VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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PRINTS CHARMING

We occasionally feature video printers on these pages, but theyíre not what you would call mainstream video products, at least not yet... The Sony CVP-M3E is different though. Whereas most video printers are aimed at specialist users, this one is targeted at a much broader audience, and thatís clearly apparent from the styling, moreover, itís the first transportable video printer weíve come across.

 

Thatís significant because virtually every other colour video printer on the market is housed inside large VCR-sized (and larger) boxes, certainly not the sort of thing you would want to carry around with you. Not that the CVP-M3E is exactly portable, in the accepted sense of the word, it can only be powered from the mains, but it weighs just 4.5 kgs, which means the CVP-M3 is light enough to be carried around -- it comes with a shoulder strap -- and itís rugged enough to be used in the field, provided thereís a nearby mains supply.

 

So how does it work, and whatís it good for? The short answer to the first question is video memory and dye sublimation. Inside the printer thereís a cartridge spooled with a transparent film coated with layers of heat-sensitive magenta, cyan and yellow dyes. This is superimposed over a sheet of print paper, a colour at a time, during each pass a  thermal print head (a bit like the ones used in fax machines) transfers the colour dye onto the paper with a matrix of tiny heating elements. The pattern of dye spots, which go to make up the colour picture, is controlled by information read out from a video memory, where the image is stored.

 

The second question is harder to answer. So far video printers have mostly been of interest to those in the security and surveillance industries, plus commercial and scientific users, where itís useful to be able to produce a hard-copy prints from a video camera or taped footage. However, since the cost of video printers has fallen, and the quality improved, numerous new applications have been found, and now at last theyíre beginning to make inroads into the domestic market. In Japan colour video printers are already selling for less than £500, though weíve still got a way to go to beat that.

 

In the home thereís no end of useful things you can do with a video printer. Making hard copies from video movies is a favourite, for sending pictures of cherished moments to friends or relatives abroad, who may not have a suitable video machine. Theyíre great fun at parties and weddings, providing instant snapshots, for mementoes and souvenirs. Still images can be take from any video source, including TVs and VCRs, so itís possible to capture a favourite moment from a TV show. Video prints can be used to make personalised badges and keyrings, identity cards, prints taken from video footage can be used in documents, scrap-books, school projects, the list is endless, so whatís the downside?

 

Cost is the major problem, this particular printer will set you back the best part of £1300, and it doesnít end there. Consumables -- the print cartridge and print paper -- are not cheap, a 100 print pack for example costs £70, thatís 70 pence per print, a good deal more expensive than either conventional print films, or Polaroid photographs. Moreover thereís the quality issue, and weíll come to that in a moment.

 

But first a guided tour of the CVP-M3. Thereís only a handful of controls on show, for switching it on, selecting the source mode, capturing the image, and making it print. The rest of the controls are hidden under a sliding door, these operate a menu-driven on-screen display, thatís shown on the monitor, connected to the printerís video output. Thatís on the side, along with the two video input sockets (composite and S-Video). Finished prints emerge into a covered compartment alongside the print controls; beneath that thereís a loading tray holding up to 25 sheets of print paper, and on the side thereís a slot for the print cartridge.

 

Loading the paper and cartridge takes only a few moments, itís virtually foolproof, unless youíre really determined... The video connections are simple, thereís one input, from the video source, and an output for a monitor. Basic operation involves pressing the capture button when the image you want appears on the screen, this is then frozen and stored in the printerís memory. Pressing the field/frame button will remove any blur, if thereís movement in the image, when you like what you see press the print button, 60 seconds later, after a good deal of whirring and clicking the finished print emerges. During that time the on-screen display shows how the process is progressing with a series of flashing arrows and a rather unnecessary little cartoon man running across the screen.

 

The alternatives to a single full size print are multiple copies (up to 25), adding a date and/or caption (1 line of up to 32 characters), multiple images (4 or 16) which can be all the same image, or a sequence of shots, taken at 0.07, 0.3 or 0.6 second intervals. Quarter or sixteenth size images can be inset into the main picture, a selected portion of the image can be printed to fill half the picture area, or the image can be printed inside an oval or heart-shaped mask. All of these options are selected from the on-screen display. The last trick up the printerís sleeve is a credit-card sized remote control, that can be used to operate the printerís capture, print and field/frame modes, plus the main playback functions on a Sony VCR.

 

But what about print quality? Under ideal conditions itís good, very good in fact; at first glance most people would mistake it for a normal photographic print, itís only when you look really closely that the texture of the printing and digitising are apparent. In the end the image will only be as good as the source signal, so an off tape image from a wonky VHS will look whiskery, whilst a direct feed from the S-Video output of a Hi8 or S-VHS-C camcorder looks sharp and well defined. Colour accuracy is good, within the limitations of the printing process, redís look exceptionally strong, greens and blues are slightly muted, though thereís a full set of colour adjustments accessible from the OSD menu if colours look badly out of bonk.

 

Yes itís expensive but for the moment at least thereís this, and a handful of other, much bigger machines with more or less comparable prices, print quality and running costs. The small size, ease of use and general performance put the CVP-M3 at or near the top of our video printer wish-list.

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                   Sony CVP-M3E

Guide Price                     £1300

Consumables                50 print pack £40, 100 print pack £70

Systems                       dye sublimation heat transfer

Print size                      108 x 80mm

Print time                      60 seconds

Gradation                      256 levels

Sockets                            composite or S-Video in and out

Dimensions                     262 x 109 x 385

Weight                            4.5kg

Distributor                 SONY UK LTD The Heights, Brooklands, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 0XW.  Telephone (01932) 816000

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Specialised appeal, but one of the best

 

 

PANASONIC ON THE ROAD

The popularity of Panasonicís range of slim palmcorders is apparant from the number of new battery care products for these machines, tailored to their unique 4.8 volt power system. Vivanco have just brought out a car battery adaptor, designed exclusively for these machines, and clones badged by Blaupunkt, Grundig and Philips, amongst others. The CA-48 comprises a dummy battery pack, containing a 12 volt DC to 4.8 volt DC regulator, this is connected by a 3-metre cable to a standard car cigar lighter plug, fitted with a 2 amp fuse.

 

The CA-48 is not a charger but an adaptor. It has a number of uses, the first one that springs to mind is a virtually inexhaustable power supply, for long, uninterrupted recording sessions either inside, or close to a car. Itís also comes in handy as an emergency or standby power source, provided you donít want to stray too far from the vehicle.

 

Build quality and construction are up to Vivancoís usual high standard. Our only quibble concerns the length of the connecting cable. Three metres sounds plenty but in practice itís just about long enough to reach from the lighter socket through a door window, to a camcorder held in a standing position, either side of the car, or from the front to the back in a normal family saloon. A couple of extra metres of cable would have made a tremendous difference, and added only a few pence, if anything to the price. If cable length is likely a problem then itís a simple enough matter to extend the cable, just make sure the connections are the right way round!

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        Vivanco CA-48

Guide Price         £27.99

Features              12 volt to 4.8 volt car adaptor

Fitting        Panasonic Ďslimí palmcorders and Blaupunkt, Philips, Grundig etc. clones

Power source       standard car cigar lighter socket

Cable                     3-metres twin-core

Plug                     fused (2A) cigar lighter plug               

Distributor          VIVANCO, Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS.

Telephone (01442) 231616

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

High on convenience, short on cable

 

JVC IN CONTROL?

In spite of JVCís pivotal role in camcorder technology theyíve always had a fairly ambivalent attitude towards serious video editing. True, some of their most recent machines sport simple built-in edit controllers but theyíve never gone to the extent of fitting proper edit control sockets to their machines, though ironically the transport systems on virtually all JVC camcorders built in the past couple of years can be Ďhard-wireí controlled, via an unpublicised computer diagnostic facility.  However, no edit control sockets has meant there wasnít any point in them producing an edit controller, until now that is...

 

Say hello to the JX-ED11 ĎEdiToolí, an interesting little widget that helps automate basic assemble editing. It works with almost any make or model of camcorder and VCR, and it costs just £99, making it one of the cheapest edit controllers on the market. But how have got around the lack of edit terminals on their machines?  In short they havenít, the only hard-wide connection supported by the ED11 is with their own camcorders, that use the RAE (random assemble edit) system; all other camcorders and VCRs are controlled by infra-red commands. That begs the question of how the controller reads tape counter codes, so it knows where the edit points are on a recording? It doesnít, and it doesnít have a scene memory either, except when used with machines equipped with an RAE facility, so yes, it is very basic.

 

So what can it do? In a nutshell itís a sophisticated remote handset, that integrates and sequences transport control functions of two video decks. The layout is very straightforward, there are two sets of shaped keys, for the player and record decks. It has four large buttons for the main edit functions, and a central shuttle dial. Programming the unit with the appropriate control codes is actually very easy, though the instructions make it seem ten times more difficult that it really is. There are two options, a built-in library of commands covers over a dozen different brands, or a learning remote facility, whereby the ED11 reproduces the commands from the camcorder learnt from the VCR or camcorderís own handset. Between them these two systems cover almost every video deck on the market, though inevitably there are exceptions, so itís a good idea to check first, particularly if youíve got a Philips VCR, or one from an obscure manufacturer.

 

Basic operation is very simple. Once everything is connected up press the Edit Standby button on the ED11, this sets the source machine to playback, and the record or destination deck to record-pause mode and use the shuttle knob to find the edit-in point. When it appears on the TV or monitor screen press the Ďiní button, this releases the VCRs pause mode and it starts recording. At the end of the scene press Ďoutí to re-engage pause. To check the scene has been correctly copied press edit check, and the record deck rewinds and replays the scene. On machines with an RAE facility the procedures are almost exactly the same, except the cut points are stored, and can be modified before the scene is actually copied.

 

Accuracy isnít an issue on non-RAE equipment, the position of the cut points depends entirely on the users reactions, and because thereís no memory only one scene at a time can be copied. Edit accuracy on set-ups that include an RAE equipped camcorder depend to a large extent on the characteristics of the record VCR but in most cases it should be to within a second or 25-frames of the designated cut points.

 

So are JVC stretching a point calling the ED11 an edit controller? In one sense yes, itís not in any way comparable to devices, like the Thumbs Up, for instance, that automate multiple scene editing, but it is one step up from manual assemble editing in that it brings the control functions of both decks together into one box, and that is worth having. Itís very simple to use and it works with just about any combination of equipment. Whether or not thatís worth £99 is another question. Owners of most RAE compatible camcorders already have the necessary controller supplied with their machines, those that do not can buy one as an optional extra, usually for a good deal less than the cost of an ED11. Those with other types of camcorders, that do not have edit terminals (but do have IR control facilities) may find it helpful and it does make the seemingly complicated business of editing appear a little more accessible, so yes it is well worth a look.  

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  JVC ED-11 ĎEdiToolí

Guide Price                   £99

What is it?                    Video editing controller

System             IR control for both record and playback, in JVCís RAE system

Scene memory            1, with RAE equipped camcorders, otherwise none

Sockets                           RAE connection (minijack)

Dimensions                     180 x 36 x 130mm

Weight                            0.35kg

Distributor                       JVC UK LTD, JVC House, 6-8 Priestley Way, Eldonwall Trading Estate, Staples Corner, London NW2 7AS. Telephone 0181-450 3282

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Easier editing for (edit) terminally challenged

 

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R.Maybury 1995 2104

 


 

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