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SNAPPY VIDEO DIGITISER

 

INTRO

Itís getting a lot easier to get video images into a PC, the new Snappy from Logitech makes it childs-play, well almost...

 

COPY

Weíd better begin with a word or two of warning. Whilst the box Snappy comes in claims it will run on an IBM or compatible PC with a 386 processor, donít even think of using it on anything less than a fast 486, with at least 8Mb of memory. Even then it can still take ages for things to happen.

 

If youíre wondering what thatís all about, past experience has shown that a lot of people buy PC add-ons and peripherals on the strength of dubious compatibility claims and then get justifiably annoyed when the product fails to meet their expectations, or match enthusiastic reviews in magazines. Unless you have suitable PC, or plan to get one, give Snappy a miss, now read on. 

 

Snappy is a little gadget that plugs into the parallel port of a PC.  Itís a video digitizer, that turns a normal PAL video signal, from a camcorder or VCR etc., into a still image that the PC can display, process and save in a variety of file formats. Itís not a new idea, but until recently digitizers have been rather expensive, and usually in the form of a plug-in expansion card, that has to be installed inside the machine. At just under £200 Snappy is relatively cheap, and it doesnít involve dismantling your PC; it can be fitted, and up and running  -- in theory at least -- in just a few minutes.

 

Thereís a bit of a problem using the parallel port on most PCs as itís usually hooked up to a printer. You can get switcher boxes, but an on-board loop-through socket would have been a better idea. Physically fitting the unit can be a problem on some models. The Snappy module is a little wider and fatter than a normal 25-pin parallel connector; on two out of three of our test PCs it collided with the mouse plug, forcing us to use a parallel extension cable instead. Itís powered by a 9-volt battery (supplied), thatís good for around 1000 image captures; an optional mains adaptor is available. The only other connections are a pair of phono sockets, for the video input and monitor by-pass. The driver software comes on two CD Roms (3.5-inch floppies are available on request). The package also includes Adobe Photo Deluxe paintbox and re-touching suite, Power Goo special effects, and Gryphonís excellent morphing software.

 

The rather snazzy-looking Snappy desktop consists of a simple screen, with a preview window and a row of seven buttons. Theyíre used to capture an image, adjusting the picture, set-up, printing, saving and help options. In most cases it should run happily on the defaults.  The image on the preview screen is updated a couple of times a second, when you see what you want press the Ďsnapí button. The image is frozen, then processed. On a clunky 486/33 it can take a minute or more before the full-screen image appears behind the Snappy interface window.

 

And very impressive it is too, capture quality is significantly better than most other digitisers on the market. Maximum resolution (on suitable PCs) is up to 1500 x 1125 pixels with 16.8 million colours, though even on a more modest set-up with a 256 colour display and 640 x 480 resolution, it looks remarkably good. Thereís plenty of detail, colours are well defined, with a good  Once captured images can be saved in a variety of file formats, including bitmap (BMP), JPEG, PCX, TIF, TGA and Windows Wallpaper. These can then imported into other applications, manipulated processed and generally fiddled around with to your heartís content

 

Various other factors will affect the final quality of the image, and a lto depends on the source video, but even a cheap low-band camcporder will provide a sufficiently detailed image, that can be used to produce good-looking pictures for inclusion in documents, newsletters, web pages, desktop edits, you name it... The manufacturers go on to suggest such applications as estate agent databases, ID badges, police departments, dentists and hair salons, just use your imagination.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                  Logitech/Play Snappy

How much?                   £199

What is it?                    video image capture device

System             IBM PC and compatibles, 386 processor or higher (see text), Windows 3.1/95/NT, 8MB RAM, 4MB free hard disc space (and the rest...), 640 x 480/256 colour or better display

Connections                  25-pin parallel port, video in/out (phono)

Video input                    CCIR composite, PAL only

Power supply                 9 volts DC (internal battery or optional mains psu

 

Image quality                 9

Ease of installation            8

Ease of use                   8

Build quality                  9

Value for money

 

VC Rating                     87%

 

 


 

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