Windows Me users have an alternative to more traditional digital-video converters--that is, devices that let you move video from your camcorder or VCR to your computer. Dazzle's EmMe USB video connector for camcorders is less expensive and even easier to use than others of its kind. But its low video quality and dependence on Windows Me means that it's best suited for casual users. Windows Me users have an alternative to more traditional digital-video converters--that is, devices that let you move video from your camcorder or VCR to your computer. Dazzle's EmMe USB video connector for camcorders is less expensive and even easier to use than others of its kind. But its low video quality and dependence on Windows Me means that it's best suited for casual users.
The Dazzle EmMe ($49.99) is a wallet-sized, translucent, lime-green unit with easy installation instructions printed on its box. The system requirements are pretty undemanding: a 300MHz or higher Pentium II with 64MB of RAM. You also need the multimedia basics: a CD-ROM drive, a sound card, and speakers. Finally, you need Windows Me, which is the only OS that the EmMe will work with.
Installation of the EmMe is painless. After connecting the unit to a powered USB port on your computer with the included cable, you simply tell Windows Me at the prompt where the drivers are located (they're on the included CD), and they will be automatically installed on your PC.
Of ports and plugs
Setting up the EmMe for use is also quite simple. To transfer visuals from your camcorder to your PC, take an RCA connector (also included) and plug it into the video-out port on your camcorder and the video-in port on the EmMe. To transfer audio, do the same with the audio-out on your camcorder and the audio-in slot on your sound card. EmMe's box includes a handy diagram that illustrates this process.
As an interesting extra, the EmMe includes a V-Thru port, which allows you to connect a display when using the EmMe with a VCR so that you can see what's passing through the video-in port.
The catch with EmMe is its reliance on Windows Me. Although Windows Me's included Microsoft Movie Maker app offers a nice range of basic editing features and is simple to use, it has a maximum video quality of 768kbps with a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels, which is adequate for adding video to e-mail, capturing stills from videos, adding video and audio clips to presentations, or streaming video and audio over the Internet. Dazzle even offers a handy free service called Webcast Theater, where you can post your videos online. But if you need better video quality, such as for converting VHS tapes to a CD or making a presentation to a large audience, you'll have to go with another audio/video software package that's compatible with Windows Me's WDM (Windows Driver Model).
If you run into trouble, the EmMe is covered by a one-year limited warranty for repair or replacement. Dazzle's phone support is available for the life of the product but only on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT, and the number is not toll free. Dazzle's Web site also includes an assortment of FAQs, troubleshooting documents, links to contact support by e-mail, and even an active discussion forum to get help from fellow users.
Casual users only
The EmMe is worthy of consideration because it is much cheaper than the competition. But it's a good deal only for the most casual of users--and solely those running Windows Me, at that. If you need to work with a range of operating systems and software or if you want higher-quality video than the EmMe can deliver, Dazzle's Digital Video Creator or Creative Labs' Video Blaster Movie Maker will give you more for the money.
Editor's note: Dazzle announced a replacement to the EmMe on February 26, 2001. Look for CNET's review of the new Digital Video Creator 50 in the near future.