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Over the last couple of years we've been championing the cause of nicad dischargers, as a means of eliminating the capacity-sapping effects of nicad memory and cell imbalance. It may only be a coincidence, but in the wake of our campaign dischargers have become cheaper and more readily available, moreover, several camcorder manufacturers now incorporate 'refresh' circuits into their mains chargers. Vivanco, who earned our admiration a couple of  months ago with their CAD-300 discharger, have come up trumps once again with the CAR-3000 triple charger/discharger.


This black plastic box, a little larger than a VHS tape library case, has slots on both sides for six, 6-volt NP-style nicad batteries. On one side there are three numbered positions, with multi-fit lugs and connectors for all the popular types of battery, including those made for Hitachi, JVC, Panasonic, Sharp and Sony camcorders. The three slots on the other side are for Canon-style packs only. Despite having  six positions the unit can only cope with three packs at a time, and they all have to be on the same side, though that's unlikely to trouble most users who will not normally need to mix Canon packs with other types of battery.


The charger section is powered from a 12 volt DC supply, via a lead that plugs into a car's cigar-lighter socket; a mains adaptor is available as an optional extra. If more than one battery is connected at a time they are charged in sequence, the operating  mode is shown by a pair of LED indicators, for each battery position. It is possible to switch from charge to discharge mode at any time, by pressing the discharge button (but not the other way around, i.e. from charge to discharge). The unit can discharge three batteries simultaneously, charging starts automatically as soon as the battery has been drained. The charger uses the negative Delta U system, which will take a typical 1.2AH pack from flat to full in about 90 mins, discharging the same battery takes just under two hours.


The CAR-3000 is clearly intended for heavy-duty users or commercial and semi-professional video movie-makers, running two or more nicads at a time; for them it could easily pay for itself first time out, rejuvenating low-capacity packs, and keeping them that way.



Make/model       VIVANCO CAR-3000

Guide Price         39.99??

System                triple charger/discharger

Features              sequential charge, simultaneous discharge

Compatibility      6-volt NP-style nicad packs: most common types including  Canon Hitachi, JVC, Panasonic, Sharp and Sony

Charge system   negative Delta U               

Input                   12-15 volts DC, 1A

Lead supplied     Car cigar-lighter type

Dimensions         120 x 50 x 220

Distributor          VIVANCO  Unit, C ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead

HP2 7SS Telephone (0442) 231616



Multiple memory marmalizer




If you've just spent several hundred pounds on a camcorder it makes sense to spend a few pounds more on a decent carry case. These days there's quite a lot to choose from, and we have to say that most of them are quite good, but every so often we come across one that stands out; this month we have two! They come from Camera Care Systems, or CCS, who have been in the bag business for almost fifteen years, so they should know a thing or two by now. CCS bags are unusual on several counts; to begin with they're designed and manufactured in the UK, Bristol to be precise, and they come with a 30-year guarantee, which says something about CCS's confidence in their products.


The two bags we've been trying out are the 853 Palm-Holdall, and 854 Video-Holdall, designed for palmcorders and compact machines respectively. The 852 's main compartment has a draw-string throat for added protection against rain and snow, though we suspect this is a boots and braces measure as the fitted lid looks perfectly able to keep the elements at bay. The zippered front pocket is also well protected and is large enough to accommodate couple of batteries and tapes. The fully adjustable shoulder strap can be threaded through a fabric flap on the back of the bag, so it can be used as a belt


The 854 is made for compact 8mm and VHS-C machines. The main compartment is enclosed by a flap with a double zip for extra weather protection; inside there's a moveable partition, held in place by Velcro strips. It has two zippered pockets, one on the flap-over lid, the other on the front, for spare batteries and tapes etc. Unlike the 852 the shoulder strap is fixed, though it is still fully adjustable.


Both bags are made to a very high standard, and the generous internal padding should ensure a high degree of protection against the inevitable knocks and bangs. Our only criticism, and main reason they didn't get full marks concerns the lack of a shoulder pad. The strap webbing is very smooth and slips off the wearer's shoulder quite easily. Even without a shoulder pad -- and you could always fit your own -- they're still well worth considering, and you've got until 2023 to claim on the guarantee.



Make/model       CCS VIDEO BAGS, 852 and 854

Guide Price         34.99 and 31.99

Styles                  852 - Palm Holdall; 854 - Video Holdall

Features              852 - 'Kobrahead' mouth lock, zippered front pocket, removable shoulder strap/belt: 854  - double zip top with flap-over lid, zip pockets in lid and front

Construction       outer -- woven polyurethane yarn; inner -- waterproof 'Oxford nylon'

Dimensions         852 - 190 x 160 x 85; 854 - 110 x 300 x 125        

Weight                852 - 400 grams; 854 - 420 grams             

Distributor          Camera Care Systems, CCS Centre, Vale Lane, Bedminster, Bristol BS3 5RU, Telephone (0272) 635263



Bags of confidence




Video titling software packages for Amiga and PC-based systems are now capable of professional, broadcast-quality results, but apart from the costs involved -- upwards of 500 if you include the price of basic hardware -- many home video movie-makers are put off by the complexity and time required to work on these programs. Of course there are now a number of stand-alone title generators,  but these too can be quite expensive, or have limited capabilities. Apart from using ready-made titles, there is another possibility, and the key component could be sitting in your loft, or gathering dust in the bottom of the wardrobe. It's the redoubtable Sinclair Spectrum home computer. Almost two million of them were sold during the 1980's, and even if you haven't got one yourself, you probably know someone who has, or you could always scour your local car-boot sale for one where we've seen them changing hands for as little as 10. Once you've got your Spectrum -- the later 48k models produce the most stable images -- all  you need is Protitler 4 and Logo Master, titling and drawing programs from Hall Products, costing 25 and 20.


Protitle 4 and Logo Master make full use of all the Spectrums display facilities; it may look a little limited beside the PC and Amiga, but Hall Products argue that an eye-catching title can be put together on the Spectrum in a few minutes, whereas more complicated designs on more powerful computers can take hours or even days to complete. In any case a simple title done well will look much better than a complicated one done badly; furthermore, an elaborate title can actually look out of place on a modest home video movie production.


Using simple menu-driven operating systems the user can choose from no less than forty different screen effects with dozens of text sizes and an almost limitless assortment of displays using a full sets of alphanumeric characters, symbols and graphics. With Logo Master users can create their own unique drawings and designs, as simple or as elaborate as you want. These programs can create animation effects, fades, dissolves, scrolls and wipes, in fact they seem able to do quite a few things that we didn't know the Spectrum was even capable of...


If you fancy having a go at making your own titles, but don't relish the expense of a full-blown computer-based system or a title generator, then dig out that old Spectrum and put it to some good use.



Make/model                PROTITLER 4  and LOGO MASTER

Guide Price                  25.00 and 20

System requirements   48k Sinclair Spectrum recommended

Features                       40 screen effects, graphics, animation, fade, flash, scroll, wipe, over 100 text sizes and fonts

Colours                         choice of 8 for background, text and borders

Distributor                   Hall Video Products, 147 Gladstone Street, Winsford, Cheshire CW7 4AU Telephone (0606) 551925



Save a Sinclair, and some money....




One of the most effective ways of livening up a video movie is to add background music but choosing the most appropriate tunes is not as easy as it seems. NVM have done all the hard work for you with a five-volume set of copyright-free soundtracks, grouped together under various subject headings. Volume one is called 'Themes', a selection of strong melodies which are ideal for opening titles and closing credits; there's nine tracks in all, six with a fast tempo, three with a more relaxed beat. Volume 2 is 'Moods', this time there's 13 atmospheric tracks that will re-enforce the visuals, rather than get the audience tapping their feet. Volume 3 contains nine bouncy 'Jingles, Fanfares and Moods' a compilation of the sort of hummy tunes that launched a thousand products and personalities. Volume 4 is simply called 'Traditional' it's a fourteen track tour around British Isles, just right for establishing a location, or accompanying wildlife, nature and holiday productions. Finally, Volume 5, another fourteen tracks, this time dedicated to 'Romance', and yes, it includes the obligatory Bridal and Wedding Marches, but this time, in addition to the traditional arrangements, there's an  unusual heavy metal version as well.


Professional Soundtracks is available on a variety of  audio formats; ferric cassettes cost 6.75 each, or 7.75 on chrome tape. A DAT version (48kHz), costs 16.50, and if you want it on open reel tape (1/4-inch Ampex, 7.5 ips/NAB), that will cost you 26.25. There's an 8.00 discount if you buy all five, or 5.00 off when you buy three or four together. The music is copyright-free when used on home video productions, for private use, a licence for unrestricted use costs 5.00 per volume. 


A musically unpretentious assortment of familiar and not so familiar sounds for enthusiast and professional video movie-makers alike.




Guide Price             6.75 (ferric tape), 7.75 (chrome tape),  16.50 (DAT): prices  inclusive of P&P

Status                      copyright free music for non-commercial and non-broadcast use

Titles                       Vol 1 - Themes; Vol 2 - Moods; Vol 3 - Jingles, Fanfares and Moods; Vol 4 - Traditional; Vol 5 - Romance  

Average length        approximately 30 minutes   

Distributor               Northern Video Music, Retford House, Robin Lane, Bentham, Lancaster LA2 7AF. Telephone (05242) 61167



Dubbing made easy




As a general rule camcorders can go anywhere you can go; they're built to withstand extremes of heat and cold, but one thing they cannot endure is getting wet, which is shame because there's a lot of fun to be had underwater, especially at this time of year. Waterproof or 'sports' housings are the answer, and Sony have been one of the few companies to market them as accessories for their machines. The two latest additions to their range are the SPK-TRA and SPK-TR1. The TRA is designed to fit  most TR camcorders, with the exceptions of the TR1, TR8 and TR 50/60. The TR1 is meant specifically for the TR1 and TR8. Both housings are waterproof  to a depth of 2 metres, if you want to go deeper then you'll need one of Sony's Marine packs, which are rated to 75 metres.


The TRA is a side-opening enclosure, made from a bright yellow, high impact-resistant plastic. The two halves are held together by locking lever toggles, and the seal is maintained by a rubber gasket around the lip of the casing. Inside the camera screws on to a detachable plate, using its tripod mounting bracket. There are two connections to be made, one for the external waterproof stereo microphone, the other, which plugs into the machine Control L socket, is for the external controls which are: stop/start and standby, and power zoom. The camera's lens 'see's through a window in the front of the housing, whilst the viewfinder is visible through a second window on the back. The housing has an accessory shoe on the top, and a leak warning indicator near the base, this shows red should water get inside the housing. The outfit is supplied with a tube of gasket grease, lens cleaning cloths, cleaning fluid and a carry strap.


The TRI has a rear opening, and like the TRA it is held in place by two locking lever toggles. The machine fits onto a docking plate, taking advantage of the TR1/8's AV connector system which uses a row of contacts, built into the base of the machine. These include the external stereo microphone connection and signals for the external controls. The TRA also comes with its own accessory and care kit.


Both housings are generously proportioned, and there's room (in the case of the TRA), for  high capacity batteries. The controls are large and easy to use, even with a gloved hand, though the zoom and stop/start buttons on the TRA are fairly close together. The locking action on the toggle latches is positive and secure in both cases, and unlikely to come undone accidentally. Should you loose your grip whilst underwater both housings will float to the surface.


Crunch time. Unfortunately the editorial budget this month did not run to a two-week trip to the Bahamas, to properly test these housings under real-life conditions. In fact the fiver left in the kitty just about ran to a one-way coach trip to Southend, or a morning at the local swimming baths. The swimming baths won. Before we set out both we gave both enclosures a quick dip in a bath full of lukewarm water and to our surprise the TRA actually began to fill up! Before it went under we had noticed that the O-ring looked a bit dry and dusty; a dab of grease on the rubber and the problem was cured. Down at the local swimming baths we were able to take the housings close to their maximum recommended depth, both of them survived the ordeal with no sign of leakage. Underwater the camcorder's viewfinder is only useful as an occasional guide, it can be quite difficult to see, and if you run the risk of bumping into things if you swim around with one eye closed.. The underwater microphone picks up some interesting noises, none of them intelligible, okay for capturing the watery atmosphere, maybe... Our only concern is the integrity of the O-rings, judging from our experience it's a good idea check it carefully and grease it every time the housing is used.


The TR1 and TRA seem fairly expensive, as accessories go, but believe us, compared with proper underwater marine housings they're a bargain. If you've got an exotic holiday lined up, a suitable Sony camcorder and a penchant for snorkelling these housings could open up a whole new world of video movie-making for you.




Guide Price         250 (TR1), 230 (TRA)

Features              built-in leak sensors, accessory shoe, accessory and care kits (O-ring grease, lens cleaning fluid, lens cleaning cloths, carry strap)             

Maximum depth  2 metres               

Distributor           SONY UK LTD Sony House, South Street, Staines, Middlesex

TW15 4AT.  Telephone (0784) 467000



Wet fun for Sony owners



Vivanco seem to be making a concerted effort to take over the AV processor and post-production market and they have just launched yet another new model, housed in one of their distinctive wedge-shaped sloping consoles. It's the VCR-3024, a combined 3-channel stereo audio mixer, audio and video fader, plus a basic video processor with adjustments for colour saturation, contrast and picture sharpness. The price, in case you were wondering is around 170.


Like all of their products the 3024 has a bank of SCART sockets for all of the main video and audio interconnections. It's not our favourite connector system but it works and once you have all the necessary leads, they are very easy to use. There are three AV inputs, selected by a bank of switches on the front panel, in addition there's a separate stereo line-audio input for a CD or tape deck, this is via a pair of phono sockets. This input is selected by a switch immediately below the bank of audio level sliders. Next to that is the headphone source select switch and monitor level control. Audio and video fading is controlled from a pair of  miniature T-bars in the middle of the main panel. On the right side are three control knobs, for the video adjustments. The 7-pin DIN socket next to the bank of SCARTs is for connection to Vivanco's 3055 edit controller, allowing the two units to operate together. The 3024 is powered directly from the mains and it even comes fitted with a three pin plug.


The 3024s audio mixer works well; the fader and level controls are smooth and progressive, with no sign of contact noise. Likewise the video controls are effective -- though we're not sure the sharpness control does much for picture quality -- it is very easy to use. In the scheme of things the price is a little on the high side but this is a reflection of the quality of design and workmanship. Worth considering if you need these particular facilities in one box.



Make/model       VIVANCO VCR-3024 AV CENTRE

Guide Price         170

Features              3-channel audio mixer, audio and video faders, variable contrast saturation and sharpness, 3-channel input selector, RGB compatible, headphone monitor

Sockets              3 x SCART AV input 1 x SCART AV out, microphone input and headphone monitor (minijack), stereo line audio in (p[hono) external edit control (DIN)               

Dimensions         70 x 330 x 280

Weight                1.5kg

Distributor           VIVANCO  Unit C, ATA House, Boundary Way, Hemel Hempstead

HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616



Competent though unexciting AV processor




(c) R.Maybury 1993 1307


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