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cyanon 09-12-2006 10:57 AM

DV Capture for MPEG1 - best system and workflow ?

I would like to build a system to capture from DV cams. The resulted video will be at mpeg1 format after some video editing.

I thought best will be to capture in mpeg1 format from DV cam (so a real time encoding is needed) because it might take too much space (12 videos each 20 min). The system should be very stable working everyday without any problem and capture process should be able to started by anybody.

What is the highest possible mpeg1 capturing for DV input ? Do you suggest AIW, Matrox.. If AIW, which one ? what configuration of computer should be suggested. There will be at least two captures from two cams at the same time.

Thanks in advance


admin 09-14-2006 08:18 AM

Where to start....

DV cameras recorded video in DV format. For the best quality results, you're supposed to transfer the DV over firewire, using a program like the freeware "WinDV", and then edit the DV AVI files, and finally encode to the final output MPEG-2 DVD.

Now, you can cheat. Editing will be much harder, assuming you want to do anything besides cutting off excess footage (anything you can do with scissors on film is not really "editing" in my definition, that's "splicing"). The cheat is to capture video to another format, like MPEG-2, using either a computer capture card, or a DVD recorder.

If space is a concern, hard drive space, I suggest an extra hard drive or two or three. You should never record video to the same hard drive being used by the OS (like Windows) anyway. Different physical drive, not just a different partition. And they're really not all that expensive. For example, this week, 300GB Seagate drives are on sale for $90, no rebates. That's a huge drive, and should accomodate a lot of video files, even uncompressed or lesser-compressed ones (like that of DV).

I would never, ever use MPEG-1 for video shot off a DV camera. MPEG-1 does not allow for interlace, and DV video is natively interlaced (bottom field). Your video would be full of zig-zag lines, blurriness, chroma trailing, and other nasty visual artifacts.

If you've got your heart set on capturing to the DV directly to MPEG-2 (DVD-ready format, minimal editing), I suggest a DVD recorder, skip the computer. I would suggest a JVC, Toshiba or Pioneer, and then use 1-hour mode for home-shot DV videos.

If you're convinced you still want to go the computer route, capturing video to something non-DV (again, MPEG-2), then I would suggest an ATI AIW Radeon (AGP card) or a Hauppauge PVR 250 (PCI card). The ATI AIW is for both graphics and video. The Hauppage just does video.

Matrox cards are very nice, but those are realtime (RT) NLE (non-linear editing) cards, meant for serious editing, and as such, come with a serious price tag ($1,000 or more!). I used to want such a card, but to be honest, I don't do that much advanced editing. I can use Adobe Premiere and use software non-RT filtering and effects, for the few times I seriously edit anything.

If you're still insisting on MPEG-1, and I really want to talk you out of it - it looks terrible, then you'll still need to capture in something like MPEG-2 or leave it DV, and then process the video after capture, for the best MPEG-1 quality, and least obnoxious artifacts.

I also do not understand "two captures from two cams at the same time" .... it's not possible. Computers cannot transfer or computer that much data at once, not on the same system. Merging two videos is something you'd want to do in an NLE, or a linear editing setup. I don't deal in linear setups, those are specialized pro equipment that cost a fortune, and have largely gone the way of the dodo since NLE digital tech came about.

You'll also have a problem with "system should be very stable working everyday without any problem and capture process should be able to started by anybody"... because most users are unfamiliar with proper computing AND video at the same time. Reseting computers after large tasks or even day-to-day is a big factor most folks miss. And then different videos can give different problems. If you're using the exact same DV cameras, same kind of content, etc ... then it would work. But it's pretty difficult to perfectly stabilize and video editing/capturing machine, especially when the users are not experts in either facet.

admin 09-14-2006 08:26 AM

If you're building the computer from scratch, here are some specific suggestions:

CPU: Intel P4... no AMD, no Celerons, nothing else

RAM: At least 1GB worth

Hard drives: Seagate or Western Digital, two drives, no less, no Maxtors, no Hitachis, no no-names. Do NOT use RAID of any kind, just SATA or the older PATA/IDE

Large hard drives: if you get a large hard drive, more than 120GB, I suggest connecting it to a Promise TX2 UltraATA/133 PCI card. It all depends on what your computer can and cannot support natively on the motherboard.

Graphics card: ATI Radeon ... if you get an ATI AIW, then you get both video and graphics together

IEEE1394/Firewire card: no TI chipsets

Monitor: Nice large 19" CRT or LCD, preferably something not too bright. I use an LG and highly suggest it. Your screen res needs to be at least 1024x768, and if using LCD, use the native res

DVD burner: Pioneer or NEC, nothing else

Blank discs: be sure to use good media on any DVD projects, refer to the list on this site

Case/CPU fans: Be sure you have enough fans to keep the system cool, especially for CPU-intensive tasks like encoding video. I use several 92-120mm fans that go at under 3000rpm, and are pretty quiet. It's hard to work with audio editing if your computer sounds like a wind tunnel.

Power supply: whatever comes with a case is not suggested. buy a case for the case, set the PSU aside as a backup. Then go grab yourself a nice 500W supply. I think Thermaltake, Antec, PC Cooling, and a few others are pretty good.

Wiring: use a good firewire cable, not one that seems flimsy or has discolored metal on the connectors

Surge protection: skip those cheapo surge protectors. Get yourself a battery-backup UPS (uniterruptable power supply) with AVR (auto voltage regulation). These run about $50-200, depending on how big you get it. Mine is one of those $150 models from CyberPower, works great, protects the computer and video hardware from surges, spikes, and voltage irregularities.

I think that about covers it.

cyanon 09-15-2006 07:38 AM

Why is it not possible to transfer data at the same time ?
If we say two firewire links at he same time isn't it theorically each is 40 mb/sec if one duo cored processor or 2 multiprocessors used will it not work ?
I'm trying to figure out why it will not work ?

admin 09-15-2006 10:31 AM

Well, for starters, the hard drives could not keep up, not to mention other bottlenecks in the system. The CPU is nice, but that's only one aspect of the overall system.

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