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Turn your multimedia PC into a powerful video production facility



Getting moving video into a PC is a lot easier these days, with budget capture cards now selling for less than £100, but what do you do with it, once itís there? With Video Wave from MGI your imagination can run riot, this highly-featured software package has the sort of facilities and special effects that until recently, would only have been available in a well-equipped video studio.


Before you get too excited, Video Wave is geared towards processing video material for display and presentation on a PC or incorporating into internet web pages. It is possible -- with the right hardware -- to get it back out again, as a PAL analogue video signal, but the quality is likely to be sub-VHS (depending on the video output hardware used) so itís not really up to editing your home movies, say, though thereís nothing to stop you adding PC-generated footage and titles to tape-based productions.


In addition to the software, you will also need a reasonably quick IBM compatible multimedia PC with at least a 486 DX processor, though a fast Pentium with 16Mb or more RAM and around 100Mb of free hard disc space is much better. It should have a four-speed CD-ROM drive as well, good quality graphics and sound cards, and a video capture device, if you want to import camcorder footage or source material from tape, disc or a TV tuner.


Video Wave comes on two CD ROMs, one contains the program, the other is a huge multimedia library of video clips, pictures, sounds and animations, so you can put together simple presentations, even if you havenít got a capture card. Most operations are carried out using a neatly laid out desktop interface, with a display screen on the middle, a tool bar on the left side, control panels along the bottom and right side, plus a simple time-line storyboard on the top of the screen, for editing clips together. Itís fairly intuitive and easy to use, seasoned Windows 95 users should have no problems, those new to computers and making the crossover from traditional video movie-making may have to learn a few new tricks.


A good way to get to know it is to play around with the Transition Editor menus, which cover cuts, fades, wipes and some stunning special effects. They include swirls, speherise (turns the image into a ball) and ripple, which makes the image look as though its been shot through water, brilliant! Thereís a full set of audio editing facilities as well, enabling  up to three audio tracks to be assigned to a video file.


If you want to try your hand at desktop video production Video Wave has everything you need to get started, but thereís more than enough advanced facilities to interest serious and semi pro users as well. Itís flexible and easy to use, though be warned that to get the most out of it you will need a Pentium PC, it will run on a 486, but the novelty soon wears off, as you wait for things to happen.



Make/model                  MGI Video Wave

Guide Price                   £99

What is it?                    video capture and processing software for PC

System req.                  486 DX or higher multimedia PC with 16Mb RAM, sound card, 800 x 600 display (16 bit colour), 4 x speed CD ROM, 100 Mb free hard disc space, video capture or TV card recommended

Features                       video capture (with capture card), special effects, transitions titling text animation, MPEG encoder/decoder, audio editor and mixer


Distributor            MGI sales information, telephone (01628) 680227 







Strap-on power will keep your camcorder rolling for hours



In spite of all the efforts made by camcorder manufacturers recently, to improve battery running times, youíll be very lucky to get more than a hourís worth of recording time out of most machines using the standard battery pack; in fact 30 to 40 minutes is nearer the mark on the majority of mid-market models. Normally itís not a problem, simply buy a heavy-duty pack or two, but there are times when even that may not be enough. If youíre using a video light, or youíre planning to make longer, uninterrupted recordings, and you canít lay on a mains supply, then this inexpensive battery belt from Holdan may be the answer.


Itís one of two new belts that have just reached the market. Weíve been looking at the HOL-010, itís the smaller of the two, costs £140 and is rated at 4.5Ah (ampere-hours). The HOL-020 has a 7Ah capacity and costs £229.95, both models come with a two-year parts and labour warranty, and Holden are offering free ĎMOTsí, within the guarantee period, to make sure the belt is working at peak efficiency.


Inside the fire-resistant nylon zippered sleeve thereís seven pairs of cells, and one single cell, that together provide a 13.2 volt output. Itís fitted with a car cigar-lighter style socket, so you will need to get hold of the correct car adaptor lead for your machine. Holdan recommend Keene Electronics car cords, which are available for most popular makes and models of camcorder and sell for £21.99. The belt has a sturdy clasp, and thereís sufficient slack to circumnavigate the mightiest beer-belly. All up weight is a shade over 2kg, itís not particularly heavy or uncomfortable, but you know itís there, after a couple of hours...


Charge time from flat is around 8 hours. A full charge should keep most recent compact camcorders going for between 3 to 4 hours. A camcorder and a moderately powerful video light will run it flat inside a couple of hours. Our sample checked out electrically, and we managed a creditable 3 hours 18 minutes recording time on a Canon UX10Hi, with some stop-start recording.


Not bad, as mid-priced battery belts go, but having to spend another £22 -- all but -- on a car adaptor is a pain; this might well put some people off. We suspect it would be far better to offer a complete package, even if it means upping the price a little.



Make/model                  Holdan HOL-010 Battery Belt

Guide Price                   £139.95

Features                       nicad battery belt with mains charger

Capacity                       4.5 ampere-hour

Output              13.2 volts DC

Sockets                        car cigarette lighter socket

Charge time                   8-hours

Weight              2kg

Distributor                     Holdan Ltd., telephone (07000) 465326



Power on tap, when you need it!





The latest digital snapper and printer is another nail in the roll-film coffin



No-one is yet claiming that digital still cameras can achieve the same kind of image quality as a mid-market compact film camera, but at the rate the technology is progressing it probably wonít be long. A quick glance at a print shot on the Sony DSC-F1 camera and printed out on a DPP-M55 printer might suggest otherwise. Thereís no evidence of line-structure, pixellation or digital artefacts, it looks like a proper photograph, the only obvious give-aways are slightly coarse, over-saturated colours, and when you look really closely, a lack of fine detail and minutely jagged edges.


The DSC-F1 has to be one of the smallest and cutest digital still cameras (DSCs) to date, most of the others try too hard to look like 35mm compact still cameras. Sony have tried to be different, the styling is typically eye-catching, with better than average build-quality. Itís dearer than most of its rivals too, selling for just under £700.


Itís very easy to use -- genuine point-and-shoot simplicity -- a 1.8-inch LCD screen on the back shows the image and on-screen menus; selections are made using a thumbwheel on the side. The lens module rotates through 180 degrees, so you can shoot yourself (the image is automatically inverted). Exposure is automatic, it has a built-in flash, switchable macro facility and thereís three resolution modes -- snapshot, standard and fine. The 4Mb memory can store 108, 58 or 30 shots depending on the shooting mode;  at the highest setting the image resolution is a crisp-looking 640 x 300 with 24 bit colour; the other two settings are a bit too rough around the edges to be of any serious use.  


So far the spec is not that different to the dozen or so other DSCs on the market but thereís a few bonus features. It can shoot up to 6 frames at once, a facility called Ďtime-machineí records previous and successive frames for smooth action, and up to 6 shots can be viewed on the display screen at once. Other playback options include zoom, slide-show and rotate, and thereís a self-timer. Images can be displayed on a normal TV, via the composite video output, or downloaded to a PC, using the supplied serial cable and software. It also has a IrDA  infra-red interface, for wireless data transmission to compatible devices.


IR communications are a key feature on the companion DP-M55 digital video printer which costs £470. Simply point the DSC-F1 at the IR window on the printer and press a few buttons and away it goes. It takes a minute or two to send the data, and another 70 second to print the picture at a fixed resolution of 144 dots per inch (dpi). The printer also has a conventional parallel printer port, connecting it to a PC gives full control over the various printing functions, and access to the range of special effects, included in the bundled PhotoExpress software. The cost of consumables (print paper and film) is par for the course,  postcard-sized prints work out at around £1.00 each.


The camera and printer work very well together and the results can be very impressive. However, thereís still a long way to go, before digital systems like this can compete with conventional film photography in terms of cost and performance, but if you need a fast and efficient way of getting still images into a PC, for inclusion into documents or web pages, and the facility to make near photographic quality prints, then this has to be one of the smartest-looking and well-cordinated outfits on the market.



Make/model                  Sony DSC-F1 and DPP-M55

Guide Price                   £700 (DSC-F1), £470 (DPP-M55)

Features                       DSC-F1: digital still camera, 4Mb flash memory for 108 low, 58 medium or 30 high-res images, built-in flash, macro facility, composite video and data out, IrDA interface, PC/MAC connectivity, 1.8-inch colour LCD screen, rotating lens, image rotate, zoom, PhotoExpress image editing software

                                    DPP-M55: digital colour dye sublimation printer, MAC/PC compatible, 144 dpi resolution

Sockets                        DSC-F1: video out (minijack), DC input, digital I/O port (FireWire); DPP-M55: parallel printer port, S-Video (mini DIN)

Dimensions                   DSC-F1: 102 x 77.8 x 40.8

Weight              DSC-F1: 330g

Distributor                     Sony UK Ltd., telephone 0181-784 1144



One step closer for digital photography




R.Maybury 1997 1806



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