VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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MINITESTS

 

NEGATIVE INFLUENCES

It sounds like a contradiction in terms but still pictures can do a lot to liven up video movies. A few well-placed family snapshots of the bride and groom in a wedding video, for example, adds variety and maybe even some humour, (with suitably embarrassing childhood pictures). Video is also an excellent way of showing slides, and itís a simple matter to add a commentary or background music. Transferring still photographs to video is technically a simple matter  -- you can of course shoot prints and slides directly --  but getting the lighting right can be difficult, and the results may be disappointing. Keene Electronics have come up with a multi-purpose solution, based around a device called Viewneg. Itís a video inverter, an electronic circuit, that effectively turns a the colour and brightness information in a composite video signal upside down, changing black to white, and reversing all the colours.

 

Itís available on itís own, with a mains power supply for £50, but we would suggest that anyone interested in this kind of video transfer considers the complete copy kit, which costs just under £100. In addition to Viewneg it includes a Jessops video slide copier, two slide/negative holders, an 80A blue filter, adapter ring and composite video lead.

 

The slide copier fits on to the front of a camcorder, using the appropriate sized adapter ring. It has a built-in close-up lens and a rotating slide holder in front of a white diffuser screen. Slides can be copied directly to video, simply load up the carrier, frame the shot, using the camcorderís zoom lens to crop the frame and press the record button.

 

Copying negatives is a little more involved, in this case the camcorder is being used as a video camera, so you will need a VCR as well, with the camcorderís video output passing through Viewneg, on its way to the VCR. The camcorder lens needs to be fitted with the blue filter, this neutralises the orange caste on print negatives, colours should look reasonably natural, when using daylight to illuminate the negative. Artificial light can be used but it may involve some messing around with the camcorderís white balance controls (if it has a manual override or lock) to get the colours right.

 

We noticed a very slight instability on the Viewnegís video output when confronted with static monochrome test patterns, but it worked fine with all the colour slides and negatives we tried. Despite the unexpected instability there were no other aberrations, loss of resolution or additional noise and with some tinkering around with the light the results can be excellent. The outfit contains everything needed to transfer slides and print negatives to video, all of the components are reasonably well made, performance can be very good and it is comparatively easy to use, though Keene are a bit economical with the instructions, and should think about putting together a simple beginners guide, to accompany the outfit.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        KEENE VIEWNEG

Guide Price         £50 (£100 with full copy kit)

Features              Video inverter with mains PSU. Full kit includes slide copier with slide carrier, adapter ring, 80A blue filter and composite video lead

Sockets               video in/out phono

Copier fitting     46mm adapter ring supplied, other sizes available

Power supply      9 volt battery or mains PSU (supplied)

Distributor             KEENE ELECTRONICS, Unit 9 Old Hall Mills Business Park, Station Road, Little Eaton, Derbyshire DE21 5DN. Telephone (0332) 830550

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Video stills made easy

 

CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE

In a concerted attempt to take video post production to a wider market Vivanco have assembled a useful-looking outfit, containing just about everything needed to put together a presentable video movie. The kit, which costs just under £150 is based around their VCR3014 AV processor, it also includes a pair of headphones, microphone, connecting leads and a very well presented instruction book.

 

The 3014 has what we consider to be the most useful AV facilities; thereís a 3-channel stereo mixer with individual slider controls for each input, and a master fader, controlled by a miniature T-bar. The video side has adjustments for picture sharpness, colour, and contrast, the effects level can be assessed using a variable splitline display that shows the picture before and after processing. Thereís also a master video fader, which fades the picture smoothly to black. This can be used in conjunction with the splitline to create a simple horizontal wipe. In the past weíve grumbled at Vivanco for using SCART connectors for AV inputs and output; weíre pleased to report that thereís only one on the 3014 -- for connection to the TV -- otherwise all video and audio inputs and outputs are by phono socket, which is how it should be. Sadly itís not S-Video compatible, but Vivanco reason that if youíve got a high-band camcorder youíre probably already aware of their more advanced processors.

 

All of the 3014ís controls are smooth and progressive, especially the T-bars. The headphones look a bit cheap, but they work well enough and are up to the job, though the lead is on the short side. The microphone is very good, it produces a crisp sound, perfect for speech, commentary and the odd sing-song, should you feel so inclined.

 

It hangs together very well, and although the instructions are a bit long-winded in places, they provide an excellent introduction to the rudiments of post production, and even cover things like simple editing. Itís been well thought out, the processor is just right for an ambitious beginner, and the price is very fair. If youíre keen to progress beyond point and shoot movie-making this would be a very good place to start.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       VIVANCO VCR3014 AV CENTRE

Guide Price         £150

Features              VCR3014 AV processor, microphone, headphones, AV lead, mains power supply

Functions           3-channel stereo audio mixer, video fade, sharpness, colour, contrast, splitline display

Sockets               AV in (phono), AV out (SCART, mic. and headphones (minijack)     

Dimensions         220 x 70 x 280mm              

Distributor            VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Get kitted out

 

 

METER MADE

Vanguard are being somewhat optimistic calling this device an editor, it just about qualifies as an AV processor; a mixer with some video functions would be nearer the mark though. In spite of the rather misleading name it is quite well equipped, and attractively priced at less than £80. The mixer has three stereo channel, two line inputs from the source VCR and a CD or tape deck, and one stereo microphone input, it comes with its own mike, and this plugs into a jack socket on the front panel. The VA-404 outfit also includes a mains power supply and an unusually generous supply of AV leads (3 x stereo audio and 2 x composite video).

 

The general design is reasonably conventional, with the audio mixer controlled by four sliders. Contrast sharpness and brightness are adjusted via three knobs, the contrast control has a switch position, to turn the colour on and off. The remaining switches are for the fixed-speed auto fader, stereo/mono output, video bypass and power on/off. The back panel is populated by two banks of phono sockets for AV inputs, and a DC input jack. The most unusual feature is a pair of illuminated VU meters, which look quite pretty dancing up and down, but donít actually do much, nor is there any guidance in the very brief instructions. If levels are adjusted to the meterís red-line peaks the sound comes out at reduced volume.

 

The video adjustments are rather crude as well, the contrast control goes way over the top, halfway through its travel it produces a moderately interesting solarisation effect, after that it just wipes out the picture altogether; moreover, if you select the black and white position you forfeit contrast control altogether. The sharpness adjustment doesnít seem to do much at all and the brightness setting has only a very small range. The stiff  automatic fader switch on our sample needed to be used with care, pressing it slightly causes a loud buzz on the soundtrack, sometimes nothing happened at all. The actual fade out is a bit unsteady with the picture disappearing quite abruptly in the last half second or so. The best thing you can say about the 404 is that it is quite cheap, the mike and leads are a bonus so as an audio mixer it doesnít do too badly at all, however, the video side leaves something to be desired and takes the shine off what might otherwise have been a useful post-production tool.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       VANGUARD VA-404 HOME VIDEO EDITOR

Guide Price         £80

Features              3-channel stereo mixer, VU meters, auto fader, brightness, contrast, colour/black & white, sharpness, enhancer

Sockets                AV in/out (phono), microphone and headphone (minijacks) DC input

Facilities               microphone, AV leads

Dimensions         210 x 160 x 48              

Distributor         GUARDFORCE (VANGUARD)  Unit 13 Thame business Centre, Wenman Road, Thame, Oxon OX9 3XA. Telephone (0844) 213667

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   7

Basic AV processing on a budget

 

LIGHT RELIEF

Video lights can be a mixed blassing. The ones  powered by the camcorderís own battery reduce running times to just a few minutes, whilst others have their own battery, which adds significantly to the cost. Vivanco have taken the sting out of buying a video light with their VL-22 outfit. Everything is there, including the video light, clip-on battery pack and mains charger, all for just £40, thatís less than buying the components separately .

 

The light is a 20 watt design, nothing out of the ordinary in fact, just a single on/off switch, a socket for the mains charger and a LED indicator to show the battery is charging. The battery pack is an unusual size. It looks like a high capacity pack when in fact it is only rated at 750mAh, thatís less than most standard camcorder batteries. Charge time from flat is around four hours, this gives around 10 to 15 minutes of light output; our sample was bang in the middle and consistently lasted for 12 minutes between charges. The light pattern is reasonably well diffused, thereís a couple of small hot-spots but these are only evident on surfaces within a metre or so of the reflector.

 

The VL22 makes a useful backup or emergency light for close shots, the light output isnít sufficient for really large spaces, but it can help brighten up indoor shots, group shots and portraits, and we definitely approve of the inclusion of the battery and charger. Now, if Vivanco wanted to be really clever they would put together an outfit with an accessory bracket as well, we canít remember the last time we saw a camcorder with an accessory shoe...

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       VIVANCO VL22 VIDEO LIGHT

Guide Price         £40

Output       20 watts             

Voltage                6 volts

Power supply      NP55M nicad pack (750mAh), mains charger supplied

Mounting            standard accessory shoe

Dimensions         80 x 110 x 55              

Distributor         VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616

 

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Another bright idea...

 

 

STRAPS FOR CASH

Camcorders may be getting smaller and lighter but even the most compact machines can leave a painful dent in the shoulder after a dayís shooting. The problem is caused by those horrible thin shoulder straps supplied with most machines, there are exceptions, but in most cases the standard strap does the manufacturer and user no favours whatsoever. Accessory straps are widely available, but many of those arenít up to much either; an exception is the Vero Vellini range, which are designed for comfort as well as looks. The two sizes which caught our eye have 40 and 55mm wide padded shoulder straps, not just a slip on cover but a full length (440mm) section of strong but flexible cushion material, with a non-slip rubber backing. The cushion is available in a variety of coloured and plain finishes plus black, purple or burgundy patterned lycra.

 

At each end thereís adjustable webbing straps, with quick-release buckles; and another adjustable strap thin enough to fit the carry loops on most camcorders. The wider strap feels very comfortable indeed, and thereís plenty of give, so it acts a bit like a shock absorber when carrying heavier machines. The straps are well made, they feel safe and secure, at around £13 to £17 each theyíre fairly good value, and a world away from the freebie straps you get with most machines.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model         Vero Vellini Air Cushion

Guide Price          £13-17

Pad width            40mm or 55mm             

Length                 1-1.5 metres approx.

Styles                   plain/lycra coloured                

Loading               tested to 7kgs                         

Distributor         Sage Distribution 21 Whitegates Lane, Earley, Reading Berkshire RG6 1EE. Telephone (0734) 269703 

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Spread the load

 

 

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R.Maybury 1994 2609

 


 

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