We live in the age of ginormous hard drives. The price of a hard drive was approximately one dollar per gigabyte, today the prices are even less. With such huge hard drives available, we’re stuck with tons of space and nothing to fill it. Downloading mp3 files is one way to go, but they’re so tiny that you’d have to spend thousands of dollars at something like the iTunes online store. The best way to utilize your ample digital storage is by filling it up with video!
That’s where the Video Advantage USB by Turtle Beach comes into play. Record video to your PC, and fill those lonely hard drives up. Gazing at the box, I read promises of recording from many different mediums such as VHS tapes, video cameras, Television, DVD’s and anything else you could find to hook up with svideo or composite connections.
I have never worked with a Turtle Beach product before, and wondered what else the company produces. I found an array of headphones, sound cards, and video capture devices. They seem like they know what they’re doing, but I’m ready to find out for myself. I wanted to record off of three different devices, my TV, DVD player, and laptop.
Opening the box I found a CD, user manual, Svideo cable, composite (RCA) cables, a USB cable, the adapter plug with three composite female connectors, and finally the actual Video Advantage itself. The product is a simple black box with an in and out, nothing too fancy or complex. The cables seemed to be manufactured of standard quality, and were plenty long enough to run behind my entertainment unit. Five whole minutes into the hardware examination and a brief manual skim over, I was ready to install some software.
I was pretty excited to get this thing into action. I like the fact that it is powered by USB, and there’s no bulky power converter that needs to be plugged into the wall. It feels more like a cable that goes from the source to my computer, instead of an external capture card that I’d normally have to install into an available PCI slot.
First up to test was the Turtle Beach AD Full Cap, which is used to capture video and audio (stereo) in DV format. With a width of 720 and a height of 480 (pixels) and a framerate of 29.970 fps (frames per second), I was ready to capture. I plugged in the Svideo cables to the TV and guess who’s on? Oprah! I captured Oprah in DV format and boy did she look and sound great. The problem is that she was huge, I mean her file size was huge. I captured 21 short seconds of her at 740×480 and that took up 73 Megabytes (Mb). That’s about 3.5Mb per second of capture, meaning a 30 min show would take up 5.7 Gigs of hard drive space. The quality is superb, but the size is just impractical for hard drive storage. This application would be only used for capturing the video and then converting or burning to a DVD.
Next up to the Cyberlink PowerDirector video capture software. My aim was to capture a tidbit of Spongebob Squarpants the movie, which I had on DVD. I fired up Cyberlink’s recording solution, plugged in my Video Advantage USB to the DVD player and hit play. I wasn’t looking to make an entire copy of the Spongebob movie, only a 30-60 second clip for testing purposes, when I was abruptly halted by a message box saying that “This movie is copyright protected. Recording is Prohibited” I found this to really irk me.Since I was pretty much blocked from recording more Spongebob, I went back to TV and our good friend Oprah. Only to find that in Divx format Oprah is also copyrighted material! I didn’t have the TV hooked up to cable, this signal was being caught by an old fashioned antenna via broadcast, yet I still was restricted.
Finally I recorded from my ibook laptop. Setting up laptop as my source, I recorded myself opening and closing apps. The quality of encoding in Divx format wasn’t super crystal clear, but definitely did the job. A 30 second clip ran me 2.6Mb with the quality setting on low. This would be about 312Mb for an hr of recording time, and that’s a much more manageable filesize.
Overall the Video Advantage USB is a great alternative to a PCI card. If you have a laptop and would like to do some capturing this is also a great option. The programs that are bundled are easy to use, and come with lots of features to tweak out the exact format and size of file you desire. There is also editing and burning software that accompanies this product allowing you to make a full featured movie to go. I did not like the copyright restriction that came along with this however. Being able to record TV and DVD’s are the main reason people would purchase something like this. I had no problems with dropped frames, or audio lag with my AMD 2500+/1GB RAM computer.
Convienece: Awesome, just plug it in
Software: Restrictive (copyright), yet easy and full of options
Quality: High, I can see lots of fun movies and videos coming from this
Added Bonus: No bulky power chord! All powered by USB 2.0
Options: Svideo or composite
Coolness Factor: Pretty high, a girl asked me to record one of her shows with this since I told her about it. She had to eat dinner with her mother and miss the CSI season finale! Bonus points with the babes can definitely be chalked up with the Video Advantage USB, if using just the right angle.