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Review : Pinnacle Pro-One RTDV Part 1

Move over Hollywood ! Here comes true Realtime video editing for the masses. The masses with money that is . Priced at 1099 US$ this is not exactly a cheap card but it offers value for the money. But I got one ... and here is what I found out about it.

Pinnacle has released version 2.0 of the Pro-One. Minor hardware changes but a lot of new software. At the same time they have released the Pro-One RTDV. A souped up Pro-One card with lots of extra hardware on board and additional software.

kitThe kit contains, besides the Pro-One RTDV card , The breakout box , a Firewire cable , an audio loopthru cable , the driver CD-ROM, Pinnacle Impression SE DVD authoring software , A time limited version of Commotion , Adobe Premiere 6.0 full version , Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE , and Sonic Desktop's Smartsound for Premiere.

Extensive documentation and user guides are provided as well.

For people buying before end October a free update to Impression DVD Pro is available. An upgrade to Adobe Premiere 6.5 is available for 19$

The supplied material is so extensive that this will be a multi-part review. This part handles the hardware and installation . second part will take a look at all the software.

 

The Board

That is of course what it is all about. This is the engine that does all the video related work.

fullcard

This full length PCI card hosts impressive hardware. Besides the connectors to the breakout box and Firewire ports not much can be seen from outside the computer.

exploded

On the card are : A multiformat ( Pal and NTSC ) video A/D ( CCIR 601 Digital Video bus ) and D/A convertor , a stereo Audio A/D and D/A, an SAA7146 Multimedia bridge from Philips, the DVexcel video processor from LSI logic ( Formerly C-Cube ) and memory, an S3 Savage VGA processor with accompanying memory, and last but not least a hardware DV codec from Divio. Furthermore on the board you will find multiple Firewire controllers. One is used to deliver 2+1 Firewire port to the world ( 2 on the backplane , one internal ) The other Firewire controller is used exclusively by the DV codec and taps in to the Firewire bridge on the card on one side and the video bus on the other side. Two programmable gate arrays hold custom hardware to perform various tasks like overlay insertion.

The Difference with the Standard Pro-One is the presence of the Divio DV codec. On a Standard Pro-One you have to save the output to an AVI file to send it later from disk to the Firewire tapedeck. The computer cannot handle video in both directions in real time. With the RTDV the DV encoding is done on the Card and sent directly to the Firewire ( over the secondary controller, to the primary, to the deck )

The card processes all video digitally ( CCIR 601 bus ). Any video source whether Analog , from a file via PCI bus , or coming from a Firewire stream through the Divio chip is transformed into a CCIR601 stream on the card. The on Board Video Card also generates directly a CCIR stream , so any Overlay ( tiles ) or computer animated image is directly available. The DVexcel chip mixes all the video streams and applies the effects and transitions, assisted by Gate array 2. The DVexcel is a computer on its own. Internally it has a Microsparc processor surrounded by effect hardware and running a dedicated program. The Microsparc is in essence a Sparc processor as used by Sun in their workstations.

The output of the DVexcel is again available as a CCIR601 channel and is simultaneously sent to the video D/A convertor, the PCI bus for storage on disk , and the Divio Dv codec for output on Firewire. Everything is at all times available at all places on the board. In essence the electronics does all the video processing and is capable of handling all of it in real time.

The DVexcel also runs the MPEG2 compression engine. This is Realtime only when the DVexcel is doing nothing else ! When it is inserting effects it can not devote time to MPEG compression and then the speed drops to below real time. The hardware MPEG2 CBR and single pass VBR compressor on board comes with presets for the most common used formats : VCD , SVCD , DVD and 16:9 DVD. But it can be set up to anything you like. It offers full control over quantization scales , GOP structure and other MPEG settings.

The size of the card is just big enough to hold all of the electronics. More stuff had to be mounted on the back side of the board because it wouldn't fit. Because of its size the board requires a full size computer. Forget about putting it in one of those superslim desktops.

blackboxThe kit also contains the so called 'Blackbox' This is a small box that attaches via a special cable to the Pro-One RTDV card. The Box has the analog in an outputs ( 1 composite , 1 S-Video and stereo audio ) and a Firewire port. It also has a cool red LED in the pinnacle logo that show you the card is running.

I Connected the analog video and audio up to a small TV set next to my computer monitor. Everything I do in Premiere I can see in real-time on the TV, sound included. In 99% of the cases there is no rendering whatsoever. The only rendering required is when you have a static overlay ( title ) the 'bleeds' into a 3d transition. Then Premiere has to render the Static overlay as a strip of AVI video and dump it to the card. Premiere 6.5 claims to be able to solve this as it can be done in background while you are still editing.

Installation

The installation goes pretty smooth ... provided you have a correct system to start with. The Board requires its own interrupt and can not share with other devices. I ran into trouble with my video machine and had to buy a new motherboard. The manual explains in detail what you need as a machine.

Requirements :

  • Minimum a PIII-800 with 256 Meg ram is sufficient as all effects are handled by the board. The computer only serves as video storage and control panel for the board. All processing is handled on the board provided you use only the RT. effects . Standard effects form Premiere that require rendering benefit from a faster machine. But then again , all standard premiere effects are available in the RT. bin. Although it is possible to run this daemon on a PIII-800 I recommended minimum a PIV-1.6 GHz with 512 Meg of Ram.
  • One Free PCI 2.1 Bus mastering capable slot. ( Typically only the first slot or first two slots closest to the CPU have this capability ). People with VIA chipsets on the motherboard beware ! Make sure to install the latest 4 in 1 drivers from VIA to enable the bus mastering !
  • A fully ACPI compliant system that has extended interrupt ( interrupts with numbers above 15 ) support, OR a system that has a free interrupt in the 10 to 15 range .
  • Harddisks being able to sustain 15Mbyte per second transfer rates ( UDMA100 or better )
  • DMA data transfer on the Harddisks.
  • Bus mastering driver for the operating system !
  • A graphics card that supports DirectDraw.
  • DirectX 8.0 or later

For Windows 2000 and XP the ACPI is a MUST as you can no longer force the interrupt assignment on these operating systems. For Win98 and Me a free interrupt is sufficient.

Now what follows might scare you. Actually it shouldn't. If you have an ACPI machine with extended interrupt you will have no problem whatsoever installing this board and you can skip straight away to the next chapter. If you don't have currently an ACPI system : Get one ( it's time to upgrade anyway ) , or you can try what I did.

I run Win2000 , my motherboard was ACPI but without extended interrupt capability. So I had to spend another 150 $ to upgrade the Motherboard.. And later I found out how to patch mine to be meet the requirements

Pinnacle has in their support section a long list of *tested* off the shelf machines AND motherboards. They have actually gone through the trouble of verifying which motherboards are truly PCI 2.1 bus mastering capable. Better check if your machine is in there. If not check that you have extended interrupts now.

How To check ACPI and extended interrupts

Go to System - control Panel and open the Device manager. Select to order the devices by connection. If you don't see there ACPI forget it ! The machine below does NOT have it:

noacpi

If you do see ACPI you are not out of the woods yet . Click on it. It will list all devices being controlled by the ACPI manager. You will see numbers in front of every device. Followed by either PCI or ISA. ( Example: (14) PCI RAID controller, (2) ISA Numerical Coprocessor ). Check in the listed PCI devices that you have either 1) a gap for windows 98 and ME , or numbers that go higher then 15 for Windows 2000 and XP.

If you don't have this then your motherboard is not fully ACPI compliant, ACPI is switched off in the BIOS ,the BIOS is not ACPI capable , or you have not installed the drivers for it.

Get the latest BIOS for your board and flash it. Check the BIOS to see that it is ON. And then it's time to convince Windows to install right ...

Installing ACPI is tricky on Win2000 and XP. If it was switched OFF in the BIOS then you will have to reinstall the operating system after switching it on. There is actually a different Kernel for ACPI and NON-ACPI and they are NOT interchangeable. People with chipsets that are not automatically detected by Windows installer ( newer chipsets ) : biiiig problem.

Windows might fail to detect the ACPI controller since it doesn't recognize the chipset and can't locate it. So it will default to non-ACPI.

To fix this you need to make a custom installation disc for windows. Get the windows CD ROM , copy it's contents in a directory on your harddisk. Copy the service pack and do a forced service pack update towards this harddisk copy of windows. Microsoft has an actual procedure in their knowledge base on how to do this. Then copy the motherboard driver cabinet files also to the drivers directory. Burn all those files back onto a blank CD and perform the install from this CD. This procedure might fail if windows cannot detect the additional drivers you gave it. It is tricky. Its easier to get a compliant motherboard and transplant it.

The procedure succeeded. I updated the BIOS of my older (2 years old Intel 850 / ICH2 / 512 Meg Rambus PIV 1.7 based mb.) to have ACPI compliance ,took my Windows 2000 CD , forced the SP3 on it , burned this back to a disk and installed. Lo and behold . It worked , ACPI on , extended interrupts and the card works like a dream. But by then I already had the new Motherboard ( Intel 850E / ICH4 / 1Gbyte Duplexed Rambus PIV 2 Ghz) so it ended up in the new machine anyway.

When you have a confirmed ACPI / PCI2.1 busmaster system :

Procedure to be done in this order ! Deviation can cause installation to become longer ( wont fail , it just takes more time and reboots )

  • Make sure that your windows configuration is up to date.
  • VIA chipset : Install latest 4 in 1 drivers.( busmastering )
  • Turn on the DMA on the Harddisks used for Video ( it should have been on in the first place :-) )
  • Install Adobe Premiere and service pack 6.01 for Premiere.
  • Power off machine and install card.
  • Once plugged in and the power turned on ,the computer will find a new device and ask you for the driver
  • simply put in the pinnacle CD ROM and point windows to the CD ROM.

A total of 4 devices will be found: a 'TI PCI OHCI controller' , a 'Video Controller ( VGA compatible )', a 'Multimedia Controller ( pinnacle Pro-One Overlay)' and the 'Pinnacle Pro-One E4':

If the computer asks you to boot at any given point : Do so ! It is important.

After this is done the remaining software will be automatically installed on win98Se or ME , or for Win2000 or XP you have to go to the CD-ROM drive and launch the Setup program.

Once the installation is done you can open the device manager and check that everything is there.

Under 1394 Bus controllers you will find :

  • Pinnacle Pro-One E4-1394

Under Sound video and game controllers you will find: ( Win98 and ME )

  • Pinnacle Pro-One D3D
  • Pinnacle Pro-One E4
  • Pinnacle Pro-One Overlay

for Win2000 and XP the D3D device disappears and a second video card appear under Display Adapters.

That's it.

I followed the rules ( with the new motherboard ) and had no problems. With my original computer ( no extended interrupts) I did not follow the rules. It installed anyway but I couldn't get working. After the patch on the old machine and a fresh windows install ( with ACPI on this time ) it worked like a charm on the 'old' box.

The card can coexist with another Firewire controller. I use a second Firewire controller made by Pinnacle to attach to the removable disc storage and Firenet. It also Co-Exists with my HPT370 Based Raid controller ( i flashed there too the latest Bios ) and loaded the latest driver. No problems. The system Test tool from pinnacle can check your disk speed and advise you what to do. The Test tool clocked disk reads of over 65 Mbyte / second. Pinnacle warns about using RAID controllers. Some of them do have problems. But in general Highpoint based chipsets HPT37x or Promise Based chipsets are no problem.

That's it for the Hardware. Second Part will talk about all the software that comes with it. And that's plenty.

 


Credits

Author: Vincent Himpe ( 15 September 2002).

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