Mac Musings

Analog Video on Your Mac

Daniel Knight - 2001.07.26

Last week I mused that Apple could increase their market for iMovie and iDVD tenfold if they offered a way to digitize analog video and output iMovies ATI Xclaim TV USBto your VCR. I knew that ATI Technologies had a low-end solution in their Xclaim TV USB, an analog-to-digital video converter with an integrated TV tuner. The drawback is USB bandwidth - the Xclaim TV is probably great for watching TV or videos in a small window, but don't expect the kind of quality you'd want for full-screen movies or burning DVDs.

What I didn't realize when I suggested that Apple sell a analog video-to-FireWire device is that Format already makes one. Formac Studio digitizes full-screen video at 30 frames per second and supports the two universal camcorder and VCR connections: composite video and S-video. Not only can you digitize your old analog videos, Formac Studio also lets you output Formac Studioyour iMovies to any standard VCR. And using Toast 5, you can even create Video CDs that almost anyone with a Power Mac, moderately fast Windows PC, or DVD player will be able to view.

Like the ATI Xclaim TV, Formac Studio also has a 125 channel TV tuner - record your favorite show or movies to your hard drive for later viewing. All this for $429. And, unlike the Xclaim TV that ATI was showing in January, Formac Studio is shipping.

The Apple Store

There are a heck of a lot of analog camcorders out there that can't simply connect to today's Macs like the digital video models do. And there are untold millions or billions of hours of home videos that cannot be easily imported into today's Macs - except with a device like Formac Studio.

This $429 device digitizes video on the fly, allowing any Mac with FireWire to capture full-screen video at a full 30 frames per second. If people knew such a device was available, they might buy it for their Macs. It might even drive sales of FireWire cards for older Macs and FireWire-equipped Macs by those who want to digitize their old analog videos.

Steve Jobs mentioned several times that we have a tight economy. Experts are using the word recession more frequently. And Apple is looking for clever solutions to expand its market - well, here's one.

Formac Studio is something Apple should be selling through the online Apple Store and in their retail locations. It's the kind of solution Apple should market before Compaq, Dell, or Gateway finds a second-rate way of doing the same thing and markets it to a national audience.