VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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PC TITLER PRO

 

INTRO

PC Titler from Maze Technology is one of the leading PC title software packages, we've been looking at the latest top-end version, capable of professional and broadcast quality results

 

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Personal computers are now involved at all stages and levels of video movie-making but one of the first, and still most successful applications is the creation of titles and graphics. PC Titler from Maze Technology was one of the first PC software packages, it has been through several evolutionary stages since it first appeared over four years ago. The most recent incarnation is PC Titler Pro, instantly recognisable as a development of the original program, but now upgraded and enhanced to produce broadcast-quality text, graphics and images.

 

As usual we'll begin with system requirements, which in this case are not too demanding. To run PC Titler Pro you will need any IBM PC or compatible (preferably 386 or above) with at least 3Mb of RAM, 4Mb of hard disc space, a 1Mb SVGA display card and DOS 3.1 or higher. If you want to get titles out of the computer and on to video you will also need a genlock or PAL encoder card. The price of PC Titler Professional is 399 (468 inc. VAT), and it's available right now.

 

The basic specifications are as follows. Maximum resolution is 800 x 600 pixels with 256 colours from a palette of 262144. It comes with 100 fonts plus a truetype font converter, 3-levels of anti-aliasing (edge smoothing), texture mapping, 12 text transition effects, 70 graphic transitions, 24 animation effects, boxing, image framing and external timing control. As well as titles it can sequence over 1000 screen pages together to produce complex AV presentations and it comes with a library of scaleable photo-realistic images. 

 

Installation is fairly straightforward, though like it's predecessors it is a DOS-based program, and some familiarity with the workings of DOS are an advantage. It's a far cry from the comfortable world of  point and click Windows, most actions are controlled from the keyboard and function keys but the main option menus are reasonably well designed and easy to use; even hardened Windows users should soon get used to it, though it requires a lot more effort to make things happen. The text editor can be quite cumbersome, it's a bit like an early word processor, not very user-friendly at all. Fortunately text can be prepared on a word processor and imported into PC Titler as an ASCII text file, though again some knowledge of DOS is necessary.

 

There are numerous text effects, including underlining, outlining, bold, colour, drop shadow or extrude, and kerning (variable spacing between characters). Text can be made to roll or crawl across the screen; speed and position are manually variable. It's also possible to create sub-titles and page titles inside shaded or solid boxes. There's a wide variety of overlay and transition effects to or from graphics, photorealistic images and textured visual backgrounds. A good selection of picture files and graphics are included with the package and these are rendered with outstanding clarity.

 

PERFORMANCE

The effects and transitions are very smooth and yes, it could certainly be used in commercial, professional and even broadcast applications where it rivals graphics packages costing several times as much. It's potential as an AV presenter or point of sale display shouldn't be underestimated either The choice of text fonts and effects is most  impressive, though it looses a few points for the text editor which could be made more approachable, and Windows users may find the interface and menus heavy going at first.

 

VERDICT

All that adds up to a highly sophisticated titling system, the results can be stunning, but it's not for the feint-hearted, or those feel uncomfortable away from the Windows environment. It's a powerful tool that beginners may find a little too demanding, though you can quickly get into it, providing you're willing to make the commitment. Considering the program's capabilities the price is fair, but don't forget to add on the cost of a genlock or PAL converter, which you will need to produce recordable titles.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                             PC TITLER PROFESSIONAL

Guide Price                             468 (inc. VAT)

System Requirements            IBM PC or compatible, 386/486, 3Mb RAM, 4Mb hard disc space, 1Mb colour SVGA card, DOS 3.1 or higher

Display                         800 x 600 pixels

Colours                                    256 from 262144

Fonts                                        100

Graphics transitions                    70

Text transitions                    12 (90 with graphics)

Distributor                                MAZE TECHNOLOGY, Zenith House, 210 Church Road, Leyton E10 7JQ Telephone 081-556 5620

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATINGS

Performance                9

Value for money 8

Ease of use                  6

 

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HEAD

DIRECTOR'S CUT

 

INTRO

For the past couple of years Video Director has been the definitive PC-based editing program, now we have Video Director Version 2, how has it been improved?

 

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When Video Director appeared, a little under two years ago, it broke new ground in PC-based editing. It was the first affordable Windows-based package that had been designed to work with domestic video equipment and it quickly became the benchmark by which other PC editing programs were judged. With so many new PC editing packages coming on to the market Video Director was beginning to loose its freshness, which is one of the reasons why Gold Disc have come up with Version 2.

 

This is more than just a simple revamp, it retains some of the features of the original, but it looks and performs like a completely new package, moreover it includes several new and quite innovative facilities not seen on any PC editing package before, which should ensure it stays ahead of the game for some time to come. It's not just the software that has changed, the Smart Cable, which connects one of the PC's communications ports to the camcorder's edit terminal, and the IR emitter (used to control the record VCR) has been redesigned. The cables are much longer, which makes setting up an editing system a whole lot easier. The only thing that hasn't changed is the price, it still costs 100 and considering the new facilities, it's an even better deal than before.

 

Video Director 2 works on any IBM PC or compatible running Windows 3.1 or higher, that means a 386 or 486 processor, (16MHz or faster) with 4Mb of RAM, at least couple of megabytes of free space on the hard disc drive. DOS 3.0 or higher and Windows 3.1. Installation from Windows is straightforward, the program creates it's own icons that can be placed in an appropriate directory window. Director 2 actually includes two programs, the main editing suite and a simple titler, called appropriately enough Title Editor, more about that later on.

 

Back to Video Director 2, after double clicking on the icon it opens to show three windows in the 'log' mode, (there are two other modes, 'edit' and 'make tape', we'll look at each of them in turn). The first job is to configure the hardware drivers. The source deck or camcorder has to have a Control L or LANC edit terminal, Video Director supports most of the domestic and professional variants, and will also read RC timecode. A version which works with the Panasonic 5/11 pin RMC protocol is due out shortly; it's listed on the driver menu but clicking on it causes the program to crash and the PC to lock up! The record deck is controlled by an infra-red link, the program contains an extensive IR command library that covers most popular makes and models of VCR.

 

In the log mode the first of the three windows contains a familiar set of transport controls and counter/timecode display, similar to version 1. The second window is called define clip, with 'buttons' for marking the beginning and end of each scene, as well as counter/timecode and scene length displays. Here Gold Disk have made a number of improvements, including making it more flexible by not insisting each scene is given a name. The third window is the 'tape library' or edit decision list, showing details of each scene as it is entered. This is where it gets interesting the edit decision list or EDL can be either text-based, or presented visually with picture icons or 'picons'. Picons are small pictures or graphics, there are 100 to choose from, covering most eventualities. These act as visual references for each scene, building up into an easy to follow storyboard.  You can also create your own picons from the source recording, provided the PC is fitted with a suitable MCI compatible video capture board and software.

 

Once you've defined all the clips -- and that can be as many as you like -- the next step is to select the edit mode. The display changes to two windows, the top one showing the main edit decision list, the lower one the event list. This is where the combination of picons and the Windows interface really pays off. Using the mouse it's possible to drag and drop picons from the edit decision list into the event window, initially to create and later to  rearrange the running order of the edit program.

 

The event list also has provision for inserting special effects. These are arranged into three groups: 'audio', which can be computer generated wave files, CD ROM drive sourced material, or midi-controlled sounds, the PC needs to be fitted with a sound card and CD ROM drive to make use of it. The second group of effects covers graphics, these depend on the PC being fitted with a suitable video card and include still images, titles or animation effects. The third category of effects are dedicated to the New Tek Video Toaster, a truly amazing computer video effects generator and animation package that unfortunately is not yet available in the UK.

 

The parameters for each scene can be altered simply by clicking on the appropriate button. All or any scenes can be previewed at any time, running times can be modified and shots can be shifted, in short this system is extremely versatile and makes possible the kind of changes that would be otherwise impossible, or too difficult to be practical on most other editing systems.

 

The last stage is 'make tape' which sets about recording the finished program. The display changes to show four windows, two control panels for the source and record decks, a status window, and the event list. Just click on the 'go' button and Director takes over, controlling both machines as it assembles each shot in turn.

 

PERFORMANCE

And so we come to the tricky question of edit accuracy, tricky because there are so many variables, including the characteristics of the record deck. Timing errors can be compensated for, but they can and do change throughout a session as the equipment warms up. We tried Director 2  with a number of camcorder-VCR combinations, including machines made by Sony, Canon, Panasonic and Mitsubishi, as youwill see the results are generally very good, certainly better than average for edit controllers as a whole. Using RC-timecoded source material edits were consistently to within +/- 3 frames; using uncoded tapes the results were more variable, from +/-  5 frames on short runs, to +/-30 frames on scenes taken from opposite ends of a 30 minute tape.

 

VERDICT

Flexibility is the key feature. It's also highly intuitive. Yes, you do need to read the instruction book, but you can figure most things out either from the on-line help menus, or simple trial and error. Anyone used to Windows-based software will feel immediately at home with Director 2. Gold Disk have clearly learned a lot from the response to version 1, which was good, but Director 2 is better and an altogether different beast that takes PC-based editing several steps forward and once again sets the standard that others will have to aim for.

 

BOX COPY

TITLE EDITOR

Title Editor is an excellent little titling program that comes with Video Director 2, unfortunately to be of any use the PC must be fitted with some form of VGA to PAL video output card or a genlock, so the output can be recorded. In the scheme of things Title Editor is fairly basic, but it is uncommonly easy to use and it is possible to produce very sharp looking titles very quickly. It uses installed Windows fonts, plus some of its own, so there's almost no limit to the number and style of typefaces available. Text can be shown as an outline, underlined or with a shadow, it can be coloured and there's a similarly extensive choice of background colours. There's a range of transitions and animation effects to choose from, including word by word, line by line, scrolls, rolls, rotation and random; virtually all effects parameters are variable so there's limitless possibilities. Title Editor is not designed to compete with the more advanced title packages but with care and a little imagination it can produce some very pleasing results.  

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                             VIDEO DIRECTOR 2.0

Guide Price                             117.50 (inc. VAT)

System Requirements            IBM PC or compatible, 386/486 16MHz or faster, 4Mb RAM, 2Mb hard disc space, DOS 3.0 or higher and Windows 3.1 or higher

Optional hardware                     MCI compatible video capture board, Windows sound card, CD ROM, VGA to PAL encoder or genlock

Control systems                        Source: Control (LANC) or VISCA compatible device

                                              Record: programmed infra red

Timecode systems                        RCTC

Edit capacity                            unlimited!

Edit accuracy                           demends on hardware +/- 2-5 frames possible

Distributor                                GOLD DISK UK, Castle Hill House, Castle Hill, Windsor, Bucks SL4 1PD.  Telephone (0753) 832238

 

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATINGS

Performance                9

Value for money 9

Ease of use                  9

 

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( R. Maybury 1994 3009

 


 

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