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Sony have announced a technical standard for data storage on their Mini Disc system, initially for use in personal computers, as a potential replacement for conventional hard and floppy disc storage media. The Mini Disc, or MD magneto-optical system was originally developed as a sucessor for the ageing compact cassette, and like its rival, the  tape-based DCC (digital compact cassette) format it can record, as well as replay high-quality digital audio. This new application has some other intruiging possibilities, including the storage of moving video.With a data transfer rate of 150k bytes/second and existing data compression techniques it would be theoretically possible to store upwards of 15 minutes of moving video on a disc. It doesn't take an enormous leap in imagination to envisage a Mini Disc camcorder, the deck mechanism would be smaller, lighter and simpler than an 8mm tape transport. The benefits of such a system would be considerable, not least rapid track access and identification, which could prove invaluable for editing.




According to figures recently published by market analysts GFK the Canon E60, E200 and E230 were the UK's top-selling camcorders during the month of May. Naturally Canon are very pleased with their performance, which has seem them climb from seventh place in just two years. Sony, who Canon toppled from the number position, pointed out that they are still the leading brand, in terms of value and during the month in question accounted for almost 25% of the market.


Owners of Canon cameras and camcorders can now get technical advice by ringing a special customer helpline number, manned by a team of experts. It's a premium service line, so call are charged at the rate of 48 pence per minute, the number to ring is (0891) 310210. Canon are also operating a computerised freephone line for customers wishing to order a brochure, or locate their nearest dealer; it wortks best with a touch-tone telephone. Give them a buzz on (0800) 616417.




The trouble with the sort of single-point stereo microphones used on camcorders is the very narrow stereo image they produce. Prisma Europe, who import the Sima range of video accessories have come up with a radical solution in the shape of the Stereo TwinMike, one of three new Sima microphones from Prisma this month. The TwinMike is a truly wacky design with two moveable barrels that can be pointed in opposite directions -- 180 degrees apart -- for the ultimate in stereo seperation. Someone in the office unkindly suggested it looks like a pair of bunny ears; you'll have to wait for our considered technical opinion in a forthcoming Minitest.... TwinMike  has high and low sensitivity settings, an earphone monitor output and a frequency response of 100Hz to 15kHz, and an impredance of 1k ohms, which makes it eminently suitable for camcorders with FM and  hi-fi recording systems. It should be in the shops by the time you read this for just under 50. Microphone number two is a high-performance lapel clip design which comes with a 25 foot lead and fitted on/off switch. The outfit includes a battery and will be selling for 19.99. The third new microphone is is the stereo CamMike a conventional accessory shoe mount design with dual omnidirectional electet elements. It is light, -- just 74grams -- and has an earphone monitor facility. The suggested retail price is 39.99.



Sima's new Mini VideoProp telescopic chest pod with swivel-ball mounting plate. On sale now for 34.99.




Sony are planning to introduce 120 minute 8mm and Hi8 tapes this Autumn as part of a new range of  distinctively packaged Video 8 tapes. A number of improvements have been made to the formulation and manufacturing processes  which Sony claim has led to a 25% increase in performance. Two-hour 8mm tapes have actually been around for at least a year, now that Sony have developed one of their own the extra-thin tape has received official endorsement from the inventors of the format.




Philips JVC, Sony and Matsuhita, (the parent of Panasonic and major shareholder of JVC), have come to an agreement on the standard for linear digital full-motion video which will enable up to 74 minutes of VHS-quality moving video to be stored on 12cm (5-inch) compact discs. The system, which is based on the MPEG-1 (motion picture experts group) standard is outlined in the so-called 'white book' specification and is already being used on professional Karaoke CD equipment.


Video CD's as they will be known will be playable on a variety of equipment, ranging from audio CD decks with digital data outputs, specialised Video CD players, CD-I machines with full-motion video (FMV) cartridges and CD-ROM drives with MPEG decoders.



The latest turbodrive VCR from Philips -- the first to be built as part of a joint venture with Grundig -- looks like it might qualify for edit deck status, the VR-838 certainly has a number of camcorder-friendly features that we shall be looking at in more detail in our review of this machine, due to be published in the next couple of months. Until then here's a run-down of what it has to offer:

* NICAM stereo hi-fi audio system

* twin jog/shuttle dials on front panel and remote handset

* front-mounted AV terminal

* flying erase head

* twin SCART AV sockets

* Video Plus+ timer programming

* headphone and microphone sockets

* Quasi S-VHS and NTSC replay

* 16 x 9 recording


In addition to all the regular convenience features the  838 has a most unusual backlit LCD front panel display, it certainly makes a welcome change from the over-bright flourescent panel's we're used to. This type of display is much easier to read, and it's more informative too with moving graphic indicators for audio recording level and tape position, plus an alphanumeric readout for deck mode and status. The 838 will be available this October when it will have a suggested retail price of 600.


The 838 could be a taste of things to come, we understand Philips are working on an S-VHS version of this machine which could be in the shops early next year. The most interesting features, from our point of view, are the proposed Control L and RMC/Panasonic 5-pin editing terminals, which would make it compatible with the majority of edit controllers on the market today. More news on this machine as we get it.


Meanwhile Philips will be adding two new Panasonic-sourced VHS-C camcorders to their range this September. They're the M620, which is based on the highly successful S20 palmcorder, and the M660, which is a clone of the NV-R50. They will be selling for 700 and 900 respectively.



R.Maybury 1993 1907


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