Camcorders have been resolutely digital for over a decade now, and getting the footage onto your computer for editing can be as easy as drag-and-drop. But if you were a camcorder early adopter, you could well have hours of memories in analogue form, and transferring these to the digital realm might well be a challenge. This is where the Avid Dazzle Video Creator HD comes in.
The Avid Dazzle Video Creator HD hardware takes the form of a small curvy USB 2 breakout box called the DVC100, which sports analogue composite and S-video video inputs, plus stereo audio supplied by twin RCA sockets. So you will be able to connect to virtually any analogue camcorder or VCR.
Don’t be fooled by the ‘HD’ in the product name though. This device captures video at a decidely standard-definition resolution of 720 x 576 pixels.
Digitising hardware wouldn't be much use without the software to handle the footage after capture, and the Avid Dazzle Video Creator HD comes with Pinacle's Studio HD 14. This isn't actually the latest iteration of the Pinnacle software, as version 15 arrived at the beginning of 2011. But it's still a capable video editing application, and you can get the new version for an upgrade price if you want to keep things current.
Grabbing your footage starts with the Import tab in the Studio HD software. You can choose whether to take the composite or S-video input, and the settings dialogue lets you adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, hue and saturation during capture.
You can also select 4:3 or 16:9 aspect, depending on whether your clips were shot in widescreen or not, and indicate whether the footage is from a PAL, NTSC or SECAM source.
Aside from AVI and MPEG presets, there's also a custom option available, which lets you record your footage as DV, MPEG or M-JPEG.
Data rates for MPEG range from 1 to 10Mbit/sec, but M-JPEG just has a quality setting, and DV no options at all other than whether or not you want to record audio as well as video.
Once the video is digitised and on your system, all of the Pinnacle Studio HD software's editing abilities will be at your disposal.
This is an easy application to use, and offers a plethora of effects and enhancements you can apply to your footage. However, it's worth noting that some of the more adventurous effects require activation, which comes at extra cost.
All of the Studio Ultimate RTFx filters cost extra, although you do get the Studio HD RTFx pack, and RTFX Volume 1, with the latter including quite a few fun filters, such as the old-film effect.
At the output stage, there's the usual array of burning to DVD, exporting to a file, recording back to tape, or uploading to the web. However, here Studio HD 14 shows its age a little, as you can burn to HD DVD, but Blu-ray isn't supported; and web options include YouTube and Yahoo! Video, but not Facebook or Twitvid.
You can also use the DVC100 with other video editing apps (we used CyberLink PowerDirector successfully), so you can buy this bundle for the capture hardware alone if you want.