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SONY DHR-1000 DVC VCR

 

INTRO

Digital video recording has come of age with the Sony DHR-1000, the first DVC VCR on the market. Itís a snip at just £3300, and we said that with a straight face...

 

COPY

Digital camcorders finally make sense. The first models appeared over eighteen months ago and since then the market has expanded at a unprecedented pace. However, until recently copying or editing footage from a DVC camcorder meant a drastic drop in quality as there was no choice but to dub to analogue VHS or S-VHS. One of the main theoretical advantages of digital video recording is that copies -- made within the digital domain -- are effectively Ďclonesí of the original, so thereís no additional noise, loss of colour fidelity or reduction in resolution. Until the arrival of the Sony DHR-1000 that was simply not possible, at least not without access to expensive professional equipment.

 

Although the DHR-1000 is effectively a top-end digital editing video recorder Sony have wisely given it the wherewithal to function as a conventional home recording VCR. The key feature is the dual-format deck mechanism, that works with both the mini DV cassettes used by the majority of DVC camcorders (they last for up to an hour), and full-size DV cassettes, which are currently available in 3-hour lengths, (4.5 hour cassettes are coming soon). Itís a fully-equipped time-shifter with Video Plus+ (with PDC) and 8-event/31 day timers, plus a NICAM decoder. That little lot might just help you to justify spending the best part of £3300 on a VCR to the rest of the family. The only small note of caution we feel obliged to add is that full-size DVC cassettes are phenomenally expensive, currently the 3-hour tapes retail at around £50 each; it might be a good idea to keep your old VHS machine for archiving Coronation Street...

 

The facility to make digital-to-digital (DD) copies is based around a FireWire (aka IEE 1394) interface; currently all Sony DV machines have the necessary digital jack socket. Unfortunately the other DVC camcorders (from JVC, Panasonic and Sharp) only have analogue outputs. Hopefully, one day FireWire will become a standard feature on he next generation of camcorders -- it is part of the DVC specification --  but at the moment it has to be said that to get the most from this machine you will need a Sony DVC camcorder.

 

Itís an imposing-looking beast, although itís not substantially larger than a regular VCR. The cassette loading hatch is in the middle of the front panel. Full-size DV cassettes slot straight in; mini DV tapes load into a motorised carrier, that glides out from the front of the machine. Beneath the tape flap thereís the main display panel, and below that is a motorised tray, that slides out to reveal the main transport, editing and set-up controls, plus a very smooth-looking jog/shuttle dial. The tray can be detached from the machine --  itís connected by a curly cable -- so it can be re-located  in the most comfortable position.

 

The front AV sockets are hidden behind a little hinged flap on the left side of the front panel. This also houses the LANC and FireWire jacks, so thereís no need to scrabble around the back, which is just as well as the DHR-1000 tips the scales at a hefty 10kg. Most vital functions are duplicated on the double-sided remote handset. This has a second jog dial, and a multi-brand TV remote facility, covering the main functions (channel change, on/standby, volume etc.) of a wide range of non-Sony models.

 

In common with a lot of other VCRs these days it has an auto-installation system, that uses teletext data to locate and identify stations. Itís not the most user-friendly system weíve seen and stations have to be manually sorted into a logical order for Video Plus+ operation (i.e. BBC 1 on channel 1, BBC 2 on channel 2 and so on). Sony clearly believe anyone spending £3300 will have the savvy to read the instruction book, though even that can be misleading at times; there are references to broadcasting systems in other European countries, which should be ignored.

 

EDITING FACILITIES

However, anyone buying this machine will do so because of its editing facilities. The built-in edit controller works with any camcorder that has a Control L/LANC edit terminal. It can be programmed to instruct the playback machine (ideally a DVC camcorder), to replay up to 10 selected scenes, which it duly records in the required order. Ten scenes may not sound much, especially when most stand-alone controllers have 99-scene memories these days, but itís more than sufficient for most routine editing jobs. The on-screen display generates small Ďpiconsí, to identify the start of each scene. Edit points can be easily changed and the controller reads RC timecodes, so it has the potential to make frame-accurate cuts. The only small disadvantage with this kind of set-up is that thereís no way of saving the edit decision list (EDL), other than by writing down all the counter readings by hand.

 

The DHR-1000 has two digital stereo soundtrack options: it can record two 12-bit stereo tracks, which are as good, if not better than regular analogue hi-fi sound systems on VCRs and camcorders. The single 16-bit stereo track has been favourably compared with DAT, so quality isnít an issue. The audio system is uniquely flexible. Both sets of soundtracks are independent of the video signal, and can be recorded, dubbed or inserted separately. The two 12-bit tracks can also be mixed or processed together. In short there are almost endless post production possibilities, that are limited only by the movie-makerís patience and creativity.

 

PERFORMANCE

In a word brilliant! Our sample managed to resolve a full 450-lines without difficulty, which is significantly more than the best Super VHS decks, a few of which can manage 400-lines. But thatís only part of the story. Chrominance and luminance noise, which actually has a far greater impact on perceived picture quality are at the lowest levels weíve found on any Ďdomesticí VCR. Recorded off-air images and recordings made on a digital camcorder are exceptionally clean, edges are well defined, colours look vibrant and natural, we suspect most people couldnít tell the difference between live or off-air images and recordings made on this machine. 

 

However, the critical test is digital-to-digital copy-quality, and whether or not there are any generational losses. There are none, at least nothing worth talking about, up to the third generation (a copy of a copy). That is about as far as most movie-makers will want to go for normal editing. By the fourth generation there was a very small increase in noise in highly saturated colours and a slight roughness around the edges of fine detail, but recordings were still looking better than Hi8 or S-VHS-C originals, with almost no reduction in resolution. As a matter of interest we tried some DV to VHS copies, and again the results were spectacular, with fourth generation VHS dubs looking better than top-grade pre-recorded material. (However, much depends on the capabilities of the VHS deck being used).

 

Edits made on the DHR-1000 were absolutely clean, with no disturbance whatsoever at the cut points. Edit accuracy was consistently to within a single frame on time-coded footage; this increased to plus or minus a couple of frames using only counter data for cut-point reference, though that is still better than most conventional edit set-ups.

 

Dubbed audio was similarly clean, with the 12 and 16-bit soundtracks showing no additional noise or reduction in response up to the third generation. Cross copying from 12 to 16-bit, and vice-versa show no deterioration either, though there was a slight increase in background hiss on 16 to 12-bit dubs, which is to be expected.

 

SUMMARY

Forget the price for a moment and consider what the DHR-1000 can do. At the moment itís the only way of copying DV footage, without incurring a reduction in quality. Add to that the fact that itís a fully self-contained edit suite, capable of processing video and audio to broadcast quality standards, and suddenly £3300 doesnít seem quite so bad. When you consider it can do everything your homedeck VCR can do, plus a whole lot more, it starts to look like a bit of a bargain! Nevertheless, this is still a very specialist piece of kit, but for pro and semi pro users of digital equipment, and well-heeled enthusiasts, itís the only way to go, and for the rest of us, a tantalising taste of things to come.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model            Sony DHR-1000

Price                 £3300

Format  DVC and mini DVC

System PAL I

Audio                12  and 16-bit stereo PCM

 

Main Features            NICAM stereo, Video Plus+ timer with PDC, multi-speed replay, index search, instant timer, multi-brand TV remote, 8-event/31-day timer, on-screen displays, auto tuning, PALplus

 

Edit Features                 LANC control 10-scene edit controller, audio/video insert edit, video on sound, front AV terminal (composite, S-Video, LANC & FireWire) , manual recording level control, twin jog/shuttle dials,

 

General

Sockets            2 x SCART AV, Control L/LANC, Control S, headphone & microphone (minijacks), composite video & stereo audio (phono), S-Video in/out (mini DIN), FireWire (digital jack)

Dimensions            430 x 135 x 376

Weight  10kg

 

Performance                  excellent

Resolution                     450-lines

Copy quality                  excellent

Colour fidelity            very good

Audio                            excellent

Edit functions            very good

 

CV RATINGS

Video quality                 10

Audio quality                 9

Copy quality                  9

Edit facilities                  9

Build quality                  9

Ease of use                   9

Value for money            8

 

Overall rating            95%

 

Contact:  Sony UK Ltd., (0990) 111999,

 

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R. Maybury 1997 0503

 

 


 

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