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Lindy Video Grabber

The Lindy USB Video Grabber is a device used to input an analog video signal into your computer via USB. Basically it takes an RCA or S-video signal and turns it into digital video. One of the reasons I chose to review the Lindy USB video grabber is that it will record from most video sources to any recent computer. It can deal with different types of PAL and NTSC video inputs. This happened to be a helpful feature to me because at the time I received this unit, I was on vacation in England. My fiancee had taken up cheerleading whist attending university there and it was recorded in pal video. So we had this video that was nice, but we couldn't take home with us. So I needed something to record the video to NTSC or to my computer and the Lindy USB Video Grabber is what I happened to use.

The packaging is very plain just a Ziploc bag with the company logo in big letters and the product labeled on a sticker. I originally thought it was a type of packaging they used on lots of products, but apparently it is the only product packaged so. The inside of the package was a little more promising and included the Video Grabber, a manual, a small Lindy flyer, a quick install booklet and the installation CD. The video grabber has both an RCA and S-video connection on one end and USB on the other. It also has a button on it and an LED.

Lindy Bag     Lindy Stuff

The button is used to take snapshots of the video stream which makes the led flash and I'd tell you more about it but I was unable to get it to work. Since I didn't intend to use the product to take snapshots of video it didn't bother me but I contacted Lindy about it anyways. The techs at Lindy were also unable to get the snapshot button to work, so at least I know its not just me. Last I heard they were in contact with the manufacturer about it. If I hear more on it, I will add it to the review.

The quick installation book is pretty good and had me up and running in no time. The manual is decent but could use some work. For instance the question and answers section was at the end of the book, after the Mac installation, which threw me for a loop. I figured after the windows portion ended the rest was Mac. I was wrong and it took me a while to get the software working because of this. Under the Q&A the book tells you how to switch between RCA and S-video which was very helpful once I found it, and also how to find out if its been installed correctly. I think these 2 questions could be removed if only they had told you this information in the install part of the manual where it should be.

Chapter 1 is very useful to me right now cause it has the specifications of the video grabber which I've typed out and you can find below:

Specifications
Video Input - One RCA composite, one S-Video
Video Output - Serial data for USB standard compliant
Video Capture size - 160x120, 176x144, 320x240, 352x288 pixels Single button snap shot to capture still picture at 640x480 pixels
Power Source - 5VDC, 170mA max through USB port
Performance - 30fps at CIF size (352x288)
USB data bandwidth 4Mbps - 8Mbps isochronous

Key Features
Small wonder - Dimensions are H 88mm W 31mm H 21mm
Convert analog video signal to digital through RCA, S-Video analog inputs
No battery - No need to install batteries or run off the wall adapter
High quality Video Compressor to speed up frame rate
Low power consumption, suit for portable computer too
Snap shot - A single snap shot button takes still photos at VGA 640x480 (Though it doesn't seem to work)
Low CPU utilization at decompression
Support NTSC or PAL system
Plug & Play

System Requirements
USB equipped computer
CPU 166Mhz
32MB of RAM
CDROM for installing software
256 color VGA display
Windows 95 OSR2.1 / 98 / 98SE / ME / 2000 / XP
Mac OS 8.6 / 9.0

The program that comes with the Video Grabber for video capture is called AMCAP. I'm not too keen on it, and when I'm not reviewing this, I think I will try to find a different program to use. We'll start out with the file menu, which you can see in the picture below this paragraph. The File menu is where you pick the file name of the clip and where it is. My biggest problem with the file menu is that you have to set the file it will record to before recording, and set its size. I called my capture file test. Once it is done recording you will choose save as, and save it as whatever you want. But back to the allocating file space part. My biggest beef with this is that there seems to be a limit to how much space you can allocate and that is about 4Gb. Now you're thinking hey that's pretty big, well you're right, but so is any uncompressed AVI file!

Lindy Screengrab

In my tests that works out to about 10 minutes of recording. Now if you changed your video quality and sound quality you could get more or less out of it, but I was going with TV quality. Update: I've been in contact with Lindy about this. I thought it was rather odd to have such a limit. If you just don't allocate space for the file and just hit record, you can avoid the 4Gb limitation. Another option would be to used a different program. You could use Presto Video Works, which is included on the CD for instance. Or you could use another program such as Movie Maker (included in Win XP) or Adobe premier etc.

The Device and Help menu are fairly straight forward. You can choose which sound source to use as in the sound cards software, or the capture programs software. Help is very useless, consisting only of about and not some help files on the software, as that would be too easy. The options menu is a lot more useful allowing you to select the framerate, whether to record audio or not, and the time limit of the capture. And most importantly in this menu is start capture and stop capture. These of course are necessary. I would have preferred to have those buttons somewhere on the program like just a button instead of in a menu but hey I didn't make the software, actually neither did Lindy, as it's Microsoft software. I just learned that in the Help, About just now (and I thought About files were always useless). This explains a lot ;)

Lindy Video Capture 1     Lindy Video Capture 2

The options tab is where the action is at. Here you can select whether the video stream will preview to the monitor or not, which is very helpful. More importantly you can select which audio format and video format to use. There are quite a few options and you will want to pick carefully because well you don't have much time to record so you might want to drop the quality a bit if you don't want to have a one hour home video take up 24GB! For the audio format you can only choose PCM, but you do have a lot of choices of bitrates and frequencies. Video is a little better with many options. You can choose from PAL, SECAM or NTSC. You can zoom tilt, pan, change the brightness and hue. The framerate can be changed here too. You can even limit the maximum bandwidth used in recording.

Lindy Video Capture 3

Luckily AMCAP isn't the only software included in the bundle. You also get Image Folio, Video Works, and Mr. Photo. I'm not going to go too much into them cause I didn't have much need of them and played around only a bit. Image Folio and Mr. Photo are both image editing software. They are fairly simple to use and don't do much complex editing, for serious picture manipulation I would suggest something like Adobe Photoshop. VideoWorks is a neat program for editing video. You can add a few neat effects and do a bit of editing. I had some fun making my videos framed with some special effects that are prebuilt in, but you're not going to make a movie with this software... Well at least not commercial grade one. Update: After learning that I could have been using Video works to capture video, I'm kind of disappointed. I read over the manual and poked around the program a bit and its a lot more simple to use for capturing video. Personally I think the package could do without Microsoft's AMCrap.

So now is the time to get to the performance of the capture device itself. I used the video grabber to record the UK National cheerleading championships to my computer. I recorded at various bitrates and framerates, but finally decided on 320x240 at 30fps. The audio was set to 48khz and 16bit mono. It was set to mono because my line in is only mono anyways so I couldn't record stereo if I had wanted to which would have been nice. I watched the capture in preview mode as I was recording, and watched how many dropped frames there were. I'd say it was approx 3 dropped frames per second making the recording 27fps.

The techs at Lindy tested it as well and they also got about 25fps no matter what settings they used. The marketing department must have rounded up ;) Now from what I understand TV quality (based on that you live in north American and use NTSC) is 30fps at 320x240. So I'm not even reaching TV quality but just barely. But one thing about TV is that it only shows half the screen at any given time. Every second line is either on or off. So TV is actually running at 15 fps. So when I'm recording from a source like a computer that shows every line at all times, the recording will be better then TV quality, but if I record from a TV source, like I did, the quality will be below TV quality since it drops some of the frames. I can tell you though that it was not noticeable at all. Heck its Microsoft software, maybe its wrong.

It turns out that I actually came out finding the Lindy Video Grabber to be very useful. However it did not work quite as advertised. The snapshot button did not work, and it did not capture the stated 30fps. The major beef I had was with the lack of a good written manual. The written manual said Video works was a video editing program. If they had mentioned that it too captured video, I would have tested that out. Video works actually has a decent manual, but you can only read it once you install the program. Its a great product for someone who needs to record video to their laptop like if you had a non digital camcorder with RCA or S-video out. If you're using a PC, you might as well get a TV tuner card with some extras, but bear in mind most TV tuner cards only capture to coaxial, and the Video Grabber can do S-Video and RCA. And while I am very happy with the Video Grabber, because the snapshot button didn't work and because it will not capture at 30fps as advertised, I'm going to have to dock some points. I would recommend the Lindy USB Video Grabber to any laptop user.

Pros:

  • Does what it is meant to do
  • TV quality recording
  • Very compact
  • No batteries
  • Captures to S-Video or RCA
  • Can be used with other capture software

Cons:

  • The snapshot button doesn't work
  • Written documentation would be nice
  • The manual could use some work
  • Audio capture has to be done via your sound card

Added: September 14th 2003
Reviewer: Mixam
Score: 8  
Related Link: Lindy USA
Hits: 22364
Language: english

  

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