VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

DOUBLE TROUBLE

 

INTRO

It sounds like the answer to an 8mm camcorder owner's prayer, we've been evaluating the Goldstar DD101 8mm/VHS twin deck VCR, to see if those  prayers have come true...

 

COPY

One of the few disadvantages of the 8mm format is that it is forced to exist in world dominated by VHS, which can make life awkward for 8mm users should they want to copy or edit their recordings.  The Goldstar R-DD101appears to be an instant solution. It's a good-looking twin-deck VCR that can playback 8mm cassettes, and record and playback VHS tapes, as well as all the more mundane things video recorders are called upon to do, including recording and timeshifting TV programmes.

 

On its own that would have been enough to whet the appetites of most 8mm users but Goldstar have included several additional camcorder-oriented facilities. For example, it has an on-board edit controller capable of replaying up to five selected scenes, which are then automatically re-recorded by the VHS deck. It also has a title generator, front-mounted AV socket, automatic insert edit plus audio and video dubbing. Goldstar have thought the whole thing through quite well, and when it's not being used for editing, it functions happily as a normal VCR, with most of the convenience features we've come to expect, such as index search and intro scan and dual speed operation (on both decks); there's a comprehensive, menu-driven on-screen display system to help with initial set-up, and routine operations, like timer programming. In fact, just about the only thing that's missing is stereo sound, but that's being picky...

 

Two video decks in one box could easily have become a nightmare to use but once again Goldstar done their homework. Each deck has its own set of transport controls, which operate independently of each other in normal use; these are duplicated on the chunky remote handset, which controls the rest of the machines functions. Things start to get a little more complicated once you move from straightforward record and playback operations, though the on-screen display keeps the user informed about what is going on.

 

EDIT ENSEMBLE

One of the DD101's most important facilities is the assemble-edit system, it is controlled from a set of four buttons and the 8mm deck's transport keys, to locate each scene. The first of the four edit buttons engages the assemble-edit mode and calls up the on-screen display, the second and third buttons designate the start and stop points of each segment, the fourth button starts the automated copying process. It's very easy to use and fine for undemanding applications but unfortunately that's about as far as it goes.

 

It's not especially accurate, the system uses the 8mm deck's real-time counter to flag the beginning and end of each scene, it's calibrated in seconds, so at best accuracy is to within plus or minus one second. In practice the users own reactions have a greater bearing on accuracy as the 8mm deck has no special playback facilities, other than still frame, which means cuts are made 'on the fly', whilst the tape is in motion. The edit list cannot be altered, other than by erasing an entry and starting again. Ironically the VHS deck has quite good tape navigation facilities, including slow-motion, still and frame-advance, it's a pity the 8mm deck is not similarly equipped.

 

The DD101's title generator is a useful extra.There's a full set of alphanumeric characters, including many accented and special characters. These are displayed in one of four sizes and widths, on a grid that occupies the centre portion of the screen. Once you've got used to the sequential character selection system it's quite easy to use, though creating a long title can become quite time-consuming, and that's made all the more frustrating by the machine's apparent amnesia, which means the title is lost as soon as you move out of the title set-up mode. An extra page or two, and some form of short-term memory would be very welcome.

 

PERFORMANCE

So far so good, but now we come to the crunch, how well does it all work? On the evidence of our sample we have to say picture quality is not that wonderful. Standard speed replay of the VHS deck yielded a resolution figure of around 230 lines, that's a little below average, most budget VCRs manage 240-lines or more these days. SP replay on the 8mm deck was even more dissapointing, no more than 220 lines, which means that some detail is lost, in fact the picture on this machine isn't as sharp as the replay on most camcorders, including budget models. Recording from the 8mm deck to VHS tape results in another drop in resolution, to around 200-lines, which is below what you might expect when recording or copying from most camcorders to a VCR. Second generation recordings made on our machine looked distinctly ragged around the edges, more like a third generation copy in fact, with noisy and smeared colours and noticeable instability on captions and titles. Recordings of off-air material were a little better, though it's still bettered by machines costing half as much. Clearly that's not very satisfactory, and a little hard to understand since both decks should be optimised to work together.

 

Audio quality on second generation recordings was quite reasonable, though that's to be expected as the 8mm soundtrack has a wider dynamic range than the mono linear VHS audio system

 

VERDICT

What started out as a very attractive proposition has been let down by  poor performance. The whole point about the DD101 is that it makes editing and copying 8mm recordings to VHS easier and more convenient. On the convenience front it scores very well, and provided you're not too worried about accuracy, it does a passable editing job, but if the end result is no better, or possibly even worse than editing or copying using a camcorder and VCR then Goldstar are going to have a tough time justifying that 630 price tag.

 

WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

In a word, nothing. The DD101 is the first 8mm/VHS twin-deck to reach the UK, and we suspect not the last, but let's consider what else you could buy with that 630. If your camcorder is equipped with a Control L or RMC 5-pin  edit terminal then you could choose from a half dozen or so very capable controllers, and still have plenty left over for some post production equipment. Even if you haven't got an edit-capable deck you could still buy the excellent Sony EV-C45 8mm edit deck which has outstanding tape replay facilities, stereo sound and an edit terminal, and you would  have enough left to buy a VHS VCR, or, if you've already got one, a good edit controller.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model          Goldstar R-DD101                

Tape format           VHS and 8mm twin-deck

Guide price            629.99

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            VHS: 8-hours (E-240 tape LP mode)

                                          8mm: 4-hours (P5-120 tape, LP mode)

Timer                                8-events, 365-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                              PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds                  8mm: x 9, still; VHS: x2, x7, x11, slomo, still

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes (VHS only)             Multi-speed           no     

Insert edit:          no              Jog/shuttle          no

On-screen display          yes          Videoplus              no

Index search          yes          Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes          LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          no          Repeat play          no

Record search          no          NTSC replay          no

Quasi S-VHS replay          no          Auto play              no

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi                           no          Audio dub              yes   

Man level control          no          Level display                  no

NICAM sound          no          Line output           no     

H/phone level control          no     

     

 

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal                    yes          Edit terminal           no

Microphone          yes          Headphones          no

SCART          twin          Syncro edit          no

 

Dimensions (mm)     430 x 99 x 390

Weight (kg)              8.2

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                VHS: 230-lines; 8mm 220-lines; Copy <200-lines

Colour fidelity          VHS: average; 8mm average; Copy fair

Trick play stability   VHS: average; 8mm fair; Copy fair

Colour bleed             VHS: none; 8mm none; Copy some smearing

Audio performance   VHS average; 8mm average; Copy fair

Edit functions             8mm-VHS fair, +/- 1-second

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money        7

Ease of use                 8

Performance              7

Features                      8

         ---end---

(c) R.Maybury 1993  1708

 

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