Benchmark: Pinnacle DC1000 MPEG-2 Digitizer Card

A Real (Time) Performer

One of the biggest challenges for companies that make digitizers and capture cards is to create a card that’s simple to install and easy to use. Anytime you open your computer and insert an additional card you’re exposing your computer to potential conflicts. Video editors just want to edit. Simple plug-and-play digitizers have been a challenge for manufacturers to create and difficult for editors to find.
Pinnacle has stepped up to the plate and connected with the DC1000 MPEG-2 digitizer card. Targeted at intermediate-to-professional videographers, the DC1000 is easy to install, has tons of real-time effects, high-quality capture and the ability to output to tape, disc or the Internet. If you’re interested in stepping up your video productions to a professional level, the DC1000 might be an affordable solution.

Out of the Box

The DC1000 is a dual-stream MPEG-2 video digitizer card that provides over 200 real-time effects and transitions. The card comes bundled with Adobe Premiere RT 5.1, TitleDeko, Sonic Foundry’s ACID Music, Pixelan’s Video SpiceRack and Minerva Impression CD-Pro video authoring. For about $1,000 more, you can order the DV-in/out daughter card. With it, you can capture and output through composite, S-video and IEEE 1394 (FireWire, i.LINK) ports. The DC1000 also comes with a convenient break-out box that connects to the card and sits on your desktop so you can easily connect and disconnect the various analog video and audio cables without climbing behind the computer.
We found the setup to be straightforward. We had no problems installing the card and software to get the DC1000 ready to rock in our test bay. Our test system consists of a Pentium III 550MHz with 128MB RAM, Windows NT, a Matrox G400 video card and an IBM UltraStar 9GB 10,020rpm SCSI drive. We also used a Canon ES8000 Hi8 camcorder with its S-video connection as our source deck and a Mitsubishi HS-U795 S-VHS VCR as our final record deck.
Once we installed Premiere RT, we shut down the test bay, grabbed the DC1000 card and plugged it into the first available PCI slot. After inserting the card we secured it to the PCI opening with the PCI slot screw. We then connected the blue breakout box to the DC1000 card, closed the case and rebooted our computer.
We put the DC1000 driver disc into the CD-ROM drive and followed the setup guide. This step-by-step guide was easy, painless and took just over five minutes to complete. We opted for the DC1000 preset project settings to optimize the card to run with Adobe Premiere RT. We also set it up so that we could store our digitized footage and the edited projects on a separate hard drive.

Ready to Edit

After we completed the setup process, we rebooted once again. Then we were set to capture our video and start editing. We first opened up Premiere and went to the movie capture window. With the capture window opened, we got our camcorder ready to play video to capture to the hard drive. We lined up our tape, hit Play on the camcorder and clicked Capture in the capture window. Since there’s no machine control with analog video, we had to capture our clips manually. We found it easiest to capture a whole segment at a time and then later, using the razor tool on Premiere’s timeline, we cut the segment up into smaller clips.
The captured footage was saved automatically into the folder that we designated in the setup process and saved with a generic name. We renamed the clips and then imported them into Premiere as .avi files. The editing software included with the DC1000 is Adobe Premiere 5.1 RT. (See the review of Adobe 5.1 in our June 1999 issue.) Premiere 5.1 RT operates exactly the same as premiere 5.1, with one seemingly small, but actually huge exception: many of the transitions and filter effects can be added without the need for rendering. This is great news for videographers on a budget. It used to be that you had to be a millionaire or have access to a professional broadcast studio to be able to perform real-time effects and transitions. Not all of Premiere’s effects and transitions are made real-time by the DC1000, only those provided by Pinnacle and Pixelan. The ones included by Pinnacle have a Pinnacle icon next to them. We counted 17 of their real-time transitions and three filters.
The only real beef that we had with the DC1000 was the way it hides the other 200 or so real-time effects and transitions that the Pixelan Video SpiceRack plug-in provides. After much scratching of heads, searching through manuals and going through the on-line menus, we found them. They resided within one of Pinnacle’s transitions: the Gradient Wipe. From that window, we picked the effect we wanted. It was frustrating to find and it was one extra step that we had to take, but it was worth it to get all of those real-time transitions.
We placed a number of clips on the timeline and began trying out the real-time effects. We applied the crossfade as our first real-time transition. We simply opened up the Transition window, chose Cross Dissolve, set its time and placed it between two clips. It worked great. No waiting and no rendering. When we tried to apply an invert filter over the same transition segment, a red line appeared over that area of the Timeline, indicating that the two-layer combination required rendering. It turns out that real-time effects stay that way when used only one at a time. We got around this by rendering our real-time dissolve first. Then we could apply the real-time Invert effect over the portion of the clip where we had the dissolve. We checked most of the other transitions and effects and they worked very well. Don’t underestimate the impact that real-time effects will have on your videos. They save time, they’re convenient to use and now they’re affordable.


It’s All About the Output

Besides the real-time capability, the biggest advantage of using the DC1000 is its MPEG-2 format. It’s a high quality MPEG-2 that can capture and output at the 4:2:2 sampling rate. This is professional, broadcast quality.
With the DC1000, Pinnacle indeed created an easy-to-install board that allowed us to get up and running quickly. On top of that, it enables high-quality, frame-accurate video editing with little degradation in picture quality and very few noticeable artifacts. For advanced video editors who are looking for a relatively inexpensive means to produce high-quality MPEG-2 video for videotape, CD-ROM or the Internet, the DC1000 does the job.

TECH SPECS

Pinnacle Systems DC1000

MPEG-2 Digitizer Card

Hardware Pinnacle Systems DC1000 digitizer card

Break-out box (connects to DC1000)

Connectors S-video in/out, composite video in/out

Bundled Software Adobe Premiere RT 5.1, Sonic Foundry Acid, Pinnacle Systems TitleDeko, Minerva Impression CD Authoring, Pixelan Video SpiceRack, Adobe PhotoShop LE

Minimum System Requirements

Processor Pentium II 333MHz or faster

Operating system Windows 98 or NT 4.0

Memory 64MB RAM, 500MB hard disk

Motherboard 1 Available 32 bit PCI 2.1 slot

TEST RESULTS
Strengths

  • Real-time Effects
  • Bundled software
  • Easy installation
  • High-quality image

Weaknesses

  • Majority of transitions (SpiceRack) must be accessed through the gradient plug-in
  • No FireWire input at this price. Add $1,000 for FireWire.

Summary

  • If you’re looking for an affordable, high quality, real-time digitizer to produce professional-level video, the DC1000 could be the card for you.

DC1000 MPEG-2 Digitizer Card
($1,999)
Pinnacle Systems
280 North Bernardo Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043
(800) 522-8783
www.pinnaclesys.com

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