VIDEO CAMERA 1996

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ASK RICK -- JANUARY

 

MYSTERY MIKE

When I use my Sennheiser MKE300 microphone on my Sony V800 camcorder I get a fault, which consists of very short periods of audio drop-out at frequent but irregular intervals.  It occurs whether the camera is operating on a tripod completely untouched or subject to movement.  Other members of my video club use this combination of equipment without any problems.

 

I took it to be fixed but was told this was incompatible equipment; a mono microphone with a stereo camera socket.  They have tried a stereo microphone and there is no problem.  They say the camera is within spec and accordingly the insurers will not pay. I am mystified.  Why me? 

 

D. Longley, Fleet, Hants

 

Have you walked under any ladders recently, maybe itís something to do the with juxtaposition of the moon and Uranus? Thereís no obvious technical reason but the fact that it once was working, and is now intermittent, means a fault of some description has developed in the microphone. The point about mono/stereo compatibility is a red herring. Assuming youíve had the mike for less than year it should still be under guarantee. Take it back, and insist on a replacement.

 

HIGH ANXIETY

After shooting several pursuits using my Hi8 Sony FX700 I have decided that I would like to try my hand at editing.  Could you please suggest the best way to edit Hi8 footage where I can end up with a final VHS copy of the highest possible picture quality?  The system can consist of any range of different formats, my only requirements are that I end up with a final VHS copy to give to friends and I donít want to have to use the camcorder as the playback VCR.  Budget isnít really an issue at this early stage, I really only want some sort of idea of the equipment I might need to buy.

R. Harris, Royston, Herts

 

Why donít you want to use your camcorder as an edit source deck? Unless youíre planning to make a series of 3-hour epics, the relatively small amount of extra use involved in a typical home video movie wonít have any significant effect on the machineís life expectancy. The FX700 is well suited to the task, it has an edit terminal, and replay quality is good.

 

The alternative is a Hi8 deck, Sony have three at the moment. The recently launched EVC-400 is the cheapest at £500, then thereís the slightly more sophisticated EVC 2000, which has timecode facilities and a jog/shuttle dial, it sells for £800; the top of the range model is the EVS-9000, a semi-pro editing machine, with all the bells and whistles, costing £1700. If you use an advanced edit controller -- with some sort of memory or storage system -- with your source deck, then you can copy or edit straight to VHS, and run off extra copies, without too much difficulty. If youíre planning anything more elaborate -- extensive post production, fancy audio mixes etc. -- then it might be better to edit to S-VHS, then use the edit master to make VHS copies. I canít recommend specific VCRs, without knowing much more about your needs, but you should be looking at top-end machines from the major Japanese and European manufacturers, in the £500 to £800 bracket.   

 

WEAR AND TEAR

Could you tell me how many quality recordings can be made from each compact video cassette I use with my Panasonic NV-S88?

 

Iíve been told that S-VHS compact cassettes have a life of five recordings after which picture quality drops dramatically.  If this is the case replacing tapes could prove very expensive.

S. Doyle, Nottingham

 

Where on earth did you hear that? Itís true there can sometimes be a small increase in dropout during the first few record/play cycles of a tapeís life, due to oxide shedding, but they normally settle down after that. Unless thereís a fault on the machine there shouldnít be any further change in performance for another several hundred cycles. Some manufacturers reckon you wonít see any differences on their tapes inside a 1000 cycles, but weíve never felt inclined to put that claim to the test. Suffice it to say you will get a lot more than five outings on a Super VHS tape.

 

DIGITAL DIFFERENCE

I decided to buy one of the JVC DV1 minicams; however, there are a few things I am not sure of. Could you explain why it is that I seem to get a better picture when I use composite leads direct from the camera rather than when using its docking station and the S-Video output?  Is the docking station at fault?  I understand that the Lithium Ion battery does not have a memory effect - is this the case?

 

The picture in low level lighting is not all that good after trying all sorts of combinations -- could this be because of the small size of its lens and, therefore, the amount of light it lets in? I have no way of referencing this against another model.

S. Anders, Thurso, Caithness

 

On some TVs thereís not a huge amount of difference between composite and S-Video inputs, but colours should look cleaner, and there shouldnít be any cross-colour effects, in densely patterned areas of the picture. Are you sure the TV is properly configured for an S-Video (Y/C) input? It might be worthwhile trying it on another TV, and see if thereís any improvement.

 

Lithium ion batteries are far more tolerant of repeated top-up charges, than nicads, and do not develop the so-called memory effect, whereby they gradually loose their ability to hold a full charge. Nevertheless, youíd be well advised to buy a spare, running time on the DV1 is not that wonderful -- 20-30 minutes if your lucky, with a recharge time of two and a half hour.

 

The DV1ís low-light performance is fairly average -- the small lens doesnít help -- but itís not appreciably worse than many analogue machines, and we always recommended laying on as much light as possible when shooting indoors.  

 

PC POSSIBILITIES

I have a computer that I do artwork on through a drawing programme.  I want to incorporate this work into the editing of my camcorder recordings.  I would like to know a way that I can download these drawings onto a video tape. Cost is a factor: something in the region of two or three hundred pounds would make it worthwhile.

P. Bartholomew, Alton, Hants

 

That should just about do it, though I trust your PC is a reasonably up to date model, with at least a fast 486 processor, 8Mb or more of RAM memory and plenty of spare hard disc space. Youíre going to need a VGA to video converter card or module. This fits inside your PC, occupying one of the spare expansion slots; if you donít fancy poking around inside your machine, get an external device that connects between the system unit and monitor. The cheapest PC to TV converter Iíve seen lately is the Sound Blaster TV Coder, which can be found for around £110, if you hunt through the fat computer mags. The Miro DC1 Plus is a more advanced card-based converter, that comes bundled with a lot of useful graphics software, including Adobe Premiere and Photoshop. The AVer Media Video editor is another external unit, this time with genlock, frame-grabbing and editing facilities, itís a little outside your budget at £460, but the extra features are worth having, if you want to go one step further and combine camcorder footage, with your graphics.

 

CODE CRACKER

I have a Ferguson FC23 camera , a GSE 100 edit controller and Panasonic NV800 S-VHS VCR.  Now for my problem.  My camera doesnít have an edit socket or VITC generator.  I have been trying to track down a VITC generator accessory for my camera.  Would you happen to know of a supplier or manufacturer who can provide me with one of these?

 

Can I purchase another model and then rewire the pin configuration so that it works with my Ferguson?

R. Orr, Potters Bar, Herts

 

That brought back a few memories, the JVC GR-S707 on which the GR23 was based, was a classic machine, launched around 1989 if memory serves. Itís good to know yours is still going strong. The clip-on VITC generator module to which you refer wasnít -- to the best of my knowledge -- ever  marketed by Ferguson, JVC still have a few left. You can order it through an authorised JVC dealer. The part number is CG-P50E and it will cost you one hundred smackers. If youíre on a tight budget, and not in a hurry, you could try advertising for a second-hand one in our classified section; if we hear of one going cheap, weíll let you know.

 

IN SEARCH OF THE LOST LEAD

I have just bought a Panasonic HD650B video recorder.  One of the reasons it appealed to me was the inclusion of a sync edit socket on the front to enable it to be connected to the LANC socket on my Sony camcorder.

 

However, I am finding it impossible to obtain a suitable lead.  Neither the Panasonic technical or spares departments seem to know what I am talking about.  Can you help please?

M. Palmer, Letchworth, Herts

 

Panasonic have always been a little cagey about LANC compatibility, in any case theyíre probably not the first company youíd go to in search of a specialist connecting lead. The cable you require has a 2.5mm stereo minijack on both ends. You should be able to get one at any half-decent video dealer, but in case you have any difficulty, Vivanco do one (part no. 4911), and you can get one from Keene Electronics (ref. KLDE1) for £5.99, they can be reached on (01332) 830550.

 

MIX AND MATCH?

The following equipment is available within my family and we would like to progress into a little more sophisticated editing: Philips VR522 VCR, Aiwa FX55 VCR, Canon E250 camcorder, Sony SLV 825 VCR, Sony TR805E camcorder, Atari ST FM computer. We are quite please with the quality of reproduction from both camcorders through all three VCRs.  The first copy, cameras to VHS via the VCRs is always very good.

 

Experience with two audio mixers has not been very satisfactory as the video reproduction, even with enhancement, is never as good as the straight through copy. Digital editing via a computer is suggested as a good option.  Can you please suggest an appropriate configuration, hardware, software and cost and is the Atari a worthwhile starting point?

 

We are not particularly concerned about retaining stereo audio as this is not important within our type of subjects and filming conditions.

A.J. Griffiths, Overton on Dee, Clwyd

 

Youíve got the bones of a useful editing system, but Iím afraid the Atari computer isnít going to be much use, other than for producing simple titles or graphics, that can be recorded on a VCR, using the PCís RF/video output. You really need to be thinking about an IBM PC or compatible, preferably a Pentium model, or fast 486, with 8Mb of RAM. Thereís plenty of good edit software around at the moment, and Iíd start by looking at the Video Director range, from Gold Disk.

 

If you donít fancy buying a new PC then an edit controller is a cheaper option. This will control both the Sony camcorder, and one of the VCRs. You can still shoot footage on the Canon machine, but it will have to be replayed on the Sony deck whilst editing. As for which one, well, that depends on your budget, but any of the current crop of LANC-compatible controllers from Bandridge, Hama, IQ etc. in the £250 to £350 bracket should be fine.    

 

PLAY IT AGAIN...

I would be grateful for your help.  I want to buy a VHS video player with jog/shuttle control incorporating a LANC output in the unit.  I canít find one in any of the advertising magazines and would appreciate as much info as possible.

H. Procter, Gumpsall, Manchester

 

Youíre not asking for much, are you? Are you sure you mean a VHS player?  I thought they were those nasty little play-only decks, with no record facilities. Iím not sure what you mean by a LANC output. A LANC or Control L edit terminal is a two-way serial data communications port. Itís used by edit controllers to operate the transport system on a camcorder or 8mm/Hi8 deck, and read counter or time-code data. A couple of recent Philips and Panasonic VCRs have basic LANC facilities, configured for syncro-start, to operate the play/pause function on a camcorder, but thatís about as far as they go. Maybe youíre thinking about the mighty Panasonic NV-HS1000, which does have an unadvertised LANC capability, and a jog/shuttle dial. Itís still available too, for £1000.   

 

PROTECT AND SURVIVE

I have been an enthusiastic videographer for a few years, now using S-VHS and a full-sized AG455 camcorder, 5700 edit suite and an AVE5 mixer. In January my first venture abroad will be on a silver anniversary holiday to Kenya, with a soon to be purchased Panasonic NV-S77 S-VHS-C camcorder. I have two questions:

 

The first one concerns power. We shall be staying in hotels in Cairo and Nairobi, the rest of the time on a Nile cruise ship or in safari lodges around the Masai Mara. Will I be able to charge the batteries with whatever the local mains supply, or will I need any special equipment?

 

Question two; what special precautions should I take to protect both the lens and the mechanism from damage by sand and dust?

Denise Bristow, Staines, Middlesex.

 

Sounds like fun, do you need anyone to carry your bags? Assuming of course you have access to a mains supply in some of those places you wonít have any difficulty charging your batteries. The charger units supplied with pretty well all camcorders operate over a wide range of voltages (110 to 250 VAC 50/60Hz) without need for adjustment. You will need a plug adaptor, though, Iím afraid I canít help you with that one. A universal travel adaptor should do the trick; 2-pin shaver sockets are fairly common in hotel rooms. Just remember to take a few spares packs, you never know when youíll get to a mains socket.

 

Looking after your camcorder in dusty and sandy conditions is mostly common-sense. Protect the lens with a neutral density (ND) filter, or maybe something a little stronger as itís going to be very sunny. This will help with exposure on brightly lit scenes. Never open the machine to change tapes when thereís a lot of dust around and keep it in a closed carry bag whenever youíre not using it. When you get back to your hotel room or cabin at the end of each day, carefully remove any sand or dust with a soft brush  

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1996 2310

 


 

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