VIDEO CAMERA 1996

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FOUR INTO ONE WILL GO...

 

INTRO

A complete post-production suite in one box? Well, two boxes actually, but yes, Vivanco have managed to combine the functions of a edit controller, audio mixer, video processor and title generator in one convenient package, that wonít break the bank

 

COPY

What are the basic ingredients needed to a put together polished video movie? It sounds like a fairly  obvious question, but take a look though the ads in this magazine and youíll find dozens of different post-production solutions. However, in the end it boils down to four basic jobs: a means of editing the final production, mixing the soundtrack, a way of correcting for picture errors and the final touch, adding titles and end credits. You could also put special effects on the list but for most camcorder owners the primary consideration is to produce a watchable video movie as quickly and as simply as possible, with a minimum outlay on additional equipment.

 

Thereís an abundance of edit controllers, audio mixers, video processors and title generators on the market, some even combine one or more of the aforementioned functions but only very rarely do they all come together in one integrated package. The new Vivanco VCR 5034 is the most recent example, and the really good news is that it costs less than a system made up of similarly-specified stand-alone components, moreover itís a good deal easier to set up and use.

 

The 5054 is housed inside two boxes; most of the editing, audio mixing and video procession functions are contained in one of Vivancoís familiar wedge-shaped consoles, the second box is a compact QWERTY keyboard, used for composing titles, and controlling various other functions. The edit controller is an advanced design with VITC and RC-timecode facilities, a 200-scene memory, on recordings stored on up to 99 different tapes. It works with any source machine (camcorder) that has a Control L/Lanc or Panasonic 5-pin edit terminal. It will also work with record decks (VCRs) with edit terminals, though theyíre in the minority, other machines are controlled by a learning infra-red system. Both machines can also be controlled by IR commands, though this method sacrifices accuracy.

 

The two tape decks are controlled by a shared a set of transport keys and a jog/shuttle dial on the right side of the console. The controller has a facility to communicate with a PC, using Vivancoís Windows-based edit management software, which also enables edit lists to be stored on disc, and used by other compatible edit control systems.

 

The 3-channel stereo audio mixer has two line-level inputs, one for the source deck, the other for a CD or tape deck, the third high-impedance input is for a microphone, so you can add a spoken commentary. Audio levels are controlled by a bank of three faders on the left side of the front panel. Also on the left-hand side are the video processor controls; they comprise variable contrast, colour and picture sharpness. It might not sound much but theyíre sufficient to compensate for any small variances in picture quality. A split-screen display facility shows the before and after effects of any processing. In the middle of the panel middle is the fader, title and edit in/out controls. The fader has a variable time delay, from zero to 10 seconds, it works on both picture and sound, and the fade can be to black or white, or any shade of grey in between.

 

Finally the titler; up to 20 pages of text can be composed using the keyboard. Thereís a choice of four character sizes -- these can be mixed on a single page -- there are also simple graphics plus a range of effects and transitions, to and from the recorded image or a nominated background colour.

 

OPERATION

Video, audio and control connections are all very simple by virtue of the fact that they all come together on one box. All of the input and output connectors are grouped together on the back of the console. Everything revolves around a menu-driven on-screen display, which is also responsible for generating the scene and edit decision lists. The initial set-up routine follows a familiar pattern of configuring the controller to work with the chosen source and record decks; this includes telling it whether it is dealing with composite or Y/C (S-Video) signals. It needs to be taught a range of deck control functions, using the VCRís remote control; an IR receptor is built into the console, and the user simply follows a series of on-screen prompts until all of the commands have been learnt.

 

Timing adjustments for the record deck may be carried out at this point by making a short test tape,  using a facility to manually fine-tune pre and post roll times, to compensate for the characteristics of individual decks.  The large green button above the jog/shuttle dial switches between the two decks. The range of transport options will depend on the capabilities of the decks under its commands; itís worth remembering that very few camcorders have multi-speed replay facilities.

 

Edit in and out points are marked using the large yellow cut in/out key on the front panel, a superimposed scene display shows the counter or timecode data, duration, scene number and a short name of up to 8 characters. Scene data is compiled into an edit decision list (EDL), where all of the timings and scene order may be altered. Video and/or audio fades plus up to four sequenced title pages can be assigned to each scene. Marking scenes involves quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between the keyboard and controller, as each scene has to be manually incremented by pressing the return key each time, but once you get into the rhythm of things, itís not too bad.    

 

Title composition is perfectly straightforward and reasonably fast, thanks to the near full-size keyboard. Whilst the system has only a fairly limited range of options it is possible to produce some very eye-catching graphics. In fact the simplicity of the title generator is a distinct advantage, it removes the temptation to go overboard or encourage the user to waste time composing over elaborate displays, that more often than not end up looking like a dogs dinner...

 

PERFORMANCE

Using RCTC source material edit points were consistently to within +/- 5 frames; with a little more fine tuning and the right combination of equipment weíre fairly sure that could be trimmed by another frame or two. Uncoded recordings fared quite well too, to within half a second in most cases, though there was a tendency for accuracy to drift over longer productions, as tape counter errors accumulate. It could add up to a couple of seconds out if thereís a lot of winding back and forth, however, these can be minimised using the controllerís calibrate function.

 

The mixer and processor both work well, the range of functions are more than adequate for the vast majority of productions. If we wanted to be really picky then weíd say a brightness control would have been useful too, and RGB colour controls would have been preferable to the sharpness control, though we accept that the latter would almost certainly have bumped up the price.

 

THE VERDICT

It takes a little while to get to know this edit controller, some of the operating routines are a little convoluted, but itís an acquaintance worth cultivating, and in any case it soon becomes second nature. This combination of facilities adds up to a complete post-production suite, everything in fact an aspiring movie-maker needs to transform raw footage into a good-looking video movie, all for less than the price of comparable components, brought separately. Vivanco could have a winner on their hands with this one.

 

THE RIVALS

No other system combines all of the facilities of the 5034. The closest in terms of features is the Sony XV-AL100, which is an RC-timecode edit controller with a built-in audio mixer and title generator for £600, but it doesnít work with Panasonic equipment. Sima make a 23-scene edit controller with an audio mixer and some simple video effects, and itís not a bad price at just £300, but again thereís no Panasonic compatibility. Several controllers, including those from IQ, Camlink, Hama and Bandridge have multi-system functionality but lack the titling and processing facilities of the 5034. Quite simply itís in a class of its own.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/Model                  Vivanco VCR 5034

Guide price                    £500

Scene memory            200

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

                                   Record deck : LANC/Control L, Panasonic 5-pin, learnt IR commands

Timecode systems            VITC, RCTC

Edit features                  cut, fade (to/from black to white), preview, on-screen displays, modifiable cut points, memory back up

Processor features 3-channel stereo mixer, fader, variable colour, contrast and sharpness

Title features                  20 page memory, 8-background colours, 4-fonts sizes, flash, scroll (vertical or horizontal), crawl, fade & zoom fx

Sockets                        AV out (SCART), audio and video in/out (phono & S-Video), edit control & IR wand (mini DIN), microphone and headphone (minijack)

Power supply             230 volts AV mains

Dimensions                   330 x 280 x70 mm

 

PERFORMANCE

Cut accuracy                 +/-5  frames (timecode), +/- 15 frames (uncoded)

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            9

Ease of use                 8

Performance              9 

Features                     9

 

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R Maybury 1996 2603

 

 


 

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