First Look: Snazzi DV Premiere Cut AV.DV Edition

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The birth of the digital video camera with FireWire about seven years ago has brought about a profound shift in how video is acquired and transferred into the digital domain for editing. Before FireWire, users who wished to edit video on a computer had to plug in a capture card (M-JPEG being the most popular) and pray that everything would work. If things did, you'd be able to capture some decent video that could be edited in a non-linear editing application and later output to tape for playback.

Today, many computers ship standard with a FireWire connection, and more and more people are purchasing DV cameras with FireWire, enabling them to get video into a PC relatively easily. For those who have computers but no FireWire port, several companies offer varying solutions to fill in the gaps. [an error occurred while processing this directive]
The Snazzi DV Premiere Cut AV.DV box

One such company is V One Multimedia , based in Singapore. The company offers several FireWire and USB-based solutions for transferring video into a PC. One such offering from V-One, and by far its most professional solution available to date is the Snazzi DV Premiere Cut AV.DV edition, This $449 solution includes a three port FireWire PCI card (two external and one internal FireWire connections), that includes an MPEG chip on the same card for direct to MPEG encoding capabilities. In addition, the card features S-Video and composite I/O capabilities, addressing the needs of those who haven't yet gone digital with their video cameras, or who wish to transfer video via a video cassette recorder. So in essence, this card offers multiple solutions in a single unified solution: DV to MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 encoding capabilities (Full D1, MPEG-2 MP @ ML, up to 10Mbps with adjustable GOP), DV editing, and analog to DV transcoding. The bundled software includes Snazzi DV Studio, Adobe Premiere 6.5 full version including Sonic Solutions DVDit, Ulead Systems' DVD Workshop, Intervideo's WinDVD 4 and WinProducer 3 DVD, Muvee autoProducer Cobalt, a very cool application that automatically cuts your video into a range of different styles while adding cool effects, and Snazzi Movie Mill, which enables you to capture MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 video straight from your video source. Also included in the box is a 6ft, 4-pin to 6-pin FireWire cable, as well as S-Video and composite video cables.

I installed the Snazzi card on a Windows 2000-based 600MHz Pentium III with 128 MB RAM, an 8GB system drive and an 8GB 10,000 rpm Seagate Cheetah media drive. Per the cards instruction poster, I did not follow the Windows "Add New Hardware" Wizard. I installed the Snazzi Movie Mill software, which contains the driver for the PCI card, restarted the computer and was good to go. Once you install the Movie Mill, the drivers for the card are automatically installed as well. You can capture video from any of the applications that ship with the Snazzi card. I used Snazzi's own Movie Mill software, which enables you to capture video from your digital or analog camcorder or VCR.
Movie Mill Main Window

The setup window is where you adjust the parameters of the video you wish to capture. Here you can change the bitrate for each of the four capture settings: MPEG-1 (Video CD email quality or Normal quality), and MPEG-2 (SVCD or DVD-quality). You can choose to separate files for audio and video as well as choose your capture device, which in this case is the V-One Bali Device (The Snazzi AV.DV PCI Card). Clicking on the custom setting brings up the MPEG Codec Properties and Input Video Properties tabs. The MPEG Codec Properties tab enables you to adjust the Video mode to MPEG-1, MPEG-2, VCD, or SVCD.
Movie Mill capture settings

You can tweak the video parameters, including the resolution, bit rate, peak rate (MPEG-2 only), and frames/GOP, as well as I/P distance. The Audio parameters' sampling rate can be adjusted, as well as the encoding type and MPEG bitrate. The input Video Filter Properties enable you to check off an appropriate box for Horizontal Chroma, Horizontal Luma Filter, Vertical Luma Filter, as well as input as VCR.

Minimum System Requirements
The Snazzi DV Premiere Cut AV.DV edition has several system requirements that are dependent on the functions youn wish to perform with the software. DV to MPEG-1 transcoding requires a 700MHz Pentium III CPU. DV to MPEG-2 transcoding requires a 1.4GHz Pentium 4 CPU or better. DV to AVI-DV transfer requires a 600MHz Pentium III. All these configurations require Windows 98SE or later, 128MB RAM (256MB recommended), 7200 RPM UDMA66 or faster hard drive, 800MB disk space for the software, and 200MB of free disk space for each minute of raw DV video, AGP/PCI graphics card with minimum 4MB video RAM, and a sound card that supports 48kHz sampling frequency.

First Impressions:
The Snazzi DV Premiere Cut AV.DV edition is an excellent value for those who need the capability to transfer video from a DV or analog video device into the computer for editing or archiving. The fact that the card supports both IEEE 1394, S-Video, and Composite video in a single PCI solution AND ships with a whole host of software, (from the entry level on up to professional tools such as Adobe Premiere 6.5) makes it a great value. The installation of this card was very straightforward thanks to the supplied instruction poster that came with the card.

This solution offers quite a bit of functionality, high quality video output, as well as choice in the software bundle that ships with it. Keep in mind that there are several DVD authoring applications that ship with the Snazzi; DVDit which is included with Premiere 6.5; Ulead SYstems DVD Workshop; and InterVideo's WinProducer 3, a $149 DVD authoring tool that also offers support for MPEG-4 encoding via Microsoft's WMV/ASF file format. The inclusion of the full version of Adobe Premiere 6.5 is gravy considering the price of the application is close to the price of the entire bundle. If the proverbial Swiss Army of video capture add-on solutions exists, the Snazzi DV Premiere Cut AV.DV edition is it.

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