footage on your TV or record it with a common VCR. But naturally you can also simply edit the footage on your computer and add flashy intros, title screens, subtitles or music and then record the edited material back to the MiniDV or Digital-8 camcorder, right?
Fig 1. A Sony MiniDV Digital camcorder connected to a notebook through a FireWire, IEEE1394, I-link, port.
Well, not really, all of the digital camcorders sold in Europe don't have a record feature, whereas those sold in the US do. All due to the fact that European legislation specifies that a device that doesn't only record through it's own lens, but also from external input, is a full featured recorder and thus an additional tax applies. So all manufactures simply disabled the camcorder's ability to record from external sources just so they could keep their prices competitive and comparable to that of the US models, so it was purely an economic decision on their part.
But guess who's being deprived of a feature they thought any digital camcorder had as a standard feature, exactly, the consumer. And to make matters worse, many of the camcorder manufacturers don't even specify that it isn't able to record from its FireWire input or even the analog sources. Many stores selling these camcorders either pretend to not know when you do ask them about it or sell you a $100 widget that allows you to temporarily enable the camcorder for external recording through the LanC connector.
Naturally we didn't want to spend another $100 on some temporary solution, and certainly not when such a device only accesses the camcorder's firmware and sets a few registers. If a $100 widget can do that we must be able to do that also, and even make the changes permanent. In the next few pages we'll provide you with all the info needed to enable recording on Sony's popular PC4/5 camcorder, and list details about other extra's too.