$399

ATI Technologies Inc.

1 Commerce Valley Drive East

Markham, ON L3T 7X6 Canada

(905) 882-2600

www.ati.com

Often, you’ll hear video editors (including many who write for this magazine) suggest that it’s best to create a video editing computer from the ground up and design a system that’s dedicated to video editing. Why? Primarily because other types of hardware and applications (3D video adapters and games, for instance) might conflict with your finely-tuned video editing machine, creating headaches that you can avoid by dedicating a computer solely to video editing purposes.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the finances to purchase a separate computer just for editing video. Hobbyist video editors usually find themselves tweaking the home computer, adding a FireWire card and a big hard drive and then valiantly attempting to fight off the gamers in the household. Fortunately, the manufacturers of computer hardware have become aware of this situation and have begun to offer solutions that allow video editing, gaming and other applications to co-exist in harmony on the same computer. Case in point: the ATI All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro, one of the most highly rated, award-winning video display adapters ever to hit the PC marketplace. This card, though expensive, offers a variety of functions that should cause home video editors to sit up and take notice. This includes high-quality MPEG-2 capture; a breakout box with S-video, composite and stereo audio inputs; DVI, VGA, composite, S-video and component video output; hardware-assisted MPEG-2 rendering; workstation-quality OpenGL graphics performance; and bundled Pinnacle Studio 8.4 video editing software. The card also has a plethora of PC-TV applications and top-notch 3D gaming performance, but for this review, we’ll focus on those features that are most interesting to video editors.

Plug it In
To test the ATI All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro, we installed the card in an Intel D875PBZ motherboard with AGP 8X support, a 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 chip and 512MB DDR RAM. Once the board was in and the power turned on, setup was a snap with the provided Catalyst ATI drivers disc. It is worth noting that the ATI All-in-Wonder Pro 9800 requires direct connection to the computer’s power supply, in part to power its built-in cooling fan, which, it should be noted, does add some noise to your case. The All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro also requires an open Line In jack on your sound card. It is important to note that if your motherboard chipset is not Intel-based, you must first install a custom virtual GART (AGP) driver before you uninstall your old graphics card software.

On the back of the card, you’ll find jacks for the breakout box (BoB) of video inputs, another jack for outputs, a CATV RF connector for input of cable TV broadcasts and a standard DVI display connector(a DVI/VGA adapter is provided). The input BoB has connectors for S-video, composite video and stereo audio. For outputs, aside from the computer’s monitor output, you must choose between one of two supplied connectors: one has composite video and S-video and the other has component YUV video. Note that in both cases, the stereo audio connectors are 1/8-inch stereo mini plugs that must be inserted into your sound card’s Line In jack. The BoB also has an S/PDIF digital audio port.

Capture and Edit
To capture video with the All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro, you can either use the included ATI Multimedia Center software, which is geared mainly for time-shifting television broadcasts in a TiVo-esque fashion or you can use the bundled Pinnacle Studio 8.4 software. It’s also possible to configure and use other video editing software packages, such as Adobe Premiere or Windows Movie Maker. The quality of the video and audio captured with the All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro’s breakout box is very good, owing in part to the card’s Theater 200 chip, which has dual 12-bit analog-to-digital converters (ADCs). This is an upgrade from the previous 9-bit ADCs used by the All-in-Wonder line.

Video captured by the All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro is recorded onto the hard drive using in the MPEG-2 format, which is a good thing if you plan on creating DVDs of your videos. It’s also a potentially bad situation for those who want to edit; DV is a better format for that. For MPEG-2 conversion, the All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro uses the Cobra Engine, which can reduce the strain on your CPU when rendering and for playback. Another feature of the 9800 Pro that is of potential interest to video editors is Videosoap, which cleans up some of the noise in a captured signal before the video is compressed. This is important mainly because MPEG-2 is a codec that does not handle noise well, so if you have some noisy old analog footage you’d like to edit, the Videosoap feature could prove useful.

One other interesting piece of the All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro’s hardware puzzle is the board’s OpenGL graphics performance. ATI’s intent is to offer top-notch gaming performance with this feature, yet it is also useful for professionals developing 3D models and applications.

Video Games to Video Edits
Instead of using mega-graphics power solely to get the maximum frame rate for 3D shoot-em-up games, manufacturers are finally starting to use some of that computational muscle to enhance video editing and multimedia authoring environments. Software manufacturers, too, are starting to make use of these capabilities.

With the ATI All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro, it isn’t difficult to imagine a home video editor sitting on the couch, using a single TV-PC system to capture and edit a video, time-shift cable programming, burn DVDs and play state-of-the-art games, all on the same home theater system that plays CDs and DVDs and with full 5.1 surround sound.

Joe McCleskey is an instructional media specialist.

TECH SPECS

Platform: PC

Inputs: S-video, composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio, RF coax cable

Outputs: S-video, component video, composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio, VGA, DVI

Video RAM: 128MB

Memory Interface: 256-bit

3D support: DirectX and OpenGL

Operating System: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP

Other requirements: AGP slot

Bundled Software: Pinnacle Studio8 video editing and DVD authoring, Catalyst driver/home theater applications disc, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind game disc, Matchware Mediator 7

STRENGTHS

  • Hardware assisted MPEG-2 capture, playback and rendering
  • Bundled video editing software
  • High quality 12-bit analog to digital converters
  • OpenGL rendering support

    WEAKNESSES

  • Expensive
  • Takes over sound card’s Line In jack

    SUMMARY

    Currently one of the most popular gaming and TV/PC cards, the All-in-Wonder 9800 Pro also offers much to video editors.

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