Laptop for audio and video capture?

Discussion in 'Computers' started by RobertCharlotte, Dec 22, 2005.

  1. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

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    In the new year (probably with some Christmas money), I'm hoping to get a laptop which I will primarily use for video capturing and, possibly, DVD authoring.

    I am in the early stages of digitizing all my old VHS tapes, and I'm getting really tired of disconnecting my VCR from my home theater whenever I want to start a new project, lugging into the home office, and hooking it up to my PC. I hope that with a laptop, I can just run a cable from a spare A/V out on the back to a Pinnacle Dazzle or similar device, then just hook up the laptop via firewire or USB. Take the mountain to Mohammed, as it were.

    Here's my basic question: Am I kidding myself?

    Are laptops fast/powerful enough yet to handle this work? Note that I am not going to be capturing anything like broadcast quality video: this will be from VHS tapes anywhere from 5 to 20 years old, so I'm not expecting miracles. I just want to be sure before I drop something like $1000 (probably all I can afford) on a laptop that I won't wind up with half my frames lost somewhere in the ether.
     
  2. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Yes, laptops are fast enough and powerful enough, but maybe not within your price range (stated as ~$1000).

    You can get "desktop replacement" laptops, but they're rather expensive. Go to Dell, HP, Lenovo, etc and try to configure some computers to see if you can get it in your price range. I would want a 7200rpm HD and at least 1GB of RAM. I'm not sure exactly what processor would be required as I've never transferred from VHS to computer, but I'd think you'd want an absolute minimum of 2.0GHz.

    Also, keep in mind that most laptops have a power-save mode that they automatically go into when booted on a battery. For instance, my old Dell laptop with a 1.0GHz processors is set to boot at only 700MHz if no A/C power is detected. Just keep this in mind when transferring video.
     
  3. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

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    I was worried that my price range might not be work for my goals.

    That's good to know about the power source affecting performance, Seth: I'll definitely plug this into the wall when I'm doing this.
     
  4. Will_B

    Will_B Producer

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    My opinion is that for $1,000 you will not be able to get a notebook computer that can handle video capturing. Or, even if it captures the video without dropped frames, editing and conversion will be far too sluggish. Beyond the memory and processor issues, most notebooks' hard drives are too slow (though you could use external drives).

    There are high-end notebooks that can do it. Double your budget.

    You'll find some notebooks, such as Gateway's NX850, promote themselves as being suited for video editing at an affordable price of $1,300 but when you actually deck them out with enough memory and a suitable processor, they're $2,300 machines.
     
  5. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Yeah, I mentioned in my post that you'd want a 7200rpm HD, but those are hard to come by in laptops under $2000.

    So, you might get 1GB of RAM and make sure it has a firewire port and get an external HD (as Will mentioned). You can get a good firewire drive for under $200 that will hold about 120 or 160GB.

    That way you could easily transfer files between your desktop and laptop.
     
  6. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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    You'll for sure have to up your budget. I'm using a Dell Inspiron 6000 3.2ghz (P4 equivalent), 1gb ram. It does very well for video capture and editing. It retailed for over $2000 on a Dell corporate charge account (discounted), so you'll need to come up with some more $$ to get something that will work.

    I'd think a 2.5ghz would be the absolute minimum you could expect to work well.
     
  7. Rommel_L

    Rommel_L Second Unit

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    Is it necessary to be a laptop? You can get a desktop within your budget constraints that's more than capable...
     
  8. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the help, gang! Now at least I have a better idea that I definitely need to increase the budget for this project. Maybe I should think of my $1000 as a really good down payment and see if I can find a 6 or 12 months same as cash deal somewhere on what I want.

    Rommel, if I'm understanding your question right, the reason is I don't have any room near my home theater for a desktop and its related peripherals. A laptop is not only portable so that I can unhook it all when I'm not actually recording, it is self-contained so I don't have to worry about where to store the keyboard and mouse.
     
  9. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    You could always buy this and add a nice CPU, RAM, and copy of Windows MCE and use it to capture video and you could also use it as a DVR and a DVD player.

    Possibly not exactly what you're looking for, but could probably all be done for well under $1500 and it looks pretty sweet.
     
  10. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    thinking only in clock speed can lead to problems. my pentium M 1.86 GHz would destroy a 2.5 GHz pentium 4, in every possible way.

    discount laptops has a bunch of machines that would do your task, but you'd have to increase your budget, but not as much as you think. i got my machine for $1300 a few months ago.

    pronote 201-m
    pentium M 750 (1.86 GHz)
    1 GB ram
    60 GB hdd
    dvd +/- rw rewritable drive
    12.1" glossy widescreen display
    weighs about 4 lbs
    3 year warranty

    now, you'd probably be able to get the 2.0 GHz processor for the same price. that would be able to handle video capturing easily. they have computers with larger screens too. and, if you already have a copy of the OS you want to use, they dont automatically make you buy windows if you dont need it.

    CJ
     
  11. SethH

    SethH Cinematographer

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    Christ,

    How fast is that laptop's hard drive? It looks like a pretty good deal, but I'd be a little skeptical of video capturing/editing on a 4200rpm drive. If it's 5400, then it could possibly work, but 7200rpm would still be ideal.

    Of course, you could always get that and then drop about $200 on an external if it was needed.
     
  12. Mike LS

    Mike LS Supporting Actor

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    I was speaking in general terms when I threw out the 2.5ghz figure. When you get down to how clock speeds of different types of processors compare to each other, you'd need something that is comperable to P4 2.5ghz. Your Pm 1.86ghz is getting pretty close to P4 3.0ghz speeds.
    The machine I mentioned I am using is acutally a Pm 2.0ghz which I think is about a 3.0 or 3.2 ghz equivalent. It's very close in speed to my P4 3.2ghz desktop.
     
  13. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Depends how you're doing the capturing. You could use an outboard Firewire device such as one made by Canopus, which means your processor isn't doing much work at all during the capture. You'd still need a fast HD though.

    As for the editing, you'll definitely need a fast processor and tons of RAM.
     
  14. Linda Thompson

    Linda Thompson Supporting Actor

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    This may be a silly question, Robert, but, with your stated goal (of not having to move the VCR from your HT to your PC each time you work on a transfer project)...why not just buy a good-quality dedicated VCR and leave it connected to the PC full-time. That's how I have mine set up. Even a ridiculously high-quality VCR would be a lot less expensive than either a new desktop or a laptop.

    I have a Sony VAIO (PCV RS 530-G) desktop (comes with 512 MB RAM, but I had it upgraded to 1 GB before I even brought it home from the store). It has been absolutely wonderful for all of my audio and video needs, with the on-board GigaPocket software. I had tried several other capture products with previous PCs, but they never seemed to do proper audio-video syncing. The VAIO's GigaPocket hasn't screwed one up yet.

    But, back to my point... I have both a VCR and a standalone DVD player permanently attached, and the setup performs flawlessly every time. I use the DVD player for some re-capturing options -- from finished self-made discs, or other non-copy-protected discs -- which software players won't handle or allow. I also use it just to watch discs through my LCD monitor.
     
  15. Christ Reynolds

    Christ Reynolds Producer

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    fair enough mike, it just sounded like you were following the belief system that "higher numbers are always better", but i see now that you arent. that 2.0 GHz must be sweet!


    the hdd in this particular laptop is 5400 rpm, but you have the option of getting a 7200. i didnt bother, because this laptop is only for taking to school and typing papers, very light software development and matlab. my workstation has dual opteron 2.0 GHz processors when i need to flex some muscle [​IMG]

    what resolution are you capturing at? i was able to capture the entire series of twin peaks off the vhs set (~24 hours) with my amd athlon xp 1700+, which is 1.46 GHz. captured 640x480, i had 512 mb ram, and it went fine. only dropped a frame or two every hour, and most of those had to do with the bad quality of the tapes. one time, i was freaking out because i had no idea why i dropped 400+ frames in one hour, i thought something may be wrong with the computer, but it ended up being a bad tape.

    i dont suggest you go as low as the xp 1700+, but it worked well for me. you should be able to get a good machine without spending a ton.

    CJ
     
  16. RobertCharlotte

    RobertCharlotte Supporting Actor

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    Linda,

    Frankly, I'm surprised it took that long for anyone to ask that question! [​IMG]

    The truth is, I'm considering going that route. I was originally planning on using the approx. $2000 budget I have to get myself a mid-range desktop and a laptop for the purposes described above. Now I'm thinking I might go for a more powerful desktop and the necessary source devices to hook into it.

    I'm generally of the opinion that it never hurts to have a spare VCR and DVD player around, anyway. Now I just have to get the missus to agree that with 4 VCRs and 3 DVD players in the house, an additional one of each would qualify as "spare."
     

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