Recommend a video capture system

In the next two weeks, I’m going to get a new computer (Woo Hoo!). It’ll have a 1Ghz AMD Athlon chip, 128Mb RAM, 60Gb hard drive, DVD-ROM, CD burner, and I’m going to add a 250Mb Zip drive (that’ll be easier than ripping the 100Mb out of my current computer), and a video capture unit. I want to able be to grab video clips to burn onto VCDs. I checked out TechTV’s website, but, oddly, no help. recommended the ATi TV Wonder, but it doesn’t have editing capabilities and several users gave it a thumbs down. I’m looking to the Dopers who have had practical experience with the devices for a little help.

Depending on what you want to do with these VCDs, an ATI card might be good enough, coupled with Ulead studio or Adobe Premiere (dunno what cards ship w/ what progs, and these programs can be expensive). Personally, I have an ATI Radeon VIVO (Video In & Video Out) that is advancing my agenda of phasing out my video collection quite well. It encodes MPEG I, II, and AVI on the fly though AVI yields prohibitively large file sizes (more on this if you so desire).

For something a little better, you’ll want a card that does MJPEG capture as it’s supposed to be of slightly higher quality than AVI, IIRC. (On second thought, I think AVI is higher quality, while MJPEG is almost the same, but with smaller file sizes. More on this when I get home.) Pinnacle’s Miro products (DC 10 and whatnot) are supposed to yield the most bang for the buck, and I know they come with editing software (no card has editing abilities, per se). FTR, AVI and MJPEG are supposed to be far easier to edit than MPEG formats since every frame is an I frame (a keyframe, basically one frame = one bitmap image) while MPEG uses b(?) frames, which are in-between frames that only measure the changes between itself and the one before it. There’s about one keyframe every 5 frames, IIRC.

I have links to a bunch of different guides and whatnot that should help you figure out what features you want/need (though I don’t know how many of them have hardware recommendations). I’ll send you these when I get home. In the meantime, you may want to check out as he’s reviewed quite a few capture devices and video compression options over the past year or two.

Avoid the “All-In-Wonder” cards. A friend of mine was using that, and it burned out in about a month and a half. I don’t know what he’s currently using… I’ll check with him and get back to you.

I don’t know about the video capture stuff, but I just came in to tell you you should consider getting more memory. It’s dirt cheap now, and 256 is pretty comfortable, 384 (assuming you have the spare slot) is even better.

I like ATI cards, they are well supported by Microsoft Windows & have wonderful email support.

I suggest a DV camera, then you can use that to input video into your computer with a firewire card, they come with software.

‘vcd’ is a pretty unique word, you could use the search button here & it should bring up some old info on it. Or

I plan on cranking up the memory, but I’ll have to wait until I get the computer to see how far I can push it. I realize that video recording on a computer requires a butt-load of memory. I’ve been to several VCD sites, but didn’t pay that much attention to recommended hardware since some of the sites are a bit out of date.

Actually, with most cards, the amount of memory you have doesn’t really come in to play (as long as you can run all the necessary software), as the video isn’t touching the processor (the card’s doing all the encoding and passing it to the hard drive) and memory would be one hell of a bottlneck. What you do need to worry about is your hard drive.

If you have a 5400 RPM or slower, you might run into some problems including dropped frames if not something more drastic, depending on what format you capture in. I forget the exact numbers on throughput, but a 640x480 capture at 29.97 FPS will take about 13 gigs for 30-40 minutes of video, which means your drive has to be able to accept and write a whole lot of data.

Video editing, on the other hand, requires a metric shitload of memory. :slight_smile: Depending on your system and the clips you work with, don’t be surprised if the amount of time necessary to export your final movie is several times the length of the movie itself. (45 minutes to export a 4 minute movie, in 320x240 AVI, 29 FPS, crap sound, on a 450 MHz P2 w/ 128 MB RAM.)

And I looked through the site handy mentioned (he lived up to his name for once, go figure), and it looks pretty useful. Well, good luck. :slight_smile:

How the heck do you do screen captures from video, anyway? I have a site devoted to a TV show, and would like to get some stills from episodes. Someone has to explain it like they were talking to a child, since I’m not that computer literate. I mean, I do ok on the computer, but I’m still unfamiliar with a lot of products.

Iola, (for the record, I don’t know if that’s a capitol “I” or a lowercase “L,” so you’ll have to forgive me) it all depends on what your source material is (VHS or, hopefully, VCD or DVD) and what your hardware is.

If you’re using VCD/DVD, I know there’s a software DVD player that’ll do screen captures. It might be PowerDVD, though I kinda doubt it. I’ll see if I can look this up when I get home (though I think I might’ve uninstalled and deleted the proggie, so I promise nothing :)).

If, more likely, you’re going to be doing captures from a video source, you’ll need some kind of capture device (this sounds a slight bit more redundant than it really is). If all you’re going to be doing is screen captures, you might/should be able to get away with a less robust device than MBS is looking for. Say one of these ATI All-In-Wonders, or even a video card with a video in (usually not the best for vid capture, but should suit your purposes). Again, the ATI cards are popular for this, though Asus’ “deluxe” line of video cards all have this as well. There are also external devices (USB, I would assume), that perform the same functions and tend to be cheaper than most dedicated capture cards.

Anyway, once you have one of these, it’s just a matter of software. Personally, I’m more interested in video editing, so any time I needed a capture I just snagged a frame from a video clip, though this method should be unnecessary. I know the program that came with my Radeon "All in One"ish card has a button for “high resolution” screen captures which evidently captures a 640x480 screen shot (there’s presumably some enhancement since VHS res is 352x288 or so, but I digress).

Let me know what questions you have (more now than ever, I’m sure), and I’ll see if I can help.

Thanks for the info. I knew I’d get good advice here. I want to do editing as well. I’ve got some interesting Simpsons clips in mind. I will definitely kick the memory up to the max as soon as I find out how high I can go. For a few extra bucks, I may go for the 1.3Ghz system instead. I figure that more is better as far as processing goes. I’ll let you know.

Some of the video input gizmos use their very own processing power so you don’t need a real fast computer or lots of memory. I think thE Dazzle is one. Also Studio pc10.

Another option you may want to consider (after doing a bit of research) is overclocking your PC. Just spend the few extra bucks to buy PC150 (instead of PC133) RAM and a decent heat sink/fan combo for your CPU and you should have no problem. On the plus side, it’s free (well, cheap) horsepower, but on the downside, it’ll almost certainly void your warranty. It’s fun, but definitely not for everybody. Just a thought.

Sorry, I just noticed the reply to my question. [sup][sub]For the record, it’s a small L[/sup][/sub]

Thank you, KKBattousai. So, in a nutshell, I need a video card that will support a screen capture from a VHS tape, a method of hooking my VCR to the computer (yes?), and software that will allow me to process it? Is this correct?
You are correct in assuming that I don’t need to do anything fancy. I just want some pictures from episodes to go into my episode guide. I noticed that several other sites had them, but I was too embarrassed about my ignorance to ask how they did it.

lolagranola, an ATI ALL in Wonder card, like Ihave, has a player that is a tv screen that you watch whatever you have attached to one of its many inputs. You can then push a button that captures a frame. Or capture hours of video if you want.

I was looking at another gizmo for $39.00 from, its a PCI card with a few video inputs & a video camera. It captures in MPEG4, which is the latest compression, for use on the web or to make a vcd. I didn’t buy it though since i have so many other ways to do that already.

Yep, that’s correct. Though, really, the “method of hooking your VCR to the computer” is really just a cable (leading to the video in of the capture device). Odds are that whatever you get will come with software. Or, if you feel like cheating, just have it play on your screen, pause it (assuming your VCR won’t add all that lovely snow that often comes with pausing) and take a screen capture. It’s a cheat, and it won’t be the greatest resolution, but should be fine for use on the web.

If I get bored enough here at work, I’ll see if I can’t dig around for some inexpensive devices.

Thanks, KKBattousai and handy. At least I know how to do a screen capture. I’ve never tried to hook a VCR up to my computer before. If I mentioned that to a person at Compusmart, I assume that they would know what kind of connector I need to buy. I can’t imagine that anything I have here would plug right in. Luckily, my VCR doesn’t have any snow when I pause.

You’ll want to take a quick peek at the back of your computer before you go to Compusmart (and I’m sorry, but something about that name doesn’t inspire any great faith in the company) and see if you have anything that looks like a TV in. It’ll be either an RCA plug (like in the back of your VCR, in yellow) or an svideo in. Take a look at this picture to see what they look like. The thing in yellow (next to its red and yellow bros) is the RCA, the slightly too dark black circle to the right of these is the svideo.

If you have either of these (it should be on your video card, which is to say the one your monitor’s hooked up to), just ask for the corresponding (RCA or svideo) cable and you’re good to go. Otherwise you’ll need something like the dazzle (might want to read a few reviews of it first, though) that has these (Dazzle uses RCA, IIRC).

Have fun. :slight_smile: