Dazzle Hollywood DV-Bridge
Analog, digital and in between
Hollywood DV-Bridge
If you're producing work primarily for the Web, Video CD, or other low-bandwidth medium, it's tempting to stay with analog devices. After all, it's less expensive—capture hardware can be had for as little as $100, S-VHS VCRs can be bought for $250, and Hi8 cameras are under $500. It's also likely that you have some of the equipment you need sitting around already. Furthermore, the lower resolution requires less processor speed, memory, and disk space while you're working.

On the other hand, analog's limitations can be frustrating. There's a ceiling to image resolution and frame rates that depends on a variety of factors. If you're not careful—say, your hard disk is overly fragmented—even a modest 320x240 capture might result in dropped frames and lost time. And no matter what, there's likely to be a ceiling to image resolution and frame rate that's a bit short of full-frame (720x480) video at the broadcast-standard of 29.97 frames per second (fps).

That's why digital video (DV) is so attractive. Recorded digitally onto compact DV or MiniDV tape, it's as if you've already captured everything—through the camera's computer, not yours. So, rather than make your PC or Mac do all the work of digitizing a stream of analog video, all you have to do is transfer from the camera to the computer through an IEEE 1394 (also known as FireWire or i.Link) port. At the very least, you get full-frame, full-motion video and CD-quality sound onto your computer without having to tax your hardware. At best, you can take advantage of such features as automatic timecode-stamping, camera control from your computer, and in-camera editing.

But what if you want to capture your analog footage as a 720x480, 29.97 fps video clip without dropping frames—say, for transferring to DVD? One solution is to copy everything over to DV as an intermediate step, which of course gives you all the benefits of DV as a bonus. But considering the cost—DV cameras start at around $900, and a one-hour tape is $10—you'd be justified in hesitating.

Another solution is Dazzle's Hollywood DV-Bridge, a device roughly the size of a small paperback novel and half the price of the cheapest DV camera. It has five jacks in front (input), and five in back (output): composite video, S-Video, stereo audio, and FireWire.

The upshot is that you put digital or analog in and get digital or analog out. Practically speaking, that means you can hook up your VCR to the Hollywood DV-Bridge and connect it to your FireWire port, fooling your editing software into thinking it's connected to a DV camera. You don't get the extra advantages of DV, but you do get high-quality captures at a reasonable price.

Originally printed in The Computer Paper (April 2002)
All prices quoted in Canadian dollars.
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