Elgato Turbo.264 HD Mac Video Capture Software and Device Review

Turbo Powered

Encoding video to a usable format has always been a time-consuming process. Many programs available for converting video are complicated and require many steps. Exporting video from a camera adds even more problems to the mess. The turbo.264 HD aims to clean up this process while also making is quicker.

Ease of Use

Many software companies like Windows and Adobe seem to think that making bloated programs is the way to go. The nice thing about the turbo.264 HD is the simplicity of it. Just drag a video to the program, select the format, start the conversion and, within minutes, your new video is done. The program comes with multiple presets including iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, Sony PSP, YouTube, HD 720P and HD 1080P. The more advanced user can edit settings such as resolution, aspect ratio and audio to make custom encoding options.

By default, the software adds all video formats but YouTube to your iTunes library. When converting to YouTube, a window will open asking for your login information. Once the program logs into YouTube, it converts and uploads the video. The turbo.264 HD software auto-detects AVCHD camcorders. It can easily detect videos on your AVCHD camcorder and encoded them to smaller files on your computer. Even a computer novice would be able to figure out how to use this software.

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Performance

The turbo.264 HD does as its name implies: it accelerates video-encoding time. To compare render times, we used Adobe Media Encoder CS4. For our test computer, we used a dual-core Intel Xeon 3.0GHz Mac with OS X 10.5.6. The turbo.264 HD got close to double the render speed of CS4, using the iPod high_quality format on the same computer. Using the same test video on a PC, a Core i7 965-based system with an NVIDIA Quadro CX and Adobe CS4, we got render times almost the same as with the turbo.264 HD. The turbo.264 HD took an older MAC and made it render at the speed of a top-of-the-line PC.

Quality

There is a sacrifice when using the turbo.264 HD, however. The contrast ratio is a little less, meaning your video’s darks won’t be as dark and the whites not as white as the original. When uploading to YouTube or viewing videos on an iPod, the contrast ratio such a big issue. In fact, on some monitors, the video may actually look better. The compression on the files could be better. Adobe CS4 Media Encoder made a 51.4MB file, while the turbo.264 HD made a 70.2MB file. Both of the files were the same resolution (640×480), six minutes in length and 24 FPS, but the CS4-generated file quality looked better. In short, to get the quicker render times, the videos aren’t as compressed and do not have the same color contrast.

To get the most out of the HD feature, you need to do some tweaking. CS4 converted the file to 1080p, while the turbo.264 HD did not. CS4 did take three times as long to render and made a bloated file, but it achieved the desired result. To get the turbo.264 HD to generate a 1080p file, we had to make a custom encoding preset, specifying the resolution. As long as you use a 1080p input file with the device, it will create a 1080p file that is both small in size and quick to render. Interestingly, there is not a major change in render time when you select different output types. Overall, if the input file is a smaller resolution than the desired output file or a different aspect ratio, then you need to make a custom preset to produce the correct output file.

Should I Buy This?

This is not a quick-fix device for professional video editors. If you are looking for production quality, there are better solutions available. If you are looking for quick and easy video encoding for home use, then this is it. Many other products available on the market have stability issues, take too long or are too complicated. For the everyday person wanting to encode some video, the turbo.264 HD is great. The only drawback is that it works only on Intel-based Macs.

TECH SPECS

OS: Mac OS X 10.5.6 (or later) with Intel processor

Interface: USB 2.0- and 1.1-compliant

Output: iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, PSP, YouTube, HD 720P, HD 1080P

Strengths

  • Easy to use
  • Little setup required
  • Fast

Weaknesses

  • Not compatible with Power PC Macs
  • Only for Mac
  • Slight quality sacrifice for performance

Summary

The turbo.264 HD is a quick and easy way to encode videos on a Mac.

Lance Olinger is Videomaker’s IT Assistant.

Elgato Software

900 Kearny St., Ste. 750

San Francisco, CA 94133

www.elgato.com

$150

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