Dazzle Pinnacle Digital Video Creator 90 test and review

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Dazzle/Pinnacle Digital Video Creator 90

There are a number of ways of bringing analogue footage into a PC for editing and DVD authoring, one of the latest being Pinnacle's low-cost USB 2 external capture box, but how does this low-cost offering shape up?

Plenty of people have analogue video footage that they want to edit or put on DVD, and there's plenty of options for doing this. Our preferred route would be an internal PCI digitising card, but that option isn't open to users of laptop PCs or to many desktop PC users - either those without free PCI slots or those unwilling to get their hands dirty inside their PC.
In these situations, the best choice is an external USB or FireWire capture device such as Pinnacle's £45 offering, the Dazzle-branded Digital Video Creator 90. The DVC90's pocket-sized box connects to a PC via a captive USB 2.0 cable. It has inputs for composite, S-video and L/R audio and can convert from VHS, VHS-C and 8mm, as well as from S-VHS, S-VHS-C and Hi8.
The box comes with two pieces of software - Pinnacle's Studio 9 QuickStart editing and DVD authoring package (in effect, Studio 9 with the brass knobs removed) and Hollywood FX for Studio, for creating transitions between scenes (this, too, with trimmings removed).
Studio 9 QuickStart allows only a single menu strand per DVD project, and its menus and buttons can't have moving images. Title-rolls and crawls are disabled, too, and it's not possible to split audio and video edits, either, so there's no easy way to produce seamless scene-changes. Surround-sound is also disabled, but that seems reasonable given that the video being captured will only have mono or stereo audio. On the plus side, QuickStart is able to bring in and output digital video via FireWire, bypassing the DVC90 hardware.
It's possible to upgrade to the full Studio 9 program and to buy sets of enhanced Hollywood FX transitions, but neither is particularly cheap - about £46 (inc delivery and VAT) for Studio and £10 for each set of 16 advanced effects.

Conclusion

The Dazzle package is low-cost and easy to use but, since the hardware leaves much of the work to the PC, it needs a well-spec'd PC.
Pinnacle's Studio software, as we've said many times, is great in terms of ease of use and having features that most budget editors lack. Trouble is, the QuickStart version supplied in this package lacks a good few features that distinguish the full version from its rivals. Also, as we've seen here, Studio can be a swine when it doesn't behave.
There is, we think, something very wrong with the way in which Studio burns DVDs. After all, we were able to successfully burn these same projects to DVD using another company's software - Roxio's, in this case.
About the only other possible explanation is that Studio's progress-reporting tools are so poor that they failed to show us the state of the burns, and we falsely concluded after a long wait that burning had ground to a halt. But, if that turns out to be the explanation, it's probably even more of a reason for steering clear of this package and Studio in general until Pinnacle finally sorts things out.

Yianni Kyriacou

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