Your own video production studio. (hardware and software) (Multimedia PC) (Column)
by David English
If the recent Fall COMDEX is any indication, software-based video is coming to Windows in a big way. Microsoft Video for Windows (Microsoft, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, Washington 98052; 800-426-9400; $199) was running on computers throughout the show. (It was even running on new computers using the Pentium--that's Intel's official name for its next-generation 80586 processor.) Apple showed its QuickTime for Windows, a competing technology that Apple argues is even better than Video for Windows. Pioneer announced a CD-ROM that can move data at four times the normal speed (600K rather than 150K per second), making it ideal for reading full-motion video files that usually run tens of megabytes in size.
In addition, several companies displayed video capture cards that are compatible with Video for Windows and will compete directly with Creative Labs' Video Blaster. Media Vision's Pro MovieSpectrum (Media Vision, 3185 Laurelview Court, Fremont, California; 800-845-5870; $399) doesn't require that your VGA card have a feature connector, so almost anyone with a 386 or 486 can work with video. SuperMac's VideoSpigot is currently the top video card for the Mac. The company is releasing a PC version of the card, called VideoSpigot for Windows (SuperMac, 485 Potero Avenue, Sunnyvale, California; 408-245-2202; $499). It will include SuperMac's own Video for Windows compression driver, called CompactVideo, which lets you expand the size of Video for Windows' onscreen video (from 160 x 120 pixels to 320 x 240 pixels) or double the frame rate (from 15 frames per second to 30 frames per second). Finally, Brown-Wagh showed its Studio Magic card (Brown-Wagh Publishing, 160 Knowles Drive, Los Gatos, California 95030; 408-378-3838; $499.95). It not only bring full-motion video into your computer but also sends that video back out again.
I'm still waiting to get my hands on the Pro MovieSpectrum and VideoSpigot cards (I plan to cover them in more detail in upcoming columns), but I did receive a preproduction version of the Studio Magic card. Like the Video Blaster, it lets you capture full-motion video and save it to your hard drive with Video for Windows, capture individual video frames, and add audio to video. But unlike the Video Blaster, the Studio Magic card lets you display your computer output on a standard television, record your computer and video output to videotape, use your Windows fonts for titling, perform high-end special effects (includingcolorization, solarization, posterization, and metalization), and program a variety of video transistions and wipes. In other words, you get not only a Video for Windows capture board but a capable video production system that you can use with your VCR or camcorder--all for just $499.95.
Too good to be true? If you want professional-quality special effects and animation, you should consider either a Video Toaster ($4,595--$10,000) or a Matrox Studio ($15,000--$25,000). But if you can't afford a Mercedes and would be happy with a Buick for the price of a Yugo, this may be the card for you. It costs about the same as the other video capture cards but gives you the video production features of a second card for free.
Most of us are new to the concept of a personal video studio. Fortunately, Studio Magic's main Windows interface resembles a familiar remote control with various video and audio options. The postproduction screen looks like a miniature television studio with six monitor-like windows, a preview window, a final-output window, visual-effects selectors, and wipe controls.
You can simultaneously access video from two sources, either S-video or composite. The card can also output either S-video or composite. That means you can easily combine clips from different videos, add your special effects, and send the results to a standard TV or VCR.
Finally, the Studio Magic package provides an excellent assortment of commercial applications, including PC Animate Plus, 3D Workshop, and Curtain Call. If you're looking for a Video for Windows video capture board and you're interested in bringing your computer videos back to a TV or VCR, check out Studio Magic. It's the closet you'll probably ever come to having our own video production studio.