VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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REVIEW

HEAD

SEVEN-FIFTEEN EXPRESS...

 

INTRO

Panasonic and Sony have cornered the market on sophisticated edit VCRs but now it looks as though JVC are aiming to take a slice of the action....

 

COPY

Itís been quite a while since we last looked at a mid-market JVC VCR, not that thereís been anything wrong with them, itís just that they havenít produced any camcorder-friendly models or edit decks lately. Things are definitely looking up now though, and their latest range includes a couple of very useful-looking machines, starting with the HR-J715.

 

First the basics. It costs just under £500, which puts it slap-bang in the middle of one of the most hotly-contested sectors. This is the home-cinema battleground, traditionally one of JVCs strongest markets, so theyíre not about to disgrace themselves when it comes to AV performance. However, JVC video recorders have been fairly ordinary of late, with a routine but rarely eye-catching assortment of features. The J715 changes all that. In addition to stereo hi-fi sound and NICAM it has all the usual convenience features, which must now include a Video Plus+ timer, it has PDC (programme delivery control) as well; a full set of auto facilities (power on and play etc.); twin SCART AV connectors and multi-speed replay. The timer has an extra widget called  Ďreviewí; when a timer recording finishes a button on the front panel starts flashing, alerting the owner when they come home. To watch the programme all they have to do is press the review button; the machine then switches itself on, rewinds the tape to the beginning of the recording, and starts replay.

 

Thereís a couple of extras worth mentioning, like the hyper-bass switch, which gives a boost to low-frequency sounds; it adds a bit of oomph to movie  soudtracks, heard through stereo TV speakers, though we suspect a good number of J715s will end up driving AV systems, with their own -- more sophisticated -- tone control arrangements. The remote control handset supplied with the J715 can also control the basic functions on a wide range of TVs, the built-in command library covers the most popular brands, including Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Ferguson, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi. All the user has to do is enter the appropriate code number, from a list in the instruction book, into the handsetís keypad.

 

However, itís the movie-making facilities that weíre most please to see. Thereís a jog/shuttle dial on the front panel; it also has a front-mounted AV terminal, audio dub, insert edit and, best of all, R.A Edit. Yes, itís the same random edit system that has appeared on a couple of their camcorders and one or two top-end VCRs. Itís a built-in edit controller, that automatically replay up to 8 scenes, in any selected order. As it stands the J715 will control the record-pause function on almost any VCR that has a remote-pause socket. It can also control other models, without a socket, using IR commands, though this depends on an optional RM-V704 multi-brand remote, costing an extra £60. We suspect the supplied multi-brand remote has the capacity to do this kind of job as well, though it would need a suitable interface to allow it to be connected to the machineís R.A.Edit terminal.

 

IN USE

JVC either havenít got around to fitting auto-installation systems to their machines, or credit their customers with some intelligence, and the ability to read the instruction book. The set-up procedures on this machine are not too arduous and follow a more or less conventional pattern of setting the clock and tuning in locally available stations, it shouldnít take most people more than ten minutes or so. Itís a reassuringly normal machine, the only facility we really missed was an on-screen display, JVC are not very big on on-screen displays... In the end it doesnít matter too much as timer data and Video Plus+ codes are entered and checked on the remote handsetís LCD screen; checking information on the VCRs front panel display isnít so easy though, unless youíve got very good eyesight, or sit close to the machine.

 

PERFORMANCE

Impressive! Picture performance is above average for a mid-range VCR, resolution on our sample topped 250 -lines, which is good for any machine, but itís the unusually low noise levels that really make the picture stand out. It looks crisp and vibrant, with accurately defined, lifelike colours. For the edit controller to be any use trick-play must be stable, and it is. Itís possible to step through recordings a frame at a time, though unfortunately it doesnít have a reverse frame-stepper on the jog dial (see RA Edit box).

 

The stereo hi-fi soundtracks have a wide and reasonably flat response, background noise levels are low; audio dubs are clean, with no noise at the cut points. It doesnít have a manual recording level control but the ALC is reasonably competent. The winking bargraph display is bit pointless, though. NICAM sound is smooth, again little or no noise and a good dynamic range.

 

VERDICT

The J715 has the makings of a classic, and more than adequately meets the needs of most video movie-makers, who are always on the look out for capable and well-appointed edit decks. The J715 goes further though, the built-in edit controller means it can hold its own as a source machine for VHS and VHS-C material, itís ideal for knocking video movies into shape, and simple productions. Its no slouch when it comes to the other, equally demanding VCR jobs, either, and it wonít disgrace itself as a timeshifter, or as the core component in a home cinema system.

 

SIDEBAR -- RA EDITING

The edit controller built into the J715 is a fairly simple design, and JVC make no rash promises about accuracy, which is just as well, but weíll come to that in a moment. The system is controlled by just three buttons, on the left side of the front panel. Pressing the R.A.Edit button puts the machine into the edit mode, and the edit-in point starts flashing on the display, along with the scene number. The next step is to line up the first edit-in point, using the jog/shuttle dial. The only real problem is the lack of  reverse frame advance or reverse slomo, which means taking care not to overshoot. When the start of the scene has been reached the edit in point can either be marked with the in/out buttons, Ďon-the-flyí with the tape in motion, or by pressing pause and stepping forward with the jog dial. The same procedure is used to mark the edit-out point, and the display automatically changes to the next scene. Edit points cannot be changed, or the order shuffled, other than by re-marking the scenes again. When the scenes have been stored the edit is performed by putting the destination deck into the record-pause mode, and pressing the start button on the J715.

 

The controller has an 8 scene memory and cut-points are designated by the VCRs linear tape counter, which increments in seconds. That means accuracy is not going to be so hot; plus or minus a second is the best you can hope for, though even that may not be easy to achieve with some VCR combinations. The system has no means of compensating for differences in the pre-and post roll times of the VCRs, so timing errors have to be adjusted manually, by pressing the in/out button earlier or later.

 

Within its limitations it works very well indeed and although itís not going to give the mainstream edit controller manufacturers any sleepless nights it is still well worth having for those quick and simple editing jobs on VHS and VHS-C footage.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         JVC HR-J715

Tape format         VHS, hi-fi

Guide price                      £500

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            8-hours (E-240 tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events, 365-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                             PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds          still, x1/5, x1/7, x2, x5, x7, x14 (forward), reverse x2, x5, x7, x14 play (reverse)   

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes             

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          no     

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          no

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          yes   

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          yes

Record search          no     

NTSC replay          no

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          no     

 

Additional facilities

R.A. edit controller, hyper-bass sound,  child lock, multi-brand remote handset

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          no     

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          no     

     

 

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal          yes   

Edit terminal           no

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin  

Syncro edit          yes

 

Dimensions (mm)          400 x 94 x 348

Weight (kg)          4.8

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         >250-lines

Colour fidelity         very good

Trick play stability         very good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         good

Edit functions         very good

        

VC RATINGS

Value for money         9

Ease of use         8

Performance         9

Features         9

---end---

R.Maybury 1994  0812

 


 

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