Pinnacle Systems Studio DV Capture Card

Studio DV Makes the Grade

As more and more beginning videographers get their first Mini DV or Digital8 camcorders, the market for low-cost IEEE 1394 cards continues to heat up. More and more people are choosing to edit on their computers. This month, we’ll take a look at Pinnacle Systems’ Studio DV, a sub-$200 IEEE 1394 editing solution that may be the perfect fit for quite a few home editors.

The Studio DV won the 1999 Videomaker Best Product of the Year award for Best Computer Video Hardware for less than $1,000, so you know that it has got a few tricks up its sleeve.

Out of the Box

To use Studio DV you’ll need a somewhat powerful computer, but not the beast of a machine that the Pinnacle DV500 (reviewed in June 00) required. According to the manufacturer you need a Pentium 233MHz, with 32MB RAM and a hard drive capable of 4MB/sec sustained transfer rate. But, Pinnacle notes, almost any SCSI or Ultra DMA hard drive will meet that requirement. 4GB of free disk space per 20 minutes of finished video is recommended.

For our test, we installed the Studio DV on the Videomaker test bay. The test bay consists of a Pentium III 550MHz with 128MB RAM, a Matrox G400 video card, and an IBM UltraStar 9GB 10,020rpm SCSI drive. We used a JVC DVL-9500 Mini DV camcorder with its IEEE 1394 connection as our source and record deck.

To install Studio DV, we simply opened the computer case and physically stuck the card into an available PCI slot. Then we fired up the machine and installed the drivers and Studio DV software package. After rebooting, we were ready to rumble.

The initial installation was a bit harrowing because a plethora of error messages greeted us when we launched the program. A message box appeared on the screen to ask if we’d like to visit Pinnacle’s Web site to check for software updates. After clicking "yes," the Pinnacle site informed us that there was a new version of the driver. We downloaded the newer driver (version 1.3.1) and installed it. After rebooting this time, we were pleased to see that the mysterious error messages had disappeared and Studio DV was operational.

Editing with the Studio DV

Pinnacle geared the capture and editing interfaces of the Studio DV to the novice editor. They are intuitive and offer a lot of help for the newbie. The Studio DV interface includes three main tabs on top of the screen: Capture, Edit and Make Movie.

Capturing footage from your camcorder using Studio DV is very straightforward. The Studio DV software has machine control for compatible cameras and decks (check with Pinnacle to see whether yours are), so you can control your deck with the buttons on the screen of your Studio DV-equipped computer. Press play to get your video playing and when you get to the part you want to capture, hit the start capture button. The software automatically detects scene changes and saves each clip as its own file. Unfortunately you cannot log a series of scenes and batch capture. This consumer-oriented editing package doesn’t offer that option.

Once you’ve captured your clips, you are ready to trim them and add your titles and transitions. The Studio DV editing interface allows for either timeline or storyboard views, so you can use either approach or switch between them as you see fit.

Studio DV also allows you to use preview-quality captures to make your EDL (edit decision list). Then after you’ve made all of your editing decisions, Studio DV will go back and re-capture your clips at full resolution and then render your project for the final edit in full quality. This option saves disc space and increases processing speed, but it may also slow you down in the long run, since it must recapture all of your scenes at full resolution.

The Studio DV software offers a variety of transition effects that you can use to spice up your video. They also include the requisite warnings in their manual about the overuse of said transitions. It’s simply a matter of dragging whatever transition you desire into the storyboard or timeline of your video, selecting the duration and its direction. The transitions are basic but they look good.

If you don’t want to use the included Studio DV software, you might want to consider getting a different capture card. The Studio DV, like many of the new low-cost IEEE 1394 cards, doesn’t capture into a normal .AVI file. The Studio DV uses Microsoft DirectShow technology that is not supported by current versions of Premiere. Hopefully, by the next release of Premiere, Adobe, Microsoft and Pinnacle will make sure compatibility remains a top priority.

For titling, the Studio DV uses Pinnacle’s TitleDeko software. This titling software will be more than adequate for the targeted user’s titling needs. After creating a title in TitleDeko, you can import the graphic and overlay it on top of your video. This process is clear and simple. In addition, when you’re ready to add transitions to your video, it’s just as easy.

What Else?

After you’ve finished editing, you’re ready to take the last step, rendering your video and sending it back out to tape. This step is painless too. You can make a movie to record back to DV tape, create an MPEG or Video for Windows file, or even make a RealVideo streaming file. Remember, if you captured your video as a preview quality file, you’ll need to have it recaptured before you can make a movie.

When the video is finished rendering, Studio DV will easily record your project to tape on your compatible Mini DV or Digital8 camcorder or deck. Overall, we were pleased with the performance of Studio DV. Beginners and hobbyists will be pleased with what they get for $199.

TECH SPECS

Pinnacle Studio DV Capture Card

Platform PC

Interface PCI

Minimum System Requirements

  • Operating system Windows 98, 98SE
  • Processor Pentium 233MHz (or compatible)
  • RAM 32MB
  • Graphics card 256-color DirectX 6.0
  • Hard Drive 4MB/sec sustained throughput minimum (SCSI or Ultra DMA)

Recommended System

  • RAM 64MB
  • Graphics card 24-bit
  • Operating System Windows 98 SE

TEST RESULTS

Strengths

  • Easy installation
  • Worked well with driver update
  • Easy-to-use
  • Inexpensive

Weaknesses

  • Driver on disc gave many error messages
  • Limited features
  • Won’t work with Premiere

SUMMARY

A great first choice for the videographer looking for an entry-level IEEE 1394 card.

Studio DV Capture Card($199)
Pinnacle Systems, Inc.
280 N. Bernardo Ave.
Mountain View, CA 94943
(800) 4PINNACLE
www.pinnaclesys.com

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