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Sharp-eyed visitors to Live 94 may have spotted the HVR-500 in amongst the video accessories on display at the Sony stand. At the time they weren’t too sure about the launch date or price, now we can confirm both, but first, what is it? It’s a remotely controllable pan/tilt head, with a colour LCD monitor built into the control unit. It’s just the job for discreet wildlife videographers, and quite a few other applications we can think of. It’s designed to work with machines that have a Control L/Lanc editing terminal, enabling the machine’s record start/stop/standby and zoom functions to be operated from the remote unit, though that doesn’t preclude it being used with other, less well-endowed models, which may still be controllable using their IR remote handsets. A five metre lead connects the two units together, this carries power and control signals to the pan/tilt head, and video from the camcorder back to the handset. Motorised and remote-control pan-tilt heads are not exactly a new idea, a similar arrangement -- with a LCD monitor screen -- is possible with the Sanyo EX33, but this is the first one we’ve come across that will work with a range of machines. Look out for a Mini Test on this very interesting gadget in the March issue. Meanwhile if you just can’t wait, it should be reaching the shops just about now, and the price will be £500.



Tech-Link have just introduced a new range of AV accessories, they’ve got almost every eventuality covered, from speaker switchers, to stereo pre-amplifiers, prices start at less than £12.00 for the TX-105 amplifier input extender. But that’s a hi-fi product, why are we telling you this? Well, in amongst the new ‘Super Selector’ range is the MX-100M audio mixer, and we’ve already pencilled it in for a Mini Test. It has two mono line-audio inputs and two microphone inputs, via phono sockets. Levels are controlled by a bank of sliders, although not marked as such it sounds like just the job for video movie-making, and at £17.95 it’s not a bad deal either. Tech-Link AV accessories are available from all good video and hi-fi stores, or you can contact them direct at: Units 1/2 Farnley Road, London SE25 6NX. Telephone 0181-771 8388.



Sony have found an interesting new use for the optical image stabiliser on their TR2000 camcorder. Over the past few weeks they’ve had one bolted to the roll-cage of a 140mph Volkswagen Vento VR6. Why did they do that? It’s there to keep an eye on the thirteen finalists in a competition organised by Sony’s  in-car hi-fi division and Carweek magazine. The first prize is a full season’s racing in Britain’s top saloon car series, worth an estimated £70,000. The judges are viewing footage from the camcorder as we speak, to evaluate the competitor’s technique, and reactions during the series of tests, held at Cadwell Park Car and camcorder survived unscathed, we should know, it’s the one that we used in the image stabiliser group test, (the camcorder, not the car...) starting on page XX. You can find out how well the camcorder got on right now; the results of the driving competition should be known by the time this issue reaches the bookshelves, we’ll keep you posted.



It’s not often we come across a new name in the video accessory market but it looks like we can add Datel Electronics to the list. In fact they’ve been around for a while, in the computer business, but they’re getting into video movie-making in a big way with five impressive-looking new products. The first one is the Micro FX video effects unit costing a reasonable £149. We’re still waiting to get our hands on one but the specification looks very promising, with a useful selection of wipes and masks, digital AV fader and an assortment of ready-made displays that include a test card, copyright message, countdown and ‘The End’; everything is controlled from an on-screen menu.        


Micro FX has a companion audio mixer, called Micro FX Audio Mixer, strangely enough, and this will be selling for £59 (£199 if brought together with the AV processor). It’s a 4-channel stereo design with LED level displays, microphone input, stereo/mono switching and video throughput. The mixer links to the AV processor via a dedicated bus connector;  plans are afoot for a matching analogue video processor, title generator and colour effects processor that will use the same connector bus.


The third new product is a stand-alone timebase corrector and frame synchroniser. It’s billed as a pro-quality design, though the price of £450 puts it within the reach of serious home video movie-makers. Datel also reckon it has genlock capabilities, adjustable luminance, chrominance and contrast controls, automatic fade and NTSC compatibility; if that’s the case this could turn out to be a very significant new accessory.


New arrival number four is a Universal Standards Converter, and once again the price and specification look almost too good to be true, it costs just £230, a fraction of the price of  pro converters. The unit will digitally convert PAL to NTSC and vice-versa, SECAM to PAL, and SECAM to NTSC. There’s a built-in timebase corrector and a claimed 500-line resolution.


Finally there’s the Power Pack. This is a 140 watt DC inverter; you put 12 volts DC in, and you get 240 volts AC out, so you can power things like small TVs and other mains appliances from a car battery. The price? Well, once again Datel have pitched it low, at just under £60. We’re looking forward to see all of these products in the very near future so watch out for reviews in forthcoming issues.



By way of a prelude to next month’s mega battery test we would like to introduce you to Varta’s new range of camcorder power packs. Varta have been at the forefront of new battery technologies for quite a while, and if we had the time and space we could tell you all about their work on high-power Lithium Ion batteries for electric vehicles... We haven’t, so we’ll concentrate on their camcorder batteries instead. The most interesting newcomers are their nickel metal-hydride packs, now available with 6 volt and 4.8 volt outputs.


The 6-volt packs have machine-specific or multi-fit contacts, so they cover virtually every compact camcorder and palmcorder on the market. The 4.8 volt packs are designed for the latest Panasonic models, and come in two capacity ratings. The characteristics of nickel metal hydride rechargables are well suited to camcorders, and they’re generally reckoned to be free of the dreaded memory effect. In fact their charge/discharge curves look remarkably similar to nickel-cadmium cells, and they have an almost identical rate of self-discharge, the only significant differences, apart from the price, is the slightly longer charging time, and they get quite hot whilst they’re doing it.


A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to look round one of Varta’s battery research facilities, and in addition to a very detailed series of chemistry lessons -- we’re still reeling from the one about advanced lithium-ion formulations -- we picked up a lot of useful snippets. For instance, did you know that you can slow down the rate of self-discharge by popping your camcorder battery into the fridge once it has charged; that should keep it in prime condition for several months. (Varta recommend the salad crisper compartment). We’ve also learned that NiMh batteries may not give their best on standard nicad chargers, due to the differing charge characteristics. Varta suggest giving batteries that do not seem to be reaching their full capacity, a second go on the charger, when the charge light goes out. We’ll be reporting on this in next month’s battery feature.


You might also like to know that nickel metal-hydride batteries use materials originally developed for use in the fuel tanks of cars powered by hydrogen gas, and most interesting of all, Varta, Duracell and Toshiba have formed an alliance to work out the design for a standard battery pack, initially this will be for mobile telephones, maybe one day they’ll get around to camcorders...



Ó R. Maybury 1994 1212



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