Doing Video On Your Computer
What you need:
1). A modern computer with a P2 500 MHz or faster CPU (and the big Intel chip set is supported more than any other brand including the Intel junior brands) with 128MB or better of RAM memory.
Any box made from 1999 to the present date should work out of the box with no more than a newer hard drive, but first check your existing hard drive out to see if it will do the job. It probably will if it runs faster than 3,000 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) has at least 1 MB (megabyte) cache memory (most have 2 MB) and supports UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access). These drives are often called ATA33, ATA66 or ATA100 and conform to that ATA-4 or 5 standard (see our piece on Hard Drives for more details on these terms).
You must also be running Windows 98 or better and have FAT 32 partition on your drive. It would be best to have a dedicated video drive as it takes 15 GB of space for each hour of full picture video.
You may need to check the DMA box in Control Panel, System, Device Manager, Disk Drives if this has not already been done for you when the computer was set-up originally by the manufacturer or A+ technician.
If your machine was made in 1998 itís a 50-50 chance you will need to upgrade both your drive and controller. Give it a try, but be ready to spend another $250 for a new, fast hard drive and an upgraded controller card with BIOS and ATA-4 or 5 support. See our section on hard drives for more information.
If your machine is older than 1997 or 1998 you may have to upgrade your controller card and hard drive as these units were probably made using the old ATA-3 standard and while they support DMA transfer they are not support the UDMA (or Ultra DMA) hard drive standards. You really should consider upgrading the whole computer to a current year model if you find the capture cards donít work out of the box on these machines.
2). A 720i full motion capture card (we look at the new Pinnacle Studio Deluxe offering elsewhere in Issues) with the right standards for your country (NTSC for most of America and Japan, PAL for the rest of the world) with the output support you need (160 x 120 or 320 x 240 for web sites, DVD authoring for DVD-R burners, CD-R compatibility for use with those burners or output back to the original source such as VHS, S-VHS or DVMini.
Some boards only offer 640i support and this below NTSC broadcast standards (itís actually the full picture image but does not support the black area around the picture used for broadcast information), so if you intend to do cable, DVD or broadcast work it must support for the 720 pixel width at 29.97 FPS (Frames Per Second).
3). A play/record source, such as a DVD-R, VHS, S-VHS, Betacam SP or DVMini camcorder or deck that can both play and record (if you intend to move the finished movies back for other uses).
4). An optional DVD-R or CD-R internal writer if you intend to make home grown DVDs.
A note about DVDís. You cannot strike off an R or RW master and take this to a pressing plant for mass produced DVDs. First the quality is below DVD (or CD) standards. Second the indexing and authoring software is not quite the same as a professionally mastered product. You should transfer the finished edited video to a special digital tape copy (on a very expensive machine) and take this into the DVD pressing plant for indexing and glass mastering. You can probably rent these DVD mastering tape decks from many Pro-Video and Audio rental firms, just make sure the connector (FireWire, composite or Y/C) matches your capture card!
After this all you need is time and patience. Software usually comes with the Capture Card Ė at least enough to do a rough edit of your videos.
There are many sample offerings you can try for a month and then pay to upgrade if you find they work well (such as Premier from Adobe).
Many dealers are now offering customer video machines ready to go. A/V workhorse computers from either Apple or plain wrap PC configurations set up so that Ma and Pa Kettle, who would have a hard time installing a PCI card and tweaking their hard drive configuration.