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I want a camcorder principally to make unobtrusive indoor recordings including sound tracks.  Iím concerned about picture and sound quality, editing capability etc. but not too worried about size, weight or battery life.


I currently have a Toshiba V-813B four head NICAM stereo recorder with two SCART sockets, a Toshiba 2939 TV, a Compaq 386 PC and I have some basic questions:


I am tempted to go for a full size S-VHS machine such as the Panasonic NV-MS4.  Will the MS4 work with a PC editor, such as Video Workshop for Windows?


Do S-VHS-C or Hi8 formats lose much quality when transferring recordings to ordinary domestic VCRs such as the Toshiba V-813B?


What is the weakest link in the picture chain - camcorder, video recorder or PC editing suite?


Is the number of video lines the best general guide to picture quality?


Do you have personal preferences for either a full size VHS camcorder or a PC editing suite?


Are there any other factors that I need to pay attention to when considering what to buy?


Otherwise, I have a budget of about £2,500 for a camcorder and suite.


K. Wilson

London N20



Wow, you believe in getting your moneyís worth! Eyes down for a full house:


1. The Panasonic MS4 has an editing terminal so yes, it can be used with a PC based editing package such as Video Workshop for Windows, running on your PC, but I wouldnít call the MS4 exactly Ďunobtrusiveí, though its low-light performance is quite good. 


2. Yes, there will be a reduction in picture quality when you copy or edit video recordings using domestic equipment, though if you start out with high-band material (Hi8, S-VHS etc.), and copy to standard VHS then the resultant second generation recording should still look better than a VHS original, all things being equal.


3. Thereís no one weak link as you put it, every component in the replay and recording chain, including the tape itself,  has an effect on the video signal. The simple way to reduce quality losses is to not cut corners.


4. Resolution, or a video systems ability to resolve fine detail is only part of the picture quality story. In fact the eye is far more sensitive to noise in a TV picture, and this is the main culprit in the reduction in picture quality when recordings are copied or edited, so look past the specs boxes, and pay heed to comments about picture noise when you read test reports.


5, 6, 7 & 8. There are only two full-sized VHS machines still in production, the MS4 which weíve already mentioned, and the Panasonic M40; the MS4 is the better specified, from an editing point of view. However, itís worth asking yourself why you want a full size VHS machine? The only advantage it has in this context  is longer uninterrupted recording time of up to 4-hours, but only when itís powered from a high capacity battery belt or mains supply.  You can get comparable AV performance and editing facilities from Hi8 machines which can record for up to 2 hours on a single cassette, and S-VHS-C camcorders though maximum recording time in that case is only 45 minutes; these machines are a lot smaller, and thereís a much wider choice. Something like the Sony TR750 should meet your needs, or, if continuous running times are not important then check out the Panasonic NV-S90. As far as the PC editing suite is concerned, weíre very impressed by high-end systems like Video Workshop for Windows but theyíre really designed for serious and semi-pro users and I doubt youíd need so many advanced facilities. Video Director from Gold Disk might be more appropriate, and itís a lot cheaper. 



I recently ran off a VHS to VHS copy of a holiday video from a Sony SLV 815 VCR, recording on a Toshiba V854B.  Within 15 minutes of the end the copy suddenly produced 8 equally spaced glitches of short duration affecting picture and sound and then cleared itself.


The copy was made on  to a  new Panasonic E180 tape which had previously run to its end on fast forward and back to the beginning as recommended.  What was the likely cause?


On a similar matter, I sometimes find that edited tapes which are perfect when viewed on my VCR equipment are less than perfect when viewed on somebody elseís equipment, i.e. ripples along the base of the picture.  Is this to be expected?


D. Barclay

Adeje, Tenerife



Unless similar Ďglitchesí have occurred on other recordings made using your equipment the most likely cause is a manufacturing defect on the tape itself. The only way to confirm this would be to make another recording over the part of the tape where the problem occurred. If so then youíd be perfectly entitled to take it back to the shop and ask for a replacement. Failing that send it to your local Panasonic distributor. 


In theory a VHS tape recorded on one machine should play perfectly on any other one using the same system; in practice there are differences in the alignment between machines. Most of the time it doesnít matter and small errors are corrected by manual or automatic tracking adjustments,  but when you get two VCRs that are at the extremes of the tolerance ranges, or one machine is severely mis-aligned, then there will be noticeable picture disturbance. You might be able to see which one is most at fault by replaying a commercially recorded tape, and looking for ripples.



I have the following video kit: Sony TR705E camcorder, KV-X2562U TV and SLV E90 VCR.  Having selected the video connection on the TV menu Iíve been trying to make use of the TVís  S-Video connection, plus left and right audio when replaying from my camcorder.  I am inputting this way as the E90 doesnít have an S-Video input, and it seems to me a reasonable assumption, to obtain the best recording to connect this way.  This is via the YC-3 connector which has the S3 symbol.  To download this on to my VCR I assume the output to be via YC2.  Having set the VCR to L2 I go through the record sequence, then try playback - nothing!  I then I assume I need to re-set the input and output menu of the TV.  I have tried many permutations and once got success but I just canít follow the Sony logic.  Can you please tell what I should see on the TV menu video connection format for both recording and playback using the S-Video connector.  If I canít make use of the S-Video  connector please advise.


Can you advise what L1, L2 and L3 input selections are each used for on the E90 as the manual does not cover it?


Finally, I  am considering buying a stereo microphone with mixer and on/off switch to enable me to cut off the camcorderís stereo mic, say, during high wind noise.  I intend to add sound later to the mono VHS tape.  Can you advise on a suitable mic?


J. Scott

Tadley, Hants   



Talk about complicated ... I think I understand what youíre trying to do. Youíre feeding the S-Video output from your camcorder into the TV, and attempting to record a composite video signal from the TVís SCART AV socket, on the assumption that the TV will do a better job of converting the S-Video signal to composite video, than your camcorder... Quite frankly I donít know if this rather bizarre and incredibly convoluted set-up works or not, but Iím, fairly sure the composite video output from your camcorder will be a lot cleaner than one which has passed through your TV, moreover you wonít be able to use your TV to monitor the recording being made by your VCR, unless of course you have a second TV. I suspect you will get better results recording direct from the camcorderís video composite video output, rather than trying to convert the signal externally.


As I recall the L1, 2 and 3 input selections refer to the three AV Ďlineí inputs, L1 and L2 are the two rear-mounted SCART sockets, and L3 is the front-mounted phono AV terminal.


You will cut off the camcorderís on-board microphone as soon as you plug in an external microphone, so from that point of view any one will do. If youíre concerned about wind noise get a muffler, or monitor the sound when recording, so you can avoid it happening in the first place. Microphones with a mixing facility will only allow you to mix sounds whilst recording, not later during post production, you will need a proper desktop mixer for that.




In January 91 I purchased the Sony CCD V700E and have had excellent results, but I would like your help on a couple of points:


What is the Menu for and what does it do? I need a remote connector for a wired remote control unit.  I also need to update my current system comprising a Sima screenwriter, Camlink Edit Baby, Sanyo VHR 4160E,  Marantz CD player and full hi-fi system.  Itís so complicated, I donít wish to waste vast sums of money.  Can you advise me on a system under £2,000 as there are no dealers here who have the faintest idea and all equipment has to be ordered.


B. Greenfell

Ramsey, I.o.M.



Four and a half years and you still havenít read the instruction book, or

didnít you get one with your machine...? The on screen display menu system is clearly explained on page 9, but in case youíve lost the manual, hereís a quick run-down of the highlights. Pressing the menu button on the top panel brings up the display in the viewfinder, selections are made using the three arrow buttons on the control panel, and set using the execute button in the middle. In record mode there are three choices: mode set, custom preset and demo mode. Mode set is for selecting recording speed (SP or LP), recording mode (8mm or Hi8), enabling or disabling the IR remote control and switching the custom mode setting on or off. Custom presets allow you to adjust the colour intensity and hue of recordings, though as far as I can remember thereís no need to deviate from the factory settings. In the playback mode the menu gives the same mode-set choices plus edit mode on/off, stereo sound output (right, left or stereo), and a picture adjust option for stabilising still and slomo replay.


The instruction book will also explain what the remote socket does. Itís the famous Control L/LANC terminal that we prattle on about so regularly; you can use it to connect your machine to an automated edit controller, or a wired remote control unit, though Sony donít market them any more. Itís also used by wired remote control systems fitted to underwater housings, tripods and pistol grips. Sorry, I canít advise you on how to spend £2000 without knowing a lot more about what you want from your video movie-making and hi-fi systems. Judging by the equipment youíve already got the only thing missing is an edit controller, something like the Thumbís Up would certainly fit the bill, and it only costs around £200 or so.



Iím looking for a camcorder to shoot sport and wildlife and have around £1,000 to spend.  Can you recommend any and also where I can try some?


R. Allen




The three features that should be on your wish-list are top-notch AV performance, a powerful zoom and/or the facility to fit a teleconverter, and provision for an external microphone. If you could raise £2500 or so I would point you in the direction of the Canon EX2 or Sony VX1. However quite a few machines costing £1000 or so fit the bill; the ones to look at first would be the Sony TR750 or Panasonic NV-S85. Sorry I donít know the Stafford area but I suspect your local Dixons and Comet stores will have a fair selection of models on display, failing that look up your nearest Sony and Panasonic dealers in Yellow Pages.



Iíve had a JVC GR AX35EK camcorder for some time now and decided to add narration and sound tracks to my films.


As with all camera recordings I had the problem of noisy backgrounds on my films, so I tried various VHS-C tapes like JVC and Maxell but all the same I was still getting low hissing noises, even when adding music.


Is the type of tape used by the BBC, for instance, available to VHS-C users, or any other make for that matter?


Will there come a day when we will be able to film without getting hissing from various makes of tape?


P. Stephens

Stevenage, Herts



Background hiss is an inevitable by-product of the noisy VHS mono linear audio recording system used on your camcorder. The soundtrack is recorded along the edge of the tape by a stationary head. Noise and other factors, like frequency response, are largely determined by the speed at which the tape passes over the recording head. In the case of the VHS format itís a snail-like 2.339 centimetres per second, or just over half the speed of an audio tape cassette, which as you know is no stranger to hiss. Using better quality tapes can help lower the amount of background hiss, but in the end the only way to reduce it to what you might call Ďhi-fií levels is to use a camcorder with an AFM (8mm and Hi8) or DFM (S/VHS/C) recording system, or better still, one with a digital audio recording facility. Quite a few current camcorders have stereo hi-fi audio systems, Sony have produced a couple of machines with digital PCM sound systems but youíre going to have to wait a while until that becomes a commonplace feature, probably on the next generation of digital camcorders.



I have a JVC GRM7 camera and HR J815EK video deck.  I also have a Hitachi VT-F860E deck.  Could you please tell me if the JVC multi brand  R.A. Edit remote control is compatible with the Hitachi? 


I rang JVCís liaison department and they didnít know either.


J. Davies




Someone else who hasnít got, or read their instruction book? It must have been one of JVCís off days, theyíre usually pretty good with enquiries like this. According to the book it should work, though I have to admit Iíve not used this particular combination, but the IR code you need is 06.



My JVC GRAX2 camcorder boasts an assemble edit function and my Philips VR522 VCR boasts a syncro edit function.  Are the two compatible at all and if so where can I purchase the necessary connecting leads?


D. Woodyer

Rainhill, Merseyside



The assemble edit function on your JVC camcorder is basically a proprietary syncro start facility, thatís designed to assist copying single scenes to suitably equipped JVC VCRs (and clones). You can get a lead from JVC for that purpose but Iíd strongly advise against using it on a Philips VCR.



I have an EX1 camcorder.  Whatís the best way to add soundtracks to my tape?  I want to be able to cut away and keep the soundtrack running.  Is it worth buying the EX2 to facilitate its timecode?


J. Wilkie




Unfortunately you cannot audio-dub 8mm and Hi8 recordings as the sound and vision signals are recorded together, on the same section of the tape, and you canít change one without affecting the other. There are exceptions but these concern pro and semi pro decks, and those with digital sound systems. The only ways to achieve the effect you want using domestic video equipment involves editing or copying your recordings to a VCR. You can mix or dub the soundtrack how you want, or you could use a VHS VCR with a video insert edit facility, that will allow you to drop in new video sequences, without affecting the mono linear soundtrack.



Could you please tell me where I can get a new tube for a Citizen M329 Mk II LCD colour video monitor and the approximate cost?  Iíve had a bit of bad luck with mine.


R. Keeling




It depends what you mean by the Ďtubeí. If itís the actual LCD screen thatís broken it will cost you £70 to have it replaced. If youíre referring to the backlight tube, then that costs £22. Neither part is user-replaceable as in both cases it requires the use of special jigs and test equipment. The people to talk to are Citizen Service, PO Box 5503, Newbury, Berks RG14 6YP. You can call them on (01635) 550025. By the way, the prices weíve mentioned are inclusive of VAT and carriage.



After 5 years of manual editing from my Sony TR55E camcorder to my Akai VCR I decided to upgrade to a NICAM VCR.


With a limit of £500 I decided to purchase the JVC HRJ715EK and have now been informed by JVC that the assemble edit and remote pause are incompatible with my Sony camcorderís Control L socket.  I would appreciate it if you can think of any way they can be utilised to assist editing.


R. York

Basingstoke, Hants



No, not together, the control protocols used by the VCR and camcorder are completely incompatible and thereís no way of linking them together. Your only option, apart from manual editing, is to use an external edit controller. One like the Thumbs Up can control both machines, though any one with a Control L facility and IR remote commander compatible with your JVC video recorder will do.



I have a few tapes of my family I want to show to my American cousins later this  year.  The trouble is last time I visited them, when I put my tapes on we got sound but no picture.  This happened with 2 or 3 different video recorders, so what can I do this time?  Is there somewhere I can get my tapes transferred to USA tapes? 


F. Newman

Blacon, Chester



The problem is youíre trying to replay PAL standard 625-line recordings on 525-line NTSC equipment, it canít be done! The only way your American cousins can get to see your recordings is to have them copied and converted to NTSC standard, or, ask them if theyíve got, or can get hold of a multi-standard TV so you can replay your original recordings directly through your camcorder on their television, via the AV input sockets. You will find a number of companies who can do the standards conversion work for you in the back of this magazine, call a couple of them for quotes, it shouldnít be too dear. Alternatively find out if your cousins know of any firms in their locality who do video conversions, you never know, it might even be cheaper to have it done when youíre out there. 




I use a Sony V-800E and Sony E5 cassettes.  On a recent holiday to Florida, filming on the beach under particularly bright conditions and without an ND filter, the resulting sequence of shots suddenly completely broke down on playback.  The exposure of the shots before break-up and from what I could discern during break up, seemed to be perfectly satisfactory.  I continued  filming with the ND filter in position.  The camera wasnít used for about 15 minutes after which the ND filter was removed and filming resumed under the existing bright conditions.  No further problems were encountered.


Any thoughts, please?


A. Whitehead




Some thoughts, but not, Iím afraid, any definite answers. Iím inclined to think that fitting the neutral density filter and the break up in the recording are coincidental. The V800, like pretty well all camcorders has TTL (through the lens) exposure systems. Adjustments to the iris and video circuits are based on the amount of light in the image that is formed on the face of the image sensor. The camcorder has no way of knowing if thereís a filter, of whatever type, fitted to the front of the lens, not that an ND filter would have much effect anyway. However, the point is that a filter simply restricts the amount of light going through the lens, and the exposure systems compensate accordingly.  The only factor that might tie in with what happened is temperature. The machine might have overheated if it was in direct Florida sunlight, prior to and during shooting. This could have upset the machine or the tape in some way. The subsequent 15-minute cooling off period -- possibly in a shady spot? -- may account for the return to normal operation. If it happens again in a cooler climate have it checked out.




Why is it that when I put a VHS-C tape into a JVC CP 2U VHS cassette adapter, and play it back on an Akai VS-12 VHS video recorder, it jumps straight into LP playback mode, even though the recordings are made in standard play mode?  The recording was taken on a JVC GX N7E camera and HR-C3EK portable video deck, which doesnít have an LP recording mode.


E.J. Whitlock

Orpington, Kent



Assuming the VCR is okay and it doesnít happen with any other tapes, thereís a number of possible causes. VCRs automatically sense the speed at which recordings were made by analysing the pulses coming from the control track, recorded along the edge of the tape.  Itís possible that the control track is not being recorded correctly on your C3 deck; run a good quality cleaner tape through it. There could be mis-alignment problems, erratic control pulse recording, it could even be a tight tape, or excessive friction in the cassette adaptor, though this is not very likely as the VCR would normally sense the condition and stop replay to prevent damage. Try the cleaner cassette first, but if that doesnít work thereís not a lot more you can do and it will need expert attention. 



I have a Panasonic HD700 VCR, 486-SX33 computer and a Sony EVC 45 as a player.  I bought a Gold Disk Video Director 2.0 for editing: this was supplied with a smart  cable to connect and control each item. 


However, it is difficult to mount the infra red head as the drop down flap on the video prevents it being mounted; also it would obscure some of the buttons on the flap.  I have been told that there is a cable called Edit Link 2000-DT which would connect into the VCR and the Control L/LANC socket on the EVC-45.


I have tried Jessops and Techno but they donít know of this cable.  Could you tell me if this, or any other cable would give control of the VCR instead of the infra red and where I could obtain one. 


I could mount the infra red head in front of the flap but I havenít tried this as Iíve not taken the smart cable from its sealed packet in case it could be exchanged.


G. Bostock









R. Maybury 1995 3103









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