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                               Review: FG24
                            By:  Jason Compton 

I drew all sorts of parallels between Elsat and Newtek in the first draft
of this review.  Newtek started their rise to stardom with the Digi-View
slow-scan greyscale video digitizer, and look where they are now.  However,
then I lost the review in another fine example of why sometimes you want to
double-check your filenames before you save... I'll be quicker about it this time.  Times have changed and the
Digi-View, while still charming to some, has had its run.  A new breed of
video digitizer is here from Elsat of Poland.  The FG24 (or Pro-Grab RT as
it is known in some markets, but we'll call it the FG24 here) offers
realtime 24-bit video snapshotting from a composite or S-Video/SCART
(depending on your locale) input.

The FG24 is an unassuming grey box with a parallel interface port, one or
two video input ports (S-Video/SCART is an option), and a couple of LEDs.
It draws power from a separate power supply, which you'll have to provide
your own of if you're outside Europe.  It's a fairly common spec: 9 V, at
least 700 mA of current.  (Elsat reports that one of their users told them
they got by with 500 mA, but it's not recommended.) I used a full 1 A
adapter, so no problems here.

Hooking up the FG24 is very simple.  A parallel cable is included, or if
you're using the A1200 PCMCIA option, you simply plug that in.  Connect
your video source and power supply, and that's it.

The software is easy to install off the single floppy, and contains online
documentation only, which is decently written and adequate but not
extravagant.  (AmigaGuide format only.)

There are two ways to drive the FG24--through the custom software included
on disk, and through the "ProGrab RT" GIO driver included with Photogenics
1.2 and up.  Personally, I find the Photogenics interface to be superior,
because PGX is a full-featured image processing program and you'll be
likely to want to tweak your image once it's grabbed.

In case you're not a Photogenics user, though, you'll have to get familiar
with the FG24 software.  I did, using the CD32 "no disc in drive" animation
through the S-Video port to get acclimated to the way the FG24 software
operates.  The basic process is this:  You pre-select the video type and
resolution you'll be grabbing, then go to the preview/grab screen (which
uses overlayed screens so is not very graphic-board compatible, another
good argument for using the Photogenics grabber).  You hold down the mouse
button to start viewing the small greyscale previews of the video being fed
to the FG24.  When you see what you like, just let go and the grab is made.

You can then save off the 24-bit buffer for later manipulation in an image
processor, or make some rudimentary adjustments from the FG24 software.  I
recommend the former, since the options are not as well documented as they
might be.

I noticed that most grabs came out needing a slight color correction from
the actual video signal, easily done in an image processor.  The grabs
themselves were of impeccable quality most of the time, although there was
the occasional line static on some grabs.

The PCMCIA option allows you to digitize, at a low rate of speed, live
video.  It even allows synching with a digitizer for included sound.  Neat,
but it's rather RAM hungry.

The FG24 is a high-class device.  Using the Photogenics loader is the way
to really get the most out of it, but if you can't just be sure you save
off the FG24 image as a 24-bit buffer and load it into your image processor
of choice.  If you're looking for a step up from a Digiview or the like, or
simply are looking to get high-quality video scans on your Amiga,
professionally or as a hobby, give the FG24 serious consideration.

Elsat S.C.
Czerniakowska 28b
00-714 Warszawa
+48 22 6512506 voice
+48 22 6512507 fax