Last week, I received a Best Buy gift card for Christmas from my grandfather. After walking around Best Buy for what felt like hours, having no clue what to get, we ended up purchasing the Dazzle Video Creator Plus HD.
I’ve wanted a capture card for about 5 years now. It all started when Halo 2 montages were “the thing” and all of the pros were coming out with new ones on a regular basis. Sure, I was no H2 pro, but I wanted to capture and live stream my games like the rest of my friends were. When I’d ask what card they were using, I was always told Dazzle 90. As time went by Halo 2 became a thing of the past, but streaming your games took off like crazy. With YouTube, Ustream, and Justin TV, you can find footage for just about any game out there.
Doing live streams is also very popular and is a great way to connect with your community if you run a gaming site. Having video footage can also come in handy when writing a review. Those two reasons right there helped decide whether or not to get the Dazzle. Also, I naturally gravitated towards getting a Dazzle product since it worked so well for the people I knew.
The Dazzle Video Creator Plus HD, which retails for $79.99, doesn’t do what it says it will do. First off, it says HD, however when you take the product out of the box there are only inputs for composite or S-Video. Now, I’m no tech wizard, but I know that composite or S-Video is nowhere close to HD. On the box it says that it will stream footage from video game consoles and all of this stuff, but I had a hell of a time even trying to get it to perform the most basic of functions.
My initial plan was to have it all installed and have everything figured out prior to our big re-launch coming up on the 27th. When taking everything out of the package I noticed right off the bat that there is no instruction booklet. Sure I can tell where to put in the composite cables, and I know where to put in the USB port, but what about settings? Surely there would be something to tell me how to manually set everything up, something with frequently asked questions, or even a mini troubleshooting guide… right? Wrong. Inside was the device itself, the disc for the Pinnacle Studio 14 program, and a piece of paper the size of a Post-It Note (seriously) that basically said this:
- Install software first
- Connect device
- You’re done
Also, it should be noted that there was a disclaimer on the little note telling me that the materials used in constructing the device contained chemicals known to cause cancer, so I should wash my hands every single time once I was done handling it. Isn’t that lovely? I wash my hands on a regular basis anyways, but I shouldn’t have to do it because my capture card device might give me cancer. No thank you.
So, I installed Studio 14, I hooked up the capture card to our 360, and I went to Justin TV to get everything configured. Then, I had to download another program so that I could get the audio and video hosted on JTV, and while there was (sometimes) video, never once did I have any audio. I double, triple, and quadruple checked to make sure that everything was connected properly, and everything was going straight into the Dazzle. We have the proper sound and video cards in the PC, so it wasn’t a problem on our end, and I was getting incredibly frustrated. A friend of mine, Jeff McAllister (@Jeff_McAllister) kindly took the time from his busy schedule to help me and troubleshoot, since he uses a capture card and knows this shit, but even his suggestions weren’t working.
Chris, who was at work during all of this, took it upon himself to contact Pinnacle customer service, and that is when things really went haywire. In order to receive any customer service you must first sign up and register on this one website. Then, after inputting all of your information like a help desk ticket, you are connected with an agent in a live chat. Chris is no idiot. He knows a great deal about computers and explained everything in a very detailed manner, ensuring that there would be no mistake with what our error seemed to be. The first person that he got was an absolute moron. He had no idea as to what he was talking about, tried to tell us to change our video settings in our 360 to PAL (we’re NTSC and there is no way to change that setting in the console), and was very adamant in telling Chris that changing it to PAL had nothing to do with region and that it was the only way to get the video and audio to work properly. When Chris told him that there was no way to change the setting to PAL, and stressed that he very well could be wrong, the agent told Chris that it was an issue with our 360 and not the Dazzle device.
Please wait while we find an agent to assist you…
You have been connected to Larry.
Larry: Hi Chris! How may I help you?
Chris: My wife and I bought the Pinnacle Dazzle Video Recorder Plus HD yesterday afternoong.
Chris: She is at home right now trying to capture a session on our Xbox 360.
Chris: She has the A/V (red/white/yellow) output cables coming from the 360 and going into the Dazzle device, then the Dazzle device is plugged in to the PC. She has the software installed, and everything should be operational.
Chris: She says that video seems to be capturing fine, but there is absolutely no audio being transferred from the 360 to the computer.
Larry: So you are capturing from an XBOX 360?
Larry: Okay is your XBOX set to PAL 50hz because the Dazzle can only capture the signal properly if that set to 50hz.
Chris: We are in the US, so I believe we are operating on NTSC.
Larry: No, the settings for the XBOX is actually either PAL 50z or PAL 60hz.
Chris: How would I check that?
Larry: That doesn’t reflect to the region that you are in.
Larry: You may need to contact XBOX support or check the user manual of XBOX on how to do that.
Chris: Ok, one moment, I’m chatting with my wife right now.
Chris: If we are set at 60hz
Chris: If we are set at 60hz, and we change to 50hz, do you know if that will affect our Xbox 360 experience in any way?
Larry: We actually can’t guarantee that the Dazzle would capture properly.
Larry: No I think that will be just a signal settings that will affect the video and audio that the XBOX ouput.
Chris: Ok. As to not being able to guarantee that the Dazzle would capture properly, the packaging states that the Dazzle can be used to capture from game systems. Why would it be advertised to capture from game systems if it may or may not actually be able to properly capture from game systems?
Larry: Yes, you will be able to capture from an XBOX but only in PAL 50hz.
Chris: Ok. So, if we set our Xbox 360 to PAL 50hz, we will be able to capture audio and video to our computer successfully.
Larry: Yes, we actaully tested it and that works.
Chris: Ok. We’ll use these settings. Will I be able to access or reference this support session in case we have any further troubles?
Larry: Yes, use this case number ********** for reference.
Chris: Thank you very much for the assistance!
Chris then contacted a second rep, since he wasn’t confident in the response he got from Larry, and, unfortunately, he had to go through the same stuff. After finishing that conversation, he contacted Xbox Live Support via Twitter with a detailed message, and was given a prompt reply within minutes. They confirmed that Chris was indeed correct.
Please wait while we find an agent to assist you…
You have been connected to Pol.
Pol: Hi Chris, my name is Pol, how may I help you?
Chris: Good afternoon, I just finished a live chat session approximately ten minutes ago (reference case number ********).
Chris: Some of the information I received was incorrect.
Chris: I was told that the PAL 50hz/PAL 60hz settings on my Xbox 360 (the device I am attempting to capture from) was not a region-specific setting, but it is.
Chris: As I am in the US, my device is NTSC. Those options, for PAL 50hz and PAL 60hz, do not exist on my device because my device is not a PAL device.
Chris: I purchased my Dazzle Video Recorder Plus HD from a Best Buy in California, so it should not be a PAL-only device either.
Pol: I think that settings that we’re talking about is on the settings on your XBOX 360, not on our device.
Chris: Correct. Settings which don’t exist on my NTSC Xbox 360.
Chris: All I want to do is use the Pinnacle device I purchased from a US retailer to work with my US Xbox 360 in a way that allows me to capture both video AND audio to my computer. The box states that the device can capture from game systems, which is precisely what I want to do, but seem to be unable to do completely.
Pol: Hold on let me just check on this Chris.
Pol: For a while
Pol: Hi Chris thank you for patiently waiting
Pol: What I may suggest you to do here is to contact XBOX about this
Pol: Because the problem here is on the settings on your XBOX
Pol: So it will be much better if you talk to them first then just connect to us again if it still the same
Pol: Alright Chris?
Chris: Though the Xbox is perfectly capable of outputting video to any TV I plug it in to, I’ll ask them why your specific device is unable to capture audio. Once I have a response, I’ll reply and close the ticket here.
Your session has ended. You may now close this window.
@XboxSupport I am attempting to capture audio and video from my Xbox 360 to my PC using a Dazzle Video Recorder Plus HD. I have been able to capture video, but no audio. I have attempted to get support from Pinnacle, but their responses have not solved the problem, and they told me that it was a setting issue on my Xbox 360, and not a problem with their device. Essentially, they told me that the only way their device (purchased in the US, btw) would properly capture audio/video from the Xbox 360 was if the Xbox 360 was set to PAL 50hz. I repeatedly informed them that I was in the US, so would be operating on NTSC, not PAL, but they maintained that the setting would be available to me.
While I think they are simply incompetent, it is entirely possible that I am missing the PAL 50hz setting on my NTSC Xbox 360 (unlikely, but possible). Can you confirm that the issue is, in fact, a Dazzle issue? Or is this a settings issue on my Xbox 360?
After contacting Pinnacle for the third time, in which we finally got a guy who knew more than the other two yet was ultimately unable to fix the problem, Chris basically said “fuck this” because it wasn’t going anywhere and agents have already said that there was no way they could confirm that the device would work with our console. When he got home he tried a few different things, and it was the same issue every single time: we’d get video but never any audio. We checked our cables so those couldn’t be to blame, and we even went out to RadioShack and purchased a few extra items that were supposed to help, but still… no audio. In a last ditch attempt to figure this all out, Chris registered for the official Pinnacle forums, where he hoped he could get some answers. After filling out his information he was told to wait for an email that would require him to activate his account, and that it would arrive in his inbox shortly. It took over 12 hours for him to receive that email, and by that time we had already gone back to Best Buy and returned it.
Since this Pinnacle debacle, I’ve looked around and have found that our experience isn’t that uncommon. One Amazon.com review included a transcript of the chat he had with one of the reps, and it’s eerily similar to what Chris had to deal with. Others complain on how it crashes their PC, or that it is false in saying that it does things in HD. In short, if you value your sanity do NOT purchase this product. It’s not worth the price, it isn’t going to do what it says, the customer service is god awful, and there are better devices out there on the market.