Affordable FireWire, at a Price
PYRO IEEE 1394 Capture Card
13909 Bettencourt St.
Cerritos, CA 90703
To get video from a FireWire-equipped digital camcorder onto a computer’s hard drive, you need an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) capture card. Today, most FireWire capture cards cost more than $500 bundled with video editing software. For many FireWire-equipped digital camcorder owners, a IEEE 1394 capture card that costs under $200 and comes with video editing software sounds pretty good. It did to us too. ADS Technologies is best known for its VGA-to-NTSC scan converters. The PYRO IEEE 1394 capture card is its first foray into products for the FireWire standard.
What You Get for $200
The PYRO card comes with three IEEE 1394 ports on it. Two of the ports are on the outside, one is internal (for connecting FireWire hard drives). PYRO comes with a FireWire cable that has 6-pins on one end (to fit the PYRO) and 4-pins on the other (to fit your digital camcorder’s i.LINK, FireWire or IEEE 1394 port). In addition to the card and cable, the package includes Ulead VideoStudio 3.0 (see the May 1999 issue of Videomaker for a review of VideoStudio 3.0).
Why it Only Costs $200
When you first look at the PYRO card it seems like an unbelievable bargain. A FireWire card that costs less than half the price of the majority of its competition, and includes nonlinear video editing software seems too good to be true. However, before you drop this magazine and rush out to buy a PYRO, consider this question right off of ADS Tech’s PYRO FAQ page: "Why doesn’t PYRO work with Premiere and Media Studio Pro 5.0?" ADS Tech’s answer is: Applications such as Premiere and Media Studio Pro use the traditional method of video capture called Video for Windows. Video for Windows (VFW) was developed for Windows 3.1 and has been widely used for video capture boards for many years. The PYRO card is making use of the new "Direct Show" capture capabilities in Windows 98 and soon, Windows 2000. We are also making use of the Microsoft DV software codec.
The Video Studio software captures video using Direct Show capture and stores the file in the DV Type 1 format. Most applications that use VFW capture use the DV Type 2 file format. Even if we convert the captured DV file into a Type 2 format for use in Premiere, the file is not recognizable by Premiere or Media Studio because it must support Direct Show for DV encoding or decoding. Basically two things need to happen:
- The editing applications need to be updated to support Direct Show capture
- The applications need to make use of the MS DV codec or some other compatible DV codec that makes use of Direct Show encoding and decoding. Once these applications are ported to offer this type of support, the PYRO board will work with these applications.
Putting It To the Test
We installed PYRO into our test computer (Pentium II 350MHz, 192MB SDRAM, Matrox Marvel G200, IBM UltraStar 9LZX hard drive, Adaptec SCSI adapter). Remember your own computer may produce results different from the ones we got.
The installation started straightforwardly. After seating the card into a PCI slot, it was time to install the drivers. The driver installation was awkward, because the installation software wanted files from the Windows 98 disc. We were forced to swap between the installation disc and the Windows disc repeatedly. After installing VideoStudio, the PYRO should have been ready to capture. We used the Sony CCD TRV-900 to provide source footage for the PYRO as it was one of the camcorders that ADS Technologies certifies will work with PYRO (see sidebar). Since we were using a Sony camcorder, the documentation noted that we needed to get into the IEEE 1394 drivers to select the proper setting. A small adjustment to make, but one that less-computer-literate people might run into trouble with.
PYRO relies on VideoStudio for capturing video and that is where the fun starts. Because the PYRO doesn’t have composite or S-video preview outputs, you have to monitor your capture on the camcorder, which could be diffucult without an LCD monitor, or in the preview window of VideoStudio.
At first, everything went well. The PYRO didn’t drop frames and the capture was proceeding as expected. After capturing a few clips, trimming them and moving them into VideoStudio for editing, it was time to output back to the camcorder.
At this point, the PYRO seemed like a decent FireWire card. But then things went awry. On the next attempt to capture, the PYRO started spitting out nasty error messages. How it was capturing correctly one moment, and then not at all the next, is still a mystery. After a futile check of the Web site for new drivers, we reinstalled the old drivers and the card worked again, for awhile. But soon it was spitting out error messages again.
This PYRO Didn’t Light a Fire
The promise of a FireWire card that costs less than half the price of its competition seems too good to be true and in a way, it may be. The PYRO limits its users to one video editing program, preventing users from stepping up to more advanced software in the future. Combine that with the fact that the drivers seem to be somewhat buggy, and this PYRO gets an icy reception from this reviewer. -LL
Tech Specs: ADS Technologies PYRO IEEE 1394 Capture Card
Bundled Software: Ulead VideoStudio
Inputs and Outputs: 3x IEEE 1394 (2x external, 1 internal)
Minimum System Requirements
Processor: Pentium 233MHz
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 98
Other: 1GB Hard Drive, CD-ROM, sound card
Processor: Pentium II 333MHz
Operating System: Windows 98 SE
Other: AGP video card, 4GB hard drive
- Low price
- Doesn’t work with MediaStudio Pro or Premiere
- Only works with certain camcorders (see sidebar)
- No Windows NT or Windows 95 support (or Mac or BeOS)
You get what you pay for and PYRO might leave you feeling burned.