I'm wondering whether a $500 device can do conversions like PAL <-> NTSC with really good quality, though. I mean, for a "perfect" conversion you first have to deinterlace as good as possible (motion compensation etc), then you need great scaling algorithms and finally for perfect framerate conversion you would probably need to do some kind of clever intermediate frame interpolation. I don't think a $500 box could do any of the above in satisfactory quality.
The gear I'm referring to is amazingly good. It's been tested by the BBC, Fox, Warner Bros. NBC and many others. I spent an hour on the phone with their BBC World Chief Engineer - he's responsible for 47 television studios around the world - and he was begging me to send him shipments (we were experiencing a parts shortage at the time). He raved about it.
The gear uses absolutely cutting edge programmable logic - either Xilinx, Altera or Lattice depending on application - and works wonderfully well. It's all programmed in Verilog (not graphical input), and one of the more complicated devices runs the equivalent of 30 microprocessors simultaneously (not "module" processors you buy as macros from the manufacturer, but processors of his own design), in real time at 3.5 gig. clock speed (that's more than $500 though, about $1000 I recall). The guy who does the design is your original "brain in a bottle" - he eats, lives and breathes high definition. I haven't seen any professional video engineer ever object to the quality.
I left because we had an unresolvable disagreement, but I can't disagree with the quality of the gear. The gear is standard equipment for every Steadicam cameraman in the world (just about). One of the big camera companies (grudgingly) uses his gear because he does a better job with their RAW output signal than they do.
Can't say anymore due to an extant NDA, but PM me if you want contact details.