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Am I right in thinking that RCTC can be added to old, previously shot 8mm material, even if it was recorded on a basic camcorder? Besides a VCR or camcorder, which has the RCTC function built in, is there a separate widget available that can add RCTC to old footage? I have a Sony RM-700 edit controller that can read RCTC and I think I’m correct that it’s not necessary to also have a VCR that recognises the code for edits to be frame accurate, is this so or does one require a VCR with RCTC also, to achieve frame accurate edits? Further, if a friend was to add RCTC to a tape for me, would that work on my non-RCTC equipment?

Maurice Nidelberg, Netherton, Merseyside


Yes, no, yes and no, no and no, er, I think… Yes, RCTC or the Rewritable Consumer Time Code can be added retrospectively to recordings as it lives on a separate portion of the tape, at the ends of the video tracks that are laid down by the spinning tape heads. So in that respect it is quite unlike the alternative VITC (vertical interval time code) system, where the data is embedded inside the video signal (so it cannot be added without re-recording the signal).


No, there are no other gadgets – other than suitably equipped 8mm/Hi-8 camcorders or VCRs -- that can add RCTC data to a recording, since it can only be done by the aforementioned rotating tape heads. Edit controllers that can read RCTC data are frame accurate, in that they can designate the start and end of a sequence to a single frame, but it depends on the record VCR whether or not the edited recording has the same degree of accuracy. If the VCR record/pause function is being controlled by infra-red commands, or even a wired pause control then frame accuracy is possible, but by no means guaranteed as the VCR’s timing characteristics can drift. Frame accuracy is only possible if the VCR also has RCTC capability and a Control L/LANC edit terminal. Finally the camcorder has to be able to read RCTC code in order to pass it on to the edit controller, so the answer to your last question is no, you can’t use your old non-compliant RCTC equipment, even if code has been added to the tape.



I have a Sony TR750 Hi8 camcorder, which has a SteadyShot stabiliser function. I always record with the SteadyShot function switched on. Is this good policy? What are the pros and cons of always having it on?

E. Cutter, Woodland Glade, Huddersfield


SteadyShot on the 1994 vintage TR750 was a first generation electronic image stabiliser system, as opposed to the no-loss optical systems used by Canon (and featured on some Sony models), which basically means that when it is switched on the picture is degraded, and there is a small increase in power consumption. Those are the ‘cons’, there are no pros, except for the reduction in camera shake, though it can be largely avoided using simple techniques like modifying your stance when shooting, steadying the camcorder or your body against a firm surface or using a tripod. The quality losses are significant, equivalent to more that a 20% reduction in picture resolution, and that is quite noticeable. It’s tolerable when watching an original recording but if the footage is edited or copied then the resultant recording will look no better, and possibly worse than if it had been shot on a low band (i.e. 8mm) machine, which rather defeats the object of owning a Hi8 camcorder.



In an answer to a recent question you made reference to excessive battery consumption caused by switching the camcorder on and off frequently. Has this any bearing on the very few camcorders available with a time-lapse facility? If so can you suggest any way in which one might adapt a DV camcorder for time-lapse operation?

Les Green, Pwllheli, Gwynedd


The relatively scarcity of camcorders with a time-lapse facility is not so much to do with power consumption, as accelerated wear and tear on mechanical and electronic components. In a time-lapse machine the head drum must be kept spinning and the tape has to be ‘stepped’ in small increments at regular intervals. This is an enormously demanding task for the deck mechanism and although I suspect a lot of camcorders could stand the strain, manufacturers sensibly take the view that it is asking for trouble, as far as long-term reliability is concerned. Remember, most domestic camcorders lead fairly sedate lives and when it comes down to are actually only used for a few hours a year; a single time-lapse recording could compress a year’s worth of use into a few hours! The moving parts inside most DV camcorders are even more delicate than analogue models. Whilst I am sure it is possible to rig up some sort of time-lapse control mechanism, I would hesitate to use or modify any domestic camcorder (analogue or digital) for such a demanding application.



As a complete newcomer to the delights of the video world I would appreciate your comments regarding the relative merits of a computer based editing set-up, compared with a dedicated video editing system. Would a video based system, comprising a digital camcorder and VCR, edit controller and processor yield superior results to a computer based set-up, taking into account the merits of upgrading any particular unit at a later date as needs dictate.

Carl Donelly, Netherton, Merseyside.


A couple of years ago I would have said stick with video based equipment, unless you have big bucks to spend, a lot of time on your hands and a good grounding in the mysterious ways of the PC. The situation has changed dramatically within the past year with the launch of off-the-shelf computer based editing packages like the Apple DV iMAC and the huge increase in the number of PC systems and components available. Desktop or PC based video editing is rapidly becoming a mainstream consumer technology. There’s still a few if’s and buts, and plenty of pitfalls for the unwary but with the help of magazines like our sister publication Computer Video, it is possible to put together a very decent, easy to use system, at a reasonable cost. The other point to make is that things like transitions and special effects, are much more difficult to achieve with DV footage without a PC, unless you are willing to accept compromising picture quality. Stand-alone DV editing and special effects units are available but they are still very expensive. The only affordable alternative is to convert DV footage into analogue and put up with the noise, and other picture faults that bring about a noticeable reduction in quality.




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2102




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