packages can appear intimidating, but here’s one designed specifically for
non-expert users, based on the highly successful Video Director from Gold Disk
Video Director was one of the earliest computer-based video editing packages,
the Amiga version appeared back in 1992, with software written for IBM PCs and
compatibles following a year later. Since then it has gone through several
revisions, including the newly-released Video Director Suite, (review next
month), but the package we’re looking at here -- Video Director Home --
represents the most radical departure from what has turned out to be a highly
Director Home is the cheapest package so far, costing just under £50, yet it
retains many of the features of the original program, which sold for £180!
However Video Director was, and still is pretty much an enthusiasts product,
aimed at experienced camcorder users and those who know their way around computers;
Home is targeted at a much wider audience, and opens up computer editing to
those with camcorders not fitted with editing terminals (though it will still
need to have an infra-red control facility).
friendlier, easier to user interface
control for source and record decks
The way it
works is largely unchanged though. The computer controls the source deck
(camcorder) and record deck (VCR) with a ‘smart cable’. This connects to the PC’s
serial port, the cable has both 9 and 25-pin D-Connectors, so it will fit the
vast majority of machines without any trouble. At the other end of the cable
there’s a small box containing infra-red emitter and receiver diodes, and a
further length of cable that terminates in a 2.5mm minijack plug, this connects
to the camcorder’s Control L/LANC socket, on those that have them.
still no interface for machines fitted with Panasonic 5-pin edit terminals,
Gold Disk tell us they’re working on it, but they’ve been saying that for the
past couple of years, so don’t hold your breath...
reasonably recent PC can be used; system requirements call for a 386 or faster
processor, with at least 2MB of RAM (preferably 4MB) and Windows 3.1 or higher;
the software occupies just under 4.5MB of hard disc space.
is largely automatic, the software comes on two 1.4MB floppies, and once the
name of the root directory has been confirmed loading takes place, after which
it automatically seeks out the relevant Com port and tests the LANC driver.
manual tasks are to select the infra-red drivers for the VCR (and non LANC camcorder)
from the library, or create new ones,
using the system’s learning IR facilities. Once installation is complete the
software creates a program group and icons.
launched like any other Windows application, by double-clicking on the icon,
this produces an intro screen followed by the main desktop, but it’s quite
unlike any normal Windows desktop. In fact it’s much more like the sort of
thing you see on an interactive CD ROM. Instead of the familiar menu bar and
dialogue boxes there a cartoon-like graphics, with a picture of a camcorder at
the top, two blank notepads at the
bottom, and a strip of graphics at the side. There’s a book, for ‘help’, a
toolbox for configuration commands, a printer, and a trash can. Moving the
mouse pointer to any button brings up a Help ‘balloon’, this can be disabled
once you get to know the system.
camcorder is shown side-on, with its counter display and transport controls clearly
represented. Pointing and clicking the mouse on the ‘make tape’ label on the
script notebook makes a VCR graphic slide in from the left side of the screen.
The other surprise is sound, almost all commands involve some kind of wacky
sound effect, that we’re relieved to say can be switched off. By the way, you’ll
only hear them if you’ve got a Soundblaster compatible sound card.
is used for the first time there’s the option to work through a short tutorial,
this is well worth doing, especially for those new to video editing. It gives a
good overview of the system, along with coloured hypertext links to other,
relevant subjects or in-depth explanations, it all feels very relaxed and easy
preliminaries to worry about, and once everything is connected up you can begin
editing right away. The first step is to give the tape a name, then set the
camcorder to play, by clicking on the transport control button. When the
beginning of the first scene appears click on the ‘start of clip’ button, and
the relevant counter display is shown, at the edit out point click on ‘end of
clip’, the deck goes into pause mode and a dialogue box appears. This gives the
user the option to name the clip, and amend the counter settings with the
keyboard up/down arrows. Normally the counter increments in seconds, but if the
source machine has RC timecode facilities the counter display shows frame
numbers as well.
Press the ‘OK’
button and the clip is entered into the Camcorder Tape notebook on the left
side of the page, along with duration, time and date (if the clip hasn’t been
named). Clips are sorted into a linear time sequence. After all the clips have
been entered they have to be transferred to the Scripts page. This is done by dragging and dropping each clip, from
the Camcorder Tape page. At this stage clips can be placed into any desired
order, or re-arranged by the same method. Once again the length and edit in/out
points of each clip can be changed by double-clicking on the relevant line.
Script or event list is complete the finished tape can be recorded by clicking
on the make tape button at the bottom of the page. A VCR graphic slides in from
the side, click on the ‘make tape now’ button and the system begins playback
and recording the designated clips.
So far we
haven’t said much about set-ups that use IR control for both source and record machines,
that’s because the method of operation is basically the same. It works by
creating a ‘virtual’ camcorder, that carries out the same operations as the one
in the real world. In theory it will have the same response times, so although
the computer has no way of reading the camcorder’s tape counter, the one on the
virtual camcorder will shadow the real one. In practice the two machines will
drift apart; Home has a simple calibration facility, to prevent the drift from growing
too large, this can be used on both hard-wired and IR linked set-ups.
other facility we haven’t mentioned is the label printer. This is a great idea,
and it can be used to create tape labels for 8mm, VHS and VHS-C cassettes.
These can be for the spine, top or case inserts. It automatically works out the
shape, design and layout of labels and inserts, configures the printer and allows
the user to choose fonts and typefaces from those installed on the PC.
For such an
inexpensive package Video Director Home does exceptionally well. Using the
Control L hard-wire link to edit non-timecode material, cuts were consistently
to within +/- 10 frames, using our standard edit test sequence that spans a 30-minute calibrated recording. Using time codes
accuracy improved to +/- 1 frames, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
the system with IR control for both decks, without too many expectations, but
we were very pleasantly surprised. Using the same test sequence cuts were to
within +/- 2 seconds (50 frames) which is actually very good. Simpler edit
sequences, made over a shorter length of tape, should be even better.
It’s not all
sweetness and light though; it’s missing one or two facilities and we experience
a couple of problems. There’s no cumulative time display, for instance, that
shows how long the finished tape will be, and a ‘zero counter’ facility would
come in handy. The IR emitter is not that wonderful and has to be placed quite
close to the VCR’s control window. It’s quite directional too and could do with
some sort of stand, to stop it moving around. This may or may not have been the
cause of several failed edits, where the record VCR appeared to miss a pause
command halfway through, with the result that the second half of the tape
consists of search and pre-roll sequences. The software crashed twice, causing
mysterious General Protection faults. This happened early on, and after that it
behaved itself, we put that down to the general cussedness of Windows software.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to try it with Windows 95 before publication.
It should be okay but if there’s a hitch we’ll let you know.
In a word
excellent! Video Director Home de-mystifies PC editing, the price is going to
take some beating (though remember you do need a suitable PC), and facilities like
the label printer are just wonderful. The user interface can appear a little patronising,
especially to anyone used to other systems, but that’s missing the point. Home
is designed for those unfamiliar with the workings of camcorders and PCs, who want
to edit their recordings with a minimum fuss and bother, and don’t want to be
confronted with masses of complicated looking displays. That doesn’t mean
sacrificing accuracy or flexibility. It sets new benchmarks for ease of use and
value for money, and performs as well, if not better than some packages costing
several hundred pounds more. In fact we’ll stick our necks out and say that
Video Director Home is the best PC editing package we’ve seen so far this year,
possibly to date. Highly recommended!
As far as
price is concerned nothing even comes close (apart from old discounted versions
of Video Director...). The nearest is Camlink’s Edit mate, at just under £100,
and very good it is too (it also has Panasonic 5-pin compatibility), but it’s
nowhere near as easy to set up and use. After that there’s the more advanced enthusiast
and semi-pro systems, with price tags to match.
Make/Model Video Director Home
Guide price £49.95 (inc. VAT)
requirements IBM PC or compatible, 386SX or better, 2Mb of RAM, DOS
3.3 or higher and Windows 3.1 or higher
Control ‘smart cable’ Control
L/LANC, pre-programmed or learning
facilities on-line help, label printing
Distributor Gold Disk, Castle Hill House,
Windsor SL4 1PD. Telephone (01753) 832383
Ease of use 10
Ó R. Maybury 1995 2908