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As the technology of video editing advances we're in grave danger of loosing sight of the basics, namely, that you don't need a lot of fancy equipment in order to put together a professional-looking video movie, (but it helps...).


With that in mind Hama have produced the Video Cut 520, a simplified version of the Video Cut 220, which we looked at last year. They call it a video editor, but maybe that's being a little extravagant. It has no memory and cannot control the source machine; what it can do, though, is make 'flying-edits', that is transfer segments of a to a VCR, from a camcorder to a VCR, as it is playing. It does this by operating the destination or recording VCR's record-pause mode, via a simple learning infra-red control system. In addition the 520 has a number of post production tools; there's a 3-channel stereo audio mixer, a video enhancer circuit, and an AV fader (to black or white), which can be used in conjunction with the edit-control system.


Setting up takes just a few moments, the 520 has to be taught the VCRs record-pause command. There's an IR sensor on the top panel, which picks up the light pulses from the VCRs remote handset, the information is retained in a microchip memory, a pair of AA cells provide back-up power when it's switched off. Connecting up the camcorder and VCRs AV inputs and outputs is very straightforward; as well as phonos for audio and video signals there's a set of S-Video connectors, for S-VHS-C and Hi8 equipment. The unit is S-Video compliant, but only if all the other components (i.e. camcorder and VCR,) are as well, otherwise there's little or no improvement in picture quality.


The only thing to watch out for is the positioning of the 520, in relation to the VCR. The IR commands are transmitted from an IR emitter on the back panel, which has to point at the VCR, otherwise the start/stop commands will not be received.


When everything is ready the record VCR is loaded with a blank tape and set to record-pause. The wanted scenes are then replayed on the camcorder, in the required order, with the 520 controlling the record-pause on the VCR. There's a choice between hard or soft cuts; a hard cut involves an instant scene transition, a soft cut makes use of the 520's fader facility, with the switching in and out controlled by the slider, at either end of its travel.


It's very simple, and almost nothing can go wrong. There's no question of edit accuracy, it all depends on when and how quickly you press the buttons or move the slider, and the characteristics of the destination VCR. The enhancer facility is there if you need it, it didn't do anything for us, except make recordings look even more ragged than they were. The audio mixer works well, though we noticed a mains hum on the microphone channel, when the slider was at maximum, in normal use it shouldn't be a problem. Other minus points are the somewhat spacious design -- the controls look rather lost on the empty top panel -- and the fact that the unit has to be carefully positioned for the IR commands to get through to the VCR, it may not always be convenient to have the two units in close proximity to one another. A detachable IR 'wand', like the one supplied with the Video Cut 220 would have been better, even if it did add a few pounds to the price. Overall, though, a worthwhile alternative to run of the mill AV processors, and a useful helping-hand for small or occasional editing jobs.



Make/model       HAMA VIDEO CUT 520

Guide Price         150

Features              basic edit control, 3-channel stereo audio mixer, video enhancer, switchable audio and video fade

Sockets                video audio in and out (8x phono), S-Video in/out (mini DIN), microphone (minijack), DC power in

Dimensions         270 x 170 x 55mm

Weight                1.0kg

Distributor          HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF. Telephone (0256) 708110



Simple but effective copying tool




When new a standard 6 volt  battery pack, the sort that comes with most 8mm and VHS-C camcorders, lasts for between 20 and 40 minutes. At first that's usually enough for most users, though as the battery ages and the effects of frequent top-up charges take their toll, thoughts turn to a spare battery, preferably one with a higher capacity. Standard battery packs are normally rated at 1.0 or 1.2Ah, higher capacity packs start at around 1.5Ah, rising to 3.0Ah or more, which doubles or even trebles running times but even that's not enough for some people. In fact longer running times aren't the only issue, camcorder batteries are frequently used to power video lights, and the more powerful ones can consume up to ten times as much power as the camcorder. Heavy duty users usually resort to battery belts, or shoulder-slung lead-acid packs, but there is another alternative.


Vivanco have been marketing a 4.5Ah battery pack (BP4506) for the past couple of years, but until recently  it has only been available for Sony machines; now they've bowed to pressure and produced a multi-fit version that can be used with JVC, Panasonic and surprisingly, Hitachi machines as well (Canon owners will have to be patient...). It's the BP4536, a monster clip-on nicad pack, tipping the scales at just over half a kilogram, that's almost as much as some palmcorders! That kind of power is enough to run a typical palmcorder for almost four hours, just right for a E/P5-120 tape, (at LP recording speed). There are a few points to bear in mind, though. This battery can take up to five hours to charge, on a fast-charger, and the added bulk could foul the viewfinders on some models, making it difficult to get close to the eyecup, it's a good idea to check first. The extra weight can have a serious effect on handling, and even the lightest machine can become a burden with one of these things on the back, a tripod is highly recommended.


We've been trying out an early production sample and compared the results with last month's mega battery test. The running and charge times were almost identical to the BP4506, the only factor to have changed is the price; the extra contacts, and mounting lugs have added 10 to the price, taking it up to 70. That has had some impact on the

economics, and the /Ah factor rises to 15.5, and /min (running time) to 0.64 but they are both still better than average results and like the Sony-fit model, represent good value for money. Well worth considering if you need a lot of extra power, but not the inconvenience of a belt or shoulder pack.




Make/model      VIVANCO BP4536

Guide Price         70

Fitting                  JVC, Panasonic & Hitachi

Voltage               6 volts

Capacity             4.5Ah               

Dimensions        90 x 65 x 54       

Weight                530 grams

Distributor     VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616



Useful alternative to battery belt for heavy-duty users




Audio mixing is one of the simplest post production procedures, and the equipment  needn't be expensive either, with good quality mixers costing from as little as 25. The Camlink Vision 100 is a little more expensive than that, it has just gone on sale for 50, but this one is different, and well worth the extra.


Three things set the Vision 100 apart from the crowd: the very distinctive sloping console makes it look like a serious piece of kit, it comes with a microphone, and it has a tone control. In fact it's only the second, or maybe the third audio mixer we've seen in the past five years to have one. In practice tone controls are not needed that often, but there are circumstances when it can be invaluable. Two examples spring to mind;  increasing treble response can help make speech more intelligible, especially if there's a lot of background noise, such as wind roar, and it's sometimes helpful to be able to modify the sound of background music, to prevent if drowning out the rest of the soundtrack, without reducing volume. You can of course use the tone controls on the source component, if it has them, but it can be a lot more convenient to do it this way.


There's one other feature worth mentioning; the mixer has a simple video switching facility, with two inputs and one output, this could be helpful when editing or copying from two sources (i.e. a camcorder and VCR), though be warned that switching between the two inputs will always result in some brief picture instability as the VCR or monitor has to re-establish synchronisation.


The control layout is clean and uncluttered, and for once the labelling is easy to read -- why do manufacturers think black is a good colour for control panels? The only minor niggle concerns the labelling on the tone control which is calibrated 'max' and 'min', clearly someone forgot to change it; the same console is used on other Camlink AV mixer/processor units.  Power comes from a 9-volt battery, which fits inside a compartment on the underside, alternatively there's an optional mains adaptor. Battery power is fine though, the mixer has a very low power consumption and with normal use it should last several months, furthermore battery power reduces the chance of stray mains hum ending up on the soundtrack.


Camlink have gone to considerable lengths to make life as easy as possible for the novice sound mixer. In addition to the microphone the unit comes with a set of AV leads, and an unusually comprehensive instruction manual. They could have stopped there, but on top of all that there's a how-to-do-it video as well, and a technical helpline, though it's a premium rate service, costing 48 pence a minute peak times. The video is a very useful way to get to know the Vision 100, it only lasts around six minutes but it contains plenty of handy tips, to get new owners up and running as quickly as possible.


Performance is good, the faders are smooth and noise-free. The tone control has a limited range but it's a definite plus point, when compared with other, similarly-priced mixers. The microphone is another bonus, improving the value for money rating no end. Altogether a very neat and professional-looking mixer, setting a new standard for other manufacturers to match.



Make/model       CAMLINK VISION 100

Guide Price         50

Features              3-channel stereo audio mixer and tone control

Supplied accs.     phono-to-phono lead, microphone, stand, instruction video

Sockets                video and audio in/out (phono), microphone and headphones (std jack) DC power input

Dimensions         170 x 50 x 300

Distributor           LAMBA plc, Albion Mills, Albion Road, St Albans, Herts AL1 5EB. Telephone (0707) 266222




Good performance and great value for money




In some quarters nicad dischargers have been receiving a bad press lately, but it has to be said that much of it has been ill-informed twaddle. We're not about to add to the confusion; suffice it to say that aside from faulty or mis-aligned units, which could in extreme circumstances damage a battery, nicad dischargers are one of the most useful accessories you can get, and can easily pay for themselves the first time they're used, by giving old and well-used batteries a new lease of life. 


The Sima SPM-7 certainly worked for us, bringing a couple of tired old NP77s back to near full capacity. However, the features we've been most impressed with are the multi-fit connector and auto voltage sensor, which makes it as near universal a design as its possible to be. The base unit  takes most 7.2 and 9.6 volt handgrip batteries, used on older VHS-C models, a slide-in adaptor plate has connectors for Sony, JVC/Panasonic and Hitachi packs, and there's a separate set of contacts for Cannon-fit batteries.


It's extremely simple to use, as soon as the battery is attached -- assuming it still has a charge -- the audible alarm sounds, and a relative indication of power level is shown on a set of three LEDS. Press the discharge button and the process begins. When the charge has been reduced to a safe level the alarm sounds again, and cuts off after a few seconds. A couple of full charge/discharge cycles is normally enough to clear any memory imbalance effects, though heavily abused batteries may need a couple more sessions, to return them to a usable state. Used regularly -- every dozen or so charges, say -- it should prevent the loss of capacity that occurs when nicads are given top-up charges, or not fully discharged between outings.


Operationally the SPM-7 works well within accepted safety margins for nicad batteries. It's sturdily built and 23 sounds like a very reasonable price to pay for such a versatile and easy to use discharger, that really can earn its keep.




Guide Price         23

Features              auto voltage select, power level indicator, audible alarm

Fitting                  most 6, 7.2 and 9.6 volt packs inc. Sony, JVC, Panasonic, Canon and Hitachi types                                        

Distributor           PRISMA Europe Ltd, Priory House, Pitsford Street, Birmingham B18 6LX. Telephone 021 554 5540



Nicad care, at a reasonable price




(c) R.Maybury 1994 2301


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