PS Consultants - ideas & solutions

Pinnacle DV500 and W2K
December 2000

I did it! God Knows how long after the official launch, I finally got a system with Windows 2000 server installed and added to my “local cluster” of machines (currently two NT4 SP6 and a W98SE Vaio laptop).I felt I had left long enough for the early bugettes to be flushed out since Service Pack one had been out a while and was generally regarded in discussions groups as OK.

But the main reason I am contemplating leaving the stable world of Windows NT4 is that there are a number of video editing products that work on Windows 98 and threaten to work on W2K but not with NT4. NT4 is pretty much abandoned to all but “service releases” henceforth, and all MS development effort is on W2K and the new Windows ME.

One such video product is the Pinnacle DV500 firewire (IEEE1394) and video capture board, which comes bundled with all manner of stuff, including Adobe Premiere and some effectsware. Like all the bundles that promise to bring the power of Dreamworks to your PC, it’s a neat looking bundle of fun, but not quite as simple to live with as it might be.

After a lot of arseing about attempting to roll our own Windows 2k systems from the same parts that worked fine with Windows NT4, but getting no end of blue screens during the install process, I succumbed and decided to use the experience of others in the first instance. So I got a dual 800MHz P3 system from Big Red computers, and had them pre-install the DV500 card and software. I’m glad I did, since the (well hidden) Windows 2000 tweak for the DV500 install CD is a 100Mbyte download from the Pinnacle web site (or a CD ROM in the post). And like I said, it’s nicely hidden.

But I found out the hard way. After upgrading the Windows Media Player to version 7, several things stopped working – noticeably AVI files captured with the DV500 don’t play in the new windows media player. I assumed that some codec installed with the DV500 driver had been overwritten, so I reinstalled from the DV500 CD ROM supplied.

If you go to the website and follow the “support” links to FAQs, you might expect to find something said about Windows 2000 (since the product as shipped doesn’t) . The link ends up on a page that says

“Please use DV500 driver 1.2 for Windows NT & windows 2000. This driver version also supports Windows 98 & Windows ME”

No link to any other information at all. No clues to even check to see what driver is installed. Zippo. So I used the DV500 CD provided, and proceeded to watch the system crash itself to bits. I had to take out the card and uninstall the software – otherwise it simply blew up before getting anywhere near started without any chance of a reprieve.

I got there in the end after called Big Red who recounted their experiences (they too learned the hard way) and pointed out that there was another CD in the set of bits provided that was the downloaded DV500 W2k installer.

The tab marked “downloads” on the website did lead to the Windows 2000 DV500 information – but then the problems with the Windows Media Player version 7 remained – it simply won’t play AVIs captured by the DV500 – so in the effort to get a support address to query, I ended up emailing the PR people and got an email address for someone in the UK office that allegedly would be able to assist. Nothing heard, and that did know I was writing a piece on the device, so what chance regular punters have, I don’t know.

The Pinnacle website lists a 25p/minute support line – which is quite modest by some standards. But that support line happily puts you on hold (at 25p a minute) and at 4.55pm, then announces that they have all buggered off home since they close at 6pm CET! Pinnacle, I think you need a slap. 

The rest of you need to be aware that desktop video is still as nasty an experience as it ever was, with product incompatibility, instability and simple “pot luck” too much in evidence. It’s wonderful when it all comes together and works, but be prepared to compromise and work around. Not for the fainthearted.