Since we have covered the digital video editing capabilities of the RT2500, I wanted to really focus on the capture quality. Capture quality was excellent in all situations and the RT2500 handled my torture-test tape with only one glitch. For some reason (perhaps a loose cable) during one of my capture sessions I noticed a single horizontal line near the bottom of the screen as if the pixels had been shifted one position to the right. I only noticed this once and could not pin down or reproduce the error. Other than that the RT2500 worked flawlessly. It never dropped a frame even at maximum settings. The images were crystal clear, never over or under saturated and the real-time editing and effects were smooth.
While the system is the most expensive of those I tested the software bundle is top notch and integration with Premier 6 is very tight. In all cases the RT2500 performed like a professional. This is why we gave the RT2500's editing suite a full run through separately. It's an education in video editing.
Matrox DVD player utility.
Comparing to the other products I evaluated, I would have to say that the Matrox RT2500 is about the closest thing to a professional level capture, edit, and effects package you're going to get for under $1,000. The tools, manuals, and performance are all top notch with very tight integration with Premiere. Captured image quality was excellent. Everything about the RT2500 seemed professional and well thought out. I have no qualms about recommending this system. I give it a very strong 4 (or even 4.5) out of 5. So, now you have a second opinion.
4.5 = Capture quality
4.5 = Software bundle
3.5 = Ease of installation
4 = Ability to deal with problems
3.5 = System requirements
4 = Documentation
Overall rating: 4 out of 5
I realize that these reviews are just snapshots and barely scratch the surface. There are dozens of capture solutions out there - some good and some only fair - but these days you should be able to get satisfactory results with the majority of systems. I also realize that there will be people who disagree with my conclusions - either they got great results with these or some other systems or their experiences were a disaster. In all cases, however, you should be prepared to invest a fair amount of time learning and fine-tuning your capture system if you want to get good results.
Capturing and manipulating video in a computer is still a relatively new concept when you consider that television has been around over half a century. It's only been in the last 10 years or so that professional broadcasters began to seriously look at TV/computer solutions as anything more than toys. Capture system manufacturers have made incredible strides forward in capabilities, quality, and cost. There is still a lot of room for improvement but we no longer have to settle for postage-stamp sized, grainy video running at 6 frames per second.
There is a lot more to this subject that I just didn't have the time or space to explore. We'll get the chance to delve into those other topics and take a look at more products in future articles.
If you liked these two articles let me (and the good folks at Tom's hardware) know. If you have further questions, topics or products you'd like me to investigate drop me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I try to answer all questions but sometimes I just get swamped or frankly just don't know the answers. Anyway, I hope these articles have helped and might have inspired the next undiscovered Spielberg, Hitchcock, or Cameron.