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Dazzle Video Creator: Instant PC video
all you need to add is talent...
Looking for this item? -
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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"
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:
<Ref href = "filename.asf" />
Filename.asx and create a link to this file.
For advanced information about
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
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
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:
whether your system's ready for USB devices?
run the usb evaluation utility, available at
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.
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.
bundled software is adequate to get you started, but you'll
probably want to add a more capable editing package before long.
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...
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