VIDEO CAMERA 1996

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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 film. 

 

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?

 

Mike Richardson

Aukland, NZ

 

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.

 

QUALITY CONVERSION

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.

 

E. Angell

Middlesborough, Cleveland

 

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?

 

H. Procter

Gumpsall, Manchester

 

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.

 

WILD IDEA

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 focusing.

 

I would be grateful for your help.

R. Aldridge

Alton, Hants

 

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.

 

HOUR POWER?

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 mechanisms?

 

Your observations would be greatly appreciated.

 

R. Rose

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.

 

TRANSFER CHOICE

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.

 

T. Jowle

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 additional VCR?

 

S. Maher

Hersham, Surrey

 

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 of editing.

 

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?

 

M. Pounde

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.

 

SMALL WONDER

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?

 

W. Findlay

Larkhall, Warks

 

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 it.

 

PANASONIC BLUES

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?

 

R. Jamieson

Troon, Ayrshire

 

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.

 

HARD CUTS

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.

 

J. Hamer

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.

 

Nicola Marsh

London W8

 

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 manager.

 

MOUNTAIN CONCERN

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 video.

 

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 again. 

 

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 Hi8 MP90.

 

If you can answer this it will be very much appreciated.

 

G. Suttie

Swindon, Wilts

 

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?

 

N. Cohen

Nairobi, Kenya

 

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.

 

FIRST CHOICE

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 this machine?

 

B. Thomas

Branton, Doncaster

 

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 help?

 

J. McCready

Greenock, Inverclyde

 

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.  

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1996 3105

 


 

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