VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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STUDIO DIRECTOR

 

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Computer and video accessory manufacturers can be a sneaky bunch! How many times have you picked up a widget in a flashy box, covered with photographs of happy-looking people doing all kinds of interesting things with their new purchase, only to discover that you need a load more bits and pieces? We’re pleased to report Video Director Studio 200 is one of those rare exceptions and it will actually do just about everything it says it can.

 

It’s a complete PC-based video production facility, and at just under £300, one of the cheapest packages on the market. Inside the box there’s a CD ROM, all the necessary connecting cables, and a small blue box, called Studio 200, that gets video images in and out of the computer. There’s no plug in cards to worry about, so installation is fairly straightforward. All you need is a PC, (preferably a fast multimedia model), a camcorder with a Control L/LANC editing terminal, and a VCR with IR remote control.

 

The CD ROM contains four software packages, there’s our old friend Video Director, that uses the familiar ‘Smart Cable’ interface. This has a serial port plug on one end, with a Control L/LANC plug and IR ‘wand’ on the other, to control the camcorder and record VCR. A simple plug-in adaptor is supplied for use with Panasonic machines. The other programs are Audio Editor, Studio Grabber, and Studio Titler, the last two both depend on the Studio 200 box, to import and export video images to and from the PC. This hooks up to the computer’s parallel printer port, a lead is supplied. The box has a parallel output socket, so the printer can still be used as normal.

 

Installation takes around ten minutes, half of that is taken up with loading the software. Configuration under Windows is largely automatic and it fired up first time without any problems on our P133 test PC. Video Director is a comprehensive editing package, that uses a mixture of conventional list-based editing techniques with ‘picons’ or picture icons; they’re thumbnail stills, automatically grabbed from the start of each scene, to build up a visual storyboard. Once that’s done transitions and titles can be added, using simple drag and drop techniques. There are more than 100 wipes, dissolves and fades to choose from, that can be mixed with graphics or titles generated by the PC, or frame grabs, from an external video source. The titler has an impressive range of fonts, styles and effects, more than enough to satisfy most people. The audio editor uses the PCs soundcard to mix, create and process sounds. Unfortunately the software applications are not fully integrated, and you have to close Video Director in order to grab frames, but apart from that it’s relatively easy to use.

 

Editing performance is largely dependent on the source and record decks, using a mid-range Sony TR camcorder and a Panasonic VCR; we managed a consistent +/-2 frames with timecoded material.  Video output from the PC, via the Studio 200 mix box is reasonably clean with minimal noise, transitions are smooth, though very fast fades and wipes were a little jumpy on our set-up.

 

Video Director Studio 200 is an excellent route into desktop video production, suitable for beginners and enthusiasts alike. It’s slick, well presented and reasonably easy to use. The price represents good value for money. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  Video Director Studio 200

Guide Price                   £300

Features                       video editing, titling and special effects software, frame grabbing, VGA to video mixing 

Sockets                        serial and parallel connections to PC, Control L/LANC & Panasonic 5-pin connectors supplied, video in/out (phono and S-Video)

System requirements IBM PC or compatible with 386 or faster processor, 8MB RAM, Windows 3.x or 95, Windows compatible sound card                               

Distributor                     Pinnacle Systems, PO Box 47, Reading RG7 4UW, telephone 0171-341 5507

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Desktop video made simple

 

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EYE SPY

 

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Over the past five years there’s been a quiet revolution in video surveillance technology. Closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras used to be horribly expensive, not any longer. Miniature, single chip, black and white cameras, known in the trade as ‘board’ cameras are now coming out of far Eastern factories for just a few pounds. They have helped to create a whole new market for ‘domestic’ video security, with systems like the Domineye appearing in front porches up and down the land.

 

Domineye, like its many imitators, is designed to integrate with a normal television. The camera ‘head’ is mounted inside an anonymous-looking black plastic, vandal-proof  housing that looks a bit like a porch light; the camera module also contains a sensitive microphone, and a set of infra-red illuminators, so it can literally see in the dark. It connects to the TV via a small black box, containing an RF modulator. This has a pair of coaxial connectors, that plugs into the aerial lead, going to the TV, or VCR, if you’ve got one. Power comes from a small plug-in mains adaptor.

 

The outfit comes with a 15 metre cable, terminated at both ends with miniature DIN plugs. This should be enough for most installations but extra lengths of cable can be easily added, extending the cable run to more than 50 metres if required. Once it’s connected up the TV is tuned into the RF output; the modulator has a test signal facility to assist tuning, and the output frequency can be varied. The signal contains both picture and sound, so you can see, as well as hear who’s at the front door.  If there’s a VCR in the aerial chain it’s a good idea to tune that into the camera output as well, so you can record what’s going on. You could even leave it running whilst your out, VCRs with an LP recording facility can record for up to 8 hours, using a E-240 tape.

 

Low-light sensitivity is around 0.2 lux, so very little incident light is needed to produce a watchable image, a porch light or nearby street lamp is usually more than sufficient. The IR LEDs in the camera head may not be very powerful, but they’re sufficient to illuminate a face up to a metre or so away. The infra-red light is invisible, so the caller has no idea that you can see who they are.

 

Image quality is very good, resolution is in the order of 400 lines, so you can make out plenty of fine detail. The camera is fitted with a semi-wide angle lens, so you get a good field of view, depending where you mount the camera, it could give you a good view of the street outside, and your car, so you can keep watch on that as well.

 

Most DIYers should be able to fit the system in a couple of hours. Video and audio performance are both excellent. It may not be the cheapest home video surveillance system on the market, but all of the components are very well designed, and its worth paying a little extra for simplicity of installation and this kind of build quality. Domineye is not meant to be a substitute for conventional security measures, but if you’re concerned to know who’s at the front door, here’s one very simple of screening callers, without having to get up out of your comfy chair.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model                  Domineye home security system

Guide Price                   £220

Features                       black and white TV camera and microphone with RF modulator, power supply and porch housing 

Sockets                        mini DIN (camera to modulator), aerial in/out (coax), DC power in

Distributor                     Domineye UK Ltd., Domineye House, 18 Rodney Street, Liverpool, L1 4NP, telephone 0800 281 330

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

High-tech porch-peeper

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Ó R.Maybury 1996 3004

 


 

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