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Two new Hitachi VCRs planned for launch later this year will incorporate several new features, designed to make life easier for those with hearing difficulties and the rest of us, who can never remember what weíve recorded, and whether or not it has been watched.


The first of the as-yet unnamed machines will have a built-in Closed Caption decoder. This is a device that reads and displays hidden subtitles, recorded on a growing number of movies on video, and broadcast alongside some TV programmes. Stand alone Closed Caption readers currently cost around £100, Hitachi tell us there will be no price premium on their machine, which is tipped to be a budget mono model, costing less than £400.  The second feature is called Tape Navigation; the first machine to have it will probably be a top-end stereo model, and every time it makes a recording it automatically creates or updates an on-screen contents page relating to that tape. This will show the time and date of all of the recordings on it, and the programme name if required. The display will also show whether or not it has been replayed -- the Japanese model displays a pair of eyes next to each watched recording -- and by selecting a program with a moveable cursor, it fast winds to the start of the recording and starts playback. A bargraph on the display also shows how much space there is left on the tape. On the Japanese version shown to VC, a cartoon Godzilla wanders about the screen. Hitachi assure us he (or is it she?) will not appear on the PAL version, shame...


Looking a little further into the future, next year possibly, Hitachi plan to introduce a 24-inch widescreen TV with a built-in CD deck. Thereís some debate at the moment about which formats it will support but the model currently on sale in Japan plays CD-G (Karaoke), CD-V, Photo CD and audio CD discs, all of which can be heard through the setís 70 watt stereo audio system.



We have some more details about Hitachiís new Hi8 Weathercam camcorder, which we first told you about in an exclusive report in the February issue. As we suggested it will be called the VM-H80, the price will be the same as the Mark one, around £1200, and it will be in the shops around May-June time. In addition to a no-loss electronic image stabiliser it will have a 12x optical zoom, with a digital zoom facility that takes it up to 24x. The cordless AV adaptor system is going to be called OPT, and it works using a small receiver module that plugs into the TV or VCRís SCART socket. Picture and sound information is sent from the camcorder using an infra-red beam, an early production sample weíve seem works brilliantly, the only problem is it is not S-Video compatible, so you might still need to use cables for critical applications, such as copying or editing.



JVC will be launching no less than six new VHS-C camcorders over the next few months taking their model range up to nine machines. First to arrive will be the HF700 and 900 which are mid-priced (£700 and £800 respectively) stereo machines with program AE systems, built-in video lights and a random assemble edit facility, via a newly designed remote control. The extra £100 for the HF900 pays for a colour viewfinder. Three machines are due for launch in the early Summer, they are the GR-AX400, 600 and 800. The AX400 will cost around £650, it is a fairly basic mono machine with program auto-exposure plus a video light, 12x zoom with variable speed control and a newly-designed Ďintelligent function controlí system that makes it easier to use frequently-used creative and exposure features. The AX600 has all of that plus a range of digital effects including a 120x electronic zoom, title generator and digital image stabiliser; the anticipated retail price will be around £700. In addition to that the AX800 has a built-in video light and RAE edit control system, JVC expect it to sell for around £740. Last to arrive this Summer will be the GR-AX200, itís a no-frills budget model, basically an AX400 but without the video light, and itís priced at just under £600. The SX1, SZ1 and GR-SV3 Infocam continue as before.



No, youíre not seeing things, JVC are about to launch their first edit controller, called the ED-11, and guess what, it only costs £99, so whatís the catch? Well, you wonít need reminding that JVC donít fit edit control terminals to their camcorders, (though some models do have a built-in edit control system called RAE), so what can you use it with? The short answer is almost any camcorder and VCR that has infra-red remote control. In fact the ED-11 is really just a cleverly disguised learning IR remote controller. Simply teach it the transport commands for your camcorder and VCR, and use it to simplify copying scenes from one deck to another. It doesnít have any sort of memory, so itís not really an edit controller as such, but it should make controlling two video machines a little easier. However, it has to be said that you could achieve a similar effect for free, by taping the remote control handsets from your camcorder and VCR together. Nice try JVC, but how about a proper edit controller? Itís no secret (at least it wasnít until we spilled the beans) that all of their most recent camcorders have the facility to be controlled by a PC, so why not make use of it?



JVC are going for the jugular with an incredible seven new video recorders for 1995, the ever popular HR-J610 NICAM stereo machine and HR-S5900 Super VHS deck continue unchanged. Thereís something for everyone here, three mono models (HR-J220, J225 and J425) and four stereo machines (HR-J620, 625, J725 and J825) with JVC attempting to occupy every niche in the market. Rather than itemise the sometimes very small differences between each model weíll take a broader look at the new features. Five of the new machines will have Autoset, which tunes in all locally available TV stations and sets the clock. Scene finder is an update of the familiar index search feature which allows the user to browse through tapes using a single button to dip in and out of a recording as it fast winds. Several machines now have NTSC playback and the two top-end NICAM machines have RAE (random assemble edit) controller built in. Prices for the three mono machines are expected to range from £269 to £339, whilst the stereo models will cost from £400 for the 610, to £500 for the J825. One last item of VCR news, the price of the HR-S5900 S-VHS deck will shortly be reduced to just under £800, which should give Panasonic something to think about.



Sanyo will be adding two new models to their 1995 camcorder range over the next few months. The first one is the VM-EX220 and it will have a list price of just under £550. Itís based the very popular EX33, though without the clip-on LCD monitor or editing facility. Headline features include a 10x zoom, 6 preset shooting modes, 2x playback and credit-card sized remote. The second model is the VM-EX370, the basic specification is the same, though in addition it has a colour viewfinder with 123k pixel display and a Control L/LANC editing terminal, the recommended selling price will be around £650. Both machines are due for launch in June.



Over the years weíve seen a lot of attempts to produce a convincing 3-D TV picture. Some of them have been quite good, though the viewer is normally required to wear some kind of tinted, polarised or LCD shuttered spectacles. Others have been so complicated thereís not a hope in hell of them ever becoming a commercial product. A short while ago we had the chance to see a new system developed by Sanyo, which doesnít rely on glasses, and may, just may, stand a chance of making it to the marketplace. The system echoes a 3-D still camera system launched a few years ago, by a company called Nimslo, which in turn was based on the childs toy where a picture can be made to look as though it is moving by tilting it slightly one way or another.


The 3-D software used by the Sanyo system is created in the usual way, using a pair of video cameras with their lenses spaced at roughly the same distance as our own eyes, around 6.5 cm. On replay the image is viewed through a lenticular screen, made up of a series of lenses, also spaced at 6.5 cm, so that the each eye sees a separate image.  The effect is stunning and images appear to be hovering in free space in front of the screen.  Unfortunately at its present stage of development only one person can watch the screen, and even slight movement of the head will cause the image to revert back to two dimensions. The designers have suggested a number of possible applications, including 3-D video games, or how about virtual reality keyhole surgery? Sanyo are working on ways to enlarge the viewing area, the most promising one so far uses a pair of video projectors and a special back-projection screen,  but it still looks as though it will be some time before we see 3D TVs in the shops.



R. Maybury 1995 1802




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