Video Capture Device Review: Pinnacle Systems Studio MP10

A Simple Studio for MPEG Video

Pinnacle Systems has entered the parallel-port MPEG-creation market place with their Studio MP10, a product that extends their successful, easy-to-use Studio line of products into the multimedia CD-ROM and Internet video marketplace. Like other parallel-port MPEG-1-creation systems, the Studio MP10 is a video capture device that doesn’t require you to open the computer’s case to install it. In theory, all you have to do is plug in the MP10 to the parallel port, connect power, install the software and start capturing (In practice, it’s not always so simple; more on this below).
Like all Pinnacle products, the Studio MP10 box emphasizes both form and functionality. Its curvaceous design and flat blue coloring fit in well with most home computer setups, yet it’s designed to provide easy access to inputs and outputs.

Plug it in

Our first attempt to install the Studio MP10 was unsuccessful. Following the directions in the manual, we plugged the box into the parallel port of our test computer (Pentium II 400MHz, 64MB RAM, Windows 95), plugged in the power cable, turned on the computer and installed the software. After installation, we received a persistent "Studio MP10 hardware not found" error, and after delving into the BIOS setup for the parallel port and several other places where the PC-timid should not go, we gave up and tried again on another computer. Still, we could not get the device to operate. Only a call to Pinnacle and the shipment of a new unit solved the problem. Buyers should beware that there might be a few non-functional MP10 boxes out there, so if you purchase one, keep your receipt and be prepared to trade it in for a working model. Once our new MP10 began working, however, it worked flawlessly.

Capture It

The Studio MP10’s capture software uses a graphical approach that gently guides beginners through the potentially confusing process of recording video onto the hard drive from a camcorder or VCR. The video capture control window looks more like a point-and-click black box than a computer software window; the manual refers to this portion of the interface as the Diskometer. A pair of buttons marked with unmistakable icons for Video and Audio settings provide access to the majority of the MP10’s capture controls, including audio levels, composite or S-video input, brightness, contrast, sharpness and saturation. On the top side of the Diskometer, a pie chart indicates space remaining on your video capture drive, and four buttons give access to the Studio MP10’s four available capture resolutions (Internet/E-mail, Video CD, VHS Video and User Defined).
One of the key user-friendly features of the Studio MP10 is its use of Pinnacle’s SmartCapture system. SmartCapture will automatically detect shots as you capture video, reducing the whole capturing process to a single long step. All you have to do is rewind your tape to the beginning, start the capturing process, then walk away as SmartCapture splits your video into individual shots and stores each as a separate clip. The process works surprisingly well, and is only troublesome when adjoining scenes are too dark, or when the video contains flashing lights or blurred motion (such as a whip pan).


Easy Edits

Like other members of the Pinnacle Studio family of video editing products, the Studio MP10 editing software provided plenty of helpful hints and handholding for beginning video editors. The simple drag-and drop interface is very intuitive, and gives users three different ways to view editing decisions: as a storyboard, a timeline or a simple shot list. The timeline view is used for trimming clips. You grab the forward or rear edge of a clip and drag it to the desired length. The storyboard view provides the easiest way to determine the order of the clips, while the shot list view gives more specific detail about each clip in text form. A total of three tracks of audio are available in the timeline view: one for audio locked to video, one for voice-overs and a third for music.
The titler that comes with the Studio MP10, a version of Pinnacle’s TitleDeko software, is actually quite powerful for such a simple, inexpensive video editing package. All system fonts are available, as are a number of fun fonts included with the Studio MP10 software installation. Making your titles move or fade is as simple as dragging a transition from the Transitions menu and applying it directly to the title’s icon in the Timeline window.
Output options for the Studio MP10 include settings for RealPlayer G2 streaming, CD-ROM video (.AVI files) and one that’s labeled VHS video. The quality you’ll get from the Studio MP10 when you output using the latter settings isn’t nearly what we’d call VHS quality, mainly due to the 352×240 capture resolution (1/4-screen) and the use of the ever-lossy MPEG-1 codec. The other settings, however, provide high-quality video for CD-ROM multimedia, streaming video and video e-mail purposes. For those functions, and for those who simply want an easy way to create home-movie MPEGs, the Studio MP10 is a winner. Like other parallel-port MPEG-1 makers, the Studio MP10 can be finicky about the kind of hardware it likes to work with. If your system is compatible, and you’re after a simple way to make videos for disc or the Internet, then you’ll probably love the Studio MP10.

JMc

Tech Specs

Platform PC

Interface EPP or ECP parallel port

Minimum System Requirements

Operating system Windows 95 or 98

Processor 133MHz Pentium

RAM 32MB

Graphics card 256-color, DirectX 6.0 compatible

Sound card DirectX 6.0 compatible

test results

strengths

  • easy to use
  • streaming video support
  • user-friendly from capture to output

weaknesses

  • problems with parallel port operation
  • not for videotape output

summary

  • An excellent product that simplifies CD-ROM or streaming video production

Studio MP10 ($269)
Pinnacle Systems, Inc.
280 N. Bernardo Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94943
(800) 4PINNACLE
www.pinnaclesys.com

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