We've just installed and tested the new Pinnacle Edition Pro (Liquid).
It uses a video card to capture analog and digital video, thus circumventing
many of the problems and issues we've uncovered with the DV500
Systems. Works great.

New 8/30/2002 Configuration Document for DV500 Plus! Click HERE!
then/or
View the File:
 
DV500_D850EMV2L.pdf

Pinnacle is an alleged award-winning producer of fine products for the broadcast/entertainment industry. As such, you would think you'd be comfortable purchasing their hardware and software packages to implement non-linear video capturing, editing, and production (NLE) and by using them in a PC. Be very careful with this thought. And now for the good, the bad, and the ugly!

PINNACLE STUDIO DELUXE

I purchased Pinnacle's Studio Deluxe package shortly after it was introduced to see where this product was at in terms of compatibility with a current, state-of-the-art hardware-wise PC running Windows XP Professional as its operating system. I also wanted to know how difficult it would be to install and to get up and running. And finally, last but certainly NOT least, was the capability of the package to capture, edit, and produce a quality video to either tape, CD, or DVD by a reasonably talented person with a modestly and properly configured PC.

I had recently built a PC using an Intel D815EEA2 Motherboard with an 815 Chipset, an Intel P3 1GHz CPU, and 512MB of PC133 RAM. I included two 20GB hard drives attached to a Promise Technology PCI RAID controller board, and an additional 60GH hard drive for the System and Applications drive and another 60GB hard drive as a Data drive. I had a TDK CD-ROM burner (lasted just a year before it died) connected to the system to round it out. I used the motherboard's integrated audio to provide the typical functionality required of audio files. Our Operating System of choice (no sense in building in obsolescence) was Windows XP Professional.

I popped open the case, and making sure I was wired properly to ground with a wrist strap I opened and inserted the AV/DV capture board provided by Pinnacle in the Studio Deluxe package into an empty PCI slot, then proceeded to install the included software applications Studio 7 (capture, editing, and movie generation), Hollywood FX (a package of video transitions), and Express, used to generate DVDs.

When it came time to install the drivers for the capture board, it wasn't going to happen without a lot of extra effort, if at all. I discovered you can't always just plug Pinnacle capture boards into your system and expect them to work right off. One possible reason for this is that Pinnacle's drivers are NOT signed. What are signed drivers? The newer operating systems (such as Windows 2k, ME, and XP) rely on drivers that have been digitally signed (approved) by Microsoft. To get approval from Microsoft, drivers must survive compatibility testing in their Windows Hardware Quality Lab (WHQL). Signed drivers are typically more robust and reliable than are unsigned drivers. Do all drivers need to be signed in order to function properly in these newer Operating Systems? The answer to that is a simple "No." Probably 75% or so of the drivers I have running on my latest Windows XP system are not signed. The hardware and/or software using their supplied drivers worked in spite of the fact the drivers weren't signed. On the other hand, when hardware and/or software chooses not to function properly, or to co-exist with other applications and/or hardware on your system, you can bet the supplied drivers are NOT signed!

Click HERE to find out more about Windows Signed Drivers.

After trying various methods over a long period of time, it was obvious the Studio Deluxe AV/DV Capture Board drivers weren't going to install properly. The answer to this problem was to then remove all of the PCI cards from the system, re-build the hard drive from scratch, do a clean installation of Windows XP and the motherboard drivers, THEN install the Pinnacle Capture Board, its software, and drivers. This worked. Of course, you'll then have to spend many hours getting your applications re-installed, and then re-load all of your data which of course you had previously backed up.

Now, the problems weren't over yet. Turns out the version of Studio I had received with the Studio Deluxe package wasn't compatible with Windows XP. The solution here was to continuously visit Pinnacle's web site until they provided an updated version of Studio7 which WAS compatible with Windows XP. After downloading the update, all was well...the hardware and software worked just fine.

Keep in mind, if you are going to use your PC to edit and write Digital Video only, i.e., you are not going to be capturing or writing "analog" video in the form of NTSC signals to or from a VHS deck or a non-digital camcorder, then you won't need to install the Capture board to transfer the video to or from the digital source (Digital8 or mini Camcorder). You would simply need to install a Firewire (1394) interface in your PC, commonly available for less than $50 or so from your PC supply house. You may, however, see a degraded response during playback (scrubbing) of the transitions while editing your videos without the capture board. When you generate (render) your final video files, however, the transitions work and show  just fine. So, some of you may benefit by simply purchasing Pinnacle's Studio software (Studio 8 at the time of this writing), and forget about their capture board...simply use your Firewire (1394) interface instead.

Pinnacle's Studio Deluxe, once you've got it up and running, is an excellent beginning to mid-level non-linear video editing package. The ability to capture and edit either analog or digital video, add music tracks and/or sound effects, and then to generate either a Tape or DVD worked flawlessly, with results you'd be proud to show off to anyone.

PINNACLE'S DV500 PLUS

Now having experience with some of the issues with Pinnacle's beginning to mid-level  video capturing hardware and software included in their Studio Deluxe package, I then took the next plunge to the next level by purchasing Pinnacle's new DV500 Plus NLE system. This time I built a new PC AROUND their DV500 Capture Board to avoid having to repeat the dismal process defined above for the Studio Deluxe package. I also wanted to make sure the next product purchased from Pinnacle Systems would be Windows XP Professional compatible out of the box. So, I settled on their new package, the DV500 Plus offering. This collection of hardware and software sold for around $685 at our local Micro Center.

The new PC system consisted of an Intel D850EMV2L Motherboard (I was assured by Pinnacle that this board is compatible with their capture card and drivers), an Intel P4 533MHz FSB 2.4GHz CPU, 512MB RAMBUS RAM, two 60GB Maxtor hard drives connected to a Promise Technology ATA133/7200RPM hard drive controller board and operated in a software RAID configuration by Windows XP Professional, an additional 60GB hard drive as a DATA drive, and another 60GB hard drive connected as the SYSTEM and APPLICATIONS drive. I installed a Gainward nVIDIA GeForce Ti4400 AGP video card and Creative Lab's new Audigy Platinum Live audio system, which brought along with it (amongst a lot of other features) two additional Firewire ports! Can't ever have enough of those, what with attaching external Firewire drives on which to save these large video files we're generating!

It appeared this time that the Pinnacle DV500 hardware drivers, also NOT signed, installed properly. However, when I finished installing the hardware and software, I discovered that the only module supplied by Pinnacle that would work properly under Windows XP was Adobe Premiere! Now, this was quite a revelation in and of itself, as I had so many problems with Adobe Premiere in the past that I had purchased and was using ULEAD's MediaStudio Pro to fulfill the needs Premiere 5.0 was lacking. MediaStudio Pro provided excellent stability and reliability, and rarely (if ever) crashed during a project. We'd be re-booting Premiere about two or three times an hour, each time losing some amount of data...and the product of a lot of hard work.

The DV500 software and hardware tools supplied by Pinnacle to capture analog video through their "big blue" breakout box didn't work. Capturing digital video through any of the two DV500-supplied firewire ports (IEEE 1394) wouldn't work either. However, I found a work-around here for working with Digital Video by connecting the digital camcorder's firewire port to one of the two firewire ports supplied by the Creative Labs audio system! So, using Adobe Premiere (supplied as part of Pinnacle's DV500 Plus package), I was able to successfully capture, edit, and produce a DV movie, which I was also able to write back to the Sony Digital8 camcorder (some Camcorders, while we were able to capture data from, could NOT be written to!).

Then came the next test: produce an MPG file from Premiere that could be used by the supplied "DVD Impression" software, Pinnacle's DVD authoring application, to create a DVD of our latest and greatest production. While I was able to create the requisite MPG2 video file from Premiere,  we had some serious compatibility problems importing and using the file with Pinnacle's DVD Impression software. When you install DVD Impressions a companion DVD application, DVMATICS from MediaMatics, is also installed for  use in controlling and viewing a finished DVD product. I could never get either DVD Impression OR DVMATICS to function properly on our Windows XP Professional system. And, I might add here...DVMATICS would not peacefully co-exist with my newly installed Nero CD-ROM burning software! I had to resort to a DVD authoring solution that came with my DVD Burner, MyDVD, to get a DVD file set compiled for burning!

Realizing there were probably OS issues with the DVD Impressions software, I then went back to the Pinnacle Systems web site to download and install their latest update patches for this product. While they did have updates available, downloading and installing them didn't repair any of the problems I was having with either DVD Impressions OR DVMATICS.

Neither would any of the downloaded update patches do anything to cure any of the problems interfacing with either of the Pinnacle Capture Board's analog or IEEE-1394 video ports.

The bottom line here is I ended up with an almost $700 package from Pinnacle that provided what I could have purchased from Adobe for around $150 as an update to my old Premiere program, with a downside that I wouldn't be able to capture analog video. However, there was joy in knowing that Adobe Premiere 6.0 works just fine with apparently any Firewire port and digital camcorder (some camcorders would have to be worked manually if Premiere doesn't include them in their device control list).

I've since removed the DV500 Plus package from my newest PC, and installed the DV500 capture board in an older system consisting of an Intel motherboard with an  Intel 440BX Chipset, a 40GB hard drive, and around 128MB of PC100 RAM. The capture board drivers installed just fine, as did all of the software. This system is running Windows 2000 as an Operating System, so one could deduce here that Pinnacle's DV500 Plus products were either NOT compatible with Windows XP OR was not compatible with the newest hardware off the shelf. Whichever the problem, they sure didn't work with  my Windows XP Pro system!

There were so many problems with the DV500 Plus product that I was chastised for providing too much information to the Pinnacle Systems e-mail Help and Support  page after having posted a smaller rendition of this review with them. One solution offered by Pinnacle to cure the DVMATICS/Nero issue was to remove Nero. There was the suggestion from Pinnacle that the DV500 Capture Board IEEE-1394 ports would NOT work if any other product introduced Firewire ports to a system. This will limit you, if that's the case, to what you can install in your PC. I'm wondering if Pinnacle's drivers were in fact SIGNED if that would have made any difference? I guess we'll never know! I was also informed by Pinnacle Tech Support that there are thousands of DV500 Plus packages running on Windows XP platforms with no problems. This wasn't, unfortunately, my experience.

Buyer be aware. Know what you're getting, it's capabilities, and its compatibilities!

 

Last Updated: 14 October 2009 14:28