VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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EDIT DECKS

 

INTRO

Virtually any old VCR can be used for editing or copying home video movies, but some machines make it easier for you, hereís a run-down of some of the more camcorder-friendly VCRs on the market

 

COPY

What makes one VCR a delight to use for putting together video movies, whilst another similarly priced and specified model can put you off editing for life? Thereís no easy answer but over the years we have identified a number of features that simplify the task of copying and editing video footage from a camcorder to a VCR.

 

The most obvious one picture quality. Copying recordings from a camcorder to a VCR always involves some loss of picture quality, in general cheap and cheerful video recorders make poor edit decks. Some budget machine also have inferior backspace editing systems, which produce a nasty glitch in the picture when the tape is paused whilst recording. Try yours next time you tape a TV programme, there should be no disturbance at the point when the tape was stopped, if there is then thereís not much point trying to use it to edit recordings, theyíll look dreadful!

 

Any machine that aspires to edit deck status must have a front-mounted AV terminal, the mere prospect of having to poke around in the rats nest of cables lurking behind most decks can be a powerful deterrent.

 

So much for the basics, but if youíre really serious there are a number of other features to look out for. They are audio dub, which enables the soundtrack to be replaced, by background music or a commentary. Insert editing is well worth having as it allows new scenes to be dropped into the middle of an existing recording. A jog/shuttle dial makes it easier to move quickly around a recording, to locate specific scenes, itís also a good performance indicator as machines with this facility usually have more advanced video processing circuitry.

 

Audio performance is important, particularly if youíve got a stereo camcorder and want to retain the stereo soundtrack on any copies that you make. Stereo VCRs cost only a little more than mid-market mono models nowadays, so even if youíve got a mono camcorder it still makes sense to put stereo hi-fi sound high on your wish-list.

 

The icing on the edit VCR cake is an editing terminal. These are used to connect the machine to an edit controller, for automated assemble editing, though this only makes sense if your camcorder has an edit terminal as well. Most edit controllers have infra-red control systems to operate the VCRs record-pause function, so strictly speaking an edit terminal isnít necessary if the VCR is to be used as the record or destination deck, but quite a few controllers also have so-called Ďhard-wireí connections, in which case it will be able to control all of the VCRs transport functions, both as a record and source deck, and it will allow the controller to read the VCRs counter codes, so edits will be more accurate and consistent. There are two control systems in use at the moment, Control L or LANC which is exclusive to Sony VCRs, and the RMC 5-pin system, used by Panasonic.  

 

Finally there are a small number of specialist machines on the market with built-in edit controllers. There are two types, those that instruct the VCR to replay designated scenes in any desired order, and those that control automate of a camcorder connected to the VCR, via an edit terminal.

 

Currently VCR manufacturers are giving a much higher priority to budget and middle market machines, so thereís not as many edit-friendly VCRs on the market as we would like, nevertheless weíve still managed to identify at least half a dozen models that are well worth considering if you either have a camcorder, or are thinking of getting one and want the option to progress beyond basic movie-making. Some of these machines are due to be replaced later in the year but theyíre all still available, look out for reviews of their successors over the coming months. Weíll begin with the top-end blockbusters.

 

PANASONIC NV-HS1000

Undoubtedly the best edit VCR to date, this one has the lot, including Super VHS recording system and stereo hi-fi sound. The key feature though is a built-in edit controller that can control both Panasonic camcorders fitted with 5-pin edit terminals, and, hereís the really good bit, machines with Control L/LANC terminals as well. The controller has a 10-scene memory and it can also be fitted with an optional VITC module, so it can read timecoded recordings, for near frame-accurate cuts. The feature list just goes on and on, it includes AV insert edit, audio dub, sound on search, jog/shuttle dial, and a timebase corrector, for stabilising picture quality on old or noisy recordings.

 

In spite of its sophistication itís really very easy to use, in fact the only reason youíre not rushing out to buy one right now is the rather hefty £1000 price tag, but if youíre at all serious about editing, and have a suitably equipped camcorder this is the VCR to have!

 

Picture quality            9

Sound quality            9

Edit facilities                10

Value for money 7

 

SONY EVS-9000

This is the odd one out in that itís a Hi8/8mm deck, so at first glance itís a rather specialist product. However, Sony have made considerable efforts to give this machine as near normal a persona as possible, and it can be used to do mundane jobs like time-shifting and recording TV programmes. It even has a NICAM decoder, just about the only thing it canít do is play VHS rental tapes. Nevertheless this is an edit deck first and foremost, and to that end it has RC time-code read and write facilities, a built-in 8-scene edit controller that can be used to operate other VCRs and camcorders equipped with Control L terminals. It has a timebase corrector, to iron out jitters on noisy recordings, twin PIP (picture in picture) screens which inset sub-screen into the TV picture showing what is coming into the machineís external video inputs; the other one shows whatís being recorded. It has two stereo soundtracks, one is a normal 8mm FM hi-fi audio recording system, the other is a digital PCM soundtrack, which can be dubbed; thereís a full set of front AV sockets, plus a jog/shuttle dial.

 

Picture and sound quality are both outstanding and the deck is remarkably agile, changing from one replay speed to another with minimal picture disturbance. Itís loaded with gadgets -- the control panel is motorised  -- and in spite of everything it is no more difficult to use than most ordinary VCRs. Clearly the Hi/8mm format is a limitation if you want to edit or copy to VHS but for those who want or need to stay within the format, and can find the necessary £1600, then thereís simply nothing to compare.

 

Picture quality            9

Sound quality            9

Edit facilities                9

Value for money 6

 

SONY SLV-E90

Itís on its way out but the E90 is still a classic and well worth hunting down. Itís a highly specified NICAM machine but Sony have given it a better than average assortment of editing facilities. To begin with it has Control L socket, so it can be used with an edit controller; it has audio dub, a front AV terminal, NTSC replay, a good range of trick-play functions accessed from jog/shuttle dials on the front panel and remote handset, plus a sophisticated on-screen display system. More down-to-earth features include a Video Plus+ timer, PDC (programme delivery control, for self-correcting timer recordings), and manual recording level control. It also has a tape-tuning system that optimises recording and playback according to the grade of tape being used.

 

On-screen performance is very good, approaching the limits of the VHS system, and thereís very low levels of picture noise. The only real minus point is the price, these days £650 is quite a lot to pay for a NICAM VCR, so the question is do the edit features warrant the extra cost. The short answer is yes, but only if youíre going to make full use of them, otherwise there are several quite capable edit-worth VHS decks that sell for quite a bit less.

 

Picture quality            8

Sound quality            8

Edit facilities                9

Value for money 7

 

GRUNDIG GV-450

The 450 is a surprise entry in the editing stakes but this machine has an unusually good selection of features that includes a front AV terminal, audio dub, insert editing, stereo hi-fi sound. It may not have an editing terminal but it does have a title generator, that can be used to add simple titles as recordings are edited or copied to this machine. Other items of interest are NTSC and Quasi S-VHS replay, both on normal PAL TVs, it also has a full set of convenience features for recording TV programmes, such Video Plus+ , one-touch record and automatic cassette identification, handy for keeping track of large collections of tapes.

 

Picture and sound quality are both good but itís not without its faults, though; the instructions are rather dense and it takes a while to get to know it properly. On the plus side it looks quite smart, and the price of £460 is very reasonable.

 

Picture quality            8

Sound quality            8

Edit facilities                7

Value for money 8

 

JVC HR-J715

Considering their pre-eminence as the inventors of the VHS format JVCs video recorders have had comparatively few editing features, until recently. The 715 which was launched late last year marked a turning point. Itís a top-end stereo machine with front AV terminal, jog/shuttle control, audio dub, advanced multi-speed replay, insert edit and R.A Edit. This feature has been borrowed from their camcorders, essentially itís a simple edit controller with an 8 scene memory. The controller will work with almost any other VCR that has a remote pause socket. Other models can be controlled via an optional multi-brand remote handset costing a further £60.

 

Picture quality is very good, well up to the kind of quality you would associate with JVC, and in line with a stereo machine costing £500. When we tested the J715 earlier in the year we noted that picture noise levels were very low and colours were accurate and natural looking, even on second generation recordings. Clearly the editing system has its limitations, and will be of most interest to those with VHS-C camcorders and access to a second VCR, however it does represent a very simple route into editing, particularly for beginners who may not want to get involved with the paraphernalia of full-blown editing systems

 

Picture quality            9

Sound quality            8

Edit facilities                8

Value for money 8

 

PANASONIC HD-700

The HD-700 was launched early last year when it cost £800, but it has been so popular itís going to continue in production for the rest of this year, and the price has been reduced to £700. The reason it has done so well can be put down to the fact that it has a built-in edit controller, compatible with Panasonic camcorders sporting a 5-pin edit terminal. The controller has a 10-scene memory and edit points are flagged using the camcorderís tape counter. Itís not as precise as semi-professional  timecode systems but it still manages to get to within half a second or so of the designated cut points, and thatís quite good enough for most applications. It has plenty of other features to interest camcorder owners, like stereo sound, audio dub, sound on search, jog/shuttle dial, NTSC and quasi S-VHS replay, front AV terminal, a microphone socket and superb trick play facilities.

 

Panasonic havenít skimped on picture quality, not that they ever do, but resolution and colour accuracy are both well above average, and picture noise levels are very low. Itís not cheap but youíre paying for, and getting a range of exceptionally well thought out editing facilities. The only note of caution is that unlike its high-band stablemate, the HS1000, itís not compatible with camcorders that have Control L edit terminals; in other words it will only work with Panasonic machines, and a handful of clones, but if youíre fortunate to have a suitable machine then you need look no further!

 

Picture quality            9

Sound quality            9

Edit facilities                9

Value for money 8

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1995 0504

 

 


 

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