VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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The cost of video mixing comes down to earth with a bump!

 

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It feels as though the ink is barely dry on our test report of the Video Tech VMX-410. We congratulated them for taking the cost of video mixing -- still one of the most exotic post production effects -- to below £1000. At just £800 we reckoned the VMX- 410  was excellent value for money. That was before we’d seen the DVM3 digital video processor, distributed in the UK by Lektropacks. It’s currently selling for just under £500, making it the cheapest video mixer by a considerable margin. So what’s the catch?

 

As far as we can see there isn’t one. True, it’s not as sophisticated as the VMX-410 and its rivals, but that’s hardly a fair comparison, it costs less than half as much as most other video mixers. The key feature is the ability to mix two free-running video sources together, and that requires some heavyweight digital video processing microchips; ultimately, that’s where the money goes.  Any effects are a bonus, and although there’s not so many of them on the DVM3 -- compared with some video mixers from Panasonic, Videonics and Vivanco --  those it has are all well worth having. By the way, in addition to the video mixer and effects there’s a 3-channel stereo audio mixer as well. Add a mid-range edit controller and you can put together a powerful post production suite for less than £800!

 

The mixer is built into a compact sloping console, finished in a fetching dark turquoise... To give you an idea just how small it is, the footprint is roughly the same as three VHS cassettes placed side by side. The control layout is reasonably logical: the sliders along the lower half of the panel are for the audio mixer and video mix effects; the buttons along the top half are grouped according to function. On the left side are the effect selectors and a variable key control; the next four buttons are concerned with mode and colour selection; the bank of six buttons on the right are the wipe pattern selectors. All of the line-level, composite and S-Video inputs and outputs are on the back panel; three minijack sockets, for a microphone and headphones, are on the left side. It can handle mixed inputs, and will happily process composite and S-Video signals together, though there’s no advantage in terms of resolution or colour fidelity, key processing functions occur on composite configured signals.

 

So what can it do? First and foremost are the vision mixing facilities. The two channels are designated A and B; only one can be digitally processed at a time, but the inputs can be switched at the touch of a button. There are 8 effects to choose from: monochrome, mosaic, still, strobe, paint, invert, lumakey, and blue chromakey. The transition effects include a normal A/B cross-fade, to or from the other channel, or one of 8 background colours. There are over 100 wipe effects, created by combining 5 basic patterns plus a variable angle control. The edge of the wipe pattern can also be softened.

 

The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ always springs to mind when reviewing unusually cheap products; it normally serves as a stern warning for all those who try to economise and cut corners, but not in this case. To be perfectly honest we had expected flaky pictures, wobbly colours and fuzzy wipes, but that simply wasn’t the case. The good news is DVM3 works exceptionally well. Both input channels emerge from the unit almost unscathed; there’s no additional noise to speak of, and no deterioration in picture or colour stability, though saturation levels on our sample were a touch elevated, nevertheless, it’s off to a very good start. The mix and cross-fade effects are virtually faultless. The only rider to that is the processor’s slight intolerance of picture instability. Any loss of synch or a momentary glitch and both channels loose lock; it definitely shows a preference for good quality, first generation recordings. Fades and wipes are smooth and progressive’ The leading edge of wipes are very sharp and clearly defined, there is some very minor lag on a fast horizontal wipe, but that will be of little or no concern in normal use. The digital effects are generally satisfactory.

 

It’s not all sunshine and roses though, and we do have a couple of minor grumbles. The first one concerns the lack of basic video adjustments, the small increase in saturation is a nuisance, and could have been attended to with a colour control;  brightness and contrast adjustments wouldn’t have gone amiss either. The lack of adjustment on the ‘paint’ effect means it has limited use, a variable strobe control would have been useful too, and there was a low-level hum on the audio output. The luma and chroma key options are not the best we’ve seen, and the level control is rather coarse. In practice that will mean quite a bit of messing around with lighting and backgrounds to achieve credible superimpositions.

 

Fortunately the good points more than outweigh any negative ones and the DVM3 is quite simply outstanding value for money. Critical wipe and mix facilities are excellent, we could have done with couple more processing functions, but for that price, we can live without them. Highly recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  CYP DVM3 Digital Video Processor

Guide Price                   £499

Features                       2-channel digital video mixer, timebase corrector, digital effects (mono, mosaic, strobe, paint, invert, luma & blue chroma key), cross wipe and fade, wipe angle and sharpness adjustment, 3-channel audio mixer 

Sockets                        AV in/out (phono) S-Video in/out (mini DIN), headphone & microphone (minijack), DC power

Dimensions                   360 x 200 x 60 mm

Weight              2.0 kg

Distributor                     Lektropacks, 0181-572 9737

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Affordable video mixing, at last!

 

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Ó R. Maybury 1996 1511

 


 

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