VIDEO CAMERA 1995

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

MAKING LITE WORK...

 

INTRO

As PC editing systems become ever more sophisticated we take a look at the back to basics approach adopted by Syntronix, with their Editman Junior Lite system

 

COPY

Desk-top video is a relatively recent innovation, and in the past couple of years there have been some tremendous advances.  It’s now possible to cram virtually the entire contents of a well-equipped editing and post-production suite into a PC, but not everyone has the computers necessary to run such high-powered applications, or the need for such sophistication.

 

Editman Junior Lite from Syntronix is one possible solution for those content to remain in the computer slow lane, it runs quite happily on older and slower IBM PCs and compatibles, even ones without a hard-disc drive; Syntronix assure us there really are people out there with such machines (there’s also a version available for the Amiga). The software is DOS-based, which, for the uninitiated is the most basic PC user interface, relying on largely text-based commands to make things happen. However, once the program is up and running it looks and feels more like the graphical environment of ‘Windows’, with actions and functions controlled by a mouse pointer.  

 

The system is derived from the Editman Junior desktop editor, which was one of the first PC based edit controllers and has been around for quite a while; the Lite version reviewed here sells for £99, including VAT. It is designed to work with LANC/Control L equipped camcorders and VCRs with IR remote control, we understand that a Panasonic 5-pin version is also available. The outfit includes a 3.5-inch floppy containing the software, a serial lead, interface box, LANC connecting lead and IR wand. The interface box requires a 6V DC power supply, this is not included in the outfit, though the manufacturers point out that suitable mains adaptors are available for less than £5.00. For the record the PC version requires a 386/25 PC or faster with at least 1Mb of RAM memory. Syntronix offer numerous upgrade paths, up to an including professional multi-machine set-ups; the company also operate a buy-back scheme, whereby the cost of more advanced systems can be offset by part-exchanging Editman Junior Lite.

 

INSTALLATION

Having become accustomed to Windows-based software Editman Junior Lite (Let’s just call it EJL from now on...) might appear to be something of a retrograde step, though anyone who has grappled with the often awkward installation and configuration demands made by some Windows software will find this one refreshingly simple to use.  Simply boot up the computer and wait for the DOS prompt. Change the drive letter to ‘A:’ and type ‘go’. That’s all there is to it, the program runs directly from the floppy, it carries out a system check, makes sure all of the hardware connections are in place, and the equipment switched on, and then displays a tidy looking desktop or ‘operating screen’. The software cannot be loaded to hard disc, though a version that can is available.

 

Configuring the system takes just a few moments. Simply load the appropriate infra-red remote control drivers from the IR menu and check out the control functions to the source machine. The manufacturers say they can supply IR drivers for any VCR, and if it’s not in their library they’ll create custom software on request.  If everything works, and ours did first time, then it’s time to start editing. There are two basic options, manual editing where the system is used to copy single scenes, and auto-assemble editing, where the controller remembers specified edit in and out points, and perform the final edit by taking control of both the playback and record video decks.

 

EASE OF USE

The supplied instructions only get the system up and running, which is fair enough, but more detailed information that would enable more experienced users to get beyond the basics are not included, the book simply refers the user to the manufacturer for further assistance. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it the instructions are awful, they contain numerous spelling and grammatical errors. We even came across spelling errors in the on-line help facility, there’s simply no excuse for that on a finished product. Help describes what selected controls do, though several buttons do nothing at all, or the help message says the function is not supported. There is also a ‘readme’ file on the disc, but this amounts to a 1300 word disclaimer containing a quite extraordinary number of threats...

 

Marking edit points is easy enough, provided you remember to pause the tape every time. Unlike most other controllers this one cannot mark scenes ‘on the fly’ which is a bit of a nuisance, and it can be quite tricky to get to a specified point in the recording if the source machine doesn’t support forward and reverse frame advance (most camcorders don’t...). Details of each scene are logged on an edit decision list (EDL), which can be called up from the main desktop. Here we come to Editman’s biggest failing, it is not possible to directly change data on the EDL, other than by re-running the edit. A couple of basic options are available, namely cut, copy and paste, so the order in which scenes appear can be changed, moreover EDLs can be saved to disc, but without the facility to change individual cut points the system falls flat.

 

The instructions warn that the user should avoid the temptation to press buttons unnecessarily...  Good advice, rapid or impatient double-clicking caused our system to hang. Some actions are slow, though, and the source deck pause function on our sample sometimes failed to engage.

 

PERFORMANCE

As usual edit accuracy depends to a large extent on the characteristics of the source and record decks; our sample was used with a mixture of fairly ordinary Sony camcorders and Panasonic/Sony VCRs. There’s a facility to adjust post and pre-roll times but the help message warns the user not to touch them without assistance. Nevertheless, with a little trial and error it’s possible to get to within a second or two on a single cut; errors accumulate over multiple edits, during our tests they amounted to between five and six seconds over a 10-scene EDL covering a 10 minute sections of a recording. It’s not brilliant but it’ll do for simple jobs.

 

THE VERDICT

EJL might appeal to those who use older or simpler computers, and don’t hold with this new-fangled Windows business... It’s exceptionally simple to install, if our experiences are anything to go by, it’s one of the easiest system to configure, and the various upgrade options sound promising, but as it stands there are rather a lot of rough edges to contend with. The instructions badly need re-writing, and they definitely should include more advanced operations, however, the biggest bug-bear is the inability to modify cut points on the EDL. This is a basic function on any edit controller worth its salt but it should be mandatory on a PC-based system, otherwise what’s the point of having all that processing power and data-handling facilities?  

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/Model                             Syntronix Editman Junior Lite

Guide price                              £99.99

System requirements               IBM PC or compatible, 386SX 25Mhz or better, at least 1Mb of RAM, DOS. Amiga A500 upwards (ex A600) 1Mb of fast memory and accelerator recommended

Video input/output              none

Camcorder/VCR Control    LANC, programmed infra red

Distributor                                Syntronix DTV Systems, Burlington House, Prime Industrial Park, Shaftsbury Street, Derby DE3 8YB. (01332) 298422

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1995 2206

 


 

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