VIDEO CAMERA 1996

 BootLog.co.uk

HomeSoftwareArchiveTop TipsGlossaryOther Stuff

TWIN TWEAKS

 

INTRO

Goldstar have updated their unique twin-deck VCR to Hi8 operation and stereo sound. Rick Maybury looks at this novel one-box solution to 8mm copying and editing, that doubles up as a well specified home deck VCR

 

COPY

Letís not beat about the bush, twin-deck VCRs have not been very successful. Actually, there havenít been that many. An American company called Instant Replay were the first with a VHS twin that appeared briefly in early 1990. It was followed a few months later in the UK by the famous Amstrad DD8900 ĎDouble Deckerí which hung around for a year or two. In Autumn 1990  there was the Diskexpress VCR-2; it lasted about a month then disappeared without trace. Then in the Summer of 1993 Goldstar brought out the RDD-10i, an innovative VHS/8mm combo. Goldstar are the only company to have stayed the course, the RDD-10i had a  facelift last year, but now itís being replaced by the DV13i.

 

The headline feature is a Hi8-capable replay deck, which replaces the 8mm deck of its predecessor. In fact this is not a new feature, a similarly specified deck -- made by Goldstar for German TV manufacturer Loewe -- has been on sale in parts of Europe for almost eighteen months. However, this is the first outing for this combination of video formats in the UK.

 

The main differences between the DV13i and the RDD-10i include: hi-fi stereo sound on both decks, a NICAM decoder, and ĎIntellisetí auto-installation. Several features remain the same, like the built-in 5-scene edit controller, title generator and Video Plus+ timer, which was included in the most recent update.

 

At least one feature has vanished, and thatís the front-mounted AV terminal. It probably wonít be missed too much, the twin-deck set-up means thereís no need for camcorder hook-ups. Not surprisingly the additional facilities have added to the price and the DV13i will be selling for £800, thatís almost £170 more than the launch price of the RDD-10i.

 

The layout and cosmetics of the new machine are broadly the same as the RDD-10i. On the front panel the transport buttons have been arranged into ring-shapes, with a combined stop/eject key in the middle. On the back thereís just two SCART AV sockets and the coaxial connectors for the aerial bypass. For some reason thereís no line-audio output sockets, theyíre an almost standard fitment on stereo VCRs these days. And very useful they are too, for connecting the machine to a hi-fi system, without having to use one of the SCARTs, which in many set-ups will be used to connect the VCR to a TV and satellite tuner.

 

Itís fair to assume that almost every camcorder owner has a VHS video recorder, for making copies, and carrying out simple edits, so whatís the real point of this machine? The simple answer is convenience. Itís a bit of a chore, having to find the right cables to connect the camcorder to a VCR. The DV13i makes it so much easier, and the edit controller makes tidying up or putting together short movies a doddle. The title generator is a nice touch, it can superimpose a simple alphanumeric display of up to 10 lines of 14 characters on recordings made on the VHS deck. Unfortunately itís still quite cumbersome to compose longish titles, thereís only one page and it has no memory.

 

Hi8 replay, copy and edit facilities should appeal to movie-makers, but how does it rate as an ordinary VCR? Thanks to the auto-installation systems itís incredibly easy to set-up. The tuner sorts out all the locally available TV broadcasts, and assigns station idents using teletext data, it also sets the time and date, which it  constantly checks. The manually programmable timer has an 8-event 365-day capacity; the Video Plus+ timer has Programme Delivery Control (PDC) which automatically corrects timer data if the programme to be recorded is subject to a late schedule change or overruns. It does this using signals broadcast by the TV station. At the time of writing the BBC had just begun PDC trials after two years of dithering, so it now rates as a worthwhile feature.

 

All operations are controlled from a chunky little remote handset that duplicates the two sets of transport controls on the VCRs front panel. Itís all very logical, the picture from whichever deck is playing is shown on the screen; if both are playing VHS takes precedence. The menu-driven on-screen display has been well thought out; selections are made using four cursor keys, and engaged with the ĎOKí button.  Everything is more or less where you would expect to find it, and it does what itís told, but thereís a problem -- itís the tape counter. It makes no sense at all and this essential tape navigation aid has been severely compromised on this machine. As far as we can determine (the instructions are not very clear on this point) it only appears on the front panel display, and it can only be accessed when the VHS deck is in the stop mode. The instructions also allege thereís an on-screen counter for the Hi8 deck, though we never managed to find it!

 

We had no trouble with the edit controller, though, itís a model of simplicity. Pressing the edit button on the handset brings up the 5-scene edit list on the OSD. Set the Hi8/8mm deck to play, locate the edit in point and press the cursor left button; the edit out point is recorded using the right cursor key. Move to the next line using cursor down and repeat the process. When the edit decision list has been completed press OK and the sequences are automatically recorded on the VHS deck. Itís quite basic, and thereís no way of changing edit points, other than by re-running the sequence, nor can the order be changed, but this is not meant to be a substitute for a serious edit controller. Itís tolerably accurate -- cut points  are normally to within a second or so -- thatís sufficient for most users wishing simply to tidy up their holiday movies.

 

PERFORMANCE

When we last looked at the RDD-10i picture performance was rather average, to say the least; there has been some improvement though, probably as a result of the change to stereo operation, which usually means a precision deck mechanism and heads. VHS resolution on our sample has crept up to just under 250-lines. Noise levels have gone down slightly as well, resulting in a much cleaner-looking picture. Colour contrast is a bit muted though, and still a bit ragged around the edges. The Hi8 deck is definitely better than the old 8mm item, though it was unable to resolve anything like the 400-lines we normally associate with the high-band format, around 340-lines was the best we got from our sample.  The crucial test however, is the quality of Hi8/8mm transfers, which were rather disappointing on its predecessor. Itís now a lot better, though thereís still a drop in resolution to around 230 lines -- een ona Hi8 source --  and an increase in noise levels, but copy quality is certainly much more acceptable.

 

The stereo audio systems are satisfactory, thereís some hiss on the VHS stereo hi-fi tracks, 8mm sound has some background noise too, but itís not serious.  The VHS recording system has a generally clean, flat response; manual recording level, audio dub and microphone mixing facilities are all very welcome too.

 

THE VERDICT

We felt the old RDD-10i was a clever idea, but it didnít work very well, and picture performance  -- principally 8mm to VHS copies or edits -- was not as good as you would get from a cheap camcorder connected to a mid-range VCR. AV picture quality on this machine is definitely a lot better, and comparable with a typical camcorder/VCR set-up. In theory it could be even better, given the fact that the two decks should be optimised to work with each other, but weíll have to let that pass. Stereo sound and NICAM were long overdue, as was Hi8 operation, so the features list now has a well-rounded feel to it. That brings us to the price. Thereís no getting away from it, it is expensive, but thatís the price of convenience, and if you can make good use of the twin-deck facilities itís worth considering. 

 

THE RIVALS

There arenít any, but the alternatives include using your existing equipment, or buying a separate Hi8 deck and an edit controller which you could use with your VCR. Surprisingly that neednít cost much more than a DV13i, the excellent little Sony EVC 500 sells for £700 or less, and edit controllers start at around £150.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Goldstar DV13i                         

Tape format          Hi8/8mm and VHS double deck

Guide price                      £800

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            8-hours (E-240 tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events, 365-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                             PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds          15x 2x, variable slomo, still              

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          no     

Jog/shuttle          no

On-screen display          yes   

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          yes

Record search          yes   

NTSC replay          no

Quasi S-VHS replay          no     

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          yes

 

Additional facilities

built-in 5-scene edit controller, child lock, auto switch-off,

 

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi                 yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          yes   

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes (SCART only)  

H/phone level control          no     

     

 

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal                    no     

Edit terminal           no

Microphone          yes   

Headphones          no

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          no

 

Dimensions (mm)          430 x 99 x 390

Weight (kg)                   8.3kg

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         240 lines

Colour fidelity         average

Trick play stability         good

Colour bleed         average

Audio performance         average

Edit functions         good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         ****

Ease of use                      ****

Performance                     ****

Features                        ****

 

         ---end---

 

R.Maybury 1996 1806

 


 

[Home][Software][Archive][Top Tips][Glossary][Other Stuff]


Copyright (c) 2005 Rick Maybury Ltd.

admin@rickmaybury.com