Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the Elgato Turbo.264 hardware encoder. Especially now that they have updated their software to allow custom encoding parameters, it seems like a potentially very powerful tool (see my previous posts). They even have some competition now. I was hoping for great things from the Elgato EyeTV digital converter box as well. It is certainly a nice piece of hardware, with programmable TV capture and a built-in mpeg2 encoder for real-time conversion. But it turns out it’s not so great for the limited functionality we need for the Film Studies Center. With all it’s bells and whistles, it cannot communicate directly with iMovie, nor can it convert analog material directly into DV – which is all we really need. The proprietary EyeTV software allows you to capture material directly into either mpeg1 or mpeg2, which you can then export directly into iDVD for authoring and burning (handy for VHS to DVD conversion). You can also export to iMovie, but the software must convert the captured material into DV format, which takes some time.
Elgato purports that the EyeTV will work in tandem with the Turbo.264 to output h.264 movie files in real-time. I was hoping this might mean direct capture to h.264, but no such luck here either. The Turbo.264 does operate seamlessly within the EyeTV software, but the box still needs to capture to mpeg2 first. After your clips have been captured and entered into the queue, you must then transcode to mpeg4, which automatically activates the Turbo. The EyeTV software has a nice export interface to output video directly to iPods and the AppleTV. But, again, no direct DV capture is a major annoyance. Something akin to the Formac Studio might be much more appropriate for our purposes (direct DV capture and editing in iMovie). An external h.264 capture box would be great, but they are hard to come by. ADS Tech claims to have such a device (although I could not find it on a quick search of their website). Miglia offers a box than can convert directly to mpeg4 (DivX), but not h.264 (although future releases might be able to do this). There are also a bunch of PCI cards that can handle direct h.264 capture, to various degrees. It’s definitely worth looking into this as the technology continues to improve.