Pyro A/V Link, by ADS
Posted: 24-May-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: ADS Technology Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Hazel Valera Class: HARDWARE

Introduction
Pyro A/V link is a device for capturing and converting video into professional quality DV format and also supports exporting edited DV content to analog video tape recorders. Capturing DV from a Digital camcorder is great, but what about all of the video content you have in other formats (8mm, beta, VHS, DVD)? How do you get that content into the DV format? Pyro A/V link solves the problem by converting any analog video source into DV. What if you need to share the video on VHS tape for people who have not yet migrated to a DVD player? The Pyro A/V link bridges the gap by allowing you to export DV video to any analog video recorder. Capture and edit your video, then output to VHS and share tapes that anyone can watch. With Pyro A/V link you can capture from any video source, including DV camcorders, and mix and match your video content to create a truly unique video production.

Interface Types

  • Component Video In
  • Composite Video Out
  • S-Video Out
  • FireWire/1394-enabled
  • Composite Video In
  • S-Video In


System Requirements

  • Mac OS 9/Mac OS X, iMac/iBook/G3/G4, CD-ROM drive -OR-
  • Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000/XP, Pentium III 400Mhz or better, CD-ROM drive

Technical Features

Analog Video Format PAL, NTSC
Analog Video Signal S-Video, Composite Video
Digital Video Format DV
Digital Video Capture 720 x 576, 720 x 480
Audio Input Support Included

Package Contents

  • Pyro A/V Link device
  • composite audio/video cable
  • S-VHS cable
  • 6-pin to 6-pin 1394 cable
  • 4-pin to 4-pin 1394 cable
  • power supply
  • user manual
  • Video Studio 7 SE Software DVD edition for PC
  • NOTE: Mac users use iMovie pre-installed on most Macs


In Use
The Pyro A/V Link is a black box that has a variety of input and output ports. It supports S-Video, composite audio/video, and firewire. It also includes a firewire pass-through port so that you don't lose a firewire port when the Pyro is hooked up to your Mac. There is a device control switch on the Pyro that sets importing to either analog or digital signals. The Pyro comes with all the cables needed to do your video transfers. The unit is light, small and takes up little room on your desktop.

I have limited experience in doing captures from my DV camcorder to my Mac, and needed a means of capturing video from my old VHS tapes. After reading the manual (6 minutes) and hooking up the Pyro (another 5 minutes), it was ready to be put to use. It was very easy to setup. Just plug in the cables provided and it works. The Pyro comes with software for the PC, but since I used the Pyro with my iMac, no software installation was required. I was able to use iMovie to capture and view the video from various sources.

VCR to Pyro to iMac
In order to capture video from a VHS tape, I needed to hook my VCR up to the Pyro, and then the Pyro to my iMac. I used the provided RCA jacks to connect my VHS player to the front of the Pyro/AV Link unit, and the firewire cable to connect the Pyro to my iMac. You also have to press the "Analog" selector on the Pyro unit (by default, the Pyro is in "Digital" mode for input from devices such as a digital video camera). From there, it was as simple as starting up iMovie and doing an import.

During VCR transfers, there were some occasional breaks and pauses while capturing caused by the buffering process that the Pyro uses. These spots are easily corrected by rewinding and re-capturing. This will not be a good solution if you want to do a straight copy of a full VHS tape to digital, as there will be too many breaks (aka, loss of frames). This transfer is better suited for capture clips from a VHS tape.

The quality of the VHS captures was simply outstanding just using RCA jacks (improved video may be possible by using the S-Video connection). The video captures were easy, and having them converted to digital breathed new life into my old videos.

In terms of device control, the only way to control the VHS tape is via the manual controls on the VCR (i.e., press the VCR stop button, rewind button, etc.). It would have been nice to have the VCR controlled by iMovie the way my digital video camera is controlled, but the Pyro does not support analog device control. Further, you need to be careful which manual controls you do use while importing into iMovie. The normal play mode as well as fast forwarding on the VCR while viewing the VHS video in iMovie works fine. However, rewinding caused the video to stop streaming into iMovie and popped up an error message reading "Camera not connected." Unfortunately, continuing is not as simple as pressing play in iMovie. After rewinding, you have to press play again on the VCR, push the Digital/Analog button on the Pyro to switch to analog (for some reason the Pryo goes back to digital mode when you stop the VCR), and then press Import on iMovie. This can be a bit of a hassle when you are using rewind a lot to look for specific video scenes. It may be easier just to import the whole tape, and then navigate through the digitized video (although you'll then have to live with the breaks presented by Pyro's buffering).

Once I got used to using only the fast forward and play buttons on the VCR, it was extremely easy and fun to capture video, and the best part was capturing priceless memories from old VHS tapes.

Hi-8 Camera to Pyro to iMac
Another use of the Pyro is taking video from a Hi-8 camera and importing into iMovie. I used the S-video cable that came with the Pyro to hook up my Hi-8 Camera to the front of the Pyro AV/Link. The firwire was still hooked up to my iMac from the prior VCR setup. This setup provided a very easy capture as well. In fact, unlike the VCR hookup, I was able to use both the camera's rewind and fast forward buttons while viewing the video in iMovie. I experienced beautiful results, and the process was quick and easy.

The Pyro only imports video from the device that is playing, so leaving the VCR plugged in did not interfere with the Hi-8 set-up. This was nice, because then I could switch back and forth from each source without the hassle of plugging and unplugging the cables.

MiniDV Camera to Pyro to iMac
To hook-up a MiniDV camera, I used the same set up as with the Hi-8. Of course, you can plug your digital camera directly into the firewire port of your computer without the Pyro, but I found it nice to have a video "router" that you can plug and unplug different video devices at will. This set-up is great for when you are collecting video sources from a variety of different devices. You just plug and unplug the devices to and from the Pyro without having to change the firewire cable that goes into the Mac.

With a digital video camera in use, not only was I able to use all the camera's controls without interrupting iMovie, but the iMovie controls also controlled the camera (just like it would if the camera were directly connected to the Mac). This import resulted in excellent quality clips with no breaks or interruptions during transfer.

MiniDV to Pyro to VCR

In addition to importing video from analog and digitial devices into your Mac, you can also use the Pyro to go direct from digital to an analog device. In my test, I wanted to take digital video from my MiniDV camera and record it on a VHS tape. To do so, I just had to switch a few cables around. I connected the S-Video cable to the OUT port on the camera and to the IN port on the Pyro. I then connected the RCA cables to the OUT port on the Pyro and to the IN port on the VCR. I recorded 5 minutes from Mini DV to VHS with no problems. After the transfer, I switched the cables back again to have the VCR go into the iMac and viewed the results on my computer. Once again, this set-up produced beautiful results. This was a fast and easy way to transfer digital video to VHS tape. It was also nice to know that I could transfer my video to VHS tapes without my computer.

Summary
The Pyro A/V Link is an amazing black box that lets you transfer video to and from a variety of analog and digital devices, whether a VCR, digital camera, or your Macintosh running iMovie. I used it with great success transferring analog video from a VCR into my iMac, analog video from a Hi-8 camera into my iMac, digital video from a MiniDV camera into my iMac, and even digital video from a MiniDV camera directly onto a VHS tape. The Pyro is quite easy to setup and use, and produces excellent results. When transferring video to your Mac, the Pyro utilizes iMovie for importing. Unfortunately, iMovie's controls do not control analog devices connected through the Pyro box, so you must rely on the analog device's controls. Using iMovie to import, you have the option of importing the video and editing on the fly, or simply capturing all of the video content and saving the editing for later. The latter is preferable when importing from a VCR, as the Pyro gets confused when using the rewind button (at least in my tests). The ports are in a convenient location, simplifying the process of capturing video from a variety of devices. Overall, I loved working with this product. The Pyro A/V Link is a great piece of hardware, especially for the cost. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to digitize old analog video from a variety of sources, or wanting to easily transfer digital video onto VHS tapes.

Pros

  • Simple installation
  • Variety of inputs and outputs for analog and digital devices
  • Includes Firewire passthrough
  • Quality of video capture is great

Cons

  • iMovie's controls do not operate analog devices
  • Device is interrupted and reset when rewinding from VCR
  • Buffering breaks occur during VHS video capture


Overall Rating:

4 out of 5 Mice