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Hardware Review of:
USB Instant DVD
Featuring CapWiz


USB Instant DVD device

Larry Grosskopf is a Clinical Psychologist at the San Antonio State Hospital, with a thirst for computer knowledge. He is married to Marta, and they are raising two awesome children, their daughter ZoŽ is 10, and their son Jackson is now 8. If you have questions, email Larry.

From the September 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

ADS Technologies are the makers of the USB Instant DVD device. This product allows you to download your movies directly from your Analog or Digital video camera, TV, VCR, Laserdisc, DVD player, or even your satellite receiver. This handy little device is fairly small, about the size of a Broadband modem or a small network switch or router. It attaches to the computer, yep; you guessed it, via the USB port. It comes with its own electrical cord attachment for power, so it is not relying on your system for power through your USB ports.

In my experience, most of the time, you are expected to install the drivers and then the software, before you connect the hardware device to your computer. I was a bit rushed when I installed this device because it was late and I felt pressured, however, since it was a USB device, the XP operating system recognized it and saved me from any difficulties my haste may have potentially caused. I was then able to install the drivers properly and they installed perfectly on my system. The first time I used it, or tried to, it worked just as it was supposed to.

What do you need in order to operate this nifty device on your system? The requirements are for a system running at least an Intel Celeron 500 MHz or an AMD Athlon 600 MHz or faster CPU (Pentium III or Athlon 800 MHz recommended), 128 MB of RAM, a Full-Duplex Sound Card, a 16 MB AGP Video card, an open USB connection, Windows 98, 98SE, Me, 2000 or XP, 150 MB of free hard drive space and a CD-ROM drive.

Additionally, as you capture video from whatever source, you will need extremely large areas for saving video files. For example, if you capture video at 4 MB/second, you will use 1.8 GB per hour of video. In other words, if you have an excessive amount of free hard drive space, you can easily use it up for your videos. Finally, to make the complete circle, you will need a CD-recordable drive or a DVD recordable drive with software that will allow you to record your edited videos onto a DVD or CD.

My initial foray into video making with this product was to download some video I had recorded on my Panasonic Mini-DV digital camcorder. The video was of the kids playing while we were on vacation last month. It comes with the USB Instant DVD Capture Wizard. I must be honest in as far as my previous experience with similar devices had left me impressed. I wondered if this product would live up to my expectations of downloading my Digital Video so that I could edit it and then produce a more polished product. I was delighted with its performance. It has great flexibility, with support for MPEG 1 or 2 video formats as well as LPCM audio.

CapWiz, the capture wizard lived up to its billing, capturing the video footage I had recorded and saving it to my hard drive. From there, the software that comes with it takes over. Even before that step, you have control over the brightness, contrast, chroma, saturation and hue from the menu controls in CapWiz.

CapWiz menu controls

There are three ways to capture video, CapWiz is basic video capture and playback software, which works very well, as I have mentioned. VideoStudio 6 from ULEAD was included in the box as was MyDVD 3.5. With VideoStudio 6, you can do full video capturing and editing. With MyDVD 3.5 you can take the route of directly converting your video in VCD or DVD format and authoring a disk with your CD or DVD writer. Either CapWiz or Video Studio will let you send video files back through the unit to a TV so that you can evaluate your work. Finally, when all is said and done, you can send your video back to a taping device (camera or VCR.). This device is helping me convert my VHS movies to DVD, VCD or SVCD. I can also get very creative with it (when I can find the time) by making interactive videos with scene and chapter menus, added special effects, titles, music and even making my own music videos.

For those of you who are a bit more advanced technologically when it comes to video editing, it uses USB 2.0 for XP or Windows 2000 systems but is backward compatible to USB 1.1 for other operating systems. It uses a 9-bit video digitizer with 2X over sampling and a 4 line comb filter which increases the quality and volume of the video sample. For output there is a 10-bit video encoder to enhance the quality of video output to TV or to tape. You can capture using constant or variable bit rate settings as your project dictates.

An Internet search revealed an online price range from $150 to $181 for this product. Local stores such as Best Buy, CompUSA and Circuit City may or may not have it in stock.

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