If you're still making the transition from analogue to digital, Terratec hopes it can help you do it a little bit faster, but can a simple box that promises so much really deliver? We find out.

The aluminium-built Terratec Grabster AV400 sits neatly angled on its plinth, as if begging to do some work, doggy-fashion.

Its four input ports are ready to accept data from any of the following analogue sources, composite video (RCA), stereo audio (RCA), and S-Video. It’s connected to a PC and powered via its USB1.1/2.0 cable, which slots into a free port on your PC.

The Windows XP or 2000 compatible Grabster AV400 comes complete with a full version of Ulead’s DVD MovieFactory 3, which when combined with the AV400’s hardware-powered DVD MPEG processing, allows you to do direct on-disc editing. Anyone with a packed hard disc, a slower running PC or those lacking other video authoring solutions can create a slide show of your images (and video clips or movies from a camcorder or convert old VHS tapes) without having to capture the content on a PC first for editing. This makes it fast and simple to do because the heavy processing power and conversion is done within the AV400’s hardware, not on your PC.

To control the AV400’s processing you have two screens that allow management of video colour including brightness, contrast and sharpness. A capture properties dialogue box allows you to select the input source data, Composite or S-Video for example and the output format (DVD, MPEG 1/2, SVCD), TV system (PAL or NTSC), resolution and bit rate.

Once these have been set to your requirements, start the slide show directly from the digital camera your using. Most digital cameras have AV outputs that allow you to play images back through a TV directly from the camera. Connecting the camera to the AV400 means once ready, you can click the "okay" button and away you go. Any movie clips can be sorted in the same way and you’ll be able to import the audio (although this is usually mono from a digicam) as well.

The AV400 creates a DVD-quality slide show as it goes, sending the data to your chosen destination, in this case a DVD-RW/+RW or DVD-RAM disc (check your PC can handle these discs) rather than your hard disc (or that can be used as well if required). The data remains fully editable so that using the MovieFactory 3 software, you can play about with the show on the same disc you’ve sent the processed data to. You can add text, transitions, voice annotation and background music if you wish for a final, polished product.

I had one glitch with the software after first installation; it stalled and froze, then crashed my PC … twice. The AV400 software needed to be reinstalled each time (I checked the Terratec’s support pages on its website for the recommended fix: re-installation) and then it was fine. Apart from that frustrating – and rather time-consuming hiccup – it worked a treat.


It seems a tad pricey, but when you think you can digitise all your old VHS tapes or camcorder footage too, perhaps not, and it’ll be cheaper online so shop around. However, with the Ulead MovieFactory 3 software it offers a complete authoring solution providing a fast and simple to use DVD quality slide show and video creation package for anyone with smaller hard discs, slower PCs or those wanting the extra functionality.