It’s this kind of thing that Geekrant was devised for.
I’m boycotting Pinnacle products from here on in.
Pinnacle Studio 10 Plus is pretty good. Good enough that I don’t feel the need to upgrade to the latest and greatest. It handles all the video formats I use quite well. It grabs a lot of resources, but video editing always does. I’m happy with it.
BUT… the Pinnacle 310i capture card I have… it’s never worked well. As I have written before, the media centre program that came with it was horribly slow. The capture results were good, but I always had to keep an eye on the CPU usage, or it would start dropping frames.
(I bought it in the first place because Australian Personal Computer noted it in its Best Tech column. I’ve read that magazine for decades, and generally trust its opinions, but won’t be using that particular column for a recommendation again.)
Eventually I got it running with Virtual VCR, which is analogue only, but gave consistently better results.
Then a couple of weeks ago it died. Completely. No response.
After wrestling with drivers for a bit, I disabled it and went and looked for the Pinnacle 60e USB tuner I’d got as a freebie with Studio.
I tried it with some of the Pinnacle software, which was underwhelming. It’s DVB only, so wouldn’t work with Virtual VCR. So I looked around for freebie PVR programs, and found GB PVR.
GB PVR is one of those freebie media centre applications someone’s written. It’s reasonably responsive, if a bit bare-bones in places. It has some quirks, like it’s totally not designed to handle people operating it without a remote control… so for instance I haven’t found a way to record live TV manually; have to program it. And the timer only does 10 minute increments. Annoying.
Interestingly it seems to record the DVB-T stream directly onto the disk, leaving you with a TS file. This can be played using the K-Lite codec pack/Media Player Classic (VLC should play it too), and you can convert it using HDTVtoMPEG2 into a standard MPEG file to use in Virtual Dub and other applications. All good. (Well, as long as I tuned to the channels with the AC3 audio; some of the others required more fiddling to work.)
Once I figured out the quirks in GB PVR, I got absolutely outstanding quality recordings out of it. Really really clear, as you’d expect when working directly with the DVB stream. Fantastic.
Then the 60e stopped working. Un-#$&#ing-believable! Just stopped. GB PVR stopped doing what I asked of it. The logs revealed it couldn’t start the capture. Nothing would talk to it, tried uninstalling and re-installing, nope. Error 10 starting it up, whatever the hell that means. And the config screen reported there was now no capture device on the computer.
Now, I might normally assume it was a problem with the PC. So I installed it on the other one. It worked for a couple of days, then also stopped.
So no more Pinnacle products for me.
Some of the Hauppauge capture cards look good. Alternately there are some new TVix products which double as standalone PVR/media player units.
Dave’s suggestion of going via Firewire is a good one that I’ll look at. Unfortunately my cheapie firewire video camera doesn’t have an input.