Diamond Multimedia VC500 analog-to-digital AV converter
For quite a while I was considering testing the current generation of Pinnacle Dazzle analog to digital converter. I have a 2006 Pinnacle Dazzle DVC100, and I have been interested in how current product is different from the one Pinnacle released 16 years ago.
Last year it was on sale for $30 on Black Friday. I thought that if I could buy it for $30 this year, it would be cheap enough to keep it, or maybe I could re-sell it and not lose money. It was not on sale this year on Black Friday, but it went on lightning sale on Sunday for $35. Pinnacle claimed 50% discount off $70 list price, despite that on the same page one could see the regular $50 price.
While I was thinking whether I should buy it or not, Pinnacle cancelled the sale, selling only 2% of their stock. I was taken aback by this cancellation, so I made an impulsive purchase, buying a Diamond Multimedia VC500 dongle. It is less than $30, not just on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but on every day.
The box, dated 2018, claims new features. Inside there is the converter itself, AV cable, a Mini-CD with drivers, Cyberlink PowerDirector and EZ Grabber, and a thin installation guide. The PowerDirector user’s manual is located on the CD-ROM.
I followed installation instructions and connected the device first. My 64-bit Windows 7 did not find drivers, so I inserted the provided Mini-CD in my computer’s optical drive and installed the drivers and PowerDirector 12.
PowerDirector recognized the VC500 device, which uses Conexant Polaris chip, and I was able to capture video into DVD-friendly MPEG-2 codec. The highest bitrate is 8 Mbit/s, which is about twice higher than on commercial DVDs, so if your analog video does not have too many small details, it will look fine. PowerDirector can then author a DVD, using captured video without re-encoding. Video can also capture into an AVI file, which I haven’t tried.
I have tested the VC500 using three tapes.
The JVC demo tape played on a VHS-C camcorder having time base corrector produced a clean unwavering frame with straight borders. Black level was correct too.
The AAA travel tape played on a regular VCR resulted in lots of interline and interfield jitter.
PowerDirector refused to capture the “Doc Hollywood” movie, because it is copy protected, but I was able to do it using VirtualDub. That is, the device itself does not prohibit capturing copy-protected content, it simply passes the write-protection flag to a capturing program. I removed the pulldown using inverse telecine filter in VirtualDub, but the video still exhibited jagged edges caused by line jitter.
Then I tried installing EZ Grabber. It crashed and broke the drivers. I spent two hours trying to rectify the issue but could not fix it. My Windows 7 setup is currently unusable.
I also tried using the device on Windows 10. I was not able to install drivers from the main launcher even when running the launcher with administrator privileges. I had to navigate directly to the drivers folder and installed them from there. Then, the drivers and PowerDirector installed successfully and I captured video from a VHS tape without problems.
Here is my verdict.
On the positive side, the device costs only about $30, it works both on Windows 7 and Windows 10, it comes with useful PowerDirector software that allows capturing analog video, editing it, and either rendering the result into a file, or authoring a DVD disc. It allows capturing tapes protected with Macrovision if you use third-party software.
As for the negatives, EZ Grabber is buggy and broke my drivers; I advise against using it. Conexant Polaris chip is not very sophisticated and does not have any TBC-like features, so if timing of the incoming video is not precise, you will see jitter, and straight lines will be skewed. The best solution for this problem is a time-base corrector either built into the playback device, or as a separate box, but they have become a rarity now, and could be expensive.
Watch the video, it shows some captured samples!