VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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AV PROCESSING, WITH KNOBS ON...

 

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Ask most video movie-makers what features they really want from a video processor and the chances are it wouldn’t be too dissimilar to what the GTH Electronic ACE has to offer.  The trouble with a lot of so-called video processors is that they don’t go far enough, in fact almost any post-production device with a brightness and colour control is dubbed a video processor these days. The ACE or advanced colour enhancer goes all the way, using the latest Philips and Xilinx digital processing microchips to provide a very full range of adjustments and effects. Needless to say it has all the basics, but it’s the other functions that make it so interesting, that and the price, which at just under £250 brings it within reach of most movie-makers. 

 

The unit is designed and built in the UK, in fact the nondescript plastic instrument case with aluminium panels front and back, is a bit of a give-away -- far Eastern products are generally look a lot flashier -- but don’t let that put you off, it’s what’s inside that counts.  The front is festooned with knobs and switches, and to be honest it looks a bit daunting, but they’re divided into sections, and once you’ve had a play with it, it’s all quite manageable.

 

From left to right the top row of six knobs adjust colour saturation, colour balance, colour shift and red, green and blue colour levels, for correcting white balance errors. The colour shift control is extremely useful, compensating for annoying colour displacement effects, generated by a fair few camcorders and VCRs. In the middle there’s a row of push-button switches, they control video by-pass, video and colour invert, wipe patterns, wipe/fade mode, red or blue fields and a set of colour bars. Along the bottom of the panel there’s controls for contrast, brightness, wipe/fade, sharpness and a variable ‘paint’ effect.

 

The fades and wipes are fairly basic, and only to black, but it has a range of 15 wipe patterns, that can be engaged manually, or automatically. The range of the contrast and brightness adjustments are most impressive, beyond what is normally possible on video processors or TV/monitors. The invert function and colour controls can be used to transfer photographic negatives to video and the colour rasters and colour bars are a useful set-up facility. 

 

ACE appears to be largely transparent to the video signals passing through the processing circuitry. There’s no additional noise, or evidence of any digital artefacts and all functions operate very smoothly indeed. Okay, so it’s not the prettiest piece of kit we’ve seen lately, but it does the job, and does it very well indeed. The number and range of adjustments and effects far exceeds any other video processor in the same price bracket, and puts quite a few dearer models to shame. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  GTH ‘ACE’ (Advanced Colour Enhancer)

Guide Price                   £250

Features                       contrast, brightness, saturation and sharpness adjustment, ‘paint’ effect, neg/pos colour and brightness, colour bars, red and blue fields, AV wipe and fade 

Sockets                        AV out (SCART) AV in (phono)  S-Video in/out (mini DIN)         

Dimensions                   210 x 150 x 110mm

 

Distributor                     GTH Electronics, telephone (01473) 625547

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Processing power, plainly packaged but pleasantly-priced,

 

REFRESHER COURSE

The good news is that camcorder batteries are getting better and the new generation of lithium-ion packs are smaller, more powerful and do not suffer from the dreaded memory effect that afflicts nickel cadmium and to a lesser extent, nickel metal-hydride cells.  However, that’s little comfort if you’re not about to change your camcorder and have a stack of nicad packs that can no longer hold a full charge.

 

The solution is to buy a charger-conditioner, and there’s plenty of them about, but there’s a problem. Many of the cheap ones are designed to work with just one type of pack, which is fine if you never plan to own another machine, but things change, and so do battery packs. Vivanco gets around that by giving their CAR 5000 Universal Battery Refresher automatic voltage selection, and an interchangeable battery holder. They’re available to fit most types of camcorder pack, from the small Panasonic 4.8 volt jobbies, up to the older 7.2 volt hand-grip batteries JVC used to use. However, they’ve gone one stage further and produced adaptor plates for a range of mobile phone batteries as well, which makes a great deal of sense as they’re equally prone to the power-sapping memory effects. Vivanco could have stopped there, and felt pretty pleased with themselves, but there’s one more little extra, and that’s a car power cord, that plugs into any standard cigar-lighter socket, so you can take it with you, wherever you go. 

 

CAR 5000 is remarkably compact considering all the features. There are three LED indicators showing the voltage of the pack, next to that there’s an LCD panel with charge meter, and on the right side there’s three more coloured LEDs for power-on, charge and refresh mode. A small button on the extreme right manually engages refresh mode. As soon as the discharge cycle has been completed the unit starts charging. Charge current is moderately high and a typical 1000Ah nicad battery will reach full charge in a little over an hour; a bleeper indicates that charging has been completed and the unit reverts to trickle-charge mode.

 

The charger is microchip controlled, using a combination of techniques to determine charge capacity and condition. Voltage and current measurements taken on our sample were all well within the normal operating limits of most ordinary nicad and NiMh batteries. Charge and discharge facilities on the CAR 5000 are  little different to the score or more other charger/dischargers on the market but its small size, the interchangeable battery plate -- with the facility to handle phone batteries as well -- sets it apart from the crowd. Worth considering.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  Vivanco CAR 5000

Guide Price                   £50

Features                       universal charger/discharger for 4.8, 6.0 and 7.2 volt nicad and NiMh packs, interchangeable adaptor plate for most camcorders and various mobile phone batteries, LCD charge indicator, mains adaptor and car power cord supplied.

Mobile phone adaptor plates available to fit Nokia 101/121/2110, Ericsson 237/327/338, Motorola Flips and Flairs, Mitsubishi MT9, Orbitel 901/905, at £8.95 each)  

Dimensions                   135 x 65 x 45mm (with adaptor plate)

Distributor                     Vivanco UK, telephone ((01442) 403020

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Versatile battery care, especially if there’s an adaptor for your phone battery as well

 

CUT TO SIZE

It seems quite a while since we last tested a Vivanco edit controller, we were starting to get withdrawal symptoms, but right on cue along comes the VCR 5011. The last controller of theirs we looked at was part of the formidable 5034 post production system; the 5011 is a single-function device, though that doesn’t mean it is in any way basic, quite the opposite in fact! Video movie-makers of all abilities, with almost any type of equipment will find something to interest them here.

 

The key features are a 200 scene memory with the facility to read VITC, RCTC and Rapid timecodes. Source and record decks can be controlled using either Control L/LANC, Panasonic 5-pin and PC-VCR hard-wire connections, or IR commands. The latter can be either learned, or downloaded from the controllers own built-in library. In short, it can be used with virtually any camcorder/VCR combination, including models with no edit control facilities at all, though in such cases cut accuracy will normally be quite poor. 

 

Installation and set-up takes just few minutes, when used with a camcorder with LANC or 5-pin edit terminal and an infra-red controlled VCR. Be aware that depending on the equipment, not all of the jog shuttle functions will be useable. It’s a good idea to set the edit parameters before you put together your first masterpiece. This involves making a short test recording of a timecode display, then using it to calibrate the pre-roll and rewind times.

 

Compiling an edit sequence is reasonably intuitive. Edit in and out points are found using the 5011’s transport controls; this can be done on the fly, or, for improved accuracy in still mode. Pressing the ‘cut-in’ and ‘cut-out’ buttons loads counter readouts or time-codes into the edit decision list (EDL); the enter button increments the scene number by one. The on-screen display, which is superimposed over the video input, shows tape number, cut times and duration.

 

When all the scenes have been logged it is possible to go back into the list and change timings, using the jog dial. Scenes can also be cut, moved or copied with relatively little effort. The 5011 has a socket for an external GPI trigger and sockets for connection to other Vivanco post production devices, including the 5019 title generator and 3078 video processor. The EDL can be downloaded to a PC, stored and modified, using an optional PC Data Management kit.

 

Using our standard 10-scene edit sequence we managed to get a cut accuracy of better than +/- 2 frames using timecoded material, and +/- 15 frames on uncoded footage. Both sets of results are very good and comparable with top-end controllers.   

 

The 5011 comes across as slick, efficient and relatively easy to use. It would make useful stand-alone controller but it has clearly been designed to partner other Vivanco components, where it will really come into its own. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  Vivanco VCR 5011

Guide Price                   £200

Edit memory                  200 scenes on 99 tapes

Control Systems            player & recorder: Control L/LANC, Panasonic 5-pin, PC-VCR, learning/programmed IR

Timecode systems            VITC, RCTC, Rapid code

Edit accuracy                +/- 2 frames timecoded material, +/- 15 frame (non timecode)

Features                       jog/shuttle control (supported decks only), scene/cut point change, move and delete, GPI trigger, PC connectivity, compatible with VCR 5019 title generator etc.,

Sockets                        AV in/out (phono) S-Video in/out (mini DIN), GPI (mini jack) IR wand, keyboard & serial port (DIN)

Dimensions                   165 x 70 x 280mm

Weight              1.3kg

Distributor                     Vivanco UK, telephone ((01442) 403020

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

solid performer, good match for other Vivanco post-production components

 

CARD SHARP

Digital still cameras seem to be coming out of the woodwork at the moment, and Panasonic seem determined to make their mark with two new models launched within the past few weeks. The NV-DCF1 is the dearer and more sophisticated of the pair, with similar appearance and features to several other mid-market cameras launched recently by Canon, Sanyo and Sony, to name just a few.

 

Basic facilities are pretty much in line with the current norm, which is a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and a recording capacity of between 11 and 47 images on a 2Mb flash memory, depending on the recording mode. The image to be recorded is shown on a 1.8-inch colour LCD screen on the back of the camera, and pictures can be downloaded to a IBM or compatible PC or Apple MAC computer using a serial lead and software supplied. Where the DCF1 differs from a lot of digital cameras is the removeable memory cartridge. The postage-stamp sized module simplifies transfer to a laptop PC, it fits into an adaptor, that slots into the computer’s PCMCIA (PC card) port. The memory module cupplied with the camera has a capacity of 2Mb. Panasonic say that 4, 10 and 15Mb modules can also be used, though at current prices (a 4Mb module will set you back over £100), it’s a rather expensive upgrade and means of storing pictures.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  Panasonic NV-DCF1 ‘Card Shot’

Guide Price                   £500

Features                       2Mb flash memory card with 11/23 or 47 image capacity (JPEG compression, fine, normal or economy modes), built-in flash, switchable macro function, macro focal range 0.03-0.7 m, 1.8-inch LCD mnitor screen, 1/4 to 1/2,000th sec automatic shutter, auto exposure, self timer, time/date recording, PC interface kit and software supplied, re-chargeable batteries   

Sockets                        NTSC video and digital in/out (minijack) DC socket

Dimensions                   93 x 94 x 51.3mm

Weight              320 g, with batteries

Distributor                     Panasonic UK, telephone (0990) 357357

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

good performance but horrible viewfinder

 

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                 

Guide Price                   £

Features                        

Sockets                       

Dimensions                  

Weight             

Distributor                    

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   X

 

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                 

Guide Price                   £

Features                        

Sockets                       

Dimensions                  

Weight             

Distributor                    

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   X

 

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                 

Guide Price                   £

Features                        

Sockets                       

Dimensions                  

Weight             

Distributor                    

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   X

 

 

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Ó R.Maybury 1997  3007

 


 

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