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Last March we reported that JVC had developed a new variant of the VHS format, called W-VHS;  we can now reveal that the first W-VHS VCR has just been launched in Japan, called the HR-W1. The 'W' in W-VHS stands for widescreen, though that's only part of the story, the system is designed to record and playback Hi-Vision high-definition satellite TV programmes, now being broadcast in Japan. W-VHS uses a VHS-size cassette to make high-definition (HD) recordings; it works by splitting the 1125-line signal into two parts and recording two tracks of 515 picture lines each. The missing lines are digitally re-processed to create the full picture. Originally it JVC suggested that W-VHS video recorders might be able to make two separate 525-line (NTSC) standard definition (SD) recordings simultaneously;  now, it appear the SD mode is being used to record just one high-quality NTSC signal. The HR-W1 retains full backwards compatibility with the format and this machine will record and replay standard VHS and Super VHS tapes.


So far so good, but now we come to the crunch. The HR-W1 is unbelievably expensive and will be selling for the equivalent of 3,850 in Japan; 3-hour W-VHS tapes (9-hours in the SD mode) will cost 36 each. There's worse to come, the W1 can't actually make HDTV recordings on its own, it needs a suitably-equipped TV with a MUSE decoder (costing around 3,000 to 8,000), and it needs to be a JVC model with the necessary control system, in order to make timed recordings. Yes, but are they working on a PAL version, and will it ever come here? Don't hold your breath. We admit to being mildly enthusiastic when we heard that W-VHS decks might be able to record two TV channels at once, and could see a number of interesting possibilities apart from HDTV recording, but now it seems that feature has been dropped. The sad truth is there are no high-definition TV broadcasts in the UK for it to record. The European HD-MAC project has been shelved, now that TV broadcasting is heading down the digital route. Hi-Vision is an analogue system, developed over ten years ago, the world has moved on since then and it seems increasingly unlikely that any country, other than Japan, will ever be using it.



The VCR market has been rather quiet lately. Most of the major manufacturers seem to have been too busy updating current models with VideoPlus+ timers to bother with new models, and more especially, VCRs with features to interest video movie makers. All except Mitsubishi, that is, who have just started shipping the HS-M68 which we can say without fear of contradiction is the most camcorder-friendly VCR we've seen so far this year! In fact it's the only camcorder-friendly VCR we've seen this year, but we'll let that pass, it's only March, after all...


So what do you get for the better part of 600? A very well equipped hi-fi stereo machine with NICAM, VideoPlus+ timer programming and a two-speed deck, that's what. The M68 has all the features necessary to qualify it for edit-VCR status, they include: twin jog/shuttle dials, a front AV terminal, audio dub and insert edit. In addition it also has record search, pre-roll and an edit terminal but unfortunately it only works with other, suitably-equipped Mitsubishi VCRs. A little more useful are the M68's Quasi S-VHS replay, and NTSC replay, the latter could come in very handy for anyone with relatives living in the USA or Japan, for watching home video movies, or anything else they care to send.


One of the M68's most unusual features is called 'intelligent rental position', this is switched on whenever the machine is used to play back rental tapes. As soon as the cassette is loaded the machine automatically rewinds it back to the beginning, just in case the shop or last renter forgot to do so, then it fast winds past all the boring gumph at the start of the tape about where it was duplicated etc., to the beginning of the soundtrack, at the same time adjusting the machine's picture circuitry for a noisy or worn recording. When the movie has finished the tape is automatically rewound and ejected.


A most welcome addition to the top end of the VHS VCR market; we've got one in for review, as we speak, so look out for a full test-report soon, hopefully next month.




The grapevine has been twitching with news of three new Hitachi camcorders, possibly due here in a few weeks time. Hitachi have become increasingly cagey about telling us much about their new machines too far in advance, with good reason,  following our disclosure that one recently-launched machine bore little or no relation to the specification shown to us several months previously. It's pure speculation, of course, and details are still very sketchy but we understand that one of the trio of new machines could be a splashproof sports model, and it will almost certainly have a Hi8 recording system. The crystal ball is still a bit cloudy, as far as the other two are concerned, but insiders at Hitachi have suggested that after a rather lacklustre year they're a lot happier making and selling mid-market and top-end machines, leaving the other manufacturers to fight it out with the budget models, where competition is fierce, and profit margins are thinner than the coating on metal evaporated tape.



Maze Technology have just released details of their latest PC-based titling package, called PC Titler Professional, which should be reaching the shops any time now. The bad news is that you're going to need some serious computer hardware in order to run it, and sorry Amiga fans, this one's not for you. The minimum system requirements are for a fast 386-based PC, a 486 is even better, with at least 2 megabytes of RAM, and 8-10 Mb of hard-disc space, if you want to use the picture library. Your system will also need to have an SVGA display card with 1Mb of memory, and a VESA driver. In order to use the titles and images generated by this package your computer must have a genlock or video converter card. By the way, this is a DOS-based program, Maze have been working on a Windows version but apart from looking slightly prettier it doesn't work any better. Sorry if all that sounds like double-Dutch but if you're in the market for one of these things it should all makes perfect sense. Stand by with your jargon dictionaries because there's more to come...


Now, assuming you have all that equipment, and the 400 (plus VAT) for the software (700 plus VAT with genlock),  you can start creating professional-looking titles with more text and graphical effects than you can shake a stick at. The effects are of a very high standard with maximum resolution set at 800 x 600 pixels, and a range of 256 colours; that's sufficient to give the 30 plus images stored in the picture library, 'photo-realistic' quality. There's full font conversion from any Windows Truetype face, 4-level anti-aliasing, to get rid of jagged edges on text characters and some very advanced graphics animation effects that Maze modestly claim are ten times better than those on the original PC Titler. They include such things as trail, stretch, slide, drop, squash, turn and zoom, you'll have to use your imagination to figure out what they are for. Graphic images can be scaled to size, positioned anywhere on the screen and there's a full set of wipes, pans, rolls and crawls. And that's just for starters, to find out what it can really do you'll have to wait for our full test report, which is pencilled in for a forthcoming. There's just enough space left to tell you that Maze are working on a fully featured Windows-based, timecode editing package with Control L and 5-pin compatibility, it should be finished by the time you read this, we hope to have some more news for you on that, hopefully next month.



R.Maybury 1993 1412




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