VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

REPEAT PERFORMANCE

 

INTRO

Eighteen months ago Vivanco launched the VCR-5055 advanced edit controller; it's just been replaced by the VCR-5055. That's progress for you...

 

COPY

There's more than enough confusion surrounding video editing without Vivanco adding to it by giving their last two edit controllers the same model number; we're still waiting for an explanation on that one... The new VCR-5055 is actually a fine piece of equipment, and if you didn't know it already, by the time you've waded through page one of the instruction book you're left in little doubt that it was designed and built in Germany. We're not usually minded to perpetuate hoary national stereotypes but who else would describe editing thus: 'In order to obtain a good plot, sequences have to be joined together from a a dramaturgic point of view'...? The  5055 shows a number of other teutonic traits both good, and not so good, they include the bank of three SCART sockets, for the AV input, output and monitor connection, very precise and long drawn-out control procedures involving an inordinate number of button presses, and a quite bossy, single-minded LCD display that insists on virtually every action being confirmed by pressing yet another button.

 

The box says the 5055 is 'for all camcorders', which is basically true, though it really should be accompanied by the proviso 'especially those with edit terminals'; whilst it can work with camcorders without any remote control facilities the result will either be a lot of button pushing on the part of the user, and/or a third generation copy of the original recording. The 5055 is in its element with source machines fitted with a Control L (or LANC) socket, or a Panasonic 5-pin edit terminal, the record deck can be almost any VCR, provided it has infra-red remote control.  It can even control both decks using IR remote controls, though unless you're working with time coded material (VITC or RCTC) accuracy could be compromised. In spite of Vivanco calling the 5055 an editing 'processor' it has no additional facilities, other than those concerned with editing; Vivanco have just introduced a new range of audio and video processors (they call them AV centres), which share the same wedge-shaped consoles. This means they can be grouped side by side in a semi-circular arrangement, allowing easy access to the various units.

 

Externally it has little in common with its predecessor, apart from the rectangular LCD display panel, and bank of SCART sockets. This time the display is flush with the sloping top panel, which makes it difficult to read, it could do with angling slightly, and a backlight wouldn't go amiss either. One welcome change has been a significant reduction in the number of controls, which gives it a far less threatening appearance, though looks can be deceptive... The operating system is broadly similar to the old 5055 and the on-board edit memory is the same with the capacity to store details of 99 scenes. If that's not enough edit data can be stored in optional plug-in memory modules, or the edit list can be saved on tape, giving it an almost unlimited storage capacity.

 

Connections to the source and record decks, and TV monitor are very straightforward, whilst we're no great fans of the SCART socket it does simplify matters, though be warned that SCART to SCART leads can be quite expensive, and you will need at least two of them. The outfit comes with a phono to SCART adaptor, so you can use the camcorder's own AV lead without any problems. The SCARTs are configured for both composite and S-Video, additionally it can also used with RGB input signals, converting them to composite video on the output. This is very unusual, and potentially very useful for those with access to a computer and titling or graphics software.

 

The 5055 is normally supplied with a Control L lead and IR wand as standard, though dealers will substitute a Panasonic 5-pin cable, or second IR wand for those who do not have Sony or LANC-compatible equipment. The 5055 is powered directly from the mains, a very welcome change from those infernal plug-in mains adaptors.

 

SET-UP AND OPERATION

The first job is to tell the 5055 what type of equipment it is connected to, and how to use it. All of the set-up routines are shown on the LCD panel, and controlled by the set of four buttons immediately below the display. The machine refers to both source and record decks as 'recorders' 1 and 2, which can be a little confusing at first -- player and recorder would have been better. The most time-consuming tasks are teaching the unit IR commands, using the VCR or camcorders remote handset, and fine-tuning the pre/post roll times. The 5055 does this automatically by making a series of  coded test recordings, so it can get to know the machines characteristics. Timings can be manually adjusted if required.

 

The 5055 also needs to know whether it will be working with original time coded recordings, or make a second generation time coded working copy, which will be used as an edit master. Both decks are controlled from a set of transport keys which can be toggled between the two. Once everything is installed it's necessary to get to the main edit menu, which involves a fair amount of button pushing but once found it shows a lot of useful information, including the cassette number, program or edit number, the sequence number, running tape count or time code, total time, time of each scene, and the tape or time codes for the edit in and out points. If anything there's almost too much information and it can be quite hard to visually isolate the numbers you want. 

 

Designating edit in and out points involves an extraordinary amount of button-pushing. For example, to define a sequence from the edit menu it's first necessary to locate the scene, using the transport buttons -- no problems there -- next check and select the first sequence number, then press the enter button. At the edit in point press the cut button, then confirm it is correct by pressing the enter button again; at the edit out point press the cut button once again, then confirm it, this time pressing the OK button, press enter again, to set up for the next scene. On the second scene it's not necessary to press enter after the cut-in button, but you're still required to press OK at the end, and enter again for the third scene. It slows the whole process down, until you get used to it, but it's not helped by the display which can be difficult to read unless you're right over the top of it. If, for any reason you press the wrong button it's usually fairly easy to backtrack, or the display will tell you what's gone wrong.

 

Once all of the scene times have been stored timings can be amended and scenes added deleted or copied, without too much trouble, though it's helpful to jot down scene numbers on a piece of paper, along with a short description as the display only shows a very simple edit list of eight scene numbers, in the sequence in which they'll be shown

 

At this point the program can be previewed; at the start of each scene the source deck goes into still frame mode for a few seconds, and a short beep, indicates the beginning and end of the sequence. If all is well a final copy can be made, the 5055 automatically makes a blank 30 second leader and then gets on with it. Alternatively, there is a manual mode, with the appropriate commands for the user to follow shown on the LCD screen. At the end of the program the unit adds a black trailer.

 

PERFORMANCE

We tried the 5055 with a variety of source and record decks and the results were remarkably consistent, depending upon the type of material. Non time coded recordings from a Sony camcorder to a JVC  VCR was always within half a dozen frames, even after ten scenes; the same set-up, this time using RC coded recordings was better than plus or minus 2 frames. The times were unchanged when the JVC deck was substituted for a Mitsubishi VCR, though only after it had been right through the set-up routine again.

 

VERDICT

First the minus points; the instructions are almost impenetrable, the LCD is display is difficult to read, some of the operating procedures are rather long-winded and it really should have some sort of power-on indicator as it is mains-powered. You'll have to judge for yourself the benefits, or otherwise, of  having SCART sockets for the AV interconnections, we don't much care for them, they're unwieldy, unreliable and out of step with just about every other piece of video and post-production equipment on the market, which has standardised on the phono connector. The LCD display gets very crowded at times, we're sure some of the information could be muted, especially when compiling an edit list. Plus points include the built-in mains power supply, flexibility, (once you've figured out how it works), performance and the general design which looks and feels very professional.

 

The 5055 is a sophisticated and accurate edit controller that demands a degree of commitment from the user, it's not really suited to absolute beginners -- it would put most newcomers off for life, and despite what Vivanco might say we wouldn't recommend it to anyone whose camcorder doesn't have a hard-wired Control L or RMC edit terminal! However, if you're moving up the ladder, and looking for a controller that will meet your likely needs, now and in the future, this one is definitely worth considering.

 

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                    VIVANCO VCR-5055VR

System                             Advanced  edit controller

Guide price                      600

 

Control system (source) Control L (LANC), Panasonic 5-pin, learning IR (with optional control leads)

Control system (record)  learning IR
Video systems                  8mm, Hi8, VHS/C, S-VHS/C

Timecode systems           VITC and  RCTC

Edit memory                    99 segments

Main facilities                  scene edit (length, delete, copy, insert), variable pre and post roll times, still and slomo (where supported by source deck), data archiving (optional memory module or tape), 

Power source                   AC mains

Sockets                            3 x SCART (AV in, out and monitor), 4 x DIN (control leads/IR wand, Vivanco Bus and serial bus)

Size                                  330 x 70 x 280

 

VC VERDICT

Edit accuracy                  +/- 5 frames (uncoded), +/- 2 frames (coded)

Value for money             8

Ease of use                     8

Performance                   9

Features                          9

 

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(c) R Maybury 1993 2904

 

 

 

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