Tune in, turn on – add-in television tuner and video capture cards – Stop Playing Games: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Multimedia – Cover Story
Sometimes the 6 p.m. news doesn’t come soon enough. Whether you crave up-to-the-minute financial information, Oprah, or stats from the big game while you work through the weekend, multimedia add-ons let you watch television on your monitor while working on your Excel spreadsheet or Ami Pro report. It’s also possible to display video from other sources – such as your camcorder or VCR – right on your computer to spice up sales presentations or product demonstrations.
For several years, so-called video overlay boards put a television image on your computer screen – so long as you had a TV and an antenna to provide the signal. Without a TV, you could still use these cards for playing back canned video from laserdiscs or VCRs. They are still widely used in kiosks and computer-based training programs.
Today’s overlay cards integrate the TV tuner right into your PC. No need for an extra idiot box. Just hook your cable or broadcast antenna into the card, and you’ve got up to 122 channels at your fingertips.
In addition to providing TV and video overlay, several boards under $500 also offer still-image and motion-video capture, either right on the card or on a capture daughtercard. With this, you can clip single frames for insertion in brochures and capture video for playback on a computer.
When purchasing one of these all-purpose boards, make sure it has a four-pin S-video input connector, which delivers higher video quality than a simple one-pin composite video input connector. You’ll also want at least two input jacks to handle videos from multiple sources. A related feature called video encoding lets you record the captured video back onto videotape – to send to customer without computers.
Apple’s Quadra 630 series offers a TV tuner option. The $249 Video/TV System provides quarter-screen video-in-a-window that’s scalable to full screen. If you prefer to channel surf, it even gives remote-control support.
For the PC, Fast Electronic,s ( 802-0772,  248-3278 Movie Machine Pro ($545 list) is a workhorse offering an onboard television tuner and video capture, as well as video compression capabilities through an optional daughtercard (395 list). Screen resolution is entirely scalable, ranging from postage stamp-size to full screen. (as with any of these products, video quality is quite good at quarter-screen resolutions, but it starts to degrade as the window size increases).
The base configuration Movie Machine Pro lets you capture individual frames in more than 50 video formats, including TIFF, DIB/BMP, PCX, GIF, and JIF. FAST’s Motion JPEG Option ($395) is a separate card enabling video capture to the Video for Windows AVI file format. You can also play the captured video back through the Movie Machine Pro or even tape it on your VCR or camcorder.
But don’t be intimidated by this advanced functionality. Movie Machine Pro is ideal for the simple things, too, whether it’s sharing your coffee break with Geraldo or tracking the latest ups and downs on Wall Street.
The president of Doceo Publishing, a multimedia publisher specializing in digital video and related products, Jan Ozer Wrote Video Compression for Multimedia CAP Professional) and covers multimedia technology for CD-ROM Professional.
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