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PORTABLE CINEMA

The term Ďhome cinemaí is applied rather loosely to any audio-visual set-up, and normally implies the TV used in the system has a larger than average screen, 26-inches or above. Nevertheless it still takes an enormous leap of faith to compare watching a domestic television, even one of the bigger ones, with the visual impact of a cinema screen. If youíve got the room you can go some way towards recreating that experience with a video projector, one like the Sharp VX-315P in fact, which looks a lot like the XV-710 that itís replacing.

 

This compact portable projector has been designed with home users in mind, though itís equally suitable for business and commercial applications. It can create an image up to 100 inches across, though only in near-dark conditions; optimum picture size is around 60-inches, and thatís viewable in a semi-darkened room on an efficient screen. Inside the sleek grey box thereís a single 3.6-inch TFT LCD panel with over 300,000 picture elements (100,386 RGB trios);  behind that thereís a newly-developed metal halide lamp which yields a picture brightness of 330 lux with a screen size of 30-inches. Obviously picture resolution will not be as good as a professional three-element projectors but if the similarly-specified 710 was anything to go by it should still be quite good.

 

This not a TV, so it doesnít have an on-board tuner, but it does have multi-system capability and can handle PAL, SECAM and NTSC signals, either composite or S-Video formatted. It have an internal audio amplifier and speaker though, and sound output is rated at 3 watts. Thatís sufficient for monitoring but we suspect most users will prefer to utilise their AV system for serious stereo or surround sound effects. All up weight is a mere 4.3kgs and it measures 215 x 149 x 385 mm, thatís about the size of a large shoe-box. The big question, though, is how much does it cost? Well, itís not cheap, but you knew that... In fact it will set you back a cool £1800, but look at this way, thatís actually quite cheap for a video projector, and how else are you going to get a 100-inch TV picture in your living room?

 

While weíre on the subject of video projectors, and as a prelude to next monthís Shop Window feature, which is looking at a range of models, we thought you might like to know about another new projector from Sharp. The XG-3850E is a professional 3-element projector, and thatís reflected in the price which is just twenty quid short of ten grand (including VAT...). Mind you, it can throw up an image up to 200-inches across, and picture quality is likely to be pretty impressive, with each LCD element having a grand total of 309,120 pixels. Sharp reckon resolution is in the order of 500-lines -- better than many tube TV displays -- on computer generated images itís capable of displaying a full 640 x 480 dots, compatible with the most frequently used formats.

 

It has a wide range of input facilities, including composite and S-Video, and thereís multi-scan inputs for RGB, VGA, CGA, EGA and MAC II computer displays. It also has audio inputs, and a built in speaker and amplifier. Itís multi-system compatible and supports PAL, NTSC and SECAM formats; additionally it can handle 4:3, 16:9 and 21:9 images.  It probably makes a damn fine cup of tea as well, so start saving now!

 

FILMS ON DISC -- AT LAST?

You can add yet another CD format to the list which now includes audio only discs, CD-ROM, CDi, Photo CD, CD Video, Video CD, CD-R, and countless other exotic variants that needless to say do lots of clever things but are all incompatible with one another. The newcomer is called Digital Video Disc, developed jointly by Philips and Sony, and for once, it makes some sort of sense. This 12cm disc can hold approximately 3.7 gigabytes of data, thatís more than five times as much as a normal  CD or CD-ROM, and enough for around 135 minutes of compressed video. Thatís a full-length feature film on one disc, along with (compressed) digital audio and subtitles. The increase in capacity has been brought about by an improvement in laser technology, a reduction in the size of the data pits and a narrowing of the gaps between the tracks on the disc.

 

Inevitably these new discs will only work with a new generation of players, but the discs themselves should be no more expensive (some hope...) than normal CDs as they can be produced using the same equipment. Itís early days yet, so thereís no word on when and how much itíll all cost but keep an eye on this one. It looks a darn sight more promising than the hotchpotch of standards and fixes that have bedevilled the concept of movies on CD.

 

DURACELL CLEAN UP

Duracell are proud to announce that theyíve managed to eliminate the last remaining 0.4% of cadmium metal from their nickel metal hydride re-chargeable batteries. They should have kept quiet, we didnít even know it was there in the first place...

 

Whilst weíre first to applaud this notable achievement sadly itís not going to make a jot of difference to the overall impact that batteries as a whole can have on the environment. Itís up to all of us to make sure we dispose of them safely, donít just chuck them in the dustbin, your local amenity tip will be able to take them off your hands, or -- in the case of deceased camcorder packs -- take them back to the shop where you brought them. Most of the materials can be safely recovered and recycled.

 

SHARP NEWCAM

Look out for an exclusive test report on the Sharp VL-HS410 View Cam in next monthís Video Camera. The 410 is due to hit the shops in a few weeks but weíve got hold of an early production sample for review. The 410 will replace the HS400, their current top of the line View Cam, and like its predecessor the new model has a Hi8 recording system and stereo  sound. Unlike the recent View Cam upgrades this one is effectively a new machine, and weíre pleased to say theyíve addressed a number  of our criticisms of the 400.

 

The biggest change, however, is to the power system. Instead of a nickel metal-hydride pack the new machine uses a lithium ion battery, similar but not compatible with the one developed by Sony and used by both Canon and Hitachi. This has resulted in a reduction in both size and weight, improving the handling on the new machine no end. One of our main quibbles was with the 400ís peculiar microphone, which was vertically oriented and produced up/down stereo channels, instead of the more usual left/right ones. The mike is round the right way on the 410,  with a consequent improvement in sound performance. Other changes include a new 16x digital zoom, improved trasnmissiveness LCD screen -- for easier daylight viewing --plus several changes to the control layout and operating systems. The only thing that hasnít changed is the price, thatís still around the £1400 mark, find out how the new machine compares next month.

 

 

VIDEO-TECH UPDATE

Some late news on the Video Tech 2070 has just come our way. The device, which you can read all about on page XX now works with JVC VCRs, and the latest models to roll off the production line have been modified to work with the Sony 805 camcorder, which previously had caused one or two problems.

 

 

MAZE STUFF TO FOLLOW -- IíM STILL WAITING....

MAZE-LOCK

Thatís what Maze Technologyís new genlock card for PCs was going to be called until someone came up with the rather more descriptive name of PC-2-Video. The card, which can overlay computer-generated images onto a video input, comes bundled with Mazeís PC Titler De-Luxe software, and at around £411 thatís a pretty good deal, PC Titler on its own has been selling for £150. Maze are also doing a package deal on the genlock and their PC Titler Pro software, itís called PC-2-Video PRO and it will be selling for a little over £822. (By the way, the prices we show all include VAT)

 

The genlock card is designed to fit all IBM PCs and compatibles with a 386 (or higher) processor, at least 3Mb of RAM and a 1Mb SVGA graphics card. It is configured for both composite and Y/C (S-Video) PAL video input and output, plus it will operate at resolutions up to 800 x 600. It provides simultaneous VGA monitor and PAL video outputs, so you can see whatíre doing on the PC screen, and it can be controlled directly by Mazeís Video Workshop For Windows. That means itís possible to create titles automatically, and carry out neat tricks like video transitions -- using just one source deck -- with one image appearing to dissolve seamlessly into another.

 

Weíre hoping to see one of the very first cards soon, possibly in the next month or two, so look out for a review in the very near future.

 

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