VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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Colour processors are the unsung heroes of video post production. The facility to individually adjust red, green and blue colour levels can make all the difference to the look of a recording, in extreme cases this kind of colour correction can rescue footage that would otherwise be unusable. Part of the reason there are so few colour video processors on the market is cost, it takes a good deal of fairly complex circuitry to carry out these kinds of adjustments to a video signal, most video processors have only simple colour saturation and picture controls.

 

The ACT V10 is one of those rare exceptions. This British designed and built colour video processor has separate red, green and blue colour controls, plus several other useful facilities that means it's more than just a  first aid measure, but a fully qualified post production tool in its own right. Those extras include full-range brightness, contrast and saturation controls, a variable detail enhancer, split-screen preview mode, individual colour and luminance inversion, bypass and a video fader that will fade to black or white. The V10 is fully compatible with S-Video signals -- chrominance (colour) and brightness information is processed separately -- with a bandwidth in excess of 500-lines. The V10 is more than capable of processing footage from domestic camcorders, moreover we suspect price and specs will interest quite a few serious and semi-pro video movie makers as well.

 

Some of those features deserve closer examination. RGB colour correction comes into it's own on recordings where the colour balance is incorrect. It can easily happen, if, for instance the white balance on the camcorder was wrong set (or not set at all), or the recording was made under artificial light. Fluorescent light often produces a sickly looking yellow-green cast. On some camcorders the WB circuitry works too well, and dramatic red sunsets can look washed out because the camcorder tried too hard to compensate. Colour correction also comes in handy when editing together recordings of the same event made on separate camcorders, where there will often be difference in colour balance, brightness and contrast.

 

Those are the kind of defects a colour corrector can easily cure, but in this case it goes a lot further, thanks to the two invert switches. Using them in conjunction with the colour controls gives a range of very interesting special effects, but they can also be used to transfer photographic negatives to video, the colour controls will neutralise the film's orange/red caste.

 

The V10 works very well indeed, the only facility we're not too sure about is the detail enhancer, which we found was best left alone, in the neutral position as any other setting degraded the image too much for our liking. All of the controls are smooth, moreover there was no visible loss of detail or increase in noise. S-Video bandwidth is as advertised and signals pass through cleanly.

 

The price of just under 180 is very good value, to put that into perspective its nearest rival costs over 200 more. The V10 doesn't look particularly glamorous -- no fancy sliders or winky lights -- but we count that as a bonus, it's a serious piece of kit, who needs gimmicks? Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  ACT V10 Colour Video Processor

Guide Price                   179

Features                          red, green & blue colour correction, saturation, contrast and brightness adjustment, detail control, video fade (black or white), split screen, bypass, colour & video invert, S-Video compatible

Sockets                            composite video in/out (phono) composite out (SCART), S-Video in/out (5-pin mini DIN), DC power

Dimensions                     350 x 128 x 60 mm

Distributor                       ACT ELECTRONICS, PO BOX 4, St Columb Major, Cornwall TR9 6SX. Telephone (01726) 822032

 

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Invaluable post production tool

 

 

MODEST MIX MASTER

Audio mixers are not what you would call the most exciting camcorder accessories, but in the right hands, and with a little patience and imagination, these simple devices can do more for your video movies than a bucket-full of high-tech special effects gadgetry. We tend to underestimate the importance of sound on our recordings, yet even something simple, like background music, or a commentary, can turn an otherwise dull holiday video, into something worth watching, that won't bore the pants off the neighbours.

 

That's the cue for the Hama 42534, possibly the best fifty quid's worth of accessory we've seen so far this year. It's part of Hama's new 'Starterkit' range, that includes an AV processor and a video editor, we'll be looking at them over the next couple of months. All three share a common styling theme, and they're all very good value for money, filling a gap in Hama's range for affordable post production systems. Until now they've pitched their wares at enthusiasts and serious users, so it's good to see they're catering more for home video movie-makers.

 

The price is very attractive; normally when you buy an audio mixer that's precisely what you get, but this one comes with the whole shooting match, which includes a microphone with stand, stereo headphones, AV and audio leads, plus half decent instructions. The cream coloured case is quite snazzy, thought the five sliders look a little lost on the top panel. By the way, you might have noticed the extra holes on our sample, next to the AV sockets, that's because it was an early evaluation model, they're blanked off  on the production mixers.

 

The sliders are arranged in two groups. The first three are for each of the inputs: microphone, auxiliary and VCR; the other two are the master fader, and a simple tone control. The input and output sockets are conveniently located on the top of the front panel, they include a video loop-through for a VCR, the video signal passes through untouched. The microphone inputs are on the front of the unit, on the left side, on the right there's a jack for the stereo headphones. The main on/off switch and DC input connector are on the back panel. One thing the outfit doesn't include is an AC mains adaptor; it's no big deal as it can also be powered by a 9 volt battery. Power consumption is very low, and with normal use a battery should last several months.

 

One of the commonest problems with mixers, or processors, indeed any device with slider controls, is noise. Sliders, because of the way they're built, can allow dust to get inside and on the resistive tracks; when that happens they become noisy. We're pleased to report the 42534 is starting out with a clean slate and the sliders sound and feel clean. The mixer doesn't add any extra noise, channels separation is good and it's easy to use. The tone control is best left in the middle, where it can't do any harm... The mike and headphones are not what you'd call ' studio quality' items but they're fine for this kind of job, the fact that they're included in the price is quite remarkable.

 

Overall then, a very useful package, that's fun to use, and it's not going to break the bank. A good first step on the post production ladder. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  Hama 42534

Guide Price                   50

What is it?                    3-channel stereo audio mixer

Sockets                            audio and video in/out (phono), headphones & microphone (minijack)

Accessories                  microphone and stand, stereo headphones, 1 x AV lead, 1 x stereo audio lead

Dimensions                   320 x 210 x55        

Distributor                       HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF. Telephone (01256) 708110

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Modest mixer, with style

 

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( R.Maybury 1995 2909

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