PHILIPS TL720R TIME LAPSE VCR
WHAT OUR EXPERTS SAY...
Until recently VHS time-lapse VCRs have
tended to fall into one of two categories: high-spec machines with recording
times of several hundred hours; and cheaper, more modestly featured models,
that run for between 24 and 48 hours
Now Philips have pitched their latest time-lapse machine, the TL720R,
somewhere into the middle. It has a full set of time-lapse modes, up to 720
hours, but it costs several hundred pounds less than some top-end machines.
It’s clear from the feature list that the
720R shares a number of mechanical and electronic components with its domestic
stablemates. Philips are particularly proud of the ‘Turbo Drive’ deck
mechanism, which according to the publicity blurb, makes it: ‘the world’s
fastest time-lapse video recorder’. Closer examination of that particular claim
reveals it to be a reference to the rewind speed of an E-180 cassette. Theirs
is several seconds faster than the competition...
Fortunately the rest of the feature list has
rather more to do with the business of time-lapse recording. All together there
are seven recording modes: 3, 24, 48, 72, 168, 336 and 720 hours, with audio
recording possible on the 2 and 24 hour settings. There’s a matching set of
replay speeds, including still and slow-motion modes, with tape speed and
direction controlled using a jog/shuttle dial on the front panel. All of the
machine’s secondary functions are controlled from a set of menu-driven on-screen
displays, and there’s a 7-event/32-day timer (with daily and weekly settings)
plus a range of alarm function, that we’ll look at in closer detail in a
The machine is housed in a cream-coloured
case, the layout of which bears a passing resemblance to some of their domestic
VCRs of a year or two ago. It has a centre-mounted deck mechanism, with the
main display panel underneath. On the right side there’s the transport
controls, including the jog/shuttle dial, and on the right is a digital keypad,
for making menu selections and entering timer data. The back panel has small
assortment of sockets, two BNC connectors for video in and out, two phono/RCA
sockets for audio in and out, a 21-pin SCART connector, carrying both audio and
video signals, a 2-pin Telefunken mains socket, and a set of spring terminals
for alarm and control connections.
SCART sockets are an unusual sight on video
surveillance equipment, and another reminder of the 720R’s consumer electronics
heritage. It’s actually a very good idea, and simplifies the connections to
low-cost video monitors, a growing number of which also have SCART sockets. The
spring terminal for the alarm wires is extremely fiddly, and very fussy about
the thickness of the wires used. Burying it in a recess doesn’t help
The main menu covers basic configuration
settings, which includes time and date, recording duration, input source,
on-screen display position, control lock and function beep. The Alarm menus
have settings for reset time, and repeat record. The alarm chart menu is a log
detailing the eight most recent events. Setting the timer is reasonably
straightforward, with the operator required to enter the date, start and stop
times, using the front-panel keypad.
The alarm functions are quite basic. It has
only one n/o input, events are logged by time and date on the ‘Alarm Chart’
on-screen display. An alarm trigger will put the machine into record mode, for
a preset period, after which the VCR reverts to standby mode. Alarm events are
not, however, recorded on tape, so locating a specific part of the recording
has to be done with reference to the time log. There is an on-screen
indication, and the word ‘alarm’ appears in the display window, though these
disappear when the timed recording finishes, or the power is interrupted, so
the only way of knowing if there has been a activation, is to call up the alarm
If an alarm activation occurs when the
machine is recording, in a time-lapse mode, it reverts to 3-hour real-time
recording, for the preset period, after which it returns to the previous set
time-lapse mode, and again all on-screen and front-panel indications are lost.
This is clearly a big disadvantage, and could result in important evidential
material being inadvertently lost or erased, if operators do not routinely
check the alarm chart.
One other concern was an unexpected rattle,
when the machine was unpacked. After removing the top panel the cause of the
rattle was found to be a deck component -- a guide roller and capstan assembly
-- loose inside the cabinet, though it did not appear to belong to review
machine. Had the rattle not been noticed the component could have easily become
trapped in the deck mechanism, possibly causing a lot of damage.
Philips’ undoubted expertise in VCR design
and manufacture shows through and generally speaking the machine works well.
Resolution on recordings made using a good quality tape is in excess of
240-lines, irrespective of recording speed. Replay stability is very good, with
steady slow-motion and still frame replay; the jog/shuttle dial is an extremely
efficient way of searching through a recording, and the deck is remarkably
agile, able to reverse direction and change speed with minimal on-screen
disturbance. Audio quality on 3-hour recordings is reasonably good; treble
response takes a dive in the 48 hour mode, speech is intelligible, but
background noise levels increase dramatically.
The TL720R is basically a good machine, the
VCR performs well, it represents good value for money but it’s let down by some
of its alarm and display functions, and if our sample is anything to go by,
quality control procedures need to be looked at.
It needs some form of visible or audible
alarm-trigger indicator, to show that an event has occurred. As it stands
there’s nothing to stop a careless operator wiping or over-taping a critical
recording. Some form of on-tape indexing would be useful too. The instructions
are rather vague as well, and we suspect will leave some installers and
operators with some important questions unanswered.
Design and design features ***
Circuitry and components ****
Ease of installation and wiring ****
Range and variety of functions **
Accompanying instructions **
Technical advice and backup **
Value for money ****
Ó R.Maybury 1996 2910