The new Video Advantage PCI video capture system from Voyetra Turtle Beach is one of the easiest and least expensive solutions for getting DV or analog video into and out of your computer we’ve tested so far. If you enjoy creating home videos or need to edit the occasional wedding and don’t need a lot of frills, you’ll be able to get your DV footage or old VHS tape digitized quickly and consistently.
Voyetra Turtle Beach, best known for its sound cards, has put all the right plugs in all the right places. Inputs for S-video, A/V composite, 4-pin DV and USB are arranged in a breakout panel that fits neatly into your computer’s open 5.25" drive bay. Unlike some breakout hardware, this unit has a very solid feel when you insert cables. If you have a full tower system and can manage to free up a top drive bay, the connections will be conveniently located at knee level.
The Video Advantage PCI lists for $170. The PCI card, drive, bay patch panel and brackets, and nearly a dozen cables for both internal and external connections are all included. An installation disk contains current hardware drivers and four programs that cover video capture, video and audio editing, DVD, SVCD, VCD and CD burning. A quick start guide and manual are also included.
A range of file and capture quality setting are possible using the included software. Supported file formats include uncompressed AVI, DV type-1 and type-2, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2
Installation is very simple. If you’ve ever swapped out cards before you won’t have any problem. But even if you’ve done this kind of operation a dozen times, don’t skip reading the quick start guide. Unlike most hardware installations, the Video Advantage PCI requires you to load most of the software first.
On the Bench
Our test installation was made on an 1.67 GHz AMD system running the latest version of Windows XP with 512MB of RAM, an Intel AGP PA740 video card, an Event Echo Layla sound card/BOB rack unit and a freshly installed and formatted large capacity 7200 rpm hard disk. These specs are above the minimum and just slightly exceed the recommended system requirements.
Installing the hardware and all four software packages, AD FullCap, PowerDirector DE, PowerProducer Express and AudioSurgeon took us about 23 minutes. We found the disk space required was 654MB. This is a little more than the advertised 600MB; with the included music and sound effect .wav files taking up about half of this space.
For our first test capture we connected a VHS deck to the composite inputs of the drive bay patch panel and opened the PowerDirector software. Video Advantage detected our VHS signal automatically and accurately displayed its picture in a preview window. The interface layout was very easy to navigate, providing controls for most video parameters. We used the slider controls for video brightness, contrast, hue, sharpness and color saturation to fine tune the default image, but happily found the default settings provided the best picture in most cases.
We adjusted our capture profile to record an uncompressed AVI file at the highest of three quality settings and captured five minutes of video with plenty of dialog and action sequences to check for dropped frames and any A/V sync problems. On playback our recorded AVI file’s audio sync started to slip at about two minutes. Near the five-minute mark the audio was off by about 4-5 frames and there were several dropped frames within the clip. It is possible that other hardware configurations will not encounter the same problems.
There were no dropped frames and no audio sync problems when we recorded the same VHS source using MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 settings. The color saturation and sharpness of the captured files came close to that of the original signal although file types with higher compression ratios, such as MPEG-1 and low quality AVI, showed more artifacting in high contrast and fine detail areas. Transferring DV files was straightforward and we did not encounter any glitches in transfer or playback.
Video Advantage made it very easy to transfer old VHS tapes to DVD. PowerProducer Express uses real-time encoders to capture and burn either analog or DV footage directly to DVD or other popular format options such as SVCD and VCD. The program can even stream to the web. If you use rewritable media, you can edit your transferred footage even after burning it to disc.
Basic timeline non-linear editing is provided in the included software suite. We found it to be intuitive and stable. As it is such a complete suite of software, we were pleasantly surprised to not have a single crash or freeze when using it.
Wrap Me Up
The Video Advantage PCI is clearly a great value for the hobbyist or amateur videographer. It wasn’t long ago that you would have spent three times as much to get the same performance. The combination of easy installation, reliable video performance, convenient drive bay inputs and a suite of capable software makes this a tempting package for even semi-pro videographers on a budget. We’d want to resolve the audio sync and dropped frame problems we encountered in our AVI test before we’d use this file type for longer clips. But with a variety of other compressed file formats available, some may not see this as a significant issue.
Is your living room floor covered with domino-style knock-down mazes of unedited Mini-DV or VHS tapes? You’ll find the Video Advantage PCI a well-priced and complete solution for capturing analog or digital video and authoring DVDs.
Brian Peterson is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.
Processor: Intel Pentium or Athlon 1.2GHz or better
Operating System: Windows Me/2000/XP (XP recommended)
RAM: 256MB (512MB recommended)
Sound card: required but type not specified
Optical Drive: CD ROM drive, DVD burner (extra free 5.25″ drive bay slot also required)
Hard disk: 7200rpm ATA 100
Disk Space Required: 600MB hard disk space for software, 15GB of hard disk space for project and temp space
Connectors: S-video, A/V RCA composite, stereo mini-jack (for microphone), 4-pin 1394, USB
Bundled software: AD FullCap, PowerDirector DE, PowerProducer Express, AudioSurgeon
- Easy installation
- Convenient access to inputs via drive bay panel
- Intuitive interface
- Stable performance
- Problem with A/V sync
- Frames dropped on 2 minute or longer AVI files
A good low-cost solution for real-time DVD authoring with a few bugs left to work out.
Voyetra Turtle Beach, Inc.
5 Odell Plaza
Yonkers, NY 10701