Anyone who's tried to transfer a movie from VHS to DVD knows that video capture can be a game of trade-offs. Unless you're working with an impeccable source, you'll end up with lost frames, out-of-sync audio, and other unseemly flaws. Pinnacle Studio's versatile MovieBox DV seeks to mitigate the damage. This hardware/software combo captures all but the lowest-quality recordings with nary a lost frame and lets you route analog and digital video between any combination of computers and external video components, such as your camcorder and VCR. Bundled with Pinnacle's excellent video-editing and -authoring application, MovieBox DV is a powerful choice for consumers who need a conduit from one video device to another or who want to convert old VHS movies to digital format, edit them, and save them on a DVD or a digital tape. The hardware component of Pinnacle's MovieBox DV comes in a handsome, brushed-aluminum chassis designed by F. A. Porsche. It has connections galore--FireWire, composite, and S-Video inputs and outputs--and can take an incoming signal from one device (such as a DV camera), convert it to analog NTSC or digital video (DV), and put it through to another device (such as a computer). You can also transfer video from a Hi8 camcorder, a VHS tape, or another source directly to a digital camcorder or another device via MovieBox--no PC needed.
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|MovieBox DV's snazzy hardware, courtesy of designer F. A. Porsche.||Input and output jacks are organized on a pair of nearly symmetrical control panels.|
Installation is simple. On our system, Windows XP recognized the software immediately after we inserted the disc, and the automated installation process took just a few minutes. Configuring the hardware for video capture is a snap: just connect the video source, such as your camcorder, to an input jack and connect your computer to MovieBox's FireWire output. (There is a separate, almost identical version of MovieBox DV for USB 2.0 that CNET did not review.) Users who want to save video projects to a VCR, a MiniDV tape in a camcorder, or another device can route the signal through the MovieBox in the opposite direction, using the PC as the source. Bundled with MovieBox DV is Pinnacle's excellent, Editor's Choice-winning software (we tested version 8.6 and an 8.8 online upgrade). The latest version of Studio features DVD authoring and a host of useful, well-integrated editing tools for both the novice and the intermediate video editor.
Studio 8.0's elegant interface neatly organizes a broad set of features into a simple three-phase procedure: capture, editing/authoring, and output. For capturing video, a single tabbed dialog box lets you configure analog and digital input parameters (such as frame rates and resolutions), set up an audio voice-over, and opt for automatic scene detection, a useful function that splits incoming footage into smaller, more manageable clips. The editing interface is equally streamlined, but the simple layout conceals a surprisingly comprehensive set of features, including an excellent titling module and frame-by-frame editing in timeline, storyboard, and text-listing modes. The application has some weaknesses, however. Unlike , Studio 8.0 won't let you extract and edit content from an authored DVD-Video disc. Further, it offers a meager selection of special effects, lacks automated slide-show capabilities, and displays video clips in a claustrophobic 320x240 preview window.
The software's DVD-authoring capabilities include an outstanding selection of menu templates and the ability to embellish multilevel menu systems with sound and motion-video backgrounds. The Make Movie screen lets you render a project as an AVI, MPEG, RealMedia, or Windows Media file and burn it to DVD, VideoCD, SVCD, or analog or digital tape.
We tested three versions of MovieBox DV hardware, and despite occasional audio problems with the first two, we found the latest of the three (which incorporated a September 2003 firmware build) to be stable and conflict-free on our state-of-the-art testbed. Nonetheless, we've heard reports of lockups and unplayable output from users working with Studio on older machines; as a result, we recommend using MovieBox DV on a late-model system configured with a fully updated version of Windows XP.
MovieBox DV didn't produce stellar results in our speed tests. Even on our blazingly fast 3.2GHz P4 system, it took 68 minutes to render and burn a 2.5GB, 56-minute MPEG-2 clip (standard DVD format with no effects, titles, or transitions) onto a 2X DVD-RW disc. We also burned an 11.8GB DV version of the same footage to DVD, forcing Studio to transcode content into DVD-compatible MPEG-2. The 184-minute total job time was decent, but we suspect that performing this task on a middle-of-the-road PC would have resulted in far longer rendering times.
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Studio 8.0 offers a variety of ways to save your edited movie, but if you don't have a fast system, you may be forced to run larger jobs overnight.
Pinnacle deserves kudos for its two-year warranty policy. If your MovieBox DV module appears to be defective or you've purchased an older build that gives you problems, the company will exchange it for a module with the latest version.