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Crystal balls are notoriously unreliable but on one subject at least, ours is giving a remarkably clear picture. It's showing us that PC-based editing and post-production packages are going to be the next big thing in video movie-making. This is not just speculation, it's happening and we expect to see a small exposion in the number of new PC based video products over the next year or so, but why is it happening now? The main reason is that the price of powerful personal computers has plummeted over the last year or so; machines which sold for between 1,000 and 2,000 a year ago now cost less then 500. Industry pundits predict that two thirds of all households will have a personal computer by the turn of the century, that's a lot of machines looking for something to do.


On its own a reduction in computer hardware prices wouldn't have made much difference to video movie-making, but at the same time there has been the coming-together of video and computer technologies. They still talk very different languages, but ways have been found to enable them to communicate, now it's possible to pass video signals in and out of a computer, doing all sorts of clever things to create and manipulate images. Of more immediate interest though, has been the harnessing of PCs data processing and control functions, to operate camcorders, in other words, computers can be used as powerful edit controllers.


The Camlink Edit Mate is not the first PC editing package but it is the first one that has been put together by a video accessory company, and that's significant. Most, if not all of the software packages we've seen in the past couple of years have be produced by computer software houses. That has normally been apparent in the execution and documentation of the system, they assume from the beginning the user is a computer literate camcorder owner, rather than the other way around, ie, the user owns a  camcorder, and owns a or has access to a computer. Edit Mate is not just a software package and a bunch of connecting wires, it also contains an audio mixing outfit, and a set of instructiosn that assumes the user knows little or nothing of the technicalities of editing or computing, and that is different!


Now, before you get too excited, the usual warning about what this controller can and cannot be used with. The  requirements are very specific, the camcorder, which will be used as the source machine must have an edit terminal, either a Panasnic 5/11 pin socket, or Control L interface, if your's hasn't it can't be used with Edit Mate, it's as simple as that. The computer can't be any old machine either, there's two versions of Edit Mate, one for the Commodore Amiga, the other for IBM PCs or compatibles. The Amigas must be a  A500/600/1200/1500/2000/B2000 with a minimum of 1Mb RAM; the PC needs to have at least a 386 processor running at 16MHz of faster, with at least 2Mb of RAM, with DOS 3.3 or higher, and Windows 3.1 or above. The record VCR can be almost any machine that has infra-red remote control, Edit Mate will also work with machines that have Panasonic 5/11 pin or Control interfaces.


We've been looking at the PC version of Edit Mate, there are some differences int he way the Amiga version is configured but the basic operation is the same. The interconnections are a little different to previous edit packages. The two control interfaces plug into the PC's parallel port, most machines only have one, and it's normally used by the printer, which might be a little inconvenient. There's another oddity, the IR receiver/transmitter module draws its power from the keyboard or mouse port, a pair of splitter leads are provided. Software installation on the PC takes around five minutes, from Windows  Program Manager, the program is automatically installed on the hard drive, and a new icon added to the desk top.


Configuring the system is the biggest job, the program has to be told what control protocol each machine is using, (5-pin, Control L or IR), and in the case of the record deck, learn the IR commands so that it can control the deck operation. At this point a few words about the instructions, they're excellent, each step is explained in detail and there's plenty of illustratiosn to show the user what should be happening on the screen at any given point. Users are encouraged to jump in at the deep end and the mixer is introduced into the systemn and connected up at a very early stage.


When everything is up and running it's probably a good idea to carry out a few tests edits. Edit Mate uses the computer's Windows graphic user interface (GUI) things can be made to happen by placing the mouse pointer over buttons, and clicking. Alternatively most actions can be controlled by keyboard commands, and the keyboard comes into play again when naming or designating scenes.


Up to 99 scenes can be stored on Edit Mate's EDL or edit decision list, and every parameter, including timingc can be simply altered using conventional mouse or keyboard commands. So, for example, if a scene overruns by two seconds, highlight the scene line with the mousne, click the mouse pointer on the tape counter digits, backspace to erase the original numbers, and enter new ones. Scenes can be edited, moved, copied or delected just as simply, just point and click, it couldn't be simpler.


The default settings for the system controls will almost certainly need changing to match the characteristics of the camcorder and VCR, again it's simply a matter of using the mouse to alter settings shown on the screen. Here we have one small quibble, the delay compansation is limited to 0, 1, 2 or 3 seconds, it would be helpful for the increments to be in half second intervals, and we envisage that there mayt be a number of older machines that could be outside the 3-second limit. Camlink could also have suggested better ways of adjusting the timing delay, -- using a recording of a stopwatch, for example -- rather than the trial and error method they recommend.


One of the big advanates of using a computer for edit control is its massive storage capacity, and edit decision lists can be saved to disc floppy or hard disc for future use, there is no limit to the number of  EDLs that can be saved in this way. Edit lists can also be printed out, though as the printer port is being used for the control interfaces this may require a good deal of messing around, unless the machien has a second parallel port, or serial printer.



The thorny question of edit accuracy doesn't go away justy because a computert is doing all the hard work. As usual it depends on the characteristics of the replay and record decks, and the care taken during the set-up procedures. This is a non-timecode system, so there's the added problems of tape slippage top take into consideration. Camlink actually spell this out and admit hat errors as big as ten seconds can accumulate during long sessions, or if fast wind is used instead of picture search, to move quickly around the tape.


We tried Edit Mate with replay machines equipped with both Control L and Panasonic 5/11-pin terminals. That didn't seem to make much difference and we consistently managed to get to within half a second or +/- 10 frames without any problems. Changing the VCR did, however have an effect, and some machines, notably ones made int he last year or two, consistently performed better than older ones, where old age seems to have taken its toll and successive edits could vary from +/-10 to +/-30 frames, or almosty a second either way.



Edit Mate works very well indeed, and it's more approachable than most other PC-based systems, but the deciding factors for us are the inclusion of the audio mixer, and the very well-written instructions which camcorder and computer users, of anlmost any ability, will find easy to follow. The price? Well, that's always a sesnsitive point with computer software, you really done't seem to be getting much for your money, a floppy disc and some cables, the mixer takes the sting out of it, but 200 may still seem a lot to pay. If, on the other hand you compare that with the cost of dedicated edit controlers it doesn't look too bad (if you ignore the capital cost of the computer for a moment), and controllers with comparable abilities cost just as much, if not a lot more. Edit Mate is just the beginning, though, and we fully expect to see a lot more packages like this one in the coming year, but Camlink are the first video accessory company to do so, and they've set the standard, so this is going to be the one to beat!



Make/model                    CAMLINK EDIT MATE

Guide Price                     200 (both versions)

What is it?                   Computer editing system

System req.                 IBM PC compatible, 386 or higher, min 2Mb ram, with Windows 3.1 or higher; or Commodore Amiga, A500/600/1200/1500/2000/B2000 min 1Mb ram

System control           Playback: Panasonic 5/11 pin, Control L

                                    Learning IR, Panasonic 5/11 pin, Control L


Accessories                Camlink MX800 mixer outfit 

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




PC editing takes another step forward



R.Maybury 1994 0303




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