Benchmark: Pinnacle Systems miroVIDEO DV300 FireWire/SCSI Adapter Board

FireWire and SCSI, All in One

In the race to provide digital video professionals and hobbyists with IEEE 1394 FireWire solutions, Pinnacle Systems’ miroVIDEO DV300, aimed at the advanced hobbyist and prosumer alike, is in the middle of the pack between inexpensive FireWire cards like the DPS Spark and full-blown video production powerhouses like the FAST DV Master Pro. It offers FireWire inputs for easy transfer of footage from a digital camcorder or VCR, as well as an UltraWide SCSI adapter on the same board, presumably to accommodate an UltraWide SCSI A/V hard drive.

For our test, we installed the DV300 into our Benchmarks test computer* (350MHz Intel Pentium II, 192MB RAM, 9GB IBM UltraStar SCSI drive, Matrox 6200 video card) and put the board through its paces using the Sony CCD-TRV900 as a DV source and Adobe Premiere 5.1 as our editing software. Since the board is aimed at the advanced hobbyist and low-level professional video market, we performed our tests with the goals and aspirations of both kinds of video producers in mind.

Easy to Install (Sort Of)

Our installation of the DV300 for the review was fairly simple. Our first attempt, however, was unsuccessful; installation of the drivers that came with the board failed to produce a working product. To remedy the situation, we just downloaded the latest version of the drivers (version 1.6 at the time of this review) from the Pinnacle Web site (www.pinnaclesys.com) and then installed the board without a hitch. Purchasers of the DV300 should check to see what version of the drivers they have, and then be prepared to upgrade to the latest drivers if necessary. It is also interesting to note that Pinnacle warns against using the DV300 with AMD K6 233MHz and Cyrix 200 chips, video cards that use the Permedia OpenGL chipset and the IBM Aptiva and Compaq Presario lines of computers.

One note about installation of the DV300: Mac users are required to remove a jumper from the board before installation. In most cases, this should not present any problem, especially if the installer in question is familiar enough with hardware to identify and remove a jumper without damaging the board. Though the more computer-savvy might scoff at the idea that removing a jumper is too difficult, we feel that this requirement is bound to cause some technical support problems to arise. This is especially true when you consider that many Mac users specifically chose their platform so that they wouldn’t have to mess with jumpers and the like.

After installation, we checked out the miroVIDEO DVTools software, which is an ambitious attempt to provide batch capture, device control, autologging and simple cuts-only editing into a single bundle. At first, the DVTools interface worked flawlessly, controlling the Sony TRV900 with mouse clicks from the computer and setting up batch capture lists with ease. When we attempted to run the tape-logging feature, however, we were disappointed. This feature was designed to automatically scan an entire DV tape and identify each change of scene, then store the list of shots (complete with time code and a still image of the first frame) in its own bin. In practice, the system was buggy, frequently insisting upon starting its logging from the middle of the tape or crashing the software entirely and forcing a re-boot. The manual capture functions of the DVTools software worked just fine, however, and offered a nice way to trim clips with zero-frame accuracy before they’re captured.

From the Inside

Next, we attempted to make the DV300 operate from within Adobe Premiere 5.1’s batch capture functions. After selecting the appropriate device control drivers from Premiere’s capture settings interface, the Movie Capture window presented the user with a set of fully functional device control icons, as well as buttons to mark the in and out points for storage in a batch capture log. From within Premiere, the DV300 operated very well–well enough, in fact, to forgive most of the shortcomings of the DVTools interface. This is all well and good for anyone who plans to use Premiere 5.1 as their editing software (and most will, as it comes bundled with the DV300, along with TitleDeko Titling software and Pixelans Video SpiceRack Transition plug-in). But those who plan to use another editing software package, should consult performance reports from those using that package with this board.

As for the onboard UltraWide SCSI controller, it’s a very nice feature for anyone who intends to use a SCSI A/V hard drive for video capture. At present, however, there are a number of enhanced IDE drives available that far surpass the 3.6MB/second necessary for capturing DV footage. The SCSI adapter portion of the DV300 works well, but it requires an additional IRQ, so if you already have a lot of hardware plugged into your computer and you intend to use an enhanced IDE drive, you may again want to consider other solutions.

Aside from the buggy operation of the DVTools software and the inclusion of a possibly unnecessary SCSI adapter, the DV300 provides a good solution for digital video producers who plan to use Adobe Premiere 5.1 as their editing software. The product still has some hurdles to overcome, but when used in the proper configuration, it works well enough for hobbyist or low-end professional work. –JMc

*We tested the miroVIDEO DV300 FireWire/SCSI adapter board on our system, your own system with different hardware/software might produce different results.

Tech Specs – Pinnacle Systems miroVIDEO DV300 FireWire/SCSI adapter board

Platform: PC or Mac
Codec: miroVIDEO software DV
Bundled Software: Adobe Premiere 5.1, miroVIDEO DVTools

Inputs and Outputs: i.LINK x3 (2 external, 1 internal); UltraWide SCSI x2 (1 internal, 1 external)

Minimum System Requirements
Slot: PCI
Processor: Pentium 133MHz or Power Macintosh 120MHz
RAM: 32MB
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 95/98/NT 4.0, MacOS 8.1 or later
Other: 2GB A/V-rated SCSI Hard Drive, CD-ROM, 24-bit graphics

strengths:

  • easy installation
  • works well with Premiere 5.1

weaknesses:

  • SCSI feature might be unnecessary
  • DVTools software buggy
  • some hardware incompatibilities

summary:
A good solution if you’re planning to use Adobe Premiere 5.1 as your editing software, and/or an UltraWide SCSI capture drive.

–JMc


miroVIDEO DV300 FireWire/SCSI Adapter Board

($799)

Pinnacle Systems

280 North Bernardo Ave.

Mountain View, CA 94043

(650) 526-1600

www.pinnaclesys.com

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