So, all of a sudden there's massive movement on the video front. Thank the trial version of Premiere Pro CS4 for that.
I realized I had forgotten about the little Sony media converter that I bought last year. Give it analog video on one side, and the computer thinks it's hooked up to a DV camera. I bought it to be a portable solution so I could digitize tapes still in Illinois with my laptop rather than having to ship boxes and boxes of tape here just to capture and throw away. I'd never really thought about it this way before, but it does exactly what my capture card does except for the hardware accelleration which was badly needed in 2001 but not so much today.
So I did a test and captured the same piece of video with the Pinnacle DV500+ using Premiere 6.5 and my Sony DVMC-DA2 usning Premiere Pro CS4, synchronized them, and played them back with a partial band wipe so I could compare the quality of the two clips. Although my old Pinnacle card gives warmer skintones, it also tends to crush blacks so overall the DA2 gives slightly better output. Ultimately, this means I can pull the capture card and not really miss it. In a lot of ways, that's good. I was always a little concerned that Pinnacle never provided a standalone codec, so there was a possibility that sometime in the (near to mid) future I'd be unable to play anything I'd captured with it, although my cousin was able to read the files just fine without the codec so maybe that isn't a problem after all.
Given that Premiere Pro seemed suddenly like it was the key to clearing a variety of longstanding hurdles, I tried hooking it up to my Panasonic AG-7750 (SVHS) and even my old Sony BVU-870 (U-Matic SP). To my delight I was able to control both of them from within Premiere Pro. Suddenly, it looks like I may be a software upgrade away from having the fully functional edit suite I've only been trying to build since, oh... 1998.
I picked up a Western Digital 1TB drive for $99 and have been digitizing video all weekend. Except for having to go back and re-capture half of what I did because at first I was grabbing 12-bit audio instead of 16-bit, it's all worked a treat and having my software tell me I can record 50 hours of video (after capturing about 12 hours already) gives me a lot of elbow room to work with. I also scored a Hi-8 camera from eBay for $60, touted as being one of the best Sony ever made with pretty much all the technical bells and whistles I could ask for, so I'll be able to easily capture that format also. I'm greedily eyeing Betacam SP decks, too, now that they can be had for under $300 (which is two fewer zeroes from when they were new, thanks).
The only question I'm left with is what signal method to use for when the time comes to digitizing my vast U-Matic collection. Both my DV-500+ and my MVMC-DA2 take Composite and S-Video, which is great quality and supported by all my gear except the U-Matic which predates JVC's invention of S-Video by about five years. U-Matic has a separate "dub" cable which doesn't follow the same format and it appears no one has built a converter for it (although I read a tantalizing article describing how it could be done). My AG-7750 has both Dub and S-Video connectors, it may be possible to loop the video through. However, the BVU-870 also has a standalone time base corrector which really makes a difference when it comes to cleaning up the video on the old beast. It's possible that the processed composite signal could be more stable than the unprocessed dub signal. More research will be needed here.
But in any event, these are crucial decisions I'm making now which will have profound implications on what I can accomplish in the next year in terms of clearing out the backlog of video I have. Movement is good!