Pros: Captures from DV/audio/TV/S-Video/composite, captures audio, DVR functionality, timed recording of TV shows
Cons: Missing installation guide may cause issues for some
I have been editing video on my computer for almost 6 years now. I have more FireWire ports on my PC than most people have USB ports and I have always used them to transport video from my camcorder to my computer. I have a Radeon X1800XT graphics card for gaming and it handles that end of my video needs very well. The setup works great and for a long time I had no need of any other video hardware.
Recently I got a job as a videographer for our local playhouse and needed an extra camera. I used my wifes camcorder, which is a VHS-C camcorder and has no FireWire port for video transfer. Now I needed a way to get the video off the tapes and into the PC for editing. I went online and found this device, the V-Stream Video Magician and it appeared to have everything I need as well as some features I may find useful in the future. After purchasing the package, I read some reviews on Epinions and was amazed to find only bad reviews of the V-Stream. I havent had any of the reported problems with mine and, in fact, have had nothing but good results from all of my projects with it so far.
V-Stream Video Magician
This is actually two devices in one. It is a capture card with a built-in TV tuner and a front panel I/O port for audio and video as well. Similar to the way the SoundBlaster Audigy front panel works, it has a cable that connects the front panel to the card internally. The card is a PCI video capture card with ports for S-Video, RCA video, RCA audio, FireWire and Mic/Line-in. It also has a port for the infrared receiver for the remote control.
The front panel has the same ports as the card and can be installed into a 5.25in. drive bay (CD drive bay) or you can attach the metal cover and use it as an external device. Which ever way you decide to set up the I/O panel makes no difference in performance. There are two separate data cables that can be used to connect the I/O panel to the card; either cable can be connected to the I/O panel and both have the same rectangular plug on the end that connects to the I/O panel. One is flat (like a floppy cable) and is designed to connect to the card internally and the other is rounded and turns into a snake (a wrapped cable with many plugs coming out of the end of the cable) that each of the panels ports individually plug into the card at back of the computer. I installed mine internally so I dont have to worry about more cables behind my desk.
DV/AV/TV Capture Card
* Device type: PCI video capture card with TV tuner
* Video input: Coaxial (RF), Composite Video, S-Video, IEEE 1394a iLink (input/output) Note: This is the small IEEE 1394 port, like the port on a camcorder
* Audio input: Connect external audio source
* Audio output: 3.5mm audio cable to sound card Line-in
* Remote sensor input: 24in. infrared receiver line with remote control device
* Video input: Composite Video, S-Video, IEEE 1394a iLink (input/output) Note: This is also the small IEEE 1394 port, like the port on a camcorder
* Video output: Composite video output, S-Video out
* Audio input: Connect external audio source (R/L RCA), MIC
* Audio output: 3.5mm audio cable to sound card Line-in, R/L RCA
* Integrated cable-ready TV tuner
* Integrated TV, A2 and NICAM audio decoder on-chip
* TV receiving up to 125 channels including cable and antenna
* Capture TV or video as MPEG 1 or MPEG 2
* Time schedule to preset recording time of TV shows
* Time-shifting to record and playback live TV programs at the same time
* Video resolution: NTSC 720x480 @ 30fps / PAL 720x576 @ 25fps
* Remote controller can power off PC
* NTSC: 720x480(CCIR601), YUV 4:1:1, 30fps, 5:1 DV CODEC, 3.6MB/sec
* PAL: 720x576(CCIR601), YUV 4:2:0, 25fps, 5:1 DV CODEC, 3.6MB/sec
* Capture video source from VHS, V8, Hi8, DV, D8 etc.
* Provide Bus Master Function Interface (OHCI) Specification
* Compliant to PCI 2.2 specifications
* Supports Serial Bus data rates of 100, 200 and 400Mb/sec
* Asynchronous and Isochronous data transfer supported
* CyberLink Power VCR II 3.0
* CyberLink PowerDirector 3.0
* Driver CD
The day I installed it, I was able to transfer one and a half hours of video with audio from our VHS-C camcorder to my computer for editing. I used the S-Video (since our camcorder does have that) to capture the best image I could get. This was the main reason I bought this device and it worked extremely well. After all the work was done, like two days later, I started to play with my new toy to see what else it could do well.
I was surprised to find that after attaching my cable line to the coaxial input on the card, I was able to instantly watch TV using the PowerVCR II software. It was very simple to set up too, I just clicked auto search and the software scanned all channels and listed the ones with a signal. The remote works like a charm; I can now watch TV on my PC and even be as lazy as I am when watching TV from my sofa.
I was also surprised to find that I can now pause and rewind live TV just like a TIVO device. The time-shifting software also acts like a TIVO system allowing you to pause TV while you answer the phone so you dont miss anything. EXCELLENT! I was very happy with this discovery.
The IEEE 1394 interfaces on the card and on the I/O panel are both 1394a which is the smaller FireWire port also known as iLink. They are basically the same as a normal FireWire port but the connection is smaller and shaped like a small rectangle. The card comes with two 1394a cables with the small connectors on both ends so this isnt a problem. I still use the larger FireWire ports on the front of my PC case for transferring video from the Sony Digital 8 camcorder.
The front I/O panel is silver in color, which I do not care for much because I am anal and I like all my devices to match. The rest of my PC is black and I built it that way on purpose, but I will let that little detail slide since this device is so cool.
I have not used PowerDirector 3 because I already have PowerDirector 4 and PowerDirector 5 so I have no need of it. PowerDirector 5 works perfectly with the video capture hardware and anything I capture can be edited in PowerDirector 5. I can even change the format from MPEG2 to DV AVI if I want. The compression used by the card is very good, there are no noticeable artifacts in the video and no pixilation. The quality of video with MPEG2 is just about as good as the DV AVI I capture from my Sony Digital 8 camcorder. I do not use MPEG1, even though it doesnt take as much disk space, I want the high quality video. Im the kind of person who will buy another 500GB hard drive when I run out of space rather than compromise on the quality of the video.
Overall, I am very happy with the performance of the device. It does much more than what I bought it for and does it all well.
In the box
* DV/AV/TV/Capture card
* Video I/O bay panel
* Composite video (RCA) cable
* 2 RCA (L/R red/white) to single stereo 3.5mm. cable
* 3.5mm audio cable
* S-Video cable
* IDE 16-pin to 16-pin cable (connects front I/O panel to the card internally)
* IDE 16-pin to Snake (connects front I/O panel to the card externally)
* 12in. DV 1394a cable
* 36in. DV 1394a cable
* Driver CD
* PowerDirector 3.0 CD with license
* PowerVCR II 3.0 CD with license
* Installation guide
(Note: I did not get an installation guide in my box, this wasnt any problem for me but some people may have a hard time installing the device properly without this guide.)
Honestly, I have no idea why other people have had so much trouble with this card. Mine installed without a hitch and worked perfectly from day one. It does everything I need it to do; and some things I didnt know it could! I have been extremely happy with its performance and would happily recommend it to anyone needing a video capture card or a TV tuner for their PC. I would recommend checking the box for the installation guide, because mine was missing and it may be difficult to install properly without it for some people.
Thank for reading,