New Peripherals Let You Do It Without Installing A Capture Card
When we first looked at the promising crop of MPEG video peripherals that were released in 1998, we were very excited. At last, computer users and video enthusiasts had an easy way to get video into their computers for use in creating video productions for Internet applications, CD-ROMs and for electronic distribution.
No longer would you have to open up your computer, find an available PCI or ISA slot, and then gingerly install a capture card. These new MPEG peripherals simply connected to the external parallel or printer port on the back of your computer.
Even better, as these were creating MPEG video, the resulting captured video files were much smaller than the comparable AVI (audio video interleave) files captured by standard video capture cards. Most AVI video capture cards were only able to squeeze video down 7:1 to 3:1. These MPEG cards were able to provide 100:1 to 200:1 compression rates and the video looked pretty good. This is perfect for Internet and CD-ROM applications, in which you only have a small amount of bandwidth and storage space.
Another MPEG advantage was in playback. AVI-based videos require special codecs to play back video files. If you used Cinepak to create the AVI file, you needed Cinepak to play it back. MPEG, on the other hand, has only one flavor. Applications may vary in how they create the MPEG file, but it is universally consistent for playback. Microsoft ships a media player with Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT that plays MPEG as well as other multimedia files. The new QuickTime also plays MPEG. This means that almost any computer, anywhere in the world, should be able to play back your MPEG files without having to download a special software player or install a new piece of hardware.
On top of these compression and playback advantages, the manufacturers promised bundled editing applications so that we could make our own movies. Sounded like nirvana?!
Not Quite Ready
Well as they say, if it's too good to be true, it's probably not true. The first generation of MPEG devices were not quite ready for prime time.
The big problem was in utilizing the parallel ports, designed to output data to a printer or other device. They were not designed to input data, especially high-speed moving video data. Many computers--especially older computers--had parallel ports that would not support these …