Even though today's CPUs are fast enough to handle video compression, if you're going to be working with digital video it's worthwhile searching for a card with onboard MPEG compression. This will free your CPU up for other tasks and save you from wasting gigabytes of hard disk space on uncompressed footage -- particularly if you're working with video, as the load put on the system by compression algorithms means you can use the computer for little else.
MPEG cards are especially useful for people producing interactive video training materials, or multimedia Web content.
The MG100 features both RCA composite and S-Video inputs, but there's no way of plugging in a FireWire device. If you need to connect your computer with a DV camcorder, you'll have to look elsewhere. A Winbond chipset is used to produce either PAL or NTSC streams, in resolutions ranging from 176 x 144 pixels to 352 x 288 pixels (PAL) or 160 x 112 pixels to 352 x 240 pixels (NTSC).
The card is capable of producing MPEG-1 streams in MPEG-1 elementary video, system later, Video CD, or I-frame MPEG AVI formats, which gives you a range of options for working with recorded video. The audio stream is recorded as 16-bit MPEG-1 layer II, Uncompressed PCM and automatically synched to the video frames. You can save the combined stream to the hard disk in a format ready for mastering to VCD using the included software package, but you can't do advanced edits with it. You'll have to use a video-editing application to mix recorded footage.
One of the advantages of using a card with hardware MPEG compression is that it can be used to send a live video stream over a network. The MG100's variety of encoding rates and resolutions means that the total bandwidth required for an MPEG stream ranges from 64Kbit/s to 6Mbit/s. You can configure the card to work directly with RealVideo or MxTV servers to deliver streamed content across a network or the Internet.
- ...one of the best features of the MG100 is its software pack and support. Drivers and software are available for both Windows and Linux, and full functionality is achieved under either operating system. Darim is also happy to provide a software development kit (SDK) for both Windows and Linux, provided you register the card. This can be used to roll your own applications -- handy if you want to create your own digital video surveillance system using analogue cameras. If you're interested in building your own security centre you can use Darim's Spider software to drive up to four MG100 boards in a single computer.
- If you're interested in working with video under Linux, or fancy rolling your own video applications, the MG100 is ideal. Too few hardware manufacturers provide Linux drivers in the box despite the fact that some compelling video production applications can be found for the platform. Darim acknowledges that a good deal of high-end video editing is performed on the free OS and offers a free SDK to registered users. The SDK is also available for Windows.
- ...want to work with digital video, roll your own video applications, or set up a streaming media server, the MG100s features will suit. It's not designed for people who just want to dabble with digital video and has features that won't be appreciated by all users.