Resizing causes aliasing issues. Interlace is something entirely different, but it has always been my belief that interlace may cause aliasing to be worse. (Though keep note that retaining interlace, even with aliasing artifacts, will still be FAR BETTER quality than de-interlace artifacts.)
All capture chipsets (found in both capture cards, DVD recorders and other digital acquisition devices) grab video with a certain pre-determined resolution, based on the chipset. It can then resize to the specs as instructed by firmware or the user. Now the question is always: how well does it resize? And that is the problem... most hardware resizes poorly, with few exceptions.
A general rule of thumb in the image world is to try and only resize in quarters: 25%, 50%, 75%, 125%, 150%, etc. Aliasing is LEAST NOTICEABLE on these settings.
The ATI card plays nice with this philosophy. A 352x480 capture tends to look every bit as good as a 704x480 (at least in situations where the source is around or under 352x480 D/A equivalent... like VHS, cable, etc).
This is another reason "cropping" video is a bad idea. It causes both a resize and can introduce aliasing problems.
DV tends to be pretty sensitive to aliasing for some reason, at least the 4:1:1 NTSC consumer version. That aliasing is caused mostly by compression, and I've seen it infect even semi-professional Matrox cards.
Here's a sample of aliasing artifacts:
720x480 skewed image (blown up 300%):
704x480 native image (blown up 300%)
NOTE: Now, let there be no misunderstanding. These images are simulated in Photoshop (running actual tests would take quite a while). However, these are VERY CLOSE to what I have seen numerous times in the past 4 or so years of digital editing/conversion. And while you may be thinking "these are 300 percent, of course they're more obivious!" .... trust me, you can see them at 100% size too ... the upsize was so you could see them better.
To see what an INTERLACE artifact looks like, read this guide: http://www.digitalfaq.com/capture/interlace.htm
Adobe Premiere does not always play nice with HuffYUV
compression. I use Adobe Premiere 6.5 most of the time here, and most often feed it 640x480 uncompressed YUY2 AVI captures or captures using the Morgan MJPEG compression codec (motion JPEG = MJPEG, not MPEG). Not free, but $30 is not much. MainConcept
also has a MJPEG codec these days.
And you may now be thinking: Wouldn't 640x480 cause an alias skew? And then would re-encoding skew again? The answer is "not really". Skew is most often a problem in hardware. Software has any number of advanced algorithms available to resize, unlike hardware which needs fast-n-dirty methods, not advanced methods that would require large CPU/RAM. And a hardware DOWNSIZE is often fine (at least on a good card like an ATI), it's the UPSIZE that more often causes problems both in hardware or software. It's easier to throw away data than it is to create new data. Yet another reason to not try and capture too high above your source resolution.
The 640x480 is 1:1 and easy for Premiere to deal with. The software encoder should be able to re-encode the file with NO PROBLEM in high quality. Very nifty way to work with video, especially medium res sources like VHS, S-VHS, etc.
I've heard several times where people have reviewed an ATI MMC update as having improved the tuner quality, but it's always been very randomized, nobody ever agrees on it. My tests have NEVER shown any real difference between the 8.x and 9.x versions, regarding improved tuner quality. Not sure what to say here. If your cable is anything like mine, it's probably nothing but coincidence. Aerial signals can be affects by almost anything (moon phase, weather, cloud cover, sun activity, etc).