Low-end (SD, S-video) video capture/playback with older PC



I've got an older PC that I'd like to squeeze some more useful life
out of. At the same time, I'd like to be able to copy movies off my
DirecTV HD DVR, store them on my PC, and play them back on my TV at
"fair" quality standard def. And, I'd like to do it as cheaply as
possible. Forgive what I'm sure are some elementary questions, but I
haven't done anything with video capture or playback to a TV before,
so, let me run a few ideas by you and get your comments.

The PC itself is a Dell Dimension 8100, several years old. The
motherboard will take old-style PCI cards but nothing newer. CPU is a
Pentium 4, 1400 MHz. OS is XP/SP2. 256 MB of RAM. Adding more RAM
isn't really an option (RAM for 8100s is expensive, and it would be
almost cheaper to buy a new PC).

The good news is, I've played varous movies on it using Media Player
Classic and Combined Community Codec Pack; I don't have to do any
great amount of tweaking of OS, services, etc. to get it to work, but
do have to shut down all irrelevant applications (Zone Alarm, Adaware,
etc.) Once I've done that, it's got enough horsepower to play movies
maximized to "full screen" w/o any jumps, burps, etc. (Video and
sound cards are original equipment.) If I do what I'm planning to do
and hook it to my DVR, it'll be off the Internet and dedicated to
video, so I'll reinstall XP/SP2, start from scratch, and those other
apps won't be on it anymore anyway.

So far so good. Now ...

I don't care about getting super-glossy high-def; standard video is
good enough for this. I've got some AVIs that are 640x368, 25 fps,
and that sort of quality is good enough for this purpose. The DVR and
TV are both HD, but can accomodate SD as well. The DVR has an S-video
out, and the TV has an S-video in, both of which are currently
unused. So I figure the route of least resistance is to buy and
install two cards --

1) A PCI video card with an S-video out. In addition to providing the
interface to work with the TV, this should also help performance in
general, right? Anyway, the one I've got in mind is the Diamond
Stealth S60 Radeon 7000 ($35) -- you can see it at this page:


2) A PCI video capture card with an S-video in. I'm looking at the
"Sabrent TV Tuner Video Capture MPEG Recording PCT Card w/ Remote
Control" ($17) -- it's at this page:


According to the web page, my PC is well over the minimum
requirements, so I can't see any problems there. And I'm not
particularly worried about the warnings that the tuner won't work
after February, since I'm not gonna be using it for that anyway.

Once I've done that, I should be able to playback content off the DVR
while recording on the PC; then playback off the PC while watching on
the TV. Well, at least that's how it looks to me.

So ...

1) Am I leaving anything out? (I'm pretty sure I can figure out the
audio part on my own, thanks.)

2) Any comments, good or bad, about either of those two cards? (I've
seen a few reviews of both which range from "this works great!" to
"quality is mediocre." If mediocre means "compared to HD," that's
fine, I can live with that; if it means "mediocre SD," I'd like to
rethink it.)

3) Any recommendations for other cards I should be looking at?

4) Etc. -- any other relevant comments.





Andrew E.

Sorry but all pc memory is about at rock bottom prices,pc3200 pc2700
& 133 series can all be had for 50.00 or much less,spartantechnologies.com
has any of those for about 30.00 and most are all name brand...Memory will/
would be youre biggest problem,a good video card is next,diamond and
vision-tech are really budgeted ati cards,get a real ati card if possible,one
good reason,ati cards come with a dvd decoder software (free),the others
dont,plus the copied ati hardware is produces in mass quanities,& you get
that...For tv capture,get ati capture card,they run about 50.00,forget the
& forget any of the software (except the dvd decoder),just install the
software,use microsoft encoder 9 series,get its add-ons too,the WM9Cap works
great for simply viewing...Also,a sound card would help,creative 5.1
live,is all you
need,15.00 or so,the MB sound uses alot of resources..Also,while s-video is
rca jacks with the 1/8 adapters gives other options...Also,once video or
music is




Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, the Dimension 8100 can only
use an obsolete type of RAM, which is quite expensive -- kinda like
trying to find a replacement 8-track tape deck for a '73 Chevy,
they're expensive because nobody makes them anymore. The cheapest
8100-compatible RAM (RDRAM?) I've been able to locate is something
like $30 for 256 MB, which seems like an obscenity when that same
amount of money would add a couple of GB onto my other computer. That
would get me up to 512 MB RAM, and the price isn't prohibitive, but I
don't want this to be one of those $50 projects that ends up costing
$500 at the end of the day. What makes my skin crawl is that
everything else I might buy to do this -- video out card, vid capture
card, sound card, cables -- could easily be transferred over to my
other PC or elsewhere, but that RAM could only be used on that PC. Oh
well, I'll spend that money if I really have to. <sigh>

Thanks for the concern, but the sound is the least of my worries; I'm
a long-time musician/audio geek, and have plenty of spare stuff lying
around ... ;)

I'm leery of off-brands too (been burned a couple of times; haven't we
all?), and there's a lot of appeal in just picking a name brand (ATI/
AMD) and going with it. Based on your comments, I'm looking at the
ATI Wonder cards. You've read my situation right, I don't need any of
the tuner/FM/etc features and am just gonna turn all that stuff off
(although working with DVDs would be nice).

In particular, I'm looking at the ATI Wonder 550 and ATI Wonder 650.
Any comments on those cards? Thanks.


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