Capturing analog video on the Mac

Years ago, I purchased a Dazzle Hollywood DV-Bridge to capture DV video over FireWire. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough — okay, fine, it was better than nothing and it was affordable. I wasn’t ready to spend the money on a Canopus ADVC at the time.

Fast forward to today, and there’s a larger variety of affordable products that do analog video capture. Specifically, I’m looking at products that can be used on MacOS X, and a popular one is the Elgato Video Capture device. It looks like a great product, but it only has composite video input, and I need something that can accept component video input, either RGB or YPbPr.

Blackmagic Design Video Recorder

Blackmagic Video Recorder

The Blackmagic Design Video Recorder is an affordable (under $150) USB 2.0-based device that can accept both component and composite video and produces H.264-encoded video, and supports on MacOS X.

What makes me somewhat nervous is that there’s really no good, qualitative reviews of the equipment in comparison to comparable products. The best review I’ve found at all is this one on iLounge from back in 2009, and it’s really just an unboxing of the product, not really a review.

I’ve gone and contacted Blackmagic support and asked them the following questions:

  • Does the Video Recorder do time-base correction (TBC) or will I need to add one between the source video and the Video Recorder device?
  • Also, reviews all state that the device cannot accept 480p as input? Is this still true? Is this something that can/has been fixed with newer firmware?
  • Reviewers also state that the Video Recorder only generates output in 720×480 – is this the only resolution that it can output? If I’m converting PAL video and want to output for PAL DVD, I’d like to capture in 720×576. Can the Video Recorder handle this?

Matrox MXO2

Matrox MXO2 family

Remember how I was talking about cheap and affordable? If money were no object, I’d be seriously looking at the Matrox MXO2 family of products. At the lowest end, the MXO2 Mini starts at bare minimum of $450, but I wouldn’t even bother considering buying it without the Matrox MAX H.264 hardware encoder, which bumps the price up to $850.


  • Extremely versatile: HDMI, component, composite video.
  • Fast: MAX H.264 provides faster-than-realtime encoding acceleration.


  • Not cheap: You get what you pay for.
  • Strange host connector: PCIe, not USB 2.0 or FireWire 800.

If you have an older MacBook Pro, like me, that still has an ExpressCard/34 slot, Matrox offers a PCIe ExpressCard that you can use to connect to the MXO2 devices. The newest 17″ MacBook Pro still has an ExpressCard slot, but the 13″ and 15″ don’t. Matrox appears to be offering a Thunderbolt adapter for the MXO2, but it’s priced at $299. No, that’s not a typo: just shy of $300 for what is effectively a Thunderbolt-to-PCIe-2.0 adapter. Still, it’s a usable solution.

In the short term, I’ll probably pick up the Blackmagic Video Recorder assuming it actually works as advertised, but if I start getting more video conversion and production work, I’ll definitely be investing in the MXO2 Mini MAX ($849) or MXO2 LE MAX ($1,395), or perhaps even the full MXO2 MAX ($1,995).


  1. I had a Hollywood DV bridge I used with my 6 year old iMac G5. I used this flawlessly for 6 years and costed about $100. I had to replace the computer last month and of course the new Macs come with Firewire 800. I tried a 400 to 800 adapter and although programs like iMovie list ‘Hollywood’ as an option and ‘Camera Playing’ appears, no video actually appears. My iMac also came with Lion which I think further complicates the issue. I just ordered a USB 2.0 to Firewire 400 adapter on the off chance that might work but I’m looking for suggestions if you have any. I wish Hollywood still made DV bridges!

    • Out of curiosity, what input source were you feeding into your DV Bridge? Trying to pull video off of a 8mm/Hi8 camcorder, the DV Bridge does pretty poorly. My guess is because the DV Bridge lacks TBC. Maybe I just need to get a better quality 8mm/Hi8 playback device to use as an input source?

      Edit: Apparently, the Sony TRV-480 is a highly recommended Digital8 camcorder that can digitize 8mm and Hi8 analog tapes.

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