By Richard Asmus
Updated September 28, 2017
High Definition Multimedia Interface technology provides a single-cable connection that includes, video, audio and various control signals between components of a home entertainment system or between a computer and a monitor. FireWire provides connections mainly to computers from peripheral equipment. Most home entertainment equipment does not support FireWire, and no converter will change HDMI to directly to FireWire.
HDMI provides digital video signals and up to eight channels of digital audio for connections to HDTV sets from cable and satellite receivers, DVD players, digital video recorders, video gaming consoles and computers. The 19-pin cable also carries various control signals to support features, such as automatic turn-on of related devices with the push of a single button. The latest version 1.4 of 2009 provides an Ethernet channel for Internet support for all components of a system with a single Internet connection. Some computers have HDMI outputs for monitors that can also connect to HDTVs.
FireWire or IEEE 1394 is a serial data transfer protocol much like Universal Serial Bus, only faster. It's used mainly to connect computers to peripheral equipment that carries high volumes of data, such as video cameras, video recorders and printers. It can also transfer data between two computers at a relatively high rate of speed. FireWire cables have either four- or six-pin connectors for various applications, and use a smaller-diameter cable than older serial port cables with DB-9 connectors.
Because the two formats use entirely different technology, there is no way to directly convert one to the other. Because of its extensive use with home entertainment systems, HDMI technology carries a copy protection signal to prevent unauthorized duplication of copyrighted material, making it incompatible with FireWire. There's also a difference in the number of wires in the cables, and HDMI carries a 5-volt signal to power peripheral devices. FireWire has no such voltage.
You can transfer information between HDMI and FireWire devices with DVDs. If your computer uses a FireWire input from a camera and also has a DVD recorder, you can record the signal onto a DVD, then play it on one with an HDMI output connected to an HDTV. Also, some DVD recorders have a FireWire input that you can use to record a DVD from either a camera or a computer, then play it back on a DVD player with an HDMI output. If the recorder has both, you can record and view at the same time.
Richard Asmus was a writer and producer of television commercials in Phoenix, Arizona, and now is retired in Peru. After founding a small telecommunications engineering corporation and visiting 37 countries, Asmus studied broadcasting at Arizona State University and earned his Master of Fine Arts at Brooklyn College in New York.