OK... We know what the specs are for the card now, so lets take a look at how it can do all of it's assigned duties; namely the playing of MPEG files and the transfer of standard media types to MPEG format.
To start things off, let's take a look at some of the capabilities of the Movie Maker card. It is designed to do numerous tasks such as:
- Output MPEG files to you TV
- Accept S-Video input from TV/VCR/DVD player/Camcorder
- View TV on your desktop via built-in Phillips tuner
- Record incoming signal as a MPEG file
- Input/output both PAL and NTSC formats
- Edit MPEG files with included software
As we can see, there are a lot of different functions that are possible with this card. It is not designed for just a single task, but rather is made for those looking for a more complete multimedia package. To accomplish this, it uses a few component chips aboard the card itself. The first we'll look at is the Philips NTSC/PAL TV tuner.
The tuner appears as a standard tuner that is included in any number of combination cards. The fact that it is a Philips device will help ensure that we have the maximum amount of compatibility with other hardware components. It accepts a standard cable connector so that hooking up to your own cable/satellite system is a snap. It was able to pick up all channels on my cable system and display them to the screen without any problems. It didn't decode the premium channels, but this is to be expected since these channels require a box from our local cable company anyway.
Next up is the processing power behind the encoding and decoding capabilities of this card. The Video Maker uses the Stream Machine SM2210 Video Encoder/Decoder chipset. It couples with the 8MB of SDRAM on the board to enable the compatibility of both MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats. The Stream Machine also allows for direct communication with the tuner. This will help greatly in the display of TV channels or VCR/DVD input in particular since there is no requirement for a separate chip to allow them to talk. What this means is that there will be a very smooth stream of content being displayed to the screen with no dead spots that can sometimes appear when the decoder gets bogged down.
The Philips SAA7146A SPCI chip is what is used to allow for fully scalable windows. It also acts as the means of communication between the card and the PCI bus, so in essence, is responsible for allowing the Video Maker card to use the full capabilities of the PCI bus, the system memory, the virtual memory, and the processor. So in a nutshell, this is what talks to the computer, and also allows you to expand the window that displays the video stream without distortion.
Finally, there is the available MTS Stereo decoder. This takes the audio signal and translates it to a digital stereo signal to allow for some pretty awesome sound effects from your PC. To give you an example, it was able to create a fully surround-sound signal that played from my SoundBlaster Live card and speakers. It even supports Dolby for those who have a sound card and speakers that support this function.
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