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Why do manufacturers of video equipment, such as camcorders, decks, processors etc., tell you to switch off the equipment before connecting any AV leads to link them together?  What possible harm can be done to equipment that is left switched on when linking up AV leads?


Also, why canít we have long-life video heads fitted to camcorders and video decks?  Weíve had them on audio cassettes for years.


D. Godwin

Dublin 9, Eire



Thereís plenty of good reasons why you should always switch electrical equipment off when connecting leads, as I know to my cost when I trashed a computer recently, doing just that. Admittedly most AV products are quite hardy but there is a real possibility you could do damage. Hereís a couple of instances: plugging an audio source into an amp, while itís switched on is a classic example, if the volume control has been set high the sudden blast of power can wreck the speakers. Static electricity is a lethal to microchips, you can easily build up a static charge of several thousand volts in your body, just by walking across a carpet. It will instantly discharge into an audio or video input lead and if the equipment is switched on, zap any chips or field-effect transistors that get in its way. It works the other way too, modern mains-powered equipment isnít earthed and there can be several hundred volts floating around on AV leads and aerial sockets; the current is extremely low, and is not in itself harmful, but it can be enough to make you jump, drop a heavy object or bang into something.


I guess itís theoretically possible to make video heads that last indefinitely, but would you be prepared to pay for it, and what about the rest of the components? In fact video heads do last a very long time, far longer than most of us anticipated when VCRs first appeared. I can remember warning people that they may have to be replaced every two or three years. The reality is that the heads usually outlast the rest of the machine, and on very old models it can work out cheaper to buy a new VCR, than replace the heads.



For the past five years Iíve lived quite happily without a television.  I play a lot of sport and quite often matches are filmed and a copy made for me to watch.  Of course, I have to ask my friends if I can watch my tape on their sets.


What would be ideal for me is a  TV-video player, like the one sold by Marcom, but its price makes it prohibitive.  Iíve purchased a Goldstar video player; now I want to find a monitor television to screen the tapes, but not receive the dreaded air waves.  Any suggestions?


T. Hutcheson

Creekmouth, Essex



No problem, thereís plenty of video monitors on the market but they can be quite expensive, even though theyíve got less inside them than most normal TVs. Be careful, the sort youíre after has to be capable of displaying a PAL/CCIR signal, most computers monitors are not suitable, unless youíre using them in conjunction with a computer and video adaptor card. Watch out for second-hand video monitors, the screens are often burnt-in after displaying the same image for hours on end. The best place to start looking would be a security or surveillance specialist, youíll find them listed in Yellow Pages. Alternatively, you could always buy a normal TV and have an engineer remove or disable the tuner for you, or why not just leave the aerial socket disconnected?


By the way, if this is some elaborate means of trying to avoid paying a licence fee watch out, the TV licensing people habitually call on the small percentage of households who do not have a licence. If your equipment is in any way capable or receiving broadcast, satellite or cable transmissions they will take you court. Ironically watching TV programmes, taped for you by a license holder is not illegal.




Having used the Sony CCD TR60 camcorder for a while, Iím now interested in editing my tapes.


Iíve been advised that it is not a good idea to use the camcorder for editing as this will impose an additional burden on its working life.  It has been suggested that a better option is to transfer 8mm tapes to a video recorder with a good quality tape and then purchase a second video tape recorder and use it in place of the camcorder.


Have you any suggestions on the advice given me?


P. Longleu

Stanmore, Middx



Clearly the components in your camcorder have a finite life but unless youíre going in for some really heavy-duty editing I doubt if it will shorten the life of your machine to any great extent. In any case Sony camcorders are pretty tough, and designed to be used as edit decks. You wouldnít save much wear and tear by  copying your recordings as that would also increase the machineís workload, and because youíll be working from second generation copies, picture quality will suffer.




For the first time in my life I am frustrated.  After being in the white goods trade for 30 years, I am now a customer.


I purchased a Sanyo camcorder from Dixons and unfortunately found them to know less than I did about tapes.  Can you please advise me which are the most suitable 8mm tapes for my camcorder?


S. Porter

London NW1




We havenít found Sanyo camcorders to be especially fussy when it comes to blank tape. If you read our camcorder tape survey in the August issue you will have seen thereís comparatively little difference in 8mm tape, either in terms of performance or price, so our advice is to try a few brands, and when you find one that suits, stick with it.



Feeling the time is right to purchase a camcorder, I have more or less decided on the Sony CCD-TR1 Hi8.  Reading various articles, I understand that to obtain the best results, I require a compatible TV and VCR.


My present TV is a Nokia 6320 fitted with a Euro AV socket and the VCRs are an ITT VR3917 and Matsui VX 2700.  I would like to obtain maximum picture quality from camera to television and also when transferred to VHS tape.


Do I require a high-band TV and VCR?


D. Shawcross

Grasmere, Cumbria



Your VCRs are fine and should be able to make good quality VHS copies from your camcorder, unless you actually want to make high-band tapes, in which case you will need a Super VHS or Hi8 deck. The TV is the weak link, though, and your set doesnít have an S-Video input, so you wonít be seeing your recordings at their best. You could mess about with S-Video to RGB converters, that plug into the SCART socket on the back of your TV, but sooner or later youíre going to want a new TV, so you might as well make it sooner.




I recently purchased a Sony V800E to make use of the RCTC code.  Iíve noticed that it appears to miss some frame codes - anything from 5 to 15 frames in small groups every couple of seconds.


This occurs on both re-written codes on some original 8mm tapes as well as on new Hi8 tapes, recorded on the V800 in short play.  This has made editing, using my PC and video software, lose track of the tape position - sodís law says that a start or stop will be in a blank frame.


Is this a camera or tape problem, or do hardware video controllers manage this frame drop in a better manner than a PC controlling the camera?


D. Barton

Penhow, Gwent



Difficult to say. Itís not the first time weíve heard about problems with RC time code on this machine, and yours is getting on a bit, and we have also experienced problems using PC editors with RCTC. Check the integrity of the code on the camcorders viewfinder display or LCD panel, if itís corrupted then the machine needs attention, if it looks solid, with no discernible jumps then suspect the edit controller.



My wife and I are going on a 28 day trek in Nepal soon, taking my Sony TR805 Hi8 camcorder and have been told that there will be no electricity available other than in two villages with small generators.  I have thought of using solar battery chargers but the best I can find in New Zealand is one which only produces 120MA of current and Iíve been told that this is not sufficient. 


I have come to the conclusion that the best I can do is buy an adaptor plug for Nepalese power points and hope I can also hook up to the generators in the villages.  I will need to get new batteries - what sort would you recommend for this journey? 


Also, do you know of any purpose-made solar chargers I could use?


D. Evans

Christchurch, NZ



Providing you can get the right sort of mains plug or adaptor your camcorderís charger will work on virtually any AC mains supply. There are a number of solar-powered battery chargers on the market, including one in this monthís Minitest feature, though that particular model would be too fragile to take backpacking. The one weíd suggest is called Chargeabout 5, made in the UK by Solapack, and sold through a company called On Site Power. Itís a folding array that can be carried on a rucksack, so you can charge your batteries as you trek. It will also fold up and stow away inside a protective wallet. It has a 12 volt output and is rated at 10.8 watts in good sunlight, thereís still a useful output with less than 10% of midday sun; all up weight is around 1kg.  Now for the bad news, it costs around £600. On Site Power will happily talk to you about getting one over to you, call them on (0553) 636353 for more details. As far as extra batteries are concerned youíll have to work out first  how much recording youíre going to do; if itís a lot -- an hour or more a day --  then you should think about a battery belt, if youíre just happy-snapping then two or three high capacity (2Ah or more) packs should be enough.



Iíve recently acquired a Millennium 4060 multi fit battery and am having trouble charging it on my Samsung charger.


If I position it on the charger a certain way it will sometimes charge, but if it gets knocked it will stop charging. The charger causes no problems with my Sony batteries - is the Millennium faulty or am I doing something wrong?


G. Taylor

Warrington, Cheshire



Itís not your fault, the most likely cause is the Milennium battery and the Samsung charger are at the opposite limits of their respective tolerances and itís simply a poor fit. We come across batteries that are either too tight or a loose fit every now and again, so itís not that unusual. The best thing you can do is take the battery back to the shop and ask for a replacement. It might be a good idea to take the charger with you as well, so you can check the fit.




I  have a Sony TR805E, Panasonic NV-F65B VCR and Hitachi TV.  When I edit my Hi8 tapes using the normal AV connecting cables all is well, but when I try to connect the camera to my video via the S-Video cable plugged into the 21 pin adaptor, I get a black and white picture.


I recently read that if you have a high band camcorder you will not be able to use the S-video lead with a normal VHS VCR and that youíd have to use standard AV leads.  Does this mean I will lose the quality gained by using Hi8 tapes until I buy another VCR?


E. Pryor

Woodford Green, Essex



Youíve more or less worked it out for yourself. Your VCR is not capable of recording S-Video or Y/C signals, where the colour and brightness information are handled separately. Thatís why your recordings are in black and white, because your VCR is only recording the luminance or brightness signal coming from the camcorder via the SCART lead. The same general rule applies to your TV, unless it has an S-Video input you will get black and white pictures. If you use an AV lead you will still not get full high-band picture quality, though it will still look sharper than standard VHS/C or 8mm recordings. You donít necessarily need to buy a new VCR though, most high-band camcorder users edit their final copies to VHS (using normal AV leads),  and even though theyíre second generation recordings they should still look better than S-VHS or 8mm originals




I have a friend coming from Minsk for a holiday.  If I give my friend a VHS tape of his stay, will he be able to play the tape with proper sound and colour on his return home?


H. Wharton

Bridgnorth, Shropshire



Yes. Although the former Soviet Union uses the SECAM colour TV system this only affects the way the signals are processed once they come off the tape. SECAM VCRs record the picture and sound signals in exactly the same way as PAL machines.




Is it possible to get a reversing device that plugs into the output of a TR805, creating a line input?  I remember reading about an electronic gadget that could perform this task and I wondered if youíd heard of it.  If itís safe, could I use it to edit between cameras.


Also if I were to purchase a Hi8 camera would I have to get a PCM model to insert edit pictures only?  This seems to be a real drawback to the format and may veer me towards compact S-VHS such as Panasonicís NVS7.  Having shot several hours of VHS-C  I would prefer to be able to edit it somehow, but have not heard of the 805 being used for this purpose.  Is it possible?


A. Harte

Alton, Hants



If you ever hear of one of those gadgets again let me know! This sounds like another one of those urban myths that sprung up following the discovery that an early Canon camcorder had an operational line input, but the sockets had been covered up by a blanking plate.  Nowadays manufacturers omit critical line-input components from their machines destined for EU countries, but more importantly, these machines use completely different software which cannot be altered, certainly not by plug in widgets.


I think I know what you mean. You cannot insert edit pictures only on Hi8 or 8mm machines as the sound and picture signals mixed together, unlike S/VHS/C machines, which have a separate mono linear soundtrack, which remain intact during insert edit. A couple of Hi8 camcorders have PCM soundtracks and these are not affected by insert edits. Quite frankly this hardly seems like the basis for a buying decision, thereís plenty of other things to take into consideration. In your case it would seem sensible to stick with VHS-C, as youíve already built up a collection of tapes, and appear happy with the results. If you want to progress to more advanced forms of editing I suggest you look at Panasonic models fitted with 5/11 pin edit terminals. You could do a lot worse than take a look at the NV-S70 which in our opinion is currently one of the best deals on the market, though ironically it doesnít have audio dub, so you canít do picture-only inserts.



I have a JVC GR-M7 camcorder and HR-J400EK VCR.  I wish to purchase an edit controller and have been considering a ĎThumbs-upí model. 


I was informed that itís not compatible with my camcorder.  Is this because thereís no edit terminal and, if so, does it mean  that Iím unable to use any type of edit controller?


Brian Hewitt

Belfast, N. Ireland



Your informant was right. Thumbs Up only works with machines fitted with Control L or Panasonic 5-pin edit terminals, your machine has neither and cannot be used with any sort of edit controller, sorry.




I recently bought a Londa VL1130 video light.  How can I understand when itís time to switch to another battery?  Will my video light automatically turn off when the battery is discharged, or is there any danger for the battery?


Can the video light be used as a discharger?  I own a Sony FX-500E camcorder with Sony NP-55H, Ross RF-550 and  Camplus SBC5220 batteries.


Could you please tell me if there is somewhere I can purchase a lens hood for my camcorder (filter diameter 37mm) as I canít find one here in Greece.


Emilios Bagias

Athens, Greece



Youíll know when the battery needs changing, the light goes dim! Most video lights do not have any safety features but rely on the user to switch them off when the battery is exhausted. Leaving the light switched after the battery is flat would be harmful as there would be a short-circuit across the battery. You can use video lights as a discharger but we wouldnít recommend as you would have to keep an eye on it all the time. A purpose made discharger is much safer. I feel sure someone somewhere has a 37mm lens hood but I couldnít find one, however, you could easily use a 43 or 49mm hood with an adaptor ring, you can get those, and a discharger from someone like Jessops, who do overseas mail order.



R. Maybury 1994 2806



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