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
• 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
• 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
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
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
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.
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
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.
3 - Select
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
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
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
6 - 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'
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.
I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters
on the forums at:
Have a great week...
Movie Maker 2 -
Photo Story 2 -
Products and Services
I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and
PhotoStory, and adding more daily. Here's a list of what is available to the public. Some are free
and others are reasonably priced.
Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things
(with its online companion on
Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero (with support on the Friends of Ed forum
The 14 hacks that I wrote for a new O'Reilly book about Windows Media
Hacks are in the editing phase.
When ordering these books or anything else from Amazon, I'd appreciate
you using the links on the main page of
- I get some income from Amazon that way, and it doesn't cost you any more. It'll help keep most
of my services free.
Movie Maker 2 -
- two goals: to help you solve problems, and to be the online companion to the Do Amazing Things
book... and currently thinking of another goal of movie making and editing styles.
PhotoStory 2 -
- a full tutorial about using it. It's not a problem-solving site.
Online Support - Forums, Channels and Newsgroups
I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the main ones
Movie Maker 2 and PhotoStory 2 forums at
Movie Maker 2 forum at SimplyDV.com
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup at microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker
PhotoStory items are covered at microsoft.public.plus
Weekly Movie Maker 2/PhotoStory 2 newsletter. Subscribing is free
via the link on the main page of
Tentative topics for upcoming newsletters (subject to change): A series
of primers about utilities used in conjunction with Movie Maker and PhotoStory.
#18 - (Open - do you have any requests?)
Older newsletters are archived, with a few weeks delay, by Rob Morris
Transition Maker 2
(TM2) - a utility to make the ultimate in personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2:
TM2 is a joint effort by Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself.
I routinely beta test the Pixelan packages and think
very highly of their people and products: Their SpiceFX packages of additional transitions and effects
for Movie Maker 2 are available at:
If you can't save a movie because your project has become too
complex, e-mail it to me and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects for you, and provide
detailed instructions to render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 - for
details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of
Movie Maker 2/Photo Story 2 training and support services
start at $50 per hour - email
PapaJohn@CharterMi.net and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to
plan and implement them.
PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 Newsletter Index
About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
||John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online.
An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter
of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award from
Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive website
about Movie Maker 2 at
He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides
support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer
by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert by
business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about Movie
Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his advice
Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the Windows
Movie Makers Forums.
newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler. To subscribe
to PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 newsletter click here:
Subscribe to PapaJohn's Newsletter. Please note that this is an archive of newsletters
and some information may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site,
provides this information"AS IS" with no warranties.