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A 960-hour time-lapse video recorder with a built-in 16-camera multiplexer sounds like a promising combination of technologies, weíve been checking out the TLC1800-MX16X from Gyyr



Time lapse video recorders are the unsung heroes of video surveillance, tirelessly storing vast amounts of information, most of which ends up being discarded.  Yet, when an incident does occur, they instantly assume their rightful role as one of the key components in a video surveillance system.


Oddly enough, during a period of considerable change in most areas of video technology, time-lapse video recording has remained in a kind of time-warp. Itís reliant on analogue recording systems, that have altered little in the past twenty years. Changes are afoot though -- particularly in the field of digital video recording -- but it will be a year or two before they start to filter through. Nevertheless advances are still being made and US based Gyyr have made a name for themselves by pushing back the boundaries of time-lapse technology. Theyíve been responsible for some important innovations in the past few years  and the TLC1800-M16X is the latest incarnation of one of them.


This sophisticated 960-hour time-lapse VCR has a built-in 16 camera multiplexer, a feature last seen on the TLC1800-S16, launched a little over three years ago. This particular combination of technologies makes a lot of sense, and it represents a significant cost-saving when compared with the price of a separate 960-hour VCR and 16-channel switcher, though it has to be said that the advantage would be eroded where the installation calls for a smaller switching capacity.


The headline specification on this machine is not vastly different to its predecessor/stablemate, though there have been some worthwhile refinements, with some new features, and one or two old ones disappearing. However, the core facilities remain the same and they include no less than 13 recording modes (3, 12, 24, 48, 72, 120, 168, 240, 360, 480, 600, 720 and 960 hours), using a standard 3-hour VHS tape. Audio can also be recorded at the 3, 12 and 24 hour rates. The 16 camera multiplexer is arguably the major selling point. It has proven to be of particular interest to banks and larger retail operations, where camera images can be associated with data input, detailing transactions, from external devices such as ATMs and cash registers.


It also has a full range of alarm inputs, that can also be tied in with individual cameras, plus very comprehensive camera switching, timer operation, alarm programming and external control facilities. Alarm events are automatically tagged with an index signal, and these can be quickly located using an alarm search facility. All of the machineís primary functions are controlled from an extensive menu-driven on-screen display, that also generates user-definable camera idents or titles, system data and alarm events. A multi-event timer enables the machine to be programmed to switch on and off for preset periods up to six times a day.


The machine is housed inside a fairly substantial cabinet measuring 435 x 340 x 124 mm, thatís a little larger all round than a typical domestic VCR. Itís quite heavy too, tipping the scales at just over 8 kgs but the steel case is tough, and well able to support the weight of ancillary devices. The front panel is divided into three sections. The tape hatch is on the left hand side, thereís a large fluorescent display panel on the right. The display panel contains a wide range of mode and status indicators, including tape speed and direction, recording time, tape counter, alarm and security settings. The entire lower half of the front panel is covered by a hinged flap, concealing all of the controls, apart from the eject button. The transport keys are grouped together on the left side, whilst the menu selector buttons and switches for secondary functions are on the right.


On the back panel thereís a bank of 16 BNC sockets for the camera inputs, plus two further BNCs carrying the video output to monitors and/or a VCR.  Below that there are three 25-pin D-sockets. The first two are configured for RS232 serial data from ATMs, electronic cash registers, text inserters etc. The third one is assigned to remote control applications, using a PC or dumb terminal. Next to that thereís a 15 pin D-socket; this is for a remote terminal interface, enabling most functions to be controlled by wired remote unit. Beneath the line of D-sockets there are a pair of phono sockets, for audio input and output, and two connector sockets, for the alarm inputs and outputs. A pair of screw-terminal plugs for these sockets are supplied with the machine.


Basic installation, which involves setting the time and date, is reasonably straightforward. Programming the various camera switching, ident and alarm control options takes a little time, particularly if most or all of the camera and alarm inputs are connected. The camera switcher sub-menus cover camera selection, day and night sequencing, dwell times and composing on-screen idents or titles. These can be up to 24 characters long. A similar set of menu options are used to define the alarm functions, they include prioritising camera sequence in the event of an alarm triggering, setting record times and end of tape operating modes. The options are continuous re-record, rewind and stop, or re-record but stop on alarm.


On screen displays appear in the top left hand corner of the screen. They can be shown as outline or solid characters, with menus shown on black or white backgrounds. Camera idents can be configured for normal or reduced-height text, and full or partial displays. However, unlike the S16 the displays cannot be re-positioned with the screen area, should they happen to obscure important detail.


The fairly dense instructions cover the basic operating procedures reasonably well but some of the sub-menus are dealt with rather briefly. To be fair all of the necessary information is there, sometimes it just takes a while to find it. Coverage of external control and data transfer systems is extensive, though the innate flexibility of the machineís operating software should make this kind of installation relatively painless.



Resolution is largely dependent on the types of cameras used with the machine. If all of the cameras are black and white then resolution will be in the order of 400-lines, however, if a colour camera is installed then resolution on all inputs falls to 240-lines. Resolution checks using both colour and monochrome cameras showed these figures to be substantially correct. Picture noise levels are low and image stability is very good, particularly at non-standard replay speeds, where the record-time control functions as a speed control.


Audio recording should be treated as a bonus, rather than a key facility. Sound quality is passable in the 3-hour mode but it deteriorates rapidly at the slower recording speeds.



This is clearly no ordinary time-lapse recorder and the very extensive range of facilities really defines its role as being most suitable for larger systems, where there is a need for this kind of multi camera input and switching facility, and the ability to interface with external devices. Nevertheless, the end-user price isnít so far removed from less well equipped machines as to completely rule it out for less demanding applications. A sound, solidly built piece of kit and a cost effective alternative to a separate multiplexer and time-lapse VCR.



Recording format               VHS

Rec. times (E-180 tape)           3, 12, 24, 48, 72, 120, 168, 240, 360, 480, 600, 720, 960 hours

Camera inputs               16

Audio recording              3, 12, 24 hour modes only

Resolution                                 400-lines monochrome, 240-lines colour


Power               230 VAC 50Hz

40 watts (operating), 25 watts (standby)



Dimensions                               435 x 340 x 124mm

Weight                          8.2kg





Product design            9

Build quality                  9

Ruggedness                  9



General functions            9         

Ease of use                   8

Instructions                   7

Manuf. support            8                     



Picture quality            9

Picture stability            9

Audio quality                 7



R. Maybury 1996 0803














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