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Thread: Please help me find the BEST video capture card £ $ can buy!

  1. #1

    Default Please help me find the BEST video capture card £ $ can buy!

    Hi there,

    I recently bought a WinTV PVR-350 card after reading great reviews.
    I can honestly tell you the video capture quality is sub-standard.

    Here's what I require the card to do:
    Capture video from a Sky+ (i.e. Tivo) box
    Capture video from a Laserdisc player.
    Capture video from an S-VHS player

    MPEG-2, MPEG-4, avi
    I believe 1hr = 2GB - and I am happy with that.
    I will be writing them to dvd ultimately and I may possibly compress the odd file down to DivX or XviD format (to save on space) - but not always.

    I've been told that I will have to expect some loss of quality as I am restricted to analogue feeds to and from each source. Is this 100% true?
    I've been told I cold capture it raw - It would be the best quality but, would take ages. True?

    S, what are my choices?
    Not sure the Pinnacle cards are up to scratch.
    ATI ALL-IN-WONDER® 9800 Radeon PRO isn't very pro either.
    Most people describe it as being "less than vhs".
    So, unless you can tell me better, it looks like my only option is buying a
    Matrox RTX-100 Extreme Pro?

    I am really fussy about picture quality and i won't 'make do'.
    I understand the limitations of S-Video and Scart connections.
    All I want is to, at the very least retain the quality even if i have to capture it raw.
    Perhaps there is a card for professional video labs that can cover quality and all manner of inputs & outputs?

    The outputs from my Sky+ box are:
    RF Out
    VCR Scart (apparently, for transferring to VHS/or SVHS *lol*)
    TV Scart (for viewing on TV)
    S-Video Out
    RCA Audio Out (L&R)
    Optical Audio Out

    To my amazement, there doesn't appear to be one video capture card that has a 'digital audio in' (optical or coaxial). Is this true? I don't like the idea of running it through the soundcard only to find sync problems later - unless this isn't a problem?

    Is 10bit the best video capture rate available?
    Is there a card that will capture at up to HDTV resolutions? (less important)

    Anyway, my PC specs are as follows:
    Intel 875P chipset
    3.0GHz Intel® Pentium® 4 Processor with HT technology and 800Mhz front side bus
    Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional operating system (I did try running Media Center Edition 2004 but I kept getting a video error)
    500GB Serial ATA RAID 0 Stripe [2x250GB 7200rpm drives with DataBurstTM cache]
    2x512MB Dual Channel 400MHz DDR Memory
    8 USB 2.0 ports, 4 PCI slots and AGP 8x slot
    128MB ATI Radeon 9800 Pro Graphics Card with DVI Dual Monitor Support and TV - Out via S-Video

    Hope somone can help

    Thanks in advance,
    D

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Please help me find the BEST video capture card £ $ can

    Quote Originally Posted by damo5
    I've been told that I will have to expect some loss of quality as I am restricted to analogue feeds to and from each source. Is this 100% true?
    I've been told I cold capture it raw - It would be the best quality but, would take ages. True?
    Capturing is usually done in real time, unless you have some way of transferring from your Sky+ to your PC via network or other connection (i.e. direct from the hard drive in the Sky+ box to the hard drive on your PC.)

    Quote Originally Posted by damo5
    ATI ALL-IN-WONDER® 9800 Radeon PRO isn't very pro either.
    Most people describe it as being "less than vhs".
    I have an All in Wonder Radeon, one of the first with the 7000 Radeon chip. I have captured from a digital satellite box using composite inputs (all my source equipment has RGB out but not S-Video, and the All In Wonder has S-Video in but no RGB). All I can say is that "less than VHS" is an unfair comparison. I can get better than SVHS as far as I'm concerned, although not quite DVD standard, because effective highest capture resolution is about 640x480 (PAL) see http://www.maxim-ic.com/appnotes.cfm...mber/750/ln/en for some serious debate about resolution necessary for various analogue (and digital) sources.

    Quote Originally Posted by damo5
    VCR Scart (apparently, for transferring to VHS/or SVHS *lol*)
    TV Scart (for viewing on TV)
    Note: the VCR scart probably has different pinouts, or RGB and S-Video, whereas the TV scart doesn't. Or vice versa.

    Quote Originally Posted by damo5
    To my amazement, there doesn't appear to be one video capture card that has a 'digital audio in' (optical or coaxial). Is this true? I don't like the idea of running it through the soundcard only to find sync problems later - unless this isn't a problem?
    Expect to see digital audio in on soundcards, not video capture cards. Creative cards all have digital audio in (optical and coaxial) and so do some higher end USB soundcards (useful for laptop audio capture).

    Quote Originally Posted by damo5
    Is 10bit the best video capture rate available?
    That's not a video capture rate. You really want to look into capturing lossless video using a codec like HuffYUV also available here or near lossless capture, using MJPEG (maybe already bundled with the capture card you buy). Then you convert to another format afterwards. This can take up a LOT of disk space (8MiB/s yes, that's eight megabytes a second).

    Calculation : 640x480 @ 16bpp = 641440 bytes per frame = 15MB per sec @ 25 FPS. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong there. HuffYUV allows about a 2:1 compression ratio.

    I have heard VHS being compared to 352x288 PAL VCD resolution and better than SVHS at 480x576 PAL SVCD resolution, and I'd say that's a fair comparison. A well mastered VCD looks pretty much as good as VHS, although the digital compression artifacts are more visible to the eye than just plain analogue "fuzziness".

    See here http://www.dvdrhelp.com/comparison for some more interesting comparisons of different digital formats.

    Please come back to me with any questions, I'll be happy to go into more detail (and admit mistakes in my posts too )

  3. #3

    Default Re: Please help me find the BEST video capture card £ $ can

    Cheers fruey

    re: Sky+ box : Pace BSKYB 3100
    There is no direct way of transferring the stuff from the hard drive to the PC - if only!

    So, my only choice is to go out of the box analogue:
    TV Scart : SCART (composite video out; RGB out)
    VCR Scart: SCART (composite video out/in; RGB in)
    S-Video Out: 4-way mini-DIN

    I'm going to investigate further into other video capture cards.
    Will be checking into Osprey cards today.
    Been advised to capture raw and convert to whatever i want after.

    Looked into Canopus cards, standalones @ www.canopus.com
    All looks very 'pro' and therefore, expensive!
    One card has the following specs:
    Video Format
    > NTSC: 720x480 @ 29.97 fps
    > PAL: 720x576 @ 25 fps

    Video Input
    > S-Video (Y/C), 4pin miniDIN

    Capture Resolutions
    > NTSC: 720x480, 352x480, 352x240
    > PAL: 720x576, 352x576, 352x288

    Video Compression
    > MPEG-2 (ISO/IEC 13818-2) Main Profile @ Main Level (I, B, P frames) I-frame
    support only
    > MPEG-1 (ISO/IEC 11172-2)

    Video Bitrate
    > MPEG2 Standard 4M bps - 15 Mbps
    > MPEG2 Half D1/SIF 2M bps - 8Mbps
    > MPEG1 SIF 1 .168 M bps - 1.8Mbps

    I've never seen a card before with 15 Mbps.
    Does this make a difference?

    Anyway, thanks for the advice.
    I will continue researching and post further developments.

  4. #4
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    IMHO there is only one way to go - capture to DV using a Canopus card, edit and then convert to Mpeg2.

    Advantages - superb quality capture, audio always in sync, easy to edit.

    Disadvantages - DV files are about 13Gig per hour!

    I do realise that others may have very different opinions, but I for one have been delighted with the quality.

    just my 2 cents

  5. #5
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    HuffYUV is a way to get RAW captures compressed without losing any quality, because it won't throw away any information.

    MPEG2 is very very good, but it does throw away some information in order to compress. 15mbps capture rate is huge, this will give near perfect quality captures for sure. Bear in mind that your Sky box itself is compressing to something like 8mbps MPEG2 if not less, because the transmissions themselves are in an MPEG2 hybrid format too, so they are already compressed...

  6. #6
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    fruey - sorry for interrupting your thread with my previous post -just adding my 2 cents with my idea on the 'best capture card'

    As a newbie, I find it easier to work with DV, and I understand that this compresses the video about 5:1, but with intraframe coding to permit frame accurate editing.

    Capturing 'raw' would therefore be about 5 times that data rate (and therefore require about 65 Gig per hour) -is that right?

    Also, what would you recommend as a 'best capture card' for capturing raw data at the highest quality?

    Once again ,sorry to interrupt your dialogue with damos5 with my daft questions.

  7. #7
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    Yeah in excess of 50 Gig per hour for pure AVI at 640x480 is my calculation, so a bit more again if you're at 720x576 which is DVD resolution. Still doesn't stop you using HuffYUV which is lossless, meaning that no information is taken out, just a mathematical algorithm is used to not have to repeat information that is the same from frame to frame : it's based on the same sort of idea as a ZIP file which can be smaller but is exactly the same file when you unzip it.

    As for best capture cards, well I don't have the budget to try out funky hardware and I'm just using an ATi All in Wonder which does me fine. However I think the Canopus is highly respected in the more serious analogue capture stakes.

  8. #8
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    fruey - thanks for info - I use the Canopus ADVC50 to capture DV at 720x576, so I have never tried 'raw'! - I like the idea of HuffYUV being lossless though - maybe I'll experiment further in the future .

    Once again, thanks for the info.

  9. #9

    Default

    Is 10bit the best video capture rate available?
    Is there a card that will capture at up to HDTV resolutions?
    Have you checked out bluefish444, Newtek's Videotoaster VT [3] and Leitch dpsVelocity. Pinnacle have their Targa, Canopus their RTRex, and Matrox their Digisuite. There's virtually no limit to how much you can spend on one of these babies

    Are you sure you need 10 bit or HD?

    The RT.X100 Pro Suite is a pretty good product.

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