PapaJohn's Newsletter #17 - Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 - Sept 4, 2004

About: Analog video capture using a Dazzle DVC 80

At the end of last year, I bumped into a Dazzle 80 on sale at Circuit City for $30 after a big rebate. I knew that lots of people had the unit, and I also knew from posts that many were very negative about the unit. But, at that price I figured I'd at least be able to have some first hand experience with it and better understand those negative posts. To add to that, a copy of Pinnacle Studio 8 was bundled in the package.... another product with a heavily negative tone to the posts, and something I didn't need or want. But it was included.
I've been using both products on a regular basis ever since, not having a single problem with either. To install the driver for the DVC 80, I first had to install Pinnacle Studio 8..... and then the driver.
In this newsletter, I'll focus on capturing video using the Dazzle 80, and illustrate it with a current capture session.

I videoed a wedding this past weekend, ending up with about 3 hours of video from my Sony TRV80 digital mini-camcorder, and 1-1/4 hours from my analog Sony TRV615 Hi8.
The newer better digital camcorder did all it could, and the analog Hi8 camcorder was used for two things..... first it sat on my backpack lying on the ground for 45 minutes during the ceremony, just turned on to capture a complete audio track of the ceremony. I tucked it in the shrubbery close to the string trio, the guest singers and fairly close to the focal point of the ceremony.
Later, during the reception dancing, the darkness was too much of a challenge for the digital camcorder, so I used the Hi8 to supplement the footage. The digital took the lighter scenes and the analog the darker, something I knew from experience it would do well.
In the mini-tutorial I'll cover:
capturing the 20 minutes of dance scene footage using the Dazzle 80
 mixing the analog and digital footage in a Movie Maker project
The movie is on the couple's website, a site that I'm in the early stages of developing.... as my wedding gift to them. The website is and you're welcome to view it. Here's a direct link to the dance video used for this newsletter (it's 5-1/2 minutes - 22 MB file):  
... I have permissions from the bride and groom, the parents and the band to use all the material in my writings and websites, so I'm sure you'll see more of Jill and Mark in future newsletters. There are 3 video clips on the site today and I expect 25 to 50 or more by the time I'm finished.
Before getting into it more, here's a few notes about some things going on...

Version 10 of the Windows Media Player was formally released yesterday. It goes hand in hand with the new Portable Media Centers such as the Creative Zen I've been testing.... the Zen will only sync to your computer if it's running WMP10 or higher.
I downloaded the released version and installed it over the latest beta with no problems.
There's a new Windows Marketplace that also started yesterday.... I'm not into it enough at this point to explain how it'll relate to Movie Maker and PhotoStory, but I've volunteered to be one of the moderators.
....on to the topic of the week

About: Analog Capture with a Dazzle 80
The Dazzle 80 is a 'black box' that you plug your analog device into, and in turn you plug it into a USB connection on your computer.... it's job, with its installed driver, is to convert analog video/audio signals into digital.
The Dazzle has red and white RCA connectors for the left and right channels of stereo audio. It has two options for feeding the video into it, a yellow RCA connection for lower quality, and an S-video connection for higher quality. Because my Hi8 camcorder has an S-video connection, I use that and not the RCA connection.
The quality of the video/audio you get when capturing with the Dazzle 80 varies with the system. My primary desktop is an 866 Mhz Dell with USB1 connections and a 7200 rpm hard drive. My Toshiba laptop is 2.4 GHz with USB2 connections and a 6400 rpm disk drive. My experience is that I can get good quality 320x240 video using the desktop but much higher quality with the laptop..... with the exact sample Dazzle unit and Hi8 camcorder.... it just might be due to the USB2 connection.
The only option Movie Maker gives you when capturing with the Dazzle is to save it as a WMV file.... I don't know why it doesn't have an option to save it as a DV-AVI file, as it captures it to a temporary DV-AVI file and then renders the WMV file from it. Maybe it doesn't think the quality of an analog source warrants the file sizes of full digital video.
I noted above that I get much higher quality when capturing with my laptop, so I developed a custom profile and tweak it for specific capture sessions. For months I've been getting 720x480 files, 30 fps, with nice stereo audio, and at a total bitrate of over 6,000 Kbps..... that bitrate is up there in the realm of true High Definition WMV files. But that's on a good laptop day!!! A good day is when I have the hard drive well tuned with lots of free space, and I'm controlling tightly other running software.... and I'm not doing much in the way of beta testing.
For this newsletter, I won't be running it that high. The video is lower quality as it's of dance scenes taken with natural lighting in the extremely dim lighting of a dance floor.... low light means low quality for both analog and digital camcorders.... so I tweaked the profile settings down to 640x480 with a bitrate of 3,000 Kbps, still pretty good.
Am I really getting 3,000 Kbps of data streaming through the Dazzle, and the higher quality with it, or am I just wishing I did by making the setting that high? I don't know yet.
A new tool was released the other day that will help me analyze WMV files on a frame by frame basis. Maybe it'll help me assess that question. It's WMSnoop from Sliq MediaTechnologies, a free download for a limited time from
Here's the kind of info it shows when I drop the dance video into it, the same file that's on the website.
Analyse WMV File Using WMSnoop
Most of my video work is viewed on websites, so the higher quality is usually overkill, unless I'm going through multiple generations of rendering to achieve some kind of special effect.... in which case I know it helps to start with the highest practical quality and maintain it up to the point of the final movie rendering.
The quality of the video captured with the Dazzle 80 is very often more than sufficient.... I think it's that way for this online dance video. Let's go into the mini-tutorial.

Mini-Tutorial: Capture using a Dazzle 80
To capture the 20+ minutes of dance scenes from the Hi8 analog camcorder, I plugged the 2 RCA cables from the camcorder into the left and right channel inputs of the Dazzle. Then an S-Video cable from the camcorder to the Dazzle.... S-Video gives you much higher quality video than the yellow RCA cable would. If you have an S-Video option, use it.

1 - Start the Capture - the first window of the capture wizard shows your choices of devices to capture from. I'll pick the DVC 80, as it's plugged in and ready to go.... notice that the audio and video drop down lists don't necessarily go automatically to the right choices. The YAMAHA device and Mono Mix are not what I want.
Capture Wizard - Select Device
Open Capture Wizard
The TV Tuner of the laptop shows in the list of available devices.... and sometimes I'll select it just to confirm that I can't use it. It never worked yet, as Movie Maker on Media Center Edition computers like this one can't capture directly from the TV Tuner. The error message is that the device is in use, which it really isn't. It really means 'you can't use it with this application'.... but it's tempting as it appears in the wizard. 
I'm not ready to go the Next page of the wizard. If I do, I won't get the audio.

2 - Pick the Appropriate Drop Down List Choices - I want the DVC 80 as the audio device and ADC as the audio input source. Sometimes I'll see the DVC 80 Audio choice but not the ADC.... when that happens I'll go to the next window in the wizard and then back to this window.... and then it's in the list.
And, if I forget to change the video source to S-Video and start capturing, the process will think the video is coming from the yellow RCA line and all I'll get is blackness. Sometimes I wonder how many of those posts about problems capturing with a Dazzle 80 boil down to not having these settings right.... I'll never know.
Capture Wizard Settings
The Configure... button takes me into choices for things like contrast and brightness. I haven't tried adjusting things there for the capture process. I usually get whatever comes across and do any adjustments in the editing phase.... but I think I'll do some testing with low-light clips to see if brightness changes are better done during capture.
The next window is where you name the captured file and select the location. It's the standard window and I won't show it here..... let's go on to the next window.

3Select the Profile - you can see in the picture that I'm using my custom profile for capturing from the Dazzle 80. This is an important point as noted earlier....
Select Dazzle 80 Capture Profile 
See the setting details at the lower left: 640x480, 3.1 Mbps and 30 fps. The 3.1 Mbps total bitrate is about 50% higher than the highest quality profile offered in Movie Maker's standard list. Every piece of information on this window is helpful so it's a good time to give them all some thought before proceeding to the next window, the actual capture.

4 - Start the Capture - not much to say at this step.... I'll start the capture here and play the tape in the analog camcorder. I'll see the video both here in the capture monitor and locally at the camcorder LCD screen. I'll hear it only at the camcorder.
 Start the Capture
Start Capture
Movie Maker will capture directly to a temporary file.... and use any spare energy to start rendering the final WMV file from the temporary one.
You can see in this picture that the 20+ minutes of video has been captured, but it's still early in the rendering of the WMV file. Because I gave it a really high quality goal in the custom profile, the rendering took another 30 minutes to finish. The higher the desired quality, the more rendering time it'll need.
Rendering the WMV File
I never try to rush things.... but, once I know the data is all on the computer in a temporary file, I can start using the computer for other things - e-mail, instant messaging, newsgroups and forums, website work, etc. Such activity during this part of the process won't effect the quality.... this rendering isn't a real-time process, as the creation of the temporary file was.
In another 1/2 hour, I can look at the new file....

5 The Captured File - the rendering is done and we can look at the new file's properties. Here's the first part of the info.... you can see that the total bitrate is up there at 3096 kbps, and the file itself gets larger with the higher bitrate. 398 MB for a 20+ minute WMV file... at that rate a one hour file would be 1.2 GB, about 10% the size of a DV-AVI file.
 File Properties - Part 1 
.... and here's the rest of it, showing properties consistent with the settings of the custom profile.
 File Properties - Part 2

It looks good in the stats, but I wasn't happy when I looked at and listened to it playing. The video was fine, along with the sound coming from the left audio channel. The problem was the right audio channel was almost totally silent. Did the camcorder have a problem? Or was it a capture issue?
At this point I decided to keep going, as I was using the analog video to mix with and compliment the digital video for the 5-1/2 minute segment, and I'll be using the audio recorded by the digital camcorder as the sound track for the project.
I can afford the missing channel.... as long as I can sufficiently align the analog and digital video clips. I use the wave patterns of the two files to achieve that alignment and the wave patterns of one channel will look somewhat different that two channels combined. We'll see how it goes in the editing phase.
This capture session with the Dazzle 80 is done. On to the project editing. 

- The 5-1/2 minute 'Dancin' Queen' project.
The first thing I did was save a copy of the audio from the digital tape for the 5-1/2 minute 'Dancin' Queen' segment.... as a WMA file. I imported that back into MM2 and used it on the Audio/Music track. It was the first clip I placed on the project timeline.
That audio track is the key to the whole project. It's my ruler/gauge for each step of the editing sessions. It's too hard to see in the full project view below, as the Audio/Music track is all scrunched together, and I had muted each of the video clips as I added and synced them to the full digital audio track.
Zooming all the way into the timeline would let you see the shapes, peaks, and valleys.... all the audio details needed for alignment.... do the alignment before muting the audio that's on the video clips.
'Dancin' Queen Project'
Project File
If you look closely at the video itself, you'll see that the video clips from both the digital and analog camcorders is perfectly in sync with the single clip of the overall sound track.
In addition to looking at the wave patterns to align the clips with the sound track, I put earphones on and listened to what was coming from each of the audio tracks.... sometimes you think the peaks align pretty good, but it's best to also hear it for confirmation.


After finishing this project, I dubbed the analog tape directly to my digital camcorder and both audio channels came over fine, so the audio was there in the analog tape. But I still didn't know why the right channel was missing from the Dazzle capture session....


....I checked it again a day later by doing a test capture from the same portion of the analog tape with the Dazzle 80. Both stereo channels came in fine this time. So I blame the problem with the first capture to my not having plugged one of the connections to the Dazzle in tightly enough. That reminds me of another point.


When I first got the Dazzle 80, I wrestled with the audio RCA connections. They were so loosely attached at the Dazzle end that they would fall off with the least amount of jiggling.... a week like that made me think that I would be returning the unit.


But that taught me a bit about the variability of RCA patch chord sizes. I ended up looking closer at my collection of patch chords and found that the outside dimensions of the RCA connectors on different chords were different.... some too big to comfortably and tightly fit into the openings of the Dazzle case, and some just right. So I keep one of the just-right patch chords with the Dazzle to avoid that issue.


Have a great week...