Turtle Beach Video Advantage PCI

robgs - 2007-08-19 20:26:19 in Digital Photography/Video
Category: Digital Photography/Video
Reviewed by: robgs   
Reviewed on: September 13, 2007
Turtle Beach
Turtle Beach
Price: $149.00 US

Introduction:

As the previous era of magnetically recorded tapes fades into history, the new digital era of faster and sharper video has almost completed its takeover. This takeover, however, leaves at least one very serious problem. How do we get all of these volumes of video tapes into the 21st century? Well, depending on the type of video equipment you had, you may have to search high and low to find the proper video capture hardware and then you’ll definitely have to think about the software you’ll need after that. Video capturing and editing itself, has become a huge industry and you can now find everything from simple USB video capture hardware, all the way to full blown, professional quality equipment for your computer. Turtle Beach has introduced the Video Advantage PCI to the market, to help you make your decision easier. The Video Advantage PCI is a fully equipped video capture hardware suite that includes almost every known video input format, as well as the software you’ll need to get the job done right.

Turtle beach was founded in 1985 and produced sound equipment for early personal computers. Having gained a footing in the marketplace with the development and release of the MultiSound sound card, Turtle Beach’s success has continued to blossom. In 1996 Turtle Beach was acquired by Voyetra Technologies and continues to produce some of the worlds best audio and video equipment for the PC.

 

Closer Look:

The packaging the Video Advantage PCI comes in is quite colourful and filled with images and information about the product. Along with a complete listing of the package contents, you can also see a glimpse of the software that is included.

 

 

 

Inside the box almost everything is covered with bubble wrap for protection during shipping. There was no damage that I could see to any of the articles inside the box. Along with the supplied hardware is the software and driver CD’s, as well as the instructions.

 

With the hardware, you can see there are a lot of cables that are supplied. Some are used for interconnecting the hardware inside your PC, while others are supplied to connect your video equipment to the Video Advantage PCI. These are supplied as a convenience, so you don’t have to go out and purchase them, which is a very nice touch.

 

Here is a shot of the front 5.25” drive bay connector panel and the connection points on the Video Advantage PCI card.

 

After checking the inventory of supplied cables and components, it’s now time to install the software.

Installation: Software Part 1

The installation of the Video Advantage PCI is a little counter-intuitive. Following the directions, you must install the software first before attempting to install the hardware. To install the software, insert the provided CD into your CD ROM drive and follow the on-screen instructions.

 

 

 

From the main menu select “Setup Video Advantage PCI”.  Then select “Install Video Advantage PCI” from the menu that follows.

 

 

We are then taken to the setup screens that will install the driver and software that we need. You should follow all on-screen instructions. Enter the code that is provided on the back of the CD sleeve and all of your personal information then select “Next”.

 

 

The rest of the install screens are pretty typical setup screens, asking where you would like install the software. To make things more, simpler just select complete and the rest will be automatic.

 

 

The next screen that comes up is the final screen for the installation of the driver and the Turtle Beach software. The instructions tell us to power down the computer, install the hardware and power the computer back up again to complete the install.

 

So, in keeping with the instructions provided, we’ll move into the installation of the hardware.

Installation: Hardware

First you’ll have to locate a spare PCI slot in your PC, and carefully insert the new card.

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I’ll connect the sound outputs of the Video Advantage, to the sound input of my sound card. Using the supplied cables, the “Mic-Out” is connected to the “Mic-In” of the sound card and the “Audio-Out” is connected to the “Line-In” of the sound card.

 

 

The PCI card has some interconnections that have to be made to the front bay-mounted connection panel. These cables are the ones shown in the picture. So, we’ll need the ribbon cable, the FireWire 400 cable and the USB cable as shown.

 

Locate the connection points on the back of the Video Advantage PCI card and plug in the ribbon cable and the FireWire cable. Don’t worry, the ribbon cable can only go one way, so it’s pretty hard to make a mistake there.

 

 

Then locate a spare USB connection point on your motherboard and connect the USB cable to it.

 

Installation: Hardware

Next, route the cables through your computer to the opening of your spare 5.25” bay.

 

 

 

 

Included in the parts list is a small set of metal brackets. These brackets are to extend the front connection panel for deeper drive bays. To install these plates, just use the supplied screws and attach the extensions to the back of the panel.

 

 

The next part task is to install the front connector panel into the spare 5.25” bay. Connect the cables that you just routed through your computer to the connection points on the back of the panel. Then slide the panel into the bay and install the mounting screws into the side of the panel.

 

 

Finally, replace all of the side covers and the front bezel to your computer and we are now ready to install the driver and software.

Installation: Software Part 2

Next, following the same path as we did for the driver installation, we’ll choose “Install Cyberlink Power Director 3.0” and follow the on-screen instructions.

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s it for the installation. Next we’ll set the software up to properly capture some video.

Configuration:

Since configuring the software provided is very involved, for the scope of this review, I will only briefly describe some of the aspects of video capturing and editing. First, let's open the Video Advantage AD Fullcap, which should now reside in your start menu under “Programs\Turtle Beach”. In the first tab called “File” we can set the new video’s name and path. Along with that, we can set a limit to the file time and size. I will leave these settings at their default values as I don’t know how big the movie will be when I am finished.

 

 

 

The next file tab is called the “Video” tab and is where we can select the properties of the video we want to create. You may notice a small wrench image beside some drop down menus. These signify that there are more configuration options associated with the selection. If you select the configuration icon beside the capture device pull down menu, a dialogue box will appear that will allow you to modify the capture device. In North America the video recording standard is NTSC, so I will leave that option alone. In the next file tab in the dialogue box, you can select or modify the color scheme for the captured video.

 

 

Below the “Video Capture Device” menu, there is a button labelled “Frame Format”. Here you can select the output frame size for the captured video, but I will leave this at the default setting of 720 x 480 to ensure the smooth operation of the software.

 

 Next, we can select the compression method for the video, or we can select AVI for no compression. As well, beside the “Compression” pull down menu, we can further configure the compression method with more options.

 

Configuration:

Finally, in the “Video” tab, we can choose the input method for our video. Depending on the type of interface on your camera, the selections will vary. For me, I have chosen the “Composite” input selection. And of course, select the video recording standard for your region.

 

 

 

The next file tab, labelled “Audio”, is where you can select the audio properties for the video. In the “Audio Capture Device” pull down menu, select the device that you want to use to capture your sound for your movie. Then you can select the format for the audio depending on the quality of sound you want. The higher the quality the more room it will take up in your movie. Then you can select your recording source from the drop down menu.

 

 

 

In the final tab “Options”, you will find many other additional settings and options that will affect your recorded video. Some of the options here are self explanatory, but others are much more involved and require some amount of experimentation to find the perfect mix.

 

Next, we’ll put the Video Advantage PCI to use and capture some of the old Hi8 tapes that I want to convert.

Testing:

To test the Video Advantage, I will capture some of my old video tapes to disk. I will test the hardware and software for functionality and for ease of use.

Test Setup:

To begin with, I will transfer some video from an older Hi8 video camera that uses the composite cable outputs. So the first thing to do, is to connect the sound and video output of my video camera to the composite sound and video input of the Video Advantage PCI. Other than setting the directory to save my video, I have used the default settings for all the selections to get a good baseline for how the software works. I will tweak the settings as necessary. I would suggest you leave the video settings near the highest settings to get the best possible quality. Be forewarned however, that the best quality will also take up the most room on your hard drive and the steepest hardware requirements.

 

After starting the AD FullCap software, cue the video up to the point that you want to start transferring. Then, while the video is playing, press the record button in the AD FullCap software, and the video starts recording.

 

 

As the video is being transferred to the hard drive, there is a task monitor at the bottom of the window that shows some very useful information. Here we can see information like the amount of memory being used and the elapsed time.

 

Once the video has been captured, it’s now time to edit the video before burning it to a DVD ROM. The video editing software that is included with Video Advantage PCI is PowerDirector by Cyberlink. In PowerDirector, select “Import” and “Media Files”. Navigate to where you saved the video and select the file.

Testing:

Now that the video has been opened, we can now edit it for time and content, as well as add any of the special effects that are offered with this program. We can trim, stretch, shrink, delete, add titles, add transitions and adjust the color of the video.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we are finished editing the video and are happy with the corrections we have made, the video now needs to be put into a format for burning. Select the “Produce” button and the window that opens is a step by step process. Select “Produce a Disk” and click “Next”.

 

Next, select the type of format you prefer and also select the properties of the video. Select an output location for your video and click “Start”.

 

 

 

Now all that’s left is to do, is to burn the disk either using the provided software, or the burning software of your choice.

Conclusion:

Installing the Video Advantage PCI was quite easy and there were very good instructions that were included in the package. I really like the fact that every cable that you could use with the Video Advantage PCI was also included. With such a wide range of topics that could be discussed about video capturing and editing, the instruction manual was quite in-depth and contained a lot of useful information. The faceplate looks stylish and also proved to be the main interface that I would use for video capture. I also liked the fact that the Video Advantage PCI hardware is non-proprietary, in that any video capture software can be used with it.

The software, on the other hand, wasn’t the most useful that I’ve used. The AD FullCap was fine for very basic video capture, but was limited in options. While the Cyberlink PowerDirector software had a little bit more options, it was still missing some editing options to help create more professional looking videos. PowerDirector did have some interesting and fun effects however, that made it much more appealing.

Turtle Beach has always produced quality audio and video equipment for the PC and they haven’t let up with the Video Advantage PCI. The hardware is top quality and is highly configurable, depending on the video capture software you use. The front interface panel is an added bonus that really makes it much easier to just hook up your video equipment and start working. With all of the different connection inputs, the Video Advantage PCI should be able to capture information from just about any home video camera.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: