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Dr. Brule 06-30-2012 10:37 AM

Capture card decisions: Windows XP? Really!?
Hi, I'm currently amassing equipment for a VHS-to-digital project (backing up home videos). So far, I have a JVC HR-S9600EU and a TBC-100 (thanks LordSmurf :p) coming in the mail, and so the next piece of equipment I have my sights on is a capture card. So far I feel I've made good decisions with my choice of VCR and TBC, so it would be good to get the capture card "right" as well.

I just built a Windows 7 PC for gaming and am also dual-booting with Ubuntu for some software dev work. So as you can probably imagine, it's a decent machine. However, I've been doing a lot of reading of threads on here, and apparently Windows 7 is a no-go for capturing?

For example, post #1 of this thread explains why you should use the ATI AIW cards (see section titled "Quick History on Why ATI AIW Cards are Preferred"). However (and this is just a constructive critique), for me it doesn't seem to answer the question of why one should actually use the AIW cards over the Windows 7-compatible cards, it just explains why the AIW cards made an impact in the market during their heyday... :confused:

To give you an idea of what I'm trying to achieve with my project, my primary goal is backing up home videos at the best/highest quality possible, which I'm sure is probably a goal I share with many of you. So, that means lossless formats for capturing and archival. I don't really have any need for compressed formats, at least not at the capturing stage, that is. I do plan to do some editing (mainly video compilations) in the future using my lossless backups, but I assume I can just re-encode on Windows 7 when it comes time for editing, right?

So, could someone clarify why the Windows XP + ATI AIW combo is preferred for a more "serious" setup? Specifically, what are the Windows 7-compatible cards like the ATI TV Wonder HD 600 and Matrox MX02 lacking in comparison? What exactly about them is not adequate? Don't they capture lossless video?

Lastly, given all of this - which capture card best aligns with my project goal? What card do you recommend?

If it will get the best results, then I am willing to build a Windows XP computer, purchase an ATI AIW and a KVM, and do the whole song and dance. When it comes to backing up home videos, for me it's not an issue of time or money (I am willing to even purchase a $1200 Aja Kona LHi-LHe-LSe if that is seriously what you recommend). But it would be good to clarify things first.

Thanks. :)

kpmedia 06-30-2012 11:39 AM


over the Windows 7-compatible cards
It's because there really aren't any decent capture cards that run under Windows 7. Most of what runs under Windows 7 are consumer PVR sticks, or high-end NLE cards.

Microsoft broke the method in which audio/video functioned under Windows (everything from 95 to XP), with the release of Windows Vista (and the subsequent Windows 7). XP and pre-XP cards would require new drivers to function, but that wasn't going to happen. The existing high-quality cards were, at the time of release of Windows Vista, either out of business or had long ago abandoned support of the capture cards. In some cases, there were hardware limitations or conflicts, and writing new drivers simply was not possible.

By about 2007, "capture cards" were being discarded for TiVo-like devices (aka PVRs, or DVRs), or for higher-end niche professional NLE cards (Matrox, Canopus, Aja). The middle-ground capture cards are pretty much gone now, and have been for 5+ years at this point. The ATI 600 USB is one of the final cards known for quality capturing, and functions under Windows 7, but the AIW cards are still far better. The higher-end NLE cards also capture, but the cards come at a price.

The ATI AIW cards didn't really have any quality-compromising quirks, unlike many others. At most, sometimes you'd come across a card that had a shielding error, and would pick up electrical noise (herringbone, static, etc).

Another flaw of the ATI AIW cards was difficulty with installing them and getting them set up. Latter versions of ATI MMC and drivers fixed the first half of that, and the guides at took care of the second half. Then again, I could probably say the same about Canopus and Matrox cards, or pretty much any other capture card worth using, then or now.

lordsmurf 06-30-2012 11:09 PM

I'll be posting two capturing setups for sale in the marketplace later tonight.

The first kit is a motherboard with CPU/fan, RAM, and a power supply, with an AGP ATI All In Wonder card. This is a working system. You need to supply your own case and sound card. I can reinstall everything (for a fee) onto a hard drive, and add a sound card. Just plop it into a new case, and it's ready to use right away.

The second kit is a motherboard with CPU/fan and RAM, with a PCI ATI card. You'll need a case, power supply, sound card and hard drives to make it work.

These were pulled working systems. Some workflows were changed, and these systems became redundant and are now just taking up closet space. They're still quite valuable, however, so being sold for somebody else to use, and the funds will be use to perform maintenance on some aging VCRs, as well as maintenance and feature improvements on this very site.

I have the hardware laying on the studio table, and will photograph and post everything in a few hours.

Just as an FYI.

Dr. Brule 07-01-2012 01:42 AM


Originally Posted by kpmedia (Post 21438)
The ATI 600 USB is one of the final cards known for quality capturing, and functions under Windows 7, but the AIW cards are still far better.

I guess this is the fundamental question I'm trying to get an answer to - specifically, in what ways are they "better"? I keep hearing it said, but I'm not sure what it means. :p


Originally Posted by kpmedia (Post 21438)
The higher-end NLE cards also capture, but the cards come at a price.

What is your opinion of the high-end NLE cards? I don't mind paying extra if it means compatibility with newer operating systems. What does the "NLE" indicate? Are they tied to specific NLE software or something?


Originally Posted by lordsmurf (Post 21444)
I'll be posting two capturing setups for sale in the marketplace later tonight.

Good timing, will definitely keep an eye out for that!

lordsmurf 07-01-2012 02:10 AM

There have been instances where the ATI 600 will blow out tapes with certain errors. The color is washed, the contrast is overdone, and image detail is lost. It's a specific weakness found in certain hardware. You can get similar errors cranking up knobs on proc amps or TBCs too much. The ATI AIW is far more reliable, specifically the Rage Theatre and Theatre 200 chipsets, and has never exhibited this behavior. I have a tape here that is obliterated by the ATI 600. It's very uncommon. But if you handle a lot of really bad tapes, like I do, you'll quickly get irritated by it. It's a device quirk that's been discussed a few times. I first heard about this about 3 years ago, but only this year did I finally come across a videotape that it hated.

I don't write about it too often, because it tends to falsely scare people into avoiding an excellent card. :(

ATI MMC also has far more MPEG settings and tweaks available than ATI CMC, and you can capture PAL MPEG-2.

NLE = non-linear editors, like Premiere, Vegas, Edius, or Final Cut Pro.

My complaint about NLE cards is that you're often locked into a specific version of the NLE, and within just a few years, the card is a paperweight -- unless you want to continue running a now-slow CPU with a resource-hog editor. You cannot upgrade to the newer NLE versions. For capturing only, the NLE card is fine, but you're really paying for the editing function that has a limited lifespan. I gave up on expensive Matrox cards almost a decade ago because of this. I didn't want to use a P4 with Windows 2000 or Mac G4 with OS9 forever. In some cases, the NLE cards are hardware-locked to certain CPUs or certain motherboards.

While ATI cards require XP, they're nowhere near as limited in terms of available capturing software. You can use the latest versions of VirtualDub, for example, or any number of AVI capturing tools (including new NLEs) that didn't even exist by the time the ATI empire had ended. Still, ATI MMC for MPEG and VirtualDub for AVI are suggested. And pretty much any CPU or compatible card slot works.

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