IntroductionPerhaps you’re intrigued by Apple’s new focus on digital video, but own an analogue camcorder or have a pile of home movies on VHS tape. In either case, you’ll need a way to get that analogue video into your Mac digitally. The best way to do that is with a FireWire analogue-to-DV converter, which can send the audio and video from your Mac right back out to your TV screen. We looked at three analogue-to-DV converters that offered similar features: the Dazzle Multimedia Hollywood DV-Bridge, the Formac Studio, and the Miglia Director’s Cut. All the products performed as advertised, but the Formac Studio stood out as the most Mac-compatible and innovative of the bunch. When you play analogue audio and video, a converter box digitizes the media and converts it into the same DV format used by digital camcorders, which is then sent to your Mac via FireWire. Hooking up a DV converter is simple: just plug it into a six-pin FireWire port on your computer and connect it to your video source, and it’s ready to go. The Hollywood DV-Bridge and Formac Studio converters come with the necessary FireWire cables. Knowing iMovie
Once the converter is connected to the computer and the camcorder, you can begin capturing or exporting video. In tests with a 500MHz G4 Power Mac and an iMac DV, we were able to capture and play back video using each of these converters from within Apple iMovie 2.0.3 (including the Mac OS X version), Adobe Premiere 6, and Apple Final Cut Pro 2. We didn’t notice any differences in image quality among the four. In our tests, iMovie immediately recognized all the converters with no problem. For Premiere, we had to select each device specifically from a control menu before the program could communicate with the converter. The Formac Studio and the Hollywood DV-Bridge detect whether you’re capturing or outputting a signal, and they have LED indicators that show the direction of transfer. Both also have buttons for switching sources, in case automatic switching doesn’t kick in. With the Director’s Cut, you must switch sources manually. In the industrial-design department, the Director’s Cut looks as though it belongs in a TV studio: it’s housed in a sturdy, utilitarian metal box that only an engineer could love. At the opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum is the Formac Studio, a curved silver box that would look more at home in an ad agency (Formac also sells a clear model). The lithe form and vertical orientation of the Hollywood DV-Bridge make the device so unstable that even the strain from the connecting cables can pull it over. S-Video and AV jacks are standard on all the converters, but the Director’s Cut carries an extra S-Video-out port for monitoring the signal being sent to the VCR – a handy feature you’d normally find only in professional studio equipment. It also has a quarter-inch headphone jack with a level knob. The Formac Studio includes two additional coaxial inputs, for cable TV and antennae. The Hollywood DV-Bridge uses an external power supply; the Director’s Cut and Formac Studio take a more convenient approach, drawing power from the FireWire bus. The Formac Studio also has a second FireWire port, for daisy-chaining other peripherals. The Formac Studio offers some unique features, including a TV and radio tuner and an internal speaker. An option in the ProTV tuner software allows it to search for available TV and radio channels; you can assign names to the individual stations it finds. Unlike Formac’s other TV tuner product, the ProTV PCI card, the Formac Studio doesn’t support closed-captioning or let you adjust brightness and contrast. If you own an analogue Sony Handycam, the Hollywood DV-Bridge lets you control your camcorder’s playback functions from within Premiere or iMovie, making these features almost as easy to use as a digital camcorder.