VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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REVELLING RODENT

 

INTRO

Video editing has gradually been getting easier, but no-one has ever described it as fun, until now...

 

COPY

We must admit to more than a little trepidation, when confronted with a product that has the word ‘fun’ in its name. Fun is not the sort of word you normally associate with video editing.  Agreed, it’s a mildly pleasurable experience when everything goes according to plan, but that doesn’t happen very often, for us at least... GSE are clearly determined to introduce some frivolity into the proceedings, hence the appearance of the VideoMouse Fun edit PC edit controller, and the determinedly grim-faces on the WV test team. Fun, bah, humbug!

 

If VideoMouse Fun looks vaguely familiar, that’s because it’s based on the apparently not so jovial, plain, ordinary VideoMouse, that GSE launched last year. The case is the same case though some wag has seen fit to colour it blue, and daub it with zany orange graphics and labelling. There’s been other changes too, including the price, which is now a much more amusing £200, down from a somewhat straight-faced £350. A few other bits and pieces have come and gone, and we’ll look at them in more detail as we go, but the basic method of operation remains the same.

 

Fun Mouse, as well call it from now on (VideoMouse Fun sounds so formal...), is designed to work in conjunction with an IBM or compatible PC. It has relatively modest requirements; the machine should have a 386/33MHz processor or faster, which covers all but the most ancient, doddery machines. Said PC should also have at least 4Mb of RAM, 5Mb of free hard disc space and be running Windows 3.x or higher. Fun Mouse connects to the PC via the serial comms port, which on many machines is used to connect the machine to a modem. It has a captive serial lead, terminated in a 9-pin D-sub plug. The majority of PCs have 25-pin serial ports, so most users will probably end up having to buy a 9 to 25 pin adaptor. They only cost a couple of pounds, so it seems a bit mean not to include one in the outfit.

 

On the video side the system will work with any camcorder or source deck that has either Control L/LANC, Panasonic 5-Pin or RS-232 edit terminals. The record deck can also be hard-wire controlled, or more likely, by programmed or learned IR commands. It can read normal counter data as well as RCTC, VITC and GSE-Rapid timecodes, though there’s an important proviso with VITC, that we’ll come to in a minute.

 

There’s not a lot more to see from the outside. The top panel is dominated by a purposeful-looking jog shuttle dial, and a bank of 7 buttons. For some reason they’re all black; a couple of frequently-used buttons on the original VideoMouse were coloured red and green, which was actually quite helpful. On the back of the compact, sloping L-shaped console there’s two 9-pin DIN sockets, one to control the source deck, the other is for the record deck control lead. On the front there’s a small black window, covering an infra-red sensor.

 

Most of the PC peripherals and software we get to see are normally accompanied by half a dozen impenetrable instruction books, (that most of us never read until something goes wrong...), so it’s quite refreshing to discover that Fun Mouse comes with a 4-page instruction leaflet, covering two sides of an A4 sheet of paper. Actually that’s good and bad; good because it makes it look vaguely approachable, but bad if you’re still getting to grips with computers and the procedures involved in installing new hardware and software.  

 

Two 3.5-in floppy diskettes are included in the Fun Mouse outfit, there’s a mention of a CD ROM on the packaging, though it never made it into our review sample. There’s also a set of leads comprising DIN to LANC/Control L, DIN to Panasonic 5-pin and DIN to IR wand.

 

INSTALLATION

Loading follows the normal Windows 3.x or 95 conventions and takes around two to three minutes. It creates a program group, including the WinEdit icon, that starts the program running. Like its predecessor we found it wasn’t at all happy loading  when other software is running, and it seems to take a particular dislike to MS Word. When WinEdit fires up for the first time it checks to see if the Fun Mouse is connected and working, after which it is necessary to configure the Com port, set the IRQ and control systems for the source and record decks. It’s no problem if you’ve done it before, but the lack of on-screen of documentary guidance may prove baffling for those unfamiliar with the darker corners of their PC. It does have an on-line help facility, but it’s a bit brief in places.

 

Setting up the source deck is easy, simply click on the appropriate control system button, (LANC, 5-Pin or PC-VCR) and the edit method, from a drop-down menu. The only small complication is that VITC is not an option unless you have one of the handful of machines that has the option to carry timecode data on the 5-pin control lead. VITC signals are normally slotted into the video signal, and it is usual for VITC-capable edit controllers to have a video feed-through, so the timecode data can be extracted. The original VideoMouse got around this problem with a special lead, that connected to the luma (Y) output from the source deck’s S-Video socket, but there’s no such facility on the Fun Mouse.

 

Setting up the record deck is fairly straightforward, though there’s the additional option of IR remote control on the installation menu. The software includes a fairly substantial library of commands. Fun Mouse can learn IR codes for makes and models that are not included. The programmed commands worked correctly on the four video recorders we tried it with, however we couldn’t get the learn function to operate at all. This may have been something to do with a glitch in the early version of the software we were using. There were also signs that it hadn’t been fully converted from the German original, with messages like ‘Toggle VideoMouse from Recorder to Playersteuerung’ appearing from time to time.

 

The basic desktop is plain and uncluttered, there’s familiar-looking drop-down menus and toolbars at the top, four large function buttons and a big space for the edit decision list (EDL). Control panels for both the source and record decks can appear on the desktop; these have a full set of iconised control buttons, plus a cut in/out key on the source deck panel. There’s counter and timecode readouts on both panels. We suspect most users will elect to control the source deck from the Fun Mouse, particularly if the deck in question can make use of the jog/shuttle dial.

 

Cut points can be marked from the desktop display, or the button on the mouse itself, with is by far the easier, and more accurate method. After each out cut point has been marked the data appears on the EDL; the scene counter automatically increments, ready for the next cut in marker. Lines on the EDL cannot be modified directly, instead the values for a scene are loaded into a separate field, where they can be altered by inputting new numbers. Scenes can be deleted and moved around, using normal copy and paste clipboard conventions; drag and drop would have been even better; there’s a useful undo function, for those of us who do things, and then instantly regret it... The finished EDL can be previewed, committed to tape, or saved to disc for another day.

 

That just about covers basic operation, but the box is lavishly illustrated a family with pictures showing captured video scenes on a monitor screen. It’s only when you get around to the small print on the back, that you realise that this is only possible with several hundred pounds worth of  optional video capture and playback card, like the Miro DC20 or 30, or Fast AV Master. Whilst this opens up a whole new world of possibilities, with the facility to include and control captured video files and graphics in the EDL, it is possibly a little misleading to present this so vividly on the box. We’re concerned that some people may buy this product on the assumption that it will enable them to import and export video and display it on their PCs; it cannot!

 

PERFORMANCE

If you take the trouble to fine-tune pre and post roll times, your equipment hard-wired to the controller and reasonably consistent, and you use time-coded recordings, we’re fairly sure cut accuracy of plus or minus a single frame is possible. However, in real world conditions, with regular domestic gear we managed an average of plus or minus 3 frames on timecoded tapes, on our ususal ten minute sequence of 10 scenes. On uncoded tapes this fell back to 15 or so frames, which is still very good; this represents errors of just over half a second, that we consider to be quite respectable.

 

THE VERDICT

We like it, though we suspect those new to PCs won’t appreciate the fun side of it if they get hung up over installation. With so little advice on how to get the system up and running, and so many potential pitfalls, there’s the very real danger that a lot of people will end up having to call the helpline. We’re not suggesting GSE or Holden fall into the trap of supplying too much documentation, but a lively, well presented basic user guide is badly needed.

 

For those who manage to get beyond the first hurdle Fun Mouse has a great deal to offer, though we caution anyone with a VITC equipped camcorder to check whether or not timecodes are carried on the 5-pin control socket. If not then you may be better off with other types of controller, or be willing to compromise on edit accuracy.

 

It is very easy to use and anyone familiar with the ways of the Windows PC probably won’t need any further help. Accuracy is very good and it has the potential to be excellent, though that will depend largely on the equipment it is being used with. We thought £350 for the original VideoMouse was fair, at just under £200 this is now a pretty good deal. Fun is probably still the wrong word for it, but as PC editing systems go, this one is quite jolly...

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/Model                  GSE Video Mouse Fun

Guide price                    £200

Scene memory            999

Control Systems            Source deck: LANC/Control L, Panasonic 5-pin, serial interface. Record deck:  learning/programmed IR commands

Timecode systems            RCTC, VITC, GSE-Rapid

Edit features                  Plug and play installation, scene modify/copy/delete/move, preview, pre/post roll time adjustment, EDL save, on-line help, image capture (with optional digitiser card)

 

System requirements IBM PC or compatible with 386/33 processor or above, 4Mb RAM, Windows 3.1 or above

Distributor                     Holdan Ltd., PO Box 38, Hyde, Cheshire SK16 5QR, telephone (0468) 904924

 

Sockets                        PC serial cable (9-pin D-sub), edit control (DIN)

Power supply             supply on serial cable

Dimensions                   115 x 178 x 54 mm

 

PERFORMANCE

Cut accuracy                 +/-3 frames (RC-timecode), +/- 15 frames (non-timecode)

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            8

Ease of use                 9

Performance              8 

Features                     8

 

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R Maybury 1997 2204

 

 


 

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