1) Firewire is Firewire... also known as IEEE1394 and i.Link. This is how the miniDV tape video will import from the DVport of the camcorder to the FireWire port of the computer.
2) USB is USB. Universal Serial bus. This will transfer stills from the camcorder to the computer if the camcorder can take stills and store them on a memory card.
3) What kind of PC are you using? What type of CPU? Which operating system? Windows XP (with Service Pack 2) and Vista (I think) come with bundled video editor (MovieMaker); you can use WinDV to import from the camcorder to the computer. MacOSX comes with a video Editor (iMovie). There are several Unix "open source" item... but "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR".
4) Connect the camcorder to the computer with FireWire, put it in play (or VCR) mode), Launch WinDV or iMovie and import. Very straightforward.
5) How much available hard drive space does your computer have? Standard definition uses 13 gig for 1 hour - high definition uses 3x-4x more... an external drive ONLY for video projects is strongly recommended - minimum 250 gig - preferably connected by FireWire to the computer.
Have you done a seach using the terms "open source video editor"? I did - lots of hits...
Looking to get a camcorder and am leaning towards a minidv based camcorder (better quality for price and no dvd issues).
The process of taking the finished film from a minidv tape to your pc is what i'd like advise on. Are there opensource options for this process, are they any good? Same for editing - opensource options? Not looking for anything fancy just something to put family films together.
And does a camcorder need anything other than fireware/usb to allow you to do this?