VIDEO CAMERA 1996

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PHILLY BLUSTER

 

INTRO

The VCR market would be a lot less interesting were it not for Philips. Their latest NICAM VCR, the VR-757 certainly brought back a few old memories

 

COPY

Back in the late 1980ís and early 90ís we would have advised anyone seriously interested in video editing to give some Philips VCRs a wide berth. That wasnít because there were any problems with performance, far from it, picture quality on Philips machines has normally been quite good, but a number of their early VHS models had somewhat idiosyncratic control systems.  You could do some really odd things with some of them, like change channel whilst recording, and several didnít have conventional record-pause modes, so they couldnít be used as record decks with an edit controller. However, for the past four or five years most of their VCRs have been more or less normal.

 

The midi-sized VR-757 isnít quite a return to the bad old days, but it definitely has some odd features, not to mention one or two peculiar habits. For example, the Ďfrontí AV terminal is actually on the side of the machine, making it extremely difficult to get at, if itís housed inside a narrow enclosure, underneath a TV or in a racking systems. Similar problems can arise with the front-panel transport controls, which this time are on the top panel, above the fascia, where they may be obscured by shelves, or other components in a stack.

 

Thereís more. You would expect the standby buttons on the front panel and remote to switch the machine on and off, like it does on 99% of the VCRs weíve seen in the past twenty years. Not on the 757, it doesnít. The standby button on this machine only turns it off, to turn it back on again you have to press any other button, apart from eject (which ejects the tape). Oddly enough it doesnít have power on and play facility, another near-universal feature these days, and one that would have been quite handy in this instance.

 

Then thereís the jog-shuttle dial. On most other machines with one, when in the play mode, turning the outer shuttle ring engages trick play, slomo through to fast picture search, depending how far itís turned. Not on the 757. Move it whilst itís in play mode and it drops out, to fast forward or rewind, unless you remember to press the jog button first. If itís left standing idle for more than five minutes, it will switch itself off, whether you like it or not. That might not sound like a big problem, but it can be irritating if youíre using it for editing, where there will be five minute gaps between operations, and you have to remember to keep switching it back on.

 

The 757 doesnít have an on-screen display; okay, we can live with that, if the other indicators and displays are up to scratch. The front panel on the 757 is a good size, but itís a single colour device, so you have to look quite closely to see what itís up to, and to check if it really did accept that last command.

 

Now to be fair itís not all bad news, and you can learn to live with this kind of unusual behaviour, moreover one or two features on this machine are actually quite useful, though in the case of one of them, Easy Link, only if youíve got a recent Philips widescreen TV. Easy Link is not exactly a new idea, itís based on a system Philips pioneered about five years ago, called D2B or the domestic digital bus. The idea was that a range of home appliances, from washing machines to VCRs would have an interface socket that would allow them to communicate with one another and be controlled by a central home computer.

 

You could, in theory at least, dial up the home PC while you were out and instruct it to record a TV programme, draw the curtains, turn on the lights, and do the washing. All clever stuff, and the demos we saw seemed to work well. Philips actually marketed a couple of VCRs and TVs with D2B sockets but the idea bombed because other manufacturers, most of whom were working on their own Ďbusí systems,  wouldnít play ball. Easy Link is a distillation of some of the best features of D2B. When the VCR is connected to a suitable TV thereís no need to tune it in, as it will automatically download the contents of the TVs tuner. It also simplifies and automates control operations, but for the moment weíll contain our excitement, until thereís a few more compatible TVs on the market.

 

Even if the TV itís to be used with isnít Easy Link compatible the 757 can still do some impressive tricks, provided theyíre connected together by SCART lead. The best one is single button record, which switches the VCR on to record whatever channel you happen to watching on the TV.

 

However, the 757 will probably be remembered for one particular editing facility. In amongst the AV inputs on the side of the machine thereís a socket marked Ďsyncro edití. Nothing unusual about that, except that it works with a wide range of camcorders equipped with Control L/LANC  or Panasonic 5-pin edit terminals. The VCR controls the camcorders transport functions, and it can be programmed to replay a designated scene, thatís copied by the VCR. Unfortunately it can only assist in the transfer of single scenes, and itís only accurate to within a second or so of the Ďcutí points so it shouldnít be confused with a fully fledged edit controller. Panasonic were the first to successfully develop  this kind of cross-platform compatibility, now Philips have cracked it as well; itís a bit of a toe in the water exercise at this stage but it must be a good omen for the future.

 

The 757ís other edit-oriented features are well worth having too, they include audio dub and insert edit, and we mustnít forget the jog/shuttle dial, even though it takes a bit of getting used to. Thereís also quasi S-VHS replay, which will be of interest to any anyone with a S-VHS-C camcorder, enabling them to replay their tapes, though not at full Super VHS resolution.

 

Thereís a couple of other items of interest: it will replay NTSC coded tapes on any reasonably recent TV, and the remote control handset will operate key functions on other brands of TV, though only a very limited selection, within the Philips Ďfamilyí, made by Blaupunkt, Grundig and Siemens.

 

PERFORMANCE

Picture quality is fine, our sample came within a gnatís of the 250-line resolution figure we expect from a top-end VHS machine. Noise levels, by comparison, were only average, nothing to be concerned about but itíll win no prizes. Trick play stability is good, and the deck is reasonably agile.

 

Sound quality is good too, the stereo soundtracks have an even response, maybe a touch trebly at times, and background hiss levels are no better than average but itís good enough for demanding applications, like home cinema and movie making.

 

VERDICT

Philips could never be accused of producing bland or boring video recorders. Having become used to slick, well-behaved machines from the Far East, the VR-757 is a bit of a shock, but itís one you can become accustomed to. Some aspects of the design are questionable, though. The side-mounted AV sockets are a nuisance, and putting the transport controls on the top must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  It looks okay when itís on display, on dealers shelves, but we suspect quite a few owners will be cursing Philips, once theyíve got it home and installed.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Philips VR-757

Tape format          VHS

Guide price                      £450

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            4-hours (E240- tape)

Timer                               8-events, 365-days

Remote control                full function

 

VIDEO

System                             PAL SP, HQ

Replay speeds          15x, 7x, 2x still frame              

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes             

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          no     

Videoplus          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          no

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          no     

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          yes   

Auto play          no

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

syncro edit control, direct record, Easy Link data link with compatible TVs

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          no     

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          no     

     

GENERAL

Sockets          Rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo audio in/out (phono). Front:           AV in (phono), see text

Front AV terminal                    yes   

Edit terminal           yes RMC/LANC, see text

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          yes, see text

 

Dimensions (mm)               380 x 343 x 98mm

Weight (kg)                   4.2kg

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         250-lines

Colour fidelity         good

Trick play stability         good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         good

Edit functions         good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         8

Ease of use         8       

Performance         8

Features         8

 

---end---

 

R.Maybury 1995 1912

 


 

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