Buz Video Card
Low-cost analog video digitizing card for the Mac and Windows.
by Scott Lopatin
Editors Note: Scott Lopatin at MacOnCall <www.maconcall.com> sent me this report of his experiences with the Iomega Buz after I made an off-hand -- but less than flattering -- comment about the product.
I am taking a video class where they use a Perception card on an NT workstation. I believe the Perception card runs around $2,000-$3,000. I wanted something I could use at home to do the work that would be able to deliver similar quality.
On both systems we are recording from HI8. On the Perception we are using 5mb/sec because of disk space issues. 5mb/sec also delivers adequate quality for the work I am doing.
I was skeptical of the Buz because of its price, but had heard great things from other people about it, so I went ahead and got it. I tried to match the same quality and compression rates as well as frame/field size/rate on the Buz, basically so the teacher wouldn't know that I was really doing this at home.
I was not able to capture 5mb/sec on the Jaz 2 drive connected to the Ultra SCSI card built into the Buz card. I am not sure why this didn't work, because this is how Iomega wants you to record. It seems like the Jaz driver is stalling sometimes, although when I hook up the Jaz to a PC, it doesn't stall when writing data. Instead I recorded to the Apple 8gig IDE drive that came in the PowerMac G3 300mhz. This gave me 0 dropped frames at 29.97 fps with 60 fields/sec at 720x480. I was really happy that it was capturing so easily. I also use this machine as a low volume AppleShare IP server, and sometimes I have programs running in the background but the Buz doesn't seem to care, it continually delivered perfect captures. [Don't try this at home: for best results always turn off AppleShare and networking when digitizing video-Ed.]
Quality was my next concern. For my first assignment, I brought my tape to class on 3/4' tape without mention of how I completed the assignment. (I worked with the video in Adode After Effects in the Buz Codec before output.) Not only did the teacher not realize that I hadn't used the Perception system, but the color seemed much more vivid than other students video. Also, the less saturated colors seemed to show up much better on the Buz than on the Perception. We are using top quality Sony monitors to view the work, as well as component 3/4' deck's. I was amazed to see the quality levels coming from my G3 back at home.
I haven't tried over 5mb/sec, however the documentation states that it can go up to 6mb/sec. In my opinion, for most people, 6mb/sec is adequate, especially for a card running at $300 on the Mac and $200 on the PC.
For editing and playback, the video looks tremendously better on a monitor connected to the video out of the Buz box. A Mac monitor's performance is terrible! It does not look smooth, is severely jerky and starts and stops randomly.
On the other end of the spectrum, I needed to fit about 20 minutes of video onto a CD-ROM. I tried various compression rates and finally recorded at 150k/sec at half screen. During playback the Buz automatically scales it to full screen on the output monitor. The video looked suprisingly good. The colors were a bit more muted and motion wasn't as smooth, but to fit that much video on a CD-ROM without using something that takes forever like MPEG was pretty amazing to me, especially since it plays full screen on a monitor.
Specs from Iomega's website:
- Compression: MJPEG
- Resolution: Up to 720x480 at 30 frames per second (60 fields) NTSC
Up to 720x576 at 25 frames per second (50 fields) PAL/SECAM
Up to 24bit (16 million) colors
- Video Data Rate: Up to 6MB/sec sustained
- Video In/Out: Composite and S-Video (Mini DIN)
- Audio In/Out: Stereo RCA pass thru to existing industry standard sound card