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  PC-Net's PC News - December 2002
Don Watkins

Sony Vaio Digital Studio

By Don Watkins



I first got the bug when I transferred some old 8mm home movies to video CD. It was very limited, the quality wasn't very good, but then the source wasn't very good. But I had the bug. I moved stuff around, I cut a lot of the bad video out (and there was a lot of bad video in old 8mm!) and I had a blast. I wanted more.

I looked into installing a DVD-R drive in one of my current computers but they were, to be kind, getting on in years and I had concerns about the DVD-R compatibility as well as compatibility with a firewire card.

I felt the latter was necessary. I had video capture build into my video card for the 8mm project but it dropped frames all over the place, around 1 in 18. Not something you'd really notice in 8mm but I had greater designs.

But I really couldn't afford a new computer so I went looking for a DVD-R drive.

Lo and behold the Sony Digital Studio (the PCV-RX752 to be exact). As it turned out I found a floor model that wasn't much more than a DVD-R drive.

Out of the box the DS comes with 512Mb, DVD-R, CD, 80Gb hard drive, firewire, a NIC and even a slot to insert a Sony memory stick. It comes with Windows XP installed.

Initially I opted for the Dazzle Hollywood Bridge, with the firewire interface, for the analog to digital converter. It came with several software programs and seemed to do what I needed. The only problem I initially encountered is that the firewire cable that comes with HB doesn't match the port on the Sony so a trip back to the computer store.

I was immediately disappointed. With a 2Ghz Pentium 4 I expected more. That was twice as fast as my fastest old computer and the Sony was an outright dog.

I fiddled around. First the 5400RPM drive seemed awfully slow so I replaced it with a 7200RPM drive. Much better but still pokey so I added another 256Mb of memory. Now we were talking. Even so rendering video takes a long time.

The software that comes with the Hollywood Bridge; Hollywood Studio and Dazzle is pretty good. It's not the best video editing software out there, but you can do a decent job with it including producing movies as well as slide shows and burning them to DVD.

My next step was to transfer some old VHS tape to DVD. After 15 years old it's getting brittle and isn't going to last much longer but I kept running into a problem; the analog to digital link kept dropping. I'd get 15 minutes of capture and the capture program could no longer see the capture device.

I must have struggled with this for weeks, even to the point of buying a very expensive firewire cable. No dice.

Then I located a problem with HB. This isn't acknowledged by Dazzle but if you ground the firewire cable that solves the problem. It didn't entirely solve it for me, but it certainly helped.

In the meantime I obtained a Canopus ADVC100.

Now here is an A to D converter! It doesn't come with usable software (there's a demo of some software) and it's a bit more expensive, but it does the job and does it well.  It has tons of inputs, RCA, S-VHS, even digital. Do not fool with the Dazzle, go directly to Canopus.

Rendering and editing is still slow but the Sony now performs like a true Digital Studio. I'm sure in a year it will be surpassed, but if digital video editing is something you want to do and you're willing to go with the ad-ons this is still the least expensive way I can find to do it.

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