Video capture woes

I’ve got Pinnacle Studio 10. It was definitely worth the money; great for video editing, and heaps better than Windows Movie Maker. It may not be up to the standard of Adobe Premiere, but it’s much cheaper.

But the Pinnacle video capture devices (one bought before Studio 10, the other was a freebie that came with Studio 10) that I have seem to be somewhat troublesome. That is, it’s not the hardware, but the software… it burns up CPU like there’s no tomorrow. For most of the time I just want a simple viewer/capture application, but the stuff they pack with the hardware is all-singing, all-dancing, all-consuming.

MediaCenter 3.4 came with the PCTV 310i. It installs big heapem SQL Server Desktop and takes up heaps of disk space.

MediaCenter 4.11 came with the PCTV 60e, and is a little better space-wise, but manages to burn up lots of CPU, dropping frames left, right and centre.

TV Center Pro 4.9 is a free download to 310i owners (and some others) and is promoted by Pinnacle as needing less resources… though from what I can see, it’s also burning up CPU and dropping frames.

(What really caught me is that it wouldn’t recognise the 310i unless I installed the drivers with one of the MediaCenter disks. Just installing the drivers off the Pinnacle web site didn’t work, no matter how many times I tried it.)

All in all, it makes for an irritating experience.

Oh, of course once the drivers are working, you can also capture with Windows Movie Maker, which is a bit easier. But its default “best” capture spec is only 320 x 240 at 25 fps. Not very impressive. Try and change that, and it gives you a lot of alternatives… but they’re all at 30 fps! NEWSFLASH! PAL is 25 fps! And of course it only outputs as WMV, whereas ideally I’d like to store stuff in MPEG2, in a format I can burn straight to DVD without further encoding, and is somewhat more futureproof.

Maybe I should try Windows Media Encoder or Windows Media Capture. I know from the last time I tried WMC (years ago), it didn’t grab resources like some others. The old version only wrote out in some uncompressed AVI format, but it was easy enough to use something else (such as Pinnacle Studio) to crop and encode to MPEG.

3 thoughts on “Video capture woes

  1. Dave

    Daniel –
    Analogue capture? Then I felt your pain a while ago. I tried a number of
    “solutions”, each costing more than The Financial Directorate was happy with.
    Each failed with regard to Capture quality or dropped frames or both. And
    many were locked into the vendor’s software for capture. Sure, this was a
    few years ago & hardware/processors were not as strong as they are
    now, but still…

    Whilst others rave about their various answers, in the end I concluded
    there are two viable ways to capture Analogue into your PC and retain
    your sanity.
    1. Suck the video into your PC via a DV camera. That is, Analogue source
    into your DV Camera, then DV stream from camera into your PC Firewire port.
    2. A PROPER Analogue to Digital converter, such as the Canopus ADVC 55

    Which is basically hardware that takes your composite/SVideo in and outputs
    a DV stream – exactly the same as a DV camera produces. I have the slightly
    earlier version of the above – the ADVC 50, but it is essentially the
    same thing. And it works. Very well. Quality is all I could hope for, it
    never drops frames, and is compatable with EVERY video editing package
    I’ve ever tried.

    Either way, nearly ANY capture software will take in the DV stream
    offered by the above two options and there are a number of FREEware
    DV stream capture utilities I’ve had much success with.

    That will result in a large (13 gig per hour) AVI file (under Windows anyway)
    that nearly any current video editor can deal with. Of course, you will
    then need something to render your file to DVD-MPEG – but there are a
    number of freeware tools (ffMPEG and GUI front ends) to deal with that.

    BUT, Daniel, may I recomend, before all else:
    as your first point for info, guides, software
    and user forums for everything video.

    Good luck

  2. daniel Post author

    Thanks Dave. I haven’t figured out all the settings yet, but Virtual VCR is a wonder of quick efficiency compared to any of the Pinnacle software. To press the Capture/Record button and not have it think for 30 seconds before it (maybe) does anything is a wonder.

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