Belkin USB Videobus

Digital editing is no longer a black art mastered only by video professionals and a few wised-up amateurs - consumers want in, and companies like Belkin are only too pleased to usher them through. Apple thrust home-movie editing into the public consciousness by championing its bundled iMovie software in ads for the iMac. Great news for owners of digital-video cameras, but Mac fans with older camcorders were left out in the cold. On the buses
Belkin has now bridged this gap, with its USB Videobus for the Mac. The Videobus allows camcorders - and VCRs - to be connected to USB Macs. Images are transferred via the Videobus, while audio goes straight from the video to your Mac via a supplied audio cable. Videobus is also powered by the USB connection, so cutting down on nuisance cabling. The package provides everything needed to create professional-looking QuickTime movies. These can then be posted on Web sites, or emailed to relatives. The bundled software is impressive. Strata VideoShop 4.5 is iMovie with muscles. Video footage is first imported via the Videobus and is displayed in real-time in the Digitizing window in which the whole movie - or portions of it - can be captured. These files are then displayed in the Bin, from where they can be dragged onto a timeline window, in which the editing takes place. Post-edited film is viewed in the Canvas window, allowing for frame-by-frame fine-tuning. Effects aplenty
Like iMovie, clips can be spliced using special Transition effects - but unlike iMovie, VideoShop's Transitions are bountiful and can themselves be edited, to heighten or lessen their effect - a powerful feature. The software also boasts a pile of filters - including emboss, reverse-play and Wavy - that are especially useful for crafting captivating title sequences. Text can be added for titling, too. Another higher-end feature is the ability to create movies within movies. Say you're working on an old VHS movie of your sister's wedding. You've captured both your mum crying with joy and your sister exchanging her vows - but not at the same time. VideoShop allows you to create a close-up inset of your mum within the vows footage. The inset can also be made to move around, using a path editor. One feature of VideoShop that will especially appeal to those looking to create QuickTime movies for the Web is its 3D-effects functionality. Edited video can be mapped onto a host of 3D objects that come on the software CD. Also supplied are Tween-motion resources, to animate them. Control can be exercised over sound, because bundled with the Videobus is TuneBuilder Lite - the full version comes with a resources CD containing generic pre-recorded mood music. However, TuneBuilder will work with any audio file - whether its a track from a CD or a voice-over you've recorded. As with all these packages, time experimenting is time well spent. This, though, is not made any easier by the lack of a printed manual. Manufacturers now routinely pass the cost of printing manuals onto users. Why should we be expected to use a ton of paper and ink running them out? And what if you have no printer? Flicking from an on-screen Acrobat manual to app dialogue-boxes is psychosis-inducing.

OUR VERDICT

If you've got a Mac and a camcorder - or a pile of old VHS home movies - then the Videobus will let you join the digital-image revolution. There's just one snag - unless you have S-video connectivity on your VHS then you'll need a SCART adaptor and an S-Video lead.

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