VIDEO CAMERA 1994

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APRIL NEWS

 

VIDEONICS MIXER SOON?

As this issue goes to press we have been told that PAL evaluation samples of the long-awaited Videonics vision mixer will be arriving in the UK in the next couple of weeks (late February). You may recall that Bandridge, Videonics UK distributor, had hoped to launch the mixer at Live 93 but they were thwarted by problems over the design of the microchips for this highly advanced post-production system. Shipment of the NTSC model finally began in early February and pent-up demand in the US has meant that production has been geared towards the American model. This has led to concerns that PAL specification mixers will have to wait, but Bandridge's Tony Pulford is confident; 'Videonics have assured us their world-wide market is just as important to them as their internal one'.  He added. 'I suspect the delay in ramping up production of PAL chips will take days, rather than weeks, now that the problems have been sorted out', watch this space next month...

 

PANASONIC EDIT DECK BREAKTHROUGH

The Panasonic NV-HD700 is one of the most exciting new VCRs we seen in quite a while -- see this month's exclusive test report on page XX -- so by way of an appetiser here's a brief run-down of the key features.

 

First the price, and at just under 800 it is one of the most expensive VHS video recorders on the market  but this is no ordinary machine. The HD700's main claim to fame is a 10-scene assemble edit controller, but it's quite unlike the ones fitted to Hitachi and JVC VCRs launched over the past two years. Whereas those machines functioned as source decks, replaying selected segments for recording on a second VCR, the HD700 operates as the record or destination deck, with the camcorder as the source machine. The only drawback is that it will only work with Panasonic (and Philips badged) camcorders fitted with a 5-pin/RMC edit terminal.. The controller is an advanced design, it generates an on-screen edit list and timings can be finely adjusted; Panasonic claim accuracy is to within +/- 5 frames.

 

In addition to the edit controller the HD700 has a number of other features of interest to video movie makers. They include:

* automated insert edit

* audio dub

* AV dub

* front-mounted AV terminal

* headphone, microphone sockets,

* syncro edit 

* jog/shuttle dial

* jitter-free multi-speed replay

* NTSC and Quasi S-VHS replay

 

Panasonic have finally laid their tired old bar-code programming system to rest and the HD700 has a Video Plus+ timer system. Panasonic have also used a menu-driven  on-screen display for the first time -- they're one of the last to do so -- greatly simplifying the initial set-up and all routine operations. The HD700 also has a normal event timer (8-programmes/31-days) plus an instant timer. Ruined time-shifted recordings due to late schedule changes and programme overruns are -- in theory at least -- a thing of the past as the HD700 has a programme delivery control (PDC) facility. Sadly, at the moment only Channel 4 broadcast the necessary correction codes, the BBC and other ITV companies remain decidedly unenthusiastic about the system.

 

The HD700 has an advanced stereo audio system. There's a full-spec. hi-fi stereo sound system with manual recording level controls and a bargraph display. A NICAM decoder ensures pin-sharp stereo TV sound and the mono audio track can be dubbed, manually or automatically using the edit controller. One of the most unusual features, though, is sound on search, which enables the mono linear soundtrack to be heard during all replay speeds, from slomo to fast picture search. This could be invaluable when carrying out tricky audio dubs. Is this the VCR we've all been waiting for? Find out on page XX.

 

STABLE-MATE

Sony's optical stabiliser system -- developed jointly with Canon -- makes its second and possibly final appearance on a new top-end Hi8 palmcorder, called the TR2000. It's due to go on sale here in May for 1300. First impressions are that this is an unusually porky-looking machine, a dramatic departure from the normally svelte, waif-like appearance of Sony camcorders. In this case that's mainly due to the large lens assembly which contains the flexible vari-angle prism and its servo motors, this cancels out camera shake and wobble without loss of image quality, though it's future must be in jeopardy now that Sony, and others, have perfected no-loss electronic stabiliser systems -- see this months news for more details. 

 

The TR2000's extra bulk is also due to a larger deck mechanism, which has been borrowed from the VX1. This deck has an extra replay head,  giving jitter-free still and slomo, a rarity on 8mm machines, and a bonus for advanced video movie-makers who will be keen to use it as a source machine. They will be further encouraged by the TR2000's RCTC (rewritable consumer time-code) facilities which can read and write codes, even on previously recorded material. The codes can be used for frame-accurate editing and once again will appeal to serious and top-end users. A full review is being prepared, as we speak and it is scheduled to appear next month.

 

STABLE RELATIONSHIPS

Sony have pipped Panasonic at the post to be the first camcorder manufacturer to produce a machine with a high-performance electronic image stabiliser that the manufacturers claim involves no quality losses. The machine in question is the TR3, a cute little Hi8 palmcorder costing 1400, and due to go on sale in May, alongside the TR2000. The new stabiliser system, confusingly called 'Steady Shot' (just like their optical system), relies on a jumbo CCD image sensor with over 570,000 pixels. The number of 'effective' pixels, i.e., used to produce an image is 520,000 but in the stabiliser mode only 320,000 are used in the image area. The smaller image is thus mapped out from the entire pixel array, with any movement countered by shifting the image area on the face of the sensor.

 

When Sony claim there is no quality loss with this system they appear to have been doing a little juggling with the numbers. Unlike earlier electronic stabiliser systems, which produced a smaller picture,  that had to be enlarged to fill the screen area,  there is no reduction in the horizontal axis or width of the TR3 picture, so resolution should remain safely inside the Hi8 ballpark. However, we understand there is some vertical compression in the picture during stabilisation, which gives it a slightly different aspect ratio, so for the picture to appear normal it has to be electronically reflated and that we suspect, will incur some loss of resolution. We shall be putting this hypothesis to the test when we get our hands on a sample, which should be about the time this issue reaches you.

 

The rest of the TR3 is far less controversial, and if you were wondering about the fairly stiff price, there's a few features that may help take the sting out of it. The Most important one is the AC-HS1 'docking station', which as the picture shows, is fitted with full set of transport controls in the shape of a jog/shuttle dial. The machine simply slides into a slot on top of the station and a set of contacts in the base of the camcorder carry power and AV signals to and from the camcorder. The station will also charge the machine's Lithium Ion battery in situ, as well as another one, in under 3 hours.

 

This brilliantly designed little unit turns the TR3 into a well-equipped source machine, with all of its AV inputs and outputs neatly arranged on a bank of sockets on the back, along with the Control L link to an edit controller. Incidentally, the station can also be used with the CS5 Vision camcorder, giving it a much-needed Control L facility. The price for the docking station has still to be finalised but we wouldn't be at all surprised if it was to sell for around 100.

 

Another clue to the TR3's price is the LCD colour viewfinder. It's quite a good one too with a 123k pixel display. They've still got a long way to go before they rival the clarity, contrast and resolution of a monochrome CRT but, we have to admit, they're getting better. Sadly the TR3 doesn't have full RC timecode facilities (it can read, but not write a timecode), but there is a datacode system which invisibly records the time and date on the recording, and date search facility that can seek out a particular recording, made on a particular date. Other features worth mentioning include:

* 3-mode program AE system

* manual exposure

* stereo hi-fi sound

* illuminated control panel

 

Finally a quick mention for that last feature. The illuminated control panel is a very clever idea. At first glance the TR3 doesn't appear to have any transport controls but put it into the playback mode and a panel on the top of the machine lights up, displaying all the functions as a row of symbols. The panel is actually a touch-sensitive membrane, so there's no buttons to fumble around with. It does nothing for picture quality, ease of use or ergonomics but as an eye-catching gimmick, and to show Sony are still well ahead of the game we give it ten out of ten. Our verdict on the rest of the machine will have to wait until the XXX issue.

 

DECK OF DELIGHTS

Video 8 fans make a note in your diaries for June because that's when Sony are launching the EVS9000 Hi8 VCR. We first told you about this machine last year after an unnamed prototype was shown to us at a European electronics trade show. The specification remains largely unchanged, making it the most advanced Hi8/8mm VCR to date, and the one to have if you're into serious movie-making.

 

It's difficult to know where to start but the audio system has to be close to the top of the list. In addition to stereo hi-fi sound the S9000 is the first 8mm VCR to have PCM audio tracks as well, and these can be dubbed, independently of the main soundtrack. However, it's the extensive array of editing functions that will sell this machine, and go a long way towards explaining the 1600 price. It has an 8-scene assemble edit controller, which like the Panasonic HD700 (see this issue), controls a camcorder via its edit termina, which is used as the source machine. The VCR can read and write RC time-codes and the editing system is claimed to be accurate to -0/+2 frames.  There's a timebase correction circuit, to improve the stability of old or noisy recordings, and digital 'peep-search' which grabs still frames as the machine fast winds, so it's possible to quickly tell where you are on the tape. There's also a multiple PIP (picture-in-picture) facility which, used in conjunction with the machine's index search, automaticaly assembles a visual contents page by displaying a minaturised still frames from the start of each new recording on the tape.

 

Gadget freaks will love this machine. The VCRs main control panel is built on to a motorised tray that glides gracefully out from the front panel. The remote handset is two-sided design with deck functions on the front and timer-programming keys (and LCD display) on the back. By the way, this is a fully-featured VCR, with a Video Plus+ timer, and NICAM sound, so you could also use it for mundane things like recording TV programmes; apparently there's still a few movies available on 8mm, though we haven't seen them promoted for quite a while.

 

Before we leave Sony we've heard that a new high-spec edit controller is in the pipeline for later in the year. Deatils are sketchy but we understand it's going to have full RCTC facilities and some very interesting features, not previously seen before on a domestic/semi-pro controller. We'll fill in the details as and when we get them. The crystal ball is also showing the hazy outline of a new video printer, it could be very small indeed, small enough to put on a desktop maybe, and cheap enough to interest camcorder owners? We'll have to wait and see but remember you read it here first.

 

VIVANCO PACKAGE DEAL

Post production can be a daunting prospect for newcomers to video movie-making but Vivanco are doing their bit to make it look a little easier. It's called Videomaker, a post production outfit containing everything you need to mix and dub soundtracks, and manipulate the picture, all for just under 170. Videomaker is based around the VCR-3034 AV processor, it's a new design though it owes a lot to the 3024 AV processor. Also included in the kit is a microphone, stereo headphones and AV lead set.

 

The 3034 is a half-sized version of Vivanco's distinctive curved consoles, and it looks very neat. The audio section includes a three-channel mixer, with individual sliders for the two stereo and one mono (for the microphone) inputs, a large T-bar is used for the master fader. Video facilities include adjustments for sharpness, colour and contrast, with a fader (to black), controlled from a second T-bar, and a split-screen to show the before and after effects of any processing. Vivanco have clearly softened their attitude towards phono sockets and instead of the usual bank of unfriendly SCARTs there a full set of phonos carrying the AV inputs and outputs. There is one SCART but that's used for the main monitor output. The 3034 is fully S-Video compatible, with 4-pin mini DIN sockets and Y/C connections on the SCART. Videomaker goes on sale shortly and we have it shortlisted for a minitest in a forthcoming issue.

 

 

CORRECTION THERAPY

Video processors with colour correction facilities are few and far between, at least one's costing less than 400 are. Video Tech are putting matters to rights with their VCC-3010 video corrector, which has just gone on sale for the remarkably low price of 300.

 

Colour correction is one of those facilities that are rarely needed, but when the occasion arises, can be worth its weight in gold. They're particularly useful for salvaging recordings  that might otherwise be ruined by white balance errors. It can removing or neutralise tints and colour casts but the 3010 can do quite a lot more besides. It also includes a 4-channel AV switcher, with seperate switching for audio and video inputs. It has adjustments for brightness, colour saturation, contrast, detail enhancement and the colour correction controls for red, blue and green colour levels. Additionally there is negative/positive switching, split-screen mode and a video-only fader. The unit is S-Video compatible, with resolution claimed to be up to 700-lines, it will also convert S-Video signals to composite video, and vice-versa.

 

Video Tech have clearly saved money by not going for a fancy case but they rightly point out it will be needed relatively infrequently and can be left plugged in and stacked conveniently out of the way, most of the time. A full review follows next month.

 

POSH TOSH

There's no point messing about if you're into home cinema, you need a big telly! Toshiba's new 3339DB is a big telly; the 80cm (screen) is would put some multiplex cinemas to shame, and it's Dolby Pro Logic surround sound system puts you right in the middle of the action. The price, well, that's just one penny short of 1500, so you won't be able to afford to go out in the evenings any more, but you won't want to, with your own personal cinema in the living room.

 

Dolby Pro Logic is just one of a number of audio options, there's Dolby 3 and a five mode digital sound processor (DSP) which includes four acoustic 'environments' (hall, stadium, disco and theatre) plus pseudo surround. DSP creates the sensation of space by generating carefully controlled amounts of reverberation and applying selective filtering to the sound, so you feel as though you're in the middle of a large hall, or the confines of a disco, such effects add an interesting  new dimension to mono soundtracks on old movies or music tapes.

 

The 3339 has all the usual bits and bobs, including NICAM sound, fastext, twin SCARTS, S-Video input, a 100-channel tuner and 40 watts (RMS) of audio amplification. The set is supplied with a set of matching surround speakers and cabinet stand; it's at your local Toshiba dealer now.

 

---end---

R.Maybury 1994 1402

 

 


 

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