FOUR INTO ONE WILL GO...
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
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
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
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...
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Cut accuracy +/-5 frames (timecode), +/- 15 frames (uncoded)
Value for money 9
Ease of use 8
R Maybury 1996 2603