ALL AT SEA
I recently bought a Canon EX2 Hi camera which
I used to film a Yacht race and the results were fantastic. I decided to get
the film edited professionally as I don’t have the facilities to edit
The results were okay but I now wish to do my
own editing which brings me to my question: what equipment do I need? I have a Hi8 camera and a Panasonic
VCR. Would one of the products like
Video Director Suite do what I want, or is this a toy? I have found the NZ agent for Videonics and
they have the Thumbs Up and the AB1 in stock. I would like to primarily get
good film-visual quality and it would be nice to add a few titles and music.
What are your suggestions?
A1. Video Director is only relevant if you
have a fairly recent IBM PC or compatible, if so then it’s a good place to
start, though you will also need an audio mixer, and a title generator or PC to
video card with suitable software. Thumbs Up is certainly worth thinking about,
though we reckon it’s looking a little dated now and one of the more recent
mid-market edit controllers from companies such as Bandridge, Hama, Camlink or
IQ -- which all have RC timecode facilities -- are well worth considering. The
AB1 is a high-end product and may be a bit too advanced for your needs, at this
stage at least.
I have recently upgraded to Hi8 but as yet do
not have a TV with S/VHS input. My
present television (Hitachi C2519) does have RGB input on the SCART socket.
Can you tell me if converting to RGB input,
via a converter such as the Canon RGB100 results in a significant and
worthwhile increase in picture quality, bearing in mind that the unit is
usually priced at around £80.
A2. You really need a TV with a properly
configured S-Video input to get the full benefit from Hi8. Most of the converter
boxes we’ve tried do a reasonably good job; resolution is somewhere between a
straight composite feed and S-Video. Colours can look a bit harsh on some
models though. If you’re happy with the picture quality as it is -- and it
should be quite good -- I would suggest you put the £80 towards a new TV with
an S-Video input; you will want to replace your current set sooner or later and
when you do a converter box will have no further use.
NOT SO SUITE
Having ordered and waited patiently for my
new AB1 editing suite, it finally arrived and excitedly I wired it up and went
on to edit my videos. To my amazement
there was no on-screen RCTC, VITC or
LTC. How can you be precise if you
can’t see what it is you are editing?
You cannot look at the small crystal screen on the edit suite and watch
the TV screen. Am I really meant to
have 2 sets of eyes - 1 for AB1 and 1 for TV screen?
A3. I suppose it depends how you edit. Most
people rely on what they see on the screen, to determine the cut in and out
points. The AB1 gives you the option to select edit points on the fly -- with
the tape in motion -- or to freeze the action, and use the jog/shuttle to step
through the recording, a frame at a time (though not all camcorders support
this facility). If you’re still not happy, you can always call up the edit
decision list and change the data. I can’t really see the need to have the counter
or timecode on screen permanently in your field of view.
I enjoy wild life filming which means sitting
in a hide for long periods of time and looking through the camcorder’s tiny
0.7in viewfinder, it makes the eye get very tired. What I would like is a 2-4in b/w monitor which is small enough to
be mounted on or beside the camera to act as a viewfinder. It needs to be powered by a battery up to
about 12v DC. I have tried a colour LCD
but even with the colour turned off the picture is not good or sharp enough for
I would be grateful for your help.
A4. No problem, there’s plenty of small
portable black and white TVs on the market, most of them can be powered from a
12 volt source, a few even run off internal batteries. True, not many of them
have an AV input socket, but you’ve clearly figured out how to get a video feed
from your camcorder to a colour LCD TV. You could always use an RF modulator,
the kind that used to be supplied with most camcorders. If there’s not one
available for your machine it would be a fairly simple matter to modify one
from another model, or cobble something together using an RF modulator module
stripped out of an old video game or home computer.
I notice that a new JVC one-hour VHS-C tape
is now available, which prompts me to ask if any noticeable detrimental effect
on camcorder performance would be encountered with its use?
Would the additional tape drag result in
shorter battery running time and, or perhaps, cause premature wear on internal
Your observations would be greatly
Mappleborough Green, Warks
A5. The new EHG-A tapes, which are just
coming into the shops, are spooled with a thinner, lighter tape, which JVC assure us counteract the effect of any
increased load on the deck mechanism. They also went on to say that there
shouldn’t be any extra wear and tear on your machine and any increase in power
consumption would be negligible. The new tape has been extensively tested in
other markets and so far we’re not aware of any problems. We’re hoping to try
it quite soon, watch out for a test report. If you manage to get hold of a
sample before we do let us know what you think of it.
After over 40 years of 35mm photography I
have decided to venture into videography.
I opted to purchase a Canon UC8 Hi camcorder.
One of my first major projects will be to
transfer my slides and cine film onto tape.
I have read about cine converters but could you advise me which transfer
method gives the most professional-looking results and will there be any
significant deterioration and colour on transfer.
Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire
A6. There will be a reduction in picture
quality, whatever system you use. Video simply cannot capture all of the detail
and dynamic range of movie and slide film, but it is possible to get some quite
acceptable results. Before you rush out and buy any gadgets and gizmos try
directly shooting the screen. Position the camcorder as close as you can to the
centre line of the projector, to minimise parallax errors, and it’s usually a
good idea to reduce the wattage of the projector bulb, to avoid over-exposure
and a ‘hot-spot’ in the picture. If that’s not possible try a coat of Tippex correcting
fluid on the lamp. Simple transfer screens -- basically a mirror and a ground-glass
screen -- work well, and they’re quite cheap. We’ve tried transfer boxes in the
past but we’ve found they can be quite fussy about the type of projector used,
and without knowing what you’re using we can’t give any specific recommendations.
NO RECORD FACILITY?
I have recently acquired a Sony TR780E
camcorder. I was surprised when I could
not record from my Panasonic NV-HD100 VCR onto the camcorder. Can you tell me why they don’t make
camcorders that can record from a source other than through the lens and is
there any way I can make copies of my tapes without the extra cost of an
A7. They do make them but only a handful of
machines with that feature have ever been sold in this country, and they’ve
generally been top-end, semi-pro machines. The reason is simple. Under EC
regulations any camcorder with a line input or external recording facility is
classified as a VCR. That puts it into a different category, subject to higher
duty, and it would eat into a manufacturer’s import quotas, effectively reducing
the number of VCRs they would be able to sell. Machines with video inputs are
widely available outside the EC, but most of them are incompatible with our PAL
TV system. You could always borrow a VCR from a friend to copy tapes.
HIGH BAND HOPES
Regular readers of your magazine are advised
that as Hi8 and S-VHS camcorders give better and sharper pictures; we should,
when purchasing, aim at one of these.
My present camera is the Sony F555E and
though satisfied with the results I have been considering upgrading to a Hi8
palmcorder because of the image stabiliser.
However, I feel that in order to benefit from the higher resolution I
should have to: (1) use Hi8 tapes, (2) S-VHS VCR and (3) use S-VHS tapes,
unless I play through the S-Video socket of my television, without the benefit
If I continue to use my present set-up, i.e.
record and edit on my VHS VCR, will the picture using a Hi8 camcorder be an
improvement? Must I use Hi8 tapes or
continue to use 8mm tapes as I do now?
Streatham Hill, London SW2
A8. You should notice a small increase in
picture quality (lower noise levels and better colour stability), if you play a
high band recording on an TV, using a composite video feed. Recordings made on
a VCR will also look a little sharper. The point about using Hi8 tapes in a Hi8
camcorder is they have an ident hole, that tells the machine which mode to
record in. If you use an ordinary 8mm tape in a Hi8 camcorder you will get a standard
8mm (i.e. low-band recording), so you won’t be any better off. The ideal set up
would be a Hi8 camcorder, copy or edit to S-VHS, and view the results on an
S-Video equipped TV. The real advantage of using high-band equipment for
editing and recording is that third generation dubs to standard VHS, (made from
the S-VHS edit copy), should still look as good, if not better than first or
second generation recordings made from 8mm originals.
I have just purchased a Sony SC5
handycam. I am very pleased with this
model; however, I was surprised at a couple of its features.
First of all, the tape transport and loading
mechanisms look rather unique.
Secondly, this Sony seems to use a rather tiny head drum. Are there any obvious advantages or disadvantages
with using these mechanisms?
A9. No, not really, though the people who repair
them might have something to say on the matter. The size of the head and deck
mechanism have no direct bearing on performance, they’re just smaller. Clearly
the machine needs to be treated with a little more respect, and take extra care,
to avoid getting any dust or dirt into the machine, otherwise don’t worry about
Being new to the world of video, and having
recently purchased a Panasonic NV-S88B camcorder, I accepted the fact that it
would take a little time to become familiar with all the new technology. I have
noticed that on occasion the picture is blue for perhaps 2-4 seconds before
correcting to the proper colour balance.
My normal setting of white balance control is automatic.
I assumed that this delay in colour
correction might be normal behaviour for camcorders. Panasonic’s service
department assures me this is so. I was
not totally convinced that this was right and having to edit out the first few
seconds of the affected shots seemed less than satisfactory. Am I expecting too
much from the automatic white balance?
A10. It doesn’t sound right to me. Colour
correction is a continuous process, you shouldn’t notice it happening, unless
you suddenly change from one type of light source to another. Presumably the
machine is still under warranty, if so it’s worth having it checked out, and
take a long a sample tape, to show them what’s happening.
Having recently purchased a Canon UC8Hi
camera could you please help me decide the best routes for editing?
Should I go for a Hi8 deck or an S-VHS edit
deck? I also recently purchased a Gold
Disk Video editor ‘Home’, which seems to work the camera hard if scenes are
edited out of the original sequence. I would like to maintain the Hi8 quality
as far as possible, but not at any price.
Rishworth, Sowerby Bridge
A11. Picture quality isn’t an issue, as least
far as edit controllers are concerned, they simply operate the camcorder and
record VCR’s transport mechanisms. The video signal normally doesn’t go
anywhere near the controller. On models that have video inputs and outputs --
to extract time codes etc. -- the signal pass right through and there’s normally
no discernible effect on the picture. The camcorder will have to work ‘hard’ as
you call it, when re-organising scenes. Clearly if they’re out of sequence this
will involve a lot of extra fast-winding back and forth, there’s no way around
it and this happens with all edit controllers.
ON A ROLL
If you read Video Camera for long enough, you
become utterly convinced that your life isn’t complete without the cutting edge
in video technology. Thus I have
finally decided to take the step into the world of editing. I’m going to take the huge (financial) leap
into A/B roll editing. I have realised
that what remains of my student loan is not going to be enough to cover the
cost of a top of the range editing suite.
Some sacrifices are going to have to be made and seeing as the quality
of my footage is pretty dire, physical quality is not much of an issue. However, accuracy is: I would be grateful is
you could tell me which of the various decks, controllers and mixers it’s worth
splashing out on to make sure I get the frame I want, when I want, to go with
the sound I want.
A12. Firstly ask yourself, do you really need
an A/B roll editor? You can achieve the same effect, albeit with a little more
work, using a conventional 2-machine set-up. The only time A/B control might
become significant is when you’re using a digital video mixer, and two source
decks; with prices for mixers only just
starting to creep below the £800 mark, I doubt if your student loan could run
to that sort of outlay. Accuracy is mainly down to you and the camcorder, and
whether or not it generates a timecode. Even if you do have that facility, you’re
still not going to get absolute frame accuracy when copying to a domestic VCR.
Only a handful of top-end machines with hard-wire control come close, and they
cost a packet too. For the moment concentrate on developing your technique
using more affordable equipment, and by your own admission you should spend
some time brushing up on your filming, before you start troubling the bank
During our holiday in America we decided to
travel on the Blue Ridge Mountains railway. Out came the camcorder! Everything went well until I viewed the
From entering the station to half way down
the mountain the whole picture was blue; the rest of the video to the bottom
was okay. On the return from half way
up to three quarters of the journey the video lost its colour and went to blue
Relevant facts which may help were (a) it was
early morning and misty at 5000 feet, (b) at 3000 feet it was clear weather and
sun (c) camcorder Canon UC2 Hi8 on auto (d) using UV filter (e) film in use TDK
If you can answer this it will be very much
A13. There’s no obvious reason why that
should have happened, a fault on the tape is highly improbable. Altitude should
have no bearing on the colour content of a video recording. A sudden change in
temperature -- resulting in condensation -- might conceivably account for some change in picture quality,
though the machine’s dew sensor should have warned of any problems. In any case
the journey you describe would have produced a fairly steady rise and fall in
pressure and temperature. The camcorder’s auto systems would have compensated
for any variations in lighting conditions, but that still wouldn’t explain the
change to black and white recording. The only thing I can think of -- assuming
it hasn’t happened again -- is some form of electrical interference from the
train or track, or -- and I’m clutching at straws now -- maybe an influence
from a powerful radio or TV transmitter on the summit.
ZOOM WITH A VIEW
Just over a year ago I purchased the
Panasonic M-3000 which I believe is equivalent to the NV-M40.
However, having used this for some time there
are some drawbacks. I should first like to mention that I had no opportunity to
try the camera before purchase. It is
very difficult to locate a bird in a bush while looking through a black and
white viewfinder and the digital zoom is practically useless over around 20x;
even using a tripod the picture is literally digitised.
I noticed in last October’s Buyers’ Guide
that the NV-M40 gets a 9 for performance.
Dealers here and in the UK have told me that what happens with a digital
zoom camera is a complete break-up of picture.
So if the performance figure of 9 in Video Camera is correct, does my
camera have a fault in it?
A14. The performance figure refers to the
machine as a whole, not just the zoom. I agree with you, digital zooms are hopeless
for serious work and personally I would only give them 3 out of 10. If you want
to get in close to your subject then use a teleconverter or optical zoom
attachment. I also take your point about black and white viewfinders but colour
devices suffer from poor resolution, and they cost more.
I am going to buy my first camcorder. The one that seems to stand out is the
Panasonic NV-S88. Would I, as a novice,
be better off buying the NV-S90, although older it can be bought at a better
discount. My video recorder is a
Mitsubishi B41, would there be any difficulties transferring recorded tape onto
A15. Fine machines, both of them and if you
can get the slightly better specified S90 at a discount then go for it. Your
Mitsubishi VCR should work well with either of them
WAY BACK WHEN
I have a JVC GR-S99 camera which has an
animation facility. I purchased this
second-hand and would like to know more of its history, as it does not appear
in any of the normal listings. Can you
A15. I’m not surprised you couldn’t find it
in the listings. I had to go back through the Video Camera archives, to October
1990, to find any mention of it. It appeared a few months after the GR-S707, and
was one of the very first compact S-VHS-C camcorders. The original selling
price back then was £1200; it had a good range of facilities, including the
animation effect you mention, though it’s nothing to get excited about and will
only allow you to make fairly jerky time-lapse type recordings. Other notable
features include stereo hi-fi sound and a built-in title generator. I vaguely
remember reviewing the machine, and being quite impressed with it at the time,
though clearly didn’t leave a lasting impression. Hopefully you got a good deal
and all being well you should get some use out of it, though I suspect repairs
will now be quite expensive and any serious faults will cost more to put right
than the machine is worth.
Ó R. Maybury 1996 3105