Benchmark: Pinnacle DV500 Capture Card

When it comes to editing video on a computer, you first have to get your video onto the hard drive. The capture card that you choose depends largely on the type of camcorder that you own. You need an IEEE 1394 card if you have a digital (Mini DV or Digital8) camcorder, or a digitizing card if you have an analog (8mm or VHS family) camcorder. Only a few products offer both digital and analog I/O. The FAST Multimedia DV Master, the Canopus DVRex-M1 and the Matrox RT2000 have set the standard for dual-purpose capture cards. Now Pinnacle Systems has introduced the DV500. This card promises to provide analog and digital input and output, and enough speed to push some of the transitions into the realm of real-time. Not only that, it promises to do it all for less than $1,000.

A Maximum Minimum

The minimum system requirements for this capture card are steep. First, you need to have at least a Pentium II 400MHz, 128MB RAM and a SCSI 2 capture drive. Although the box claims that it is compatible with Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, those drivers were still in Beta at press time, so we had to use either Windows 98 or 98SE.

We tested the DV500 on a Pentium III 550MHz with 128MB RAM, a Matrox G400 display adapter and an IBM UltraStar 9GB SCSI 2 hard drive for capture all running under Windows 98.

Installing the DV500 was fairly straightforward. First, install Adobe Premiere, which is one of the programs in the DV500’s bundle. After installing Premiere, go to Adobe’s Web site ( to download the latest update for Premiere, which was version 5.1c at press time. With Premiere ready, it was time to slap in some hardware.

Physically installing the DV500 card was a snap. The card has a small second card attached to it. If your open PCI slot doesn t have much room, it could be a tight squeeze. After slipping the card into the PCI slot, attach the breakout box and plug in your DV camcorder, if you plan on using one.

Finally, power up your computer and install the drivers for the card. The whole process is relatively easy, and shouldn t drive fear into the computer literate. As with all computer upgrades however, if you are afraid to open up your case, you might want to have the card installed for you by a competent geek.

Mmmmmm Breakout Box!

One of the features that really make the DVRex-M1 and DV Master popular are the breakout boxes that allow you to plug in A/V equipment without having to get to the back of your editing computer. The DV500 also has a breakout box called the blueBOX. The blueBOX contains the S-video, composite video and RCA audio inputs and outputs. The DV500 doesn t put any FireWire jacks in the breakout box. So you ll probably want to leave a FireWire cable plugged into the DV500 card, and attach it to whatever DV device you want to use. Perhaps the coolest feature of the blueBOX is that you can switch the audio ports from 0dB to -20dB depending on whether you are using mike level or line level audio.

Using DVTools instead of Premiere

One of the programs that installs with the drivers is Pinnacle’s DVTools. This is a capture utility that allows you to perform batch captures from a FireWire-equipped camcorder. It’s a good thing they included DVTools. Whenever we tried to capture video in Premiere itself, we encountered crashes.

As far as capturing video, DVTools was easy to use, and got the job done. It was simple to perform live captures, and it was easy to set the in and out points for batch captures. The card had no trouble controlling the JVC GR-DVL9500 Mini DV camcorder we used for our test.

What is Real-time?

Pinnacle touts the DV500 as a real-time editing solution. It is important to note, however, that the real-time aspect of the DV500 is limited to certain Pinnacle transitions, titles and previews of 3D effects. You cannot play many 3D effects out to DV without rendering. The DV500 is a dual-stream card, so you can do a real-time transition with two streams of video, or do a real-time title over video.

Making DVDs

The DV500 also comes with a bundled copy of Minerva Impression software that allows you to create DVDs. The Minerva software does not come in the package, so we were unable to test it. The Minerva DVD software will be mailed to new owners when they register their DV500. In addition the DV500 comes bundled with Sonic Foundry’s ACID music creation software, Pixla Software’s Video SpiceRack transitions, Pinnacle’s TitleDeko titling software and Pinnacle’s INSTANT Video RT real-time plug-in for Premiere. It’s actually quite a decent bundle.

The DV500 delivers most of what it promises. You can use it to import and export analog and digital video. It has an impressive software bundle that includes more than enough transitions to keep you happy, a titling package, sound creation software and CD and DVD authoring software. The easy installation makes the DV500 an easy choice for the videographer using analog video but is gearing up for DV or the videographer who uses both.


Platform: PC

Interface: PCI

Minimum System Requirements

  • Operating system: Windows 98, 98SE (Future support for Windows NT and Windows 2000)
  • Processor: Pentium II 400MHz (or compatible)
  • RAM: 128MB
  • Graphics card: 16-bit with DirectDraw drivers
  • Hard Drive: 4GB SCSI 2 capture drive, 500MB free for software

Recommended System

  • Processor: Pentium III 500MHz
  • RAM: 256MB
  • Graphics card: 24-bit
  • Hard Drive: 9GB SCSI-2 capture drive, 4GB free for software
  • Other: DVD-ROM drive


  • Analog and digital i/o
  • Some real-time effects
  • Easy installation
  • Breakout box


  • Problems capturing in Premiere
  • Beefy minimum system requirements
  • No IEEE 1394 in breakout box

The DV500 brings what it promises with analog and digital inputs and outputs, some real-time effects and a decent price.

Pinnacle Systems, Inc.
280 N. Bernardo Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94943


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