Video Capture is a hobby that can be an expensive one to get started with. One must first purchase a relatively powerful computer and an oftentimes expensive capture interface to even begin to explore the wonders of video capture. Diamond has taken out these hurdles with the release of the VC500 One Touch Video Capture Interface. For less than the price of a new video game, at $39.99 MSRP, users have access to all the hardware and software necessary to get started with their new hobby.
The interface itself is simply designed. One end sports RCA Audio, Composite video, and S-video inputs as well as a control box with a capture button and status LEDs, while the other end sports a USB plug. The hardware receives all necessary power through the USB plug and the compact size of the device allows users to simply wrap up the cable and take it anywhere they take their laptop. Also bundled with the interface is a spare composite video cable and a simple suite of software to capture and edit videos (see pictures of package contents below).
The first program, called EZ Grabber, allows a user to capture video or take screenshots from an input source but does not allow any sort of advanced editing. Using my Xbox 360 as a test device, the EZ Grabber software took plenty of usable screenshots every time I pressed the capture button on the interface itself. Although there was a small but discernible delay between the moment I pressed the capture button and when the software actually captured the screenshot, pictures looked good and only degraded in quality when there was an extreme amount of action onscreen. Video capture with the EZ grabber software was just as easy, but the software was unable to show a clear video stream while it was recording. Using on my own, the inability to see what I was doing while playing made the EZ grabber software useless for game capture but produced favorable results when I recorded clips from my video camera and was able to control the playback from the video camera itself. The recording format also had a significant impact on the quality of the videos I was able to record. Higher resolution settings led to choppy video and un-synchronized audio while lower resolution settings took a near perfect capture from their input source.
The second and more advanced program included with the device is called ArcSoft Showbiz and allows a user to not only capture audio and take screenshots, but to also edit film clips and create DVDs. While the EZ Grabber software forced me to switch between audio and video capture within the program settings, the Showbiz software allowed me to do both at the same time using the function keys on my keyboard. Recording video did not come with the same display issues as the EZ Grabber software, so it was actually possible to record video clips from my Xbox 360. The actual recorded clips were unfortunately not useful. The captured video contained heavy grain throughout as well as random audio pops and cackles. My best results came from using the EZ Grabber software to capture video and using the Showbiz software to import and edit the video. The video display problem with the EZ Grabber software forced me capture video from my television output instead of directly from my Xbox 360 which my be a bit difficult for beginning users to set up.
Once my video was finally captured, each clip displayed in the Showbiz software for me to edit. It was easy to drag and drop video clips into timeline located at the bottom of the Showbiz software and edit clips at my leisure. A storyboard view allowed me to place transitions in between video clips while the timeline view made it possible to add text and titles to video clips as well as edit video clips for length.
Overall, the Diamond VC500 One Touch Video Capture performed as expected for a budget piece of hardware. It was possible to record video clips and take screenshots from both sets of capture software, but my results varied widely between the two. My best video results came when I was not actually able to view the video I was recording forcing me to be extremely creative with how I connected the interface to my entertainment center and computer. The ArcSoft Showbiz video editing software is the highlight of the package offering users an easy way to create their own YouTube clips and DVDs, but the VC500 itself is the weak link in the chain. Users willing to forgive the shortcomings of the hardware and work around the quirks of the software can get passable results, but more advanced users with a bigger budget will be better served by saving their money and investing in a higher end interface that does not present so many obstacles to overcome.
Thanks to Diamond for making this review possible!