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Two weeks with formac studio

A journal of notes, techniques, FAQ and other resources

Updated August 14, 2002 [DRAFT STATUS], incomplete

Contents
Introduction
Configurations
Using the Device
FAQ
More Information

Introduction

Formac's studio DV/TV is a very popular item and Synchrotech sells a great deal of them. With the release of the cross platform version we anticipate many more people will purchase these excellent devices. Formac's user guide is fairly good, but it puts heavy emphasis on studio's TV/Radio tuning functionality and software package, while devoting little to the task of analog capture and writeback. Our experience from calls we receive on this device (presale and support), is capture is usually the primary task people purchase the studio for. As formac does not provide phone support for studio, the manual provides limited information on capture, and the studio DV edition has no TV functionality or software, we decided to publish this document describing the typical use of the device.

Over a year ago one of our employees tested studio's TV tuning functionality extensively under Macintosh OS 9.1 with excellent results. At the time we didn't have any analog video equipment on hand to test studio's capture capabilities. This time we determined that we would test the studio with a range of consumer devices. We also tested the studio with several different host computers including a Windows PC.

Configurations

We tested the studio with a variety of host computer setups:

PowerBook G3 400MHz 1024MB RAM (M7711LL/A)
Mac OSX 10.1.5 (5S66), iMovie 2.1.1
First using native FireWire ports, then using IOFlex PC CardBus to FireWire IEEE 1394 Ruggedized [PCM-FIO-01X1]
Pentium III 1GHz 512MB RAM built in house
Windows XP Professional, Windows Movie Maker
Power Mac G4 867MHz 640MB RAM (M8360LL/A)
Mac OSX 10.1.5 (5S66), iMovie 2.1.1

We tested the studio with a variety of consumer devices to simulate the various use scenarios:

Canon ZR50 MC Digital Video Camcorder
Using Composite video and RCA audio out
Philips DVD Player
Using S-video and RCA audio out
Using Composite video and RCA audio out
Panasonic VCR
Using Composite video and RCA audio out

Using the Device

Studio is essentially a DV camcorder with analog inputs instead of a CCD. Since it doesn't have a storage medium of its own, the source must be feeding when capturing DV. When connected to a Macintosh or PC via FireWire or iLINK, the host computer treats it as a DV camcorder. However, video editing suites are able to drive (ie. play, stop, rewind) a DV camcorder since they are designed to receive remote commands over FireWire. Analog devices do not have this capability, and the studio does not provide them with it. You must manually control analog devices using their own controls/remotes. High end analog devices sometimes have serial interfaces that allow control from computers. Final Cut Pro and some other packages can utilize these connections, but this is outside the scope of this document and studio's intended domain.

Main Caveat: the key to using the studio with analog sources is the 'Mode selector button.' Although the manual doesn't not provide much information on this, it is the most common issue users experience. Refer to this diagram and the appropriate page of the studio user guide.

studio front panel

Indicator Lights Active Color Functionality
Analog-to-Digital (a) indicator Yellow studio is converting from analog source to dv
Power indicator Green studio is powered on
Digital-to-Analog (d) indicator Red studio is converting from dv source to analog

When capturing to a third party video editing suite from an analog source is interrupted (ie. pressing stop on a VCR), the studio looses track of the source. When the analog source is resumed studio will not automatically return to this mode, you must press the Mode selector button until the yellow Analog-to-Digital (a) indicator lights up. The same procedure is true when using the studio to write DV to an analog source, except the Digital-to-Analog (d) indicator must be lit.

Side Panel Connectors

studio side

Studio Connector AV Connection Functionality and Notes
Audio Out Left RCA (white) left channel audio out to analog device or speaker
Audio Out Right RCA (red) right channel audio out to analog device or speaker
Audio In Left RCA (white) left channel audio in from analog device or source
Audio In Right RCA (red) right channel audio in from analog device or source
Video Out RCA (yellow) composite video out to analog device or display
Video In RCA (yellow) composite video in from analog device or source
Camera Power Out Camera Power Cord accessory power outlet

Rear Panel Connectors

studio rear

Studio Connector AV Connection Functionality and Notes
S-Video Out S-Video (Y/C) S-Video out to analog device or display
S-Video Out S-Video (Y/C) S-Video in from analog device or source
Antenna Radio Coaxial audio in from analog device or source - DV/TV(R) models only
Antenna TV Coaxial video in from analog device or source - DV/TV(R) models only
FireWire Out FireWire (6-pin) DV25 digital video out to host computer or other FireWire device
FireWire In FireWire (6-pin) DV25 digital video in from host computer or other FireWire device
Power In studio Power Cord power supply for self powered operation

Notes: Since FireWire is bi-dirrectional, the in versus out FireWire ports is not really a crucial issue. Coaxial connections are not included on the studio DV edition, as it has no tuning functionality.

FAQ

Contents
How to use studio with an iLINK or 4-pin IEEE 1394 connection?
What conditions require external power supplies?
Where are the drivers?
Where is the video editing software?
Where does one learn to use video editing software?

How to use studio with an iLINK or 4-pin IEEE 1394 connection?

Two things are required to connect iLINK and 4-pin hosts to the studio. The first is an FireWire IEEE 1394 4pin To 6pin Cable (Synchrotech part CAB-FW-4-6). The second is a source of power for the studio as 4-pin provides no power. Two options exist: purchase the Optional Formac Power Adapter (Synchrotech part FW-VIDC-PS), or a powered hub like the FireWire IEEE 1394 Repeater Hub 6 Port (Synchrotech part FW-FIO-B6PRH). While Synchrotech's powered hub costs slightly more than formac's power supply it provides several advantages. Firstly, it provides overcurrent protection at each port, shielding the host and FireWire devices from destructive bus surges. Second, it supplies many more devices than just the studio, allowing for more flexibility.

What conditions require external power supplies?

Studio can operate on FireWire's bus power in many configurations. Most tower PCs and Macintosh systems can provide enough power for the studio to run without any further measures. There are several situations that require power supplies. The obvious case is when the host only has iLINK or 4-pin IEEE 1394 connections (see above). Another common situation is when the host's ports don't provide enough current, as in the case of the PowerBook G3 we tested. Daisy chaining more than one bus powered device from the same port also facilitate the need for additional power. It isn't feasible to produce a comprehensive list of every possible contingent, so it is best to purchase a power supply or powered hub when in doubt.

Where are the drivers?

Studio does not come with or need any drivers. All the systems that the studio is listed to work with already have native support for DV. The system requirements and operating systems listed on the individual studio product pages list compatible systems.

Where is the video editing software?

Studio does not come with any video editing software. Newer consumer operating systems often come with DV capable editing packages. Mac OS and OSX usually includes iMovie, Windows XP includes Windows Movie Maker. There are many suitable software suites that will work with studio. Any package that can capture and write out footage to a DV camcorder should work fine with studio.

Where does one learn to use video editing software?

Places to start would include the documentation that comes with the software package. Additionally, the package may have third party books written about it. The software publisher's website may also have usefull information. Many of the higher end packages like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premier have large user bases and courses are offered in many locations. See Apple Authorized Training Centers for Final Cut Pro and Training resources for Premier related materials. Neither Synchrotech nor formac provide any support for video editing software.

More Information

Converting Analog to Digital Video
Synchrotech listing of other devices that do analog to digital conversion.

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