MPEG1 and MPEG2 video capture cards

Summary

This is not an exhaustive list and is only intended to show the lack of real time MPEG capture hardware available for the home user. Real-time capture is the quickest way to transfer VHS to VCD and here are some options that are available.

I WANT affordable real-time MPEG1 VCD standard video capture on my PC at least. MPEG2 DVD resolutions would be even better. It must be under 200. At the moment I have a Voodoo3-3500 which can do MPEG1 at VCD resolutions quite well. Good for small clips, but lip-sync problems and shearing are evident on captures of more than 25 minutes. It is a blistering 3D card too, shame that NVidia took them over...

Voodoo 3-3500

CardVoodoo3-3500
Manufacturer3dfx. Taken over by NVidia in 2001. See x3dfx
AvailabilityNo longer in production.
Cost130 new.
RequirementsP3-450 or higher. AGP slot.

Comments:
A superb video card tragically cut short in terms of driver support. If they could perfect the drivers this could be an awesome card for the price. Has only unofficial driver support for XP and 352*288 capture mode only supported in Beta driver releases for 95\98\ME. Cannot capture 352*288 in Windows NT4.0\2000\XP. WinVCR software using Ligos GoMotion causes lip-sync problems and shearing. Supplied Visual Reality is slightly better - it uses a newer version of Ligos GoMotion. Beta drivers cannot capture MPEG2, supplied drivers can capture MPEG2 but audio capture bitrates are limited in those versions. I think that the Voodoo TV-FM card is a cut down version of this card.

Hauppage WinTV PVR

CardHauppage WinTV PVR
ManufacturerHauppage
AvailabilityStill available.
Cost180. Retailer Scan Computers.
RequirementsP3-450MHz or higher. PCI slot. USB version available.

Comments:
Possibly incredible PCI based accelerator card. Still need a separate 3D card so a 32Mb G-Force2 would be about 50 meaning 230 for total video subsystem for a PC. Excellent specifications, designed for VCD (MPEG1) capture and MPEG2. Quite expensive in my opinion.

ATI All-In-Wonder

CardATI All-In-Wonder
ManufacturerATI. See UK website here
AvailabilityStill available.
Cost126.90 Retailer Dabs.
RequirementsP3-600 or higher for MPEG2 capture.
Connections depend on model. AGP recommended.

Comments:
The All-In-Wonder brand name has been used for several ATI chipsets now.
The following ATI video capture cards are available:

ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon (32Mb, AGP),
ATI All-In-Wonder Rage 128 Pro (16Mb, AGP),
ATI All-In-Wonder Rage 128 (16Mb, AGP or PCI),
ATI All-In-Wonder 8Mb (AGP),
ATI TV-Wonder (PCI or USB, AVI only),

I have tested the ATI All-In-Wonder Rage 128 16Mb PCI version and it is an excellent MPEG1 and MPEG2 capture card. The version I tested had a Brooktree BT829 Pro Tuner.

ATI supply drivers for Windows 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000 and XP. It uses a WDM capture driver, not a VFW driver so third party programs like VirtualDub cannot use it as a capture source. The capture program that is supplied is called the Multimedia Center (MMC) and it is excellent.

MPEG1 VCD resolution capture was fine and did not drop frames or shear. When capturing MPEG2 IBP 720*576 in MMC version 7.0 on a P3-800 approximately 24% of frames were dropped. The manual says that a P3-600 should be sufficient for this. I had to capture I-Frames only to prevent frames from being dropped. In my test the audio was captured via Line-In on the soundcard which suggests that some MPEG processing is being done in software and this may impact adversely on performance. This may be a performance issue in the video driver or MMC version 7. TV output was vivid and clear and the output can be displayed simultaneosly on the TV and monitor. The screen position can be set very precisely. This feature is implemented much better by ATI than on the 3dfx Voodoo 3 range.

The only problem I found with this card was when playing Return To Castle Wolfenstein it was about 30% slower than a Voodoo 3-3500 AGP 16Mb video card. That was a 3d comparison test on Windows 98SE running DirectX 8. I don't know if this is due to lower throughput on the PCI bus or limitations of the ATI Rage chipset.

Matrox G450 ETV

CardMatrox G450 eTV
ManufacturerMatrox
AvailabilityStill available.
Cost164. Retailer Scan Computers.
Requirements600MHz or higher for capture and timeshifting. AGP slot.

Comments:
Fantastic 2d and 3d video card, MPEG capture card and video editing package. Supplied with ULead VideoStudio 4.0. Unfortunately the datasheet doesn't explain if MPEG capture is in real time, or by conversion. Also mentions MPEG2 but not specifically VCD capture. Need more information. If it can do VCD resolutions in real time then this looks like the ideal all-in-one solution!

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