Using the Miro DV300 in Windows
by Chris Brechnitz

Installation

The DV300 can be difficult to install if you are not using the Intel 440LX chipset on your motherboard. How can you tell? If you have a Pentium II processor, you should be in good shape. The 440BX chipset that is used in the new Pentium II 350 and 400 MHz is generally trouble-free as well. If you are using any other configuration, you may want to check the compatibility chart on the Pinnacle web page at http://www.pinnaclesys.com/consumer/DCxComp.html.

The first thing to do is to physically install the DV300 into an empty PCI card slot. Mine works best in the shared PCI/ISA slot. If, when you restart your machine, you do not see the SCSI BIOS (it should say something like to press ctrl A) then you may have to go into your computer's BIOS, and turn off the Plug and Play option. You also may have to move the DV300 or other PCI cards around until the SCSI BIOS of the DV300 is detected when your machine is starting.

If Windows detects the DV300 then you may be in good shape, but make sure and install the Adobe Premiere 4.2 LE software before installing the DV300 software. If you do not, then you will not be able to use miroINSTANT Video, and you may not have the proper presets for working with digital video. Make sure you note the location of the Premiere plug-ins directory, and when installing the DV300 make sure uses this same folder when it installs its plug-in files. The easiest way to make sure this is done right is to use the custom installation for both the Premiere, and the DV300 software.

If Windows Plug and Play detects your card, and installs the drivers, you may not be using the latest drivers, especially if you are using Windows 95 OSR 2. The best way to correct this problem is to go to the Control Panel, then to the System icon, then go to the Device Manager tab, and then update the drivers for the DV300 and the SCSI controller. You should use the DV300 CD-ROM for this step.

Once the drivers are installed, make sure that there are no system conflicts in the Device Manager before proceeding. I have found that if you are having problems getting device conflicts resolved, the best fix is to try using Windows 98.

After the correct drivers are installed, and there are no system conflicts, and you have already installed Premiere, then you may install the DV300 software. There is a software update for the DV300 at http://www.videodirector.com/support/dv300/updates/. Do not use the beta release of the extended presets for Premiere 5.0, it is not ready yet and will be a problem for you. I guarantee it. Pinnacle is working on better drivers, but as of this writing they are not released. Do download and install the patch for A/V sync. If you have not connected your drives to the DV300, you should do so now. The DV300 comes with a hard disk benchmarking utility called miroVideo Expert. If you are not getting the required speed, then you can go into the SCSI bios of the DV300 (press ctrl-A during startup) and change the data rate for the hard drive. If you have a brand new drive you will have to low-level format the drive in the DV300 SCSI BIOS, and then format the drive using the fdisk command at the DOS prompt. Adaptec, the maker of the DV300's hardware also makes a utility called EZ-SCSI that may also help you improve the performance of your hard disk.

Using the DV300 DVTools software.

The DVTools software is the place to capture, and print to tape clips from the DV device you are using. Editing is handled by Premiere. The scan feature will go through your entire tape, and log the scenes into a thumbnail gallery. Once a tape is scanned, it does not need to be scanned again, unless you have recorded new images on it. After scanning the tape, you can drag and drop scene into a capture gallery. Sometimes if multiple scenes from the thumbnail gallery are placed into the capture gallery, the capture process will not work properly. In addition if the scene is longer that 8 minutes long, the 2 Gigabyte .avi file size limitation is exceeded, and the capture will not work. In the Tools menu there is a option for DV device control. I prefer to capture using this feature. Clips can be captured manually using in and out points on the tape.

The DV300 is the only card I know of that supports multiple pass capture. This allows the card to go back and retrieve frames that get lost in the capture process. New editions of the DV300 may allow you to disable this feature. Multi-pass may take longer, but it allows you to work with slower hard drives.

Once your movie has been edited in Premiere you may print it to tape using the DVTools provided the movie is smaller than 2 Gigabytes. If the movie is larger than 2 Gigabytes the Instant Video feature in Premiere may work for you.

Working with Premiere

The DV300 is bundled with Adobe Premiere 4.2 LE. At the current time the drivers for the DV300 and Premiere 5.0 have not been released. You can still work with Premiere 5.0 with files you capture using the DV300, but they must be limited to 2 Gigabytes, because Instant Video will not work in Premiere 5.0 yet. The advantage to using Premiere 5.0, is not having to resample the audio. Premiere 5.0 supports the 48kHz sample rate of many MiniDV camcorders including the Canon XL-1. If you have problems getting the audio and video to sync in Premiere 4.2 this may be your problem. Using a sound editor such as Sonic Foundry's Sound Forge to resample the digital audio can help solve this problem.

The full Adobe Premiere version 4.2 is compatible with Instant Video. When you are finished editing a movie, make sure you have saved the project, and then instead of using the Make Movie, choose the File menu, and select Export…miroINSTANT Video. If this option is not available you may have to de-install the software for Premiere, and then for the DV300, and then reinstall them. If you get errors make sure the output settings are correct. Use the Make menu, and choose presets. Make sure you are using the DV300 NTSC to DV300 NTSC preset. When miroINSTANT Video starts, it will build the clip by rendering the transitions. When the miroINSTANT Video window opens there is a hidden menu that can be accessed by clicking the upper left hand corner of the window. If you want to print your video to tape then choose the synchronous start option. I don't recommend using the miroINSTANT Video software unless you have a clip that is larger than 2 Gigabytes, and if you do include some pre and post roll to the clip. If you are using Adobe 4.2 there are some updates that may be found at:

http://www.adobe.com/supportservice/custsupport/LIBRARY/prwin.htm

I recommend the MMX plug-in, and the AVI updates.


Rating the DV300

The Miro DV300, the Adaptec HotConnect Ultra 8945, and the DPS Spark Plus are essentially identical in terms of hardware. They are also similar in price. The differences are in their capture software. The HotConnect 8945 is the only one currently to offer device control within Adobe Premiere, and will only work for MacOS and NT. This leaves the bundled software to do the jobs of capturing and printing to tape. The HotConnect offers DVDeck for this purpose, while the Spark Plus offers a similar system. The DV300 is the only card in this class to offer the multi-pass capture process. While it can be tedious (the newer version of the DVTools software may have a disable option) the process will eliminate dropped frames in the capture process. While this feature only works during the capture process, and not the printing to tape process, it is more important during capturing because of the nature of hard drives. Hard drives typically read (during the print to tape process) faster than they write (during the capture process). Contrary to popular opinion, DV setups can drop frames, and it can be a serious problem. The printing to tape process can be a problem on all of these cards. To ensure best results when printing to tape, make sure all other applications are closed. This will free system resources (especially RAM) that can effect performance. The DV300 is also the only card in this class that can deal with files larger than 2 Gigs. The INSTANTVideo is not perfect, and can be hard to install and work with, but it is the only thing available for these cards with software codecs. Although sometimes when printing to tape using the INSTANTVideo feature in Premiere 4.2 you will see a number of skipped frames under the video window. This does not automatically mean that you have dropped frames, it can be caused by differentials in the 30 drop-frame timecode that is used by Premiere. It is best with all of these cards to include some pre and post-roll to your edited videos. Adobe Premiere 5 even comes with a leader that is perfect for such tasks.

In the small world of hybrid IEEE-1394-SCSI cards, the DV300 is set apart by the software used to run the major functions. No other card offers the kind of protection against frame-loss, and the kind of flexibility in handling large files. The newer drivers for Premiere 5 can only enhance the value of this board. Short of cards with hardware codecs or analog inputs, this card is, in my opinion, the best in its category.