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ADS Tech Pyro A/V Link

By John Virata

In the mid 1990s, when editing on the computer was the domain of computer video enthusiasts willing to work through iffy solutions and hardcore video producers, getting video into the computer involved investing thousands of dollars in a turnkey system that for the most part did what their companies claimed, or buying a video capture card, installing it in your computer and pray the drivers jived with your computer's specifications. If everything went well, the device enabled you to capture M-JPEG images into your computer for editing. The image quality wasn't all that great, but you could edit it. Today, with FireWire and USB, and off the shelf computers that have lots of power, transferring video to a computer for editing has become a much simpler endeavor.

But not everybody has a DV camcorder. In fact, there is still a couple of decades worth of analog video out there that folks at one point might want to transfer to the digital format for editing on a computer or even archiving in a format that will last longer than analog tape. ADS Technologies has introduced a new product that addresses the needs of those who have analog video devices and need to get that video into a computer for editing and archiving, as well as the needs of those who have the latest DV camcorders. Called the Pyro A/V Link, the external device is an analog to digital video converter that enables you to capture video from analog sources and transcode that video to the DV format for editing or archiving. You can also export DV files back out to a VCR, video camera, or other similar video device, and convert analog video to digital and digital video to analog.


The Hardware
The Pyro A/V Link captures video in 720 x 480 resolution at 30 frames per second NTSC, and 720 x 576 resolution at 25 frames per second PAL. Audio is captured either at 48kHz (16-bit) or 32kHz (12-bit). The front of the Pyro A/V Link includes an S-Video-in port, Composite video-in and left and right RCA audio inputs, and a 4-pin FireWire port. The front also features power, and three LEDs to let you know if the device has power (yellow), and what format (blue is digital, red is analog) video you are working with. The rear of the Pyro A/V Link includes a 6-pin FireWire port, Composite video-out and left and right RCA audio outputs, S-Video out, as well as Component video Inputs/outputs. The on/off switch as well as the AC power-in are also located in the rear.

Installation
Installation is simple. You plug in the power cable, attach one end of the six pin FireWire cable to the A/V Link and the other end to the FireWire port on your computer, attach whichever video device that has the source footage you wish to work with, turn it on, fire up your editing application, and capture video. If only it was this easy in the early 1990s. The Pyro A/V Link ships with all the necessary cables needed to transfer video from an analog or digital source into the computer, or you can do a straight transfer between an analog and DV device without the need for a computer. It includes two FireWire cables (6-pin to 6-pin and 4-pin to 4-pin), one composite cable and one S-Video cable. It also ships with Ulead Systems VideoStudio 7SE, an entry level video editing application for Windows that enables you to edit digital video, add transitions and effects and export it back out to tape or burn to DVD. You can also directly capture MPEG video using the MPEGNow technology in VideoStudio, enabling you to capture and convert your video to MPEG in real time via the MPEGNow technology and the Pyro A/V Link.  It doesn't ship with a Mac-based video application, although the device does work with Adobe Premiere 6.x, iMovie, Final Cut Express, and Final Cut Pro. It also works with Avid Xpress DV and Adobe Premiere Pro.

System Requirements
The A/V Link works with both Macintosh and Windows-based PCs with similar system requirements. The Windows system requirements are an 800MHz or faster CPU running Windows 98SE or later, 128MB RAM (256MB for editing video), 500MB 5400 Ultra DMA hard disk drive or faster with DMA enabled, 1024 x 768 resolution DirectX 8.1 or later graphics adapter or better, and an OHCI-compliant 1394 FireWire card. To capture directly to MPEG format using VideoStudio's MPEGNow technology, a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 or faster is required. To run the Pyro A/V Link on a Mac requires a 400MHz or faster G4 running Mac OS 9.0.4, OS X, or OS X 10.2, 128MB RAM, 1024 x 768 resolution graphics or better, and a 1394 port. These system requirements are minimal at best. For example, you won't get much video onto a 500MB hard drive. If you really want to get into computer video editing, factor in at least a 60GB 7200rpm hard drive dedicated to video storage and 512MB RAM.

First Impressions
Is the Pyro A/V Link worth the $279 cost of entry? It really depends on how you are going to use it and how much analog footage you have. For the most part, if you have a DV camcorder with an S-video port, you can use it as a transcoding device  for all S-Video hardware devices that you might have, negating the need for a device such as the Pyro A/V Link. Where the Pyro A/V has the potential to shine is in situations where you have multiple analog video devices in VHS, 8mm and component video formats, in addition to S-Video, because the Pyro A/V supports all those formats in addition to FireWire. If you have a lot of video in analog format and you still have access to the devices that captured or played back those videos, the Pyro A/V Link may just be the device you need to archive that video to a digital format. Likewise, if you have DV formatted video that you'd like to transfer to a VHS, 8mm, SVHS, or component video tape format, the Pyro A/V link will enable you to do just that without the need of a computer. The Pyro A/V Link is a very simple device that does an excellent job for the task it is assigned to do, and it is compatible with all of the major professional and consumer-based non-linear editing applications. It is also worth noting that ADS Technologies has a professional version of the Pyro A/V Link that includes a PYRO 1394 PCI card as well as the full version of Adobe Premiere Pro, Encore DVD, and Audition for $599. For more information, visit www.adstech.com


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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at jvirata@digitalmedianet.com
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