First thing. Think firewire and NOT USB. If you ever transfer via USB you will get crap results pure and simple. Quite literally, if we get a post on here wondering why transfer quality seems poor you can bet your bottom dollar it's because they installed the s/w that came with the camera and used that rather than doing it properly.
Having said that, I believe that if you get into the hobby of making these movies, as much as you don't need 'quality' now you will crave it more and more so best to start properly I think.
So, I suggest you spend the money you might have had in mind by getting your hands on a camcorder with MiniDV (this is NOT a mini DVD you understand ) firewire transfer capoabel camcorder from somewhere like ebay.
alright so i have a camcorder, and the firewire card, and the camcorder is definately firewire capable, it comes with software, but for some reason I plug it into the firewire, it makes the little ding noise but nothing happens on my computer. I supposedly installed the drivers and everything, and rebooted, but still nothing. It didnt even say "new hardware" when i started the computer up with the new card in. This happened with my other computer too. Is there something wrong with XP and firewire? Or is it because I have USB 2.0 installed? Im seriously pissed this is the second time this has happened.
Well, if Windows 'pinged' then you're on a winner. Just because you plugged it in there is nothing in Windows directly that will magically pop up and allow you to capture your footage. You will need some software to do that.
You non linear editor should have a capture utiltiy built in. Fire that up and you should be able to control the camera (if it's in what I call VCR mode) from within the s/w and then perform your captures.
Try clicking on START->My Computer to see if an icon for your camera appears in the window beside where the icons for the hard disk, CD or DVD drives are. Also as Alan says, you have to open the editing software and either click on a drop down menu to access the Capture options or it may be on a tab running across the top of the screen.