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Review: Elgato Turbo .264 HD

April, 2009



Elgato Turbo .264 HD $149.95


Review by Steve Douglas

When I reviewed the original Elgato Turbo .264 back in 2007 I received numerous inquires from many disbelieving readers amazed that it was all it was stacked up to be. I demoed the original Turbo to a few groups and some friends who worked for Apple who immediately went out and purchased one for themselves. After all, how could you not want to save a ton of time and effort while not sacrificing video quality?

One of my more recent tutorials on how to compress HD video for the web provided me with more emails than I could count, most filled with praise and questions for clarification purposes. It was rewarding to have written something that, apparently, was so desperately needed. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending upon your perspective, that article is no longer necessary as Elgato has revamped their Turbo.264 to the new Turbo.264 HD which will do all that work for you. Not only will it properly compress your exported self-contained movie to fit Youtube HD, but after compression, it will then do the upload to your chosen account automatically.

The Turbo.264 HD is based on a new encoder that has HD capabilities. The software also has a couple of new features like a little editor for trimming, the capability to merge multiple clips into one video, a new QuickTime component that makes custom settings accessible from other apps and more. While there will be maintenance software updates for the original Turbo.264, the features above are exclusive for the HD version.

New in the Turbo.264HD is the ability to edit your movie within the Elgato application itself.
This is especially useful when you want to upload only a portion of a sequence rather than the entire video.

The system Requirements for the Elgato Turbo.264 HD are a Mac computer with Intel Core processor , 512 MB of ram, built in USB 2.0 port, OS10.5.6 or later and QT 7.6 or later and now supports MKV files with the following audio and video formats , H.264, Mpeg-4, Mpeg 2 & 1 , Audio AC-3, Mpeg 2 and 1. Installation of the Turbo.264 software was smooth and quick. The first time you launch the Turbo a setup assistant guides you through the complete setup and configuration. You are asked for your activation key so don't lose it.

The software that comes with the Turbo.264 HD encoder will replace the existing QuickTime component with a new, backwards-compatible version. Both, the original stick's software application as well as the HD software work with that component. The component is located in the Library/QuickTime/Elgato Turbo. There is no need to trash any of the apps. However, should you have the original Turbo.264, only one at a time may run.

Physically, the Turbo.264 hasn't changed much. It still appears to be a pudgy thumb drive which comes with an extender cable should you run out of room while using it on a laptop. It is a bit shorter, no protective cap on the USB insertion connector and now has a small LED light at its top displaying only when actually in use.

You have the ability to compress and upload several projects at one sitting as well as use different settings for each project.

As with the previous version, the Elgato Turbo.264 HD works as a separate application and does the work your own computer's CPU's would have had to do. The Turbo.264 is able to do this by taking the burden off your computer's CPU and allowing the Turbo's hefty hardware encoding accelerator to do it for you. This frees up your processor for other tasks as the Turbo.264 HD is off loading the processing to the device itself. And, as before, the Elgato remains amazingly fast and produces an excellent video image.

Immediately after the Turbo. 264 HD finished its' compression chores, it requested a Youtube address to upload it to and began.

Titles can now be edited in the Turbo HD by clicking the title of the video in the Turbo interface to edit the name. The edited names are also used as chapter names when exporting multiple clips as a single file. Selecting the file and dragging it to the desired location within the Turbo HD application window can reorder files.

Known issues, which stand to be corrected in future versions, are that exports from iMovie 'O9 with titles may display artifacts, and direct exports from iMovie 'O9 are currently not accelerated. The work-around is to export an iMovie 'O9 project and add the iMovie event directly to the Turbo HD.

As previously noted, the Elgato Turbo.264 HD will automatically upload to your Youtube account if you so wish it. The first time you use it to convert for Youtube you will be prompted for your account data. If you want to switch between accounts for yourself or clients the process is just as easy. Once your video is dragged into the interface and you have selected either Youtube or Youtube HD from the format menu, you click on the little 'you' icon to the right of the format window. A 'Publish your video to Youtube' dialog box opens with an 'Add' button. This is where you would enter the data for a new account. You can switch between accounts the same way. This is also where you would add your description and tags. Click okay and start.

This is the initial prompt you get when using the Turbo.264 HD for the first time.
On the right is the small 'You' icon you can use to switch between accounts.
Elgato is also planning to expand the number of video sites that you will be able to upload to in future software updates.

For those in a hurry, you can also now instantly access your HD camcorder directly to your Mac or iPod in one simple step. In addition, it will automatically detect AVCHD camcorders. It would be hard for it to get any easier for you to use. Once the Elgato Turbo is placed into the computer's USB port, open the application and drag your movies onto the interface. Next check your desired setting and click on start. You won't have much time to take a break as the Elgato really is that fast and should be done before too long.

I always carry a small thumb drive on my key ring. I never know when I might need it. It has a little loop at its end making this possible so I don't accidentally misplace or lose it. If I had any complaint, it would be that the Turbo construction provides no way of doing this. Thus, it will be in your pocket or case when traveling with your laptop. I wish there were a better way as small things, like the Elgato Turbo, tend to get lost. It has never happened to me but, like motorcycles, you either have been down or will be at some time.

Finally and most importantly, the results of the Elgato Turbo.264 HD's compression are excellent. While you might not need the very best resolution for your iPhone, it is capable of producing high quality video with jack rabbit speed. In the Turbo menu there is a 'check for updates' option which I wish all companies produced but often don't. It doesn't tie up your computer since it is doing all the work within itself, it's easy to use with no learning curve, and the manual is clear and precise. My bottom line is that Elgato has simply made an excellent product that much better.

Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro for Final Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition, and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition, where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, and productions for National Geographic and the History channels. Steve is also feature writer for Asian Diver Magazine and is one of the founding organizers of the San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition. He is available for both private and group seminars for Final Cut Pro and leads both underwater filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions to Micronesia for the Manta Fest in 9/09, the Red Sea and Egypt for Nov.2009, Truk Lagoon and Yap in Micronesia for July, 2010. Feel free to contact him if you are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.


copyright © Steve Douglas 2009

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