VIDEO CAMERA 1996

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THUMBS BACK

 

INTRO

Back in 1993 Thumbs Up Edit controller set a new standard home video editing, but that was then, what has it got to offer now? We take a look at the TU-2000, effectively Thumbs Up Mark II, a new beginning, in more ways than one...

 

COPY

Three years ago the Thumbs Up TU-1 was a state of the art edit controller, that broke new ground in terms of performance and facilities, now itís beginning to look its age. Say hello to Thumbs Up Mark II, the TU-2000, a new design, a new price and a new distributor; but how does it measure up against the new breed of low-cost edit controllers that have been appearing on the market over the past year?

 

One of the first things Hama, the new distributors, have done is lower the price, from around £200 to just under £150, so far so good. New design? Well thatís not quite so obvious, in fact from the outside thereís no visible differences at all, unless you count a re-designed badge, but inside there have been some changes, some of them significant, and some that are only of academic interest. The most important one is the increase in memory capacity from 62 to 126 scenes. Videonics rather confusingly talk about Ďmarksí, rather than scenes, and the on-screen indicator shows a maximum of 252 memory slots, but each stored scene has an edit in and an edit out point, that counts as two marks, hence the 126 scene capacity.

 

Videonics have given the mark II a larger IR command memory, covering a much wider assortment of brands, including quite a few obscure makes.  Most of the other improvements are fairly minor in nature. We complained about the instability of the on-screen display on the mark 1, this seems to have been cured, and the fader is now much smoother. Otherwise itís pretty much business as usual, and important facilities, such as the ability to read VITC and TC time codes (it can also write VITC), are still there.

 

Configuring the controller to work with the record VCR is still a bit of a chore. In fact the manual is surprisingly un-American in appearance -- theyíre normally a model of clarity, to the point of being patronising -- this one is text heavy and fairly heavy-going. The set-up method described in the instruction book is long-winded, itís far quicker to flick to the back and enter the appropriate codes. If that doesnít work then you can always read the book...

 

The instruction manual talks about two editing methods, they call them Ďinstantí and Ďautomaticí. Instant editing is simply using Thumbs Up to control record-pause on the VCR and as a video fader, even so itís rather a waste of its talents. Automatic editing  is what Thumbs Up is all about, and the use of a graphical thumb on the monitor screen, to show the beginning and end of each scene, still seems clever. However,  video editing has moved on and Thumbs Up lacks a number of the facilities we have come to expect from edit controllers these days. The most obvious one is any kind of edit decision list (EDL), that presents scenes in a tabular form, clearly showing running order, making it easier to spot mistakes, and make changes. Edit points can only be modified by re-entering the cut-in or out points, moreover scenes cannot be moved, only deleted and re-made. Thatís not a problem on short productions, but with more than 10 or so scenes in the memory it becomes cumbersome, and the only way to keep track of whatís going on is to keep a written record.

 

PERFORMANCE

Accuracy depends to a large extent on the trouble taken to fine-tuning the VCR timings. With uncoded source material errors can accumulate but on our reference sequence of 10 scenes this amounted to just over 25 frames, or around one second, after storing 10 scenes. Not brilliant but perfectly acceptable for most routine jobs. There was a marked improvement with time-coded recordings, to 7 frames either way. With further adjustment of the trim settings it may have been possible to reduce this by another frame or two, though absolute frame accuracy is never possible with domestic equipment, in practice this is about as good as it gets. The main advantage with time-code editing in this context is consistency, and the lack of cumulative errors.

 

The fader works well and is a valuable post production tool, easing the transition between scenes, particularly if thereís a big shift in time or location. The enhancer facility is basically a video amplifier, thatís supposed to make whiskery old recordings look sharper, and minimise the effects of noise. This one, like most other only succeeds in making the picture look coarse and unrealistic.

 

SUMMARY

The price reduction and changes to the specification are welcome, as far as they go, but they havenít done anything to address the basic problem, namely that Thumbs Up is now looking decidedly old-fashioned. Entry-level edit controllers have become a lot more sophisticated, and thereís the challenge from PC-based systems to take into consideration. Nevertheless, Thumbs Up has one ace up its sleeve, itís still the cheapest timecode editor on the market, unfortunately, without a edit decision list its scope somewhat limited.    

 

THE RIVALS

Unless the timecode facility is absolutely indispensable then controllers like the IQ Studio Edit at £180, and the similar (though dearer) models from Bandridge, Camlink and Hama are much better specified.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/Model                  Videonics Thumbs Up

Guide price                    £150

Scene memory            126 scenes or title events

Control Systems            Source deck: LANC/Control L, Panasonic 5-pin. 

                                   Record deck: stored IR commands

Timecode systems            VITC and RCTC

Edit features                  fade (to and from black), preview, on-screen displays

Sockets                        DC in, edit control (minijack) Video in/out (phono & S-Video), external control (minijack)

Power supply             12 volts AC (adapter supplied) or 4 x AA cells

Dimensions                   250 x 130 x 52mm

 

PERFORMANCE

Cut accuracy                 7+/-  frames (timecode), +/-25 frames (non timecode)

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            8

Ease of use                 8

Performance              8

Features                     7

 

---end---

R Maybury 1996 0904

 

 


 

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