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Dazzle Video Creator: Instant PC video
all you need to add is talent...


Looking for this item? -  get it here...

Since this review was published, PC spec's and prices have changed considerably, along with the options for capturing and editing PC video.  Although the Dazzle Video Creator is still available, it is best suited for older PC's, those with no available PCI slots, or users who are not prepared to install a PCI card in their machines.

See our review of Pinnacle Studio


Out of the box to online streaming video in minutes?

Well, not exactly, but this kit from Dazzle Multimedia comes close. The USB enabled Dazzle Video Creator literally plugs into your computer with two thin wires. Connect a video source, install the software, and you're good to go.
Record from your video source (complete with sound), edit and convert the file, then send it back to tape or deliver via the internet (web or email). It really is that easy. Fortunately, Dazzle provides the software tools to add some challenge to the project. The bundled MovieStar video editor lets you slice and dice your captured video, sprinkle in transition effects, add titles, and otherwise tinker around for hours, days, or as long as you like.
Obviously, a less than $250 externally connected package isn't likely to work out well for professional production. However, for the current crop of computers lacking empty slots, an external system like this may be your only choice. For home, club, small business or web site projects the Dazzle Video Creator is well suited for the task. We like the portability and ease of use. The overall kit is an excellent value for maximum flexibility at an affordable price. With their hardware, Dazzle has done an excellent job of clean utilitarian design, and for this we recommend it.


The bad news is...

The USB connection, as so often is the case, is a little less than perfect.  We noted a tendency for the device to sometimes "disappear" from the configuration.
Overcoming the disappearing act is easy, but annoying. It only occurs when starting the software though- once established, the USB connection remains reliable throughout the software session.
The editing software that comes bundled with the Dazzle Video Creator is okay, but we found the interface clunky and somewhat less than intuitive. We'll almost certainly replace it with some other editor, such as the ULead (please see sidebar) or MGI offerings. The package also includes a soundtrack generator and DVD producer, which we have not yet examined.


The good news...

The Dazzle system is fast, easy, and portable. Moreover, unlike other external devices in its price class, the Dazzle Video Creator outputs to a standard video recorder. Your edited masterpieces can be sent back to tape, for viewing on a VCR.
Installation is a snap. Insert the USB cable, plug into your sound card's LINE IN, and you're connected. Install the software, and that's it. Move it from one computer to another in minutes. It's USB, so you don't even have to reboot.
The unit has inputs for standard RCA plugs, as well as S-Video, and comes with a full complement of cables. Significantly, it has both input and output jacks for video connections enabling full "round-trip" processing, from video to PC and back to video. The hardware design is excellent, and all connections logically arranged.
You can record from any video source. The MovieStar software has a configuration screen for selecting a specific source. The default settings may not match your actual equipment and, if not, will yield unsatisfactory results. It is therefore essential to set this properly before beginning a project.
Output options include video, MPEG, AVI, Windows Media, or RealPlayer format. You can specify one of several templates which will optimize the output for various internet connection speeds, a LAN, local hard drive, CD, or DVD.
Like all things related to computers, the quality of your output is directly proportional to the quality of your input. You will want to use the best source equipment and materials available. This means a good quality playback device and a sharp, focused picture on your tape. If you're feeding live video, you'll want a decent camera. Sound is recorded through your sound card, and you'll probably want to adjust the line-in recording level to achieve best results.


Miles of files...

Digitizing video is a time and space consuming task. You "record" the captured video to your hard drive, in MPEG format. A five minute capture chewed up 60 megabytes of HD space. For complex projects, you'll need plenty of space for storing these "capture" files. Naturally, you'll get faster results with lots of RAM and CPU capacity.
The MovieStar software allows you to select begin and end points from multiple clips, insert a variety of transitions, add titles, lay in extra sound, and so on. When done, you "produce" the movie by having the software create a single file from all selected sources.
When processed for a web server based 28k video stream, the 60 MB five minute clip referenced above weighed in at less than one MB. Not bad at all, but the result is the common "postage stamp" video familiar to all but broadband subscribers. Processed for broadband delivery, the same clip occupied 18 MB.


Dreaming of streaming?

Dazzle provides web space for publishing and sharing your video productions, and this will likely serve most people's needs.  With this option, all you have to do is hit the "publish" button.

You can also incorporate your videos into your own web site.  You do not necessarily have to use a dedicated streaming media host.  The Dazzle system will create files suitable for standard web servers.  If you plan to deliver your video online from your own web site, do not link directly to the media files. Instead, use a text editor like Notepad to create "pointer files" in the following format:

Windows Media version:

<ASX version = "3.0">
<Entry>
<Ref href = "filename.asf" />
</Entry>
</ASX>

Save as Filename.asx and create a link to this file.

For advanced information about Windows Media...

 

RealPlayer version:

http://domain/folder/filename.rm

Save as Filename.ram and create a link to this file.

For advanced information about RealPlayer media...



Don't let all this scare you.  You don't have to be an expert to get acceptable results.  Since Dazzle provides consumer-oriented web space with "one-button" publishing, the instructions do not provide this essential information for doing it yourself.

The kit supports Windows Media Player 7 or RealPlayer 8 formats, but not QuickTime. As far as we know, only the Ulead editor (please see sidebar), among low-cost solutions, enables output in QuickTime.
This is not a problem, since RealPlayer 8 is available for Mac users as this is written, and Windows Media Player 7 will soon be available in a Mac version. It's a genuine pain, but the current state of affairs for online video pretty much requires users to have all three of these competing players installed.

View Dazzle USB captures at SaharaSilk.com...

 

Do you have what it takes?

The following is the manufacturer's recommended minimum configuration:

  • PENTIUM 133MHZ

  • WINDOWS 98

  • 32MB RAM

  • 800X600 DIRECTDRAW COMPATIBLE GRAPHICS CARD

  • USB INTERFACE

  • SOUND CARD

Not certain whether your system's ready for USB devices?

Download and run the usb evaluation utility, available at usb.org.

This free program from INTEL will verify your system.  If anything is missing, the software will make solid recommendations for how to achieve compliance.

We tested with an HP 400 MHz equipped with 128 MB RAM and found it more than adequate. Truthfully, the minimum requirements shown above really aren't up to this degree of processing. We'd recommend at least a P-233 or equivalent.


Bottom line…

If you're really serious about video, you're going to need internally installed equipment on a relatively modern PC.

See our review of Pinnacle Studio

This package is for the casual user or someone who wants to see what PC video is all about before making a large investment.
The bundled software is adequate to get you started, but you'll probably want to add a more capable editing package before long.
The overall kit is an excellent value for maximum flexibility at an affordable price. It's easy to install, easy to use, and a good way to get started with PC video.

Dazzle makes a wide range of video equipment for computers, from The DV50 for Windows ME to the Hollywood DV Bridge, a FireWire solution reported to rival the high-end cards at a tiny fraction of the price.

Dazzle Multimedia Web Site...

Most of these items are available from the link below, at some of the lowest prices we have seen.  Just search on "Dazzle" or the product name.

Get the Dazzle Video Creator Now
 

DIRECT CONNECT AT AMAZON.COM:
Dazzle Video Creator...

 



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