if you can, use a firewire instead of USB...and the program does matter, I've gotten pretty damn good picture out of a one chip camera on the computers at my school using premiere pro 2.0 and a firewire - i think the thing is that WMM compresses it as it comes in; and premiere doesn't, or not as much so
Quality really depends on:
- Camera: number 1 thing. some program isnt going to make the video from a crap camera look better.
- Program: not sure how to explain it but premier definatly owns movie maker in terms of quality while still on the timeline.
- export file type: different types of files have different compression rates. AVI is one of the higher ones(less compressed, better quality), WMV (what movie maker exports as) is one of the lower quality file types. the more compressed a file is, the smaller it gets, but the file gets worse in quality the more compressed it is too.
i just use firewire to get video from camera to computer, i havent used anything else in a long time but i can say that firewire captures video from cam to comp at the speed you would watch the video because when you are capturing, you watch along with the video to know when to stop and things like that.