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The Pain of Analog Video Capture to Digital w/Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick

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The Pain of Analog Video Capture to Digital.
How to get your analog video to digital

Life is so complex.  If all you want to do is transfer video from a legacy analog camcorder to a DVD or an Mpeg file for distribution or editing – how complex could this be?  Answer: Depending on your strategy – Complex or simple.  Make the wrong choice and you will suffer.

The Computer is not the answer to everything

Check out our review of the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate stick.  Supposedly this can digitize any video and audio input that comes through S-Video or Composite and stereo audio.  The question is, how much CPU power do you need to do this?  Well, the answer in 2008 is – for the typical user – a lot.

The primary use of the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick is to receive and provide PVR (Personal Video Recorder) for analog and digital TV including High Definition TV.  For this, it works well on a laptop with a dual core 2.0 Ghz CPU and 2 GB of RAM.

But to digitize video and audio from an analog camcorder, this laptop falls short.  It is fast enough to digitize the video imput, but it can not digitize the video and audio at the same time.  The problem is dropped frames.  Video only and no dropped frames.  Add the audio and this Laptop and Pinnacle PCTV HDUltimate stick combo fails with an avalanche of dropped frames.

The only bigger gun over here is a HP desktop with an Athelon 64 X2 4600+ and 2 GB of RAM.  The two cores of 2.4 GHz each and 2 GB of RAM was still not enough power to capture video and audio from the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick and from a analog camcorder.

Use the appliance

Where there is a will there is a way.  So, pull out the appliance.  The appliance is a Panasonic DVD recorder with S-Video, Composite, and stereo inputs (also DV In and SD – but those are irrelevant for now).  Let the dedicated device do it.

So, with both the laptop and desktop left panting trying to digitize the input from the camcorder we left it up to the dedicated device.  Sure enough, works like a champ.

If that is all you want to do convert your legacy analog video tapes to DVD – you are done.  Stop here.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.

Enough is never enough

But why stop there?  With Pinnacle Studio 10 Starter edition sitting there in front of you – included with the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick – why not live large?

Maybe you want to edit those old movies.  Some of the things you can do with Studio 10 are add titles, rearrange scenes, cut scenes, combine scenes, add transitions between scenes, add background music, add voice over, mix and do a few more things. You can do this all with the Starter edition of Pinnacle Studio 10 Starter.

So after recording a sample to the Panasonic from the camcorder we fired up Pinnacle Studio 10 .  Studio has an “Import DVD Titles” feature that allows you to rip the video from a DVD that you just created off the analog tape with the appliance.

Ripping the video off the DVD (created from analog)

It is a fairly simple process.  After recording the video to DVD

Here is a summary of steps

On the Toolbox menu choose Smart Movie
On the File menu choose Import DVD Titles
Choose the titles you want to import
Note I got an mpg 720×480 at 30 fps from the analog camcorder

Keeping you out of trouble for a couple of hours

You can choose to edit your movie
Playing with all the features of Pinnacle Studio 10 will keep you out of trouble for many hours.
For example, you can add and mix background music, voice over, add scene transitions, cut, paste, arrange scenes, etc.

When you are done messing around, make the movie.
There are three options, burn a DVD, create a file, or make a “tape”.
Pictures are worth a thousand words

Burn the edited movie to  DVD

Make a file of the edited movie for distribution


So what is the bottom line on all this?  First, we wasted (invested) about $100 in the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick – just for fun.  We found out that the ‘Ultimate” part is the claim that you can digitize any video source that has a S-Video and/or Composite plus audio.  Well, we found out that neither of our “high end” (2008) PCs were fast enough to accomplish this without dropping frames. So we lose.  For Digital HDTV on-air or cable with ClearQAM  – works great – including scheduled recording (PVR) – we win.

Second, computers are not the answer to everything.  A dedicated appliance that is designed for a specific purpose will, in most cases, work better.  In our case, all we wanted to do is take our camcorder (Sony HandyCam Video Hi8) and convert a bunch of legacy analog video tapes to DVD.  For this , the appliance – a Panasonic Digital Video Recorder with S-Video and audio inputs – works the best.  Forget the Pinnacle Stick.  The cost of the Panasonic DVR with Digital Tuner was $125 in 2007.

Third, with Pinnacle Studio 10 Starter edition staring you in the face, you can’t help but rip that Video you just captured to DVD into Pinnacle and start messing with it.

Enabling Technology / Enabling Creativity

Really, we are in an age (2008) when technology and cost are no longer a hurdle to creativity.  Creativity is a hurdle to creativity – or lack thereof.  That is, you can have the best movie editing software in front of you – but you come up with nothing.  You can sit down to write with the best word processor – but not be able to write anything significant.  You can sit in front of the best grand piano – but not be able to compose anything.  The moment of truth is upon you.

The low cost of technology as enabling creativity sorts people out.  Now the excuse of “I can’t afford to do that” no longer works.  If you want to make a movie – make a movie.  If you want to become a YouTube celebrity – then become a YouTube celebrity – the technology will not stand in your way.  Even a $100 7MP digital camera with movie capability and Studio can get you on your way. From the Wikipedia –

In August 2006, The Wall Street Journal published an article revealing that YouTube was hosting about 6.1 million videos (requiring about 45 terabytes of storage space), and had about 500,000 user accounts.[5] As of April 9, 2008, a YouTube search returns about 83.4 million videos and 3.75 million user channels.[6][7] It is estimated that in 2007, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000, and that over 13 hours of video are uploaded every minute.[8][9] In March 2008, its bandwidth costs were estimated at approximately $1 million a day.[4]

To rephrase the words of Yoda “Do not try – Do!”.  Language is subtle.  Change the words “To do” (as in your “To Do” List) (passive) to “Go do” (active/immediate/urgency) and that may make all the difference in the world.


Written by frrl

October 28, 2008 at 5:08 pm

One Response

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  1. Please Visit My Digital Camcorders Store.


    May 27, 2009 at 11:04 pm

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