VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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ASK RICK -- JUNE

 

ANIMATED REPLY

I have an S-VHS camcorder and wish to buy an S-VHS editing VCR with animation facility.  Would you please suggest a few such VCRs in the domestic and semi-pro range?

J. Brown

Canterbury, Kent

 

It really depends what you mean by animation. If  youíre asking are there any Super VHS recorders that can make single frame recordings, then the answer is a guarded yes, but we have to say that none of them are domestic models, and the function Iím thinking of  is not actually geared towards animation as such. The machines in question are designed for video surveillance, and the single frame facility is used for time-lapse recording. Theyíre expensive too, Mitsubishi have one for around £1700, the others you donít want to know about... Regular domestic S-VHS VCRs made by JVC and Panasonic can be persuaded to make short duration recordings of around a second or 25 frames, maybe less, but thatís still too long for serious animation work. Pro decks, with hard wire edit systems may do a little better but again youíre talking big money, the cheapest Panasonic S-VHS edit decks are in the £2500 to £3000 price bracket. High quality animation is possible with PC based non-linear desktop systems, though weíre into big money again. It should is also possible to make single frame recordings using digital video gear and several camcorders have this facility.

 

TITLE MIS-DEEDS

I recently bought the MX1 Videonics digital video mixer and Video Title Maker 2000.  Together with a Panasonic NV-HD660 and an old Hitachi M840/DA4 video recorder this makes my current editing set-up.

 

There is a problem with the letter quality of the recordings on the Panasonic.  I have good picture quality, but my video title maker is very disappointing as it suffers from grainy letters to an extremely bad colour bleed/smudge effect.  I would like to improve the titles and have tried swapping my cables to S-Video with no joy.

 

How do I go about cleaning the heads of my Panasonic video and will purchasing a video processor improve the quality?  I have a feeling that there is an incompatibility between my Videonics and Panasonic equipment.

C. Arnold

Romsey, Hants

 

If, as you say, the Panasonic VCR is performing well with other sources, that itís unlikely thereís any problem with the heads, though a regular wash and brush up with a good quality cleaner cassette certainly wonít hurt. Incompatibility is probably too strong a word, though itís possible the signal from the title generator is overmodulated -- i.e. too strong -- which is one possible explanation for the whiskery graphics --  particularly if other signals are being cleanly recorded. The thing to do is to make some test recordings using your Hitachi VCR, and see if it happens there. If that suffers too thatís a good indication that the title generator might require attention.

 

COLOURFUL CHOICE

I purchased a Sony TR680 Hi8 camcorder at Christmas and am more than happy with it, even though I found out it is more than two years old. After reading the January issue of the magazine I now want to start buying the right type of editing equipment. I want to buy the best equipment I can afford; my only concern is that there is a lot of different types of equipment on the market - some include a colour corrector - can it be bought separately?

 

Is there a need for a colour corrector, or  can similar results be achieved by simply buying good tapes to begin with?

A. Collins

Liverpool

 

In an ideal world you wouldnít need a colour corrector at all. However, the auto white balance systems on camcorders can and do make mistakes, and recordings suffer from noticeable colour errors. Unfortunately your machine doesnít have a manual WB override. The most likely causes are poor light, fluorescent tube lighting and other forms of artificial light. Most of the time the errors are not too serious, and you can live with them. However, if youíre editing, then differences in colour balance between scenes, or shots taken at different times of the day, can become significant, in which case a colour corrector can help. On balance however, I suspect that itís a facility you will need to use only rarely. If the equipment you buy has it, fine; if not, then itís not the end of the world.

 

COPY QUALITY

I have owned a Canon E600 for 3 years and have always been disappointed with picture quality, after copying to VHS tape.  From reading the magazine it seems obvious that it would be better to upgrade either to Hi8 or Super VHS or wait for DVC to develop further.  I would like to ask several questions concerning this:

 

If I buy a Hi8 or S-VHS camcorder will an S-VHS VCR accept recordings from a Hi8 camcorder and does the tape in the high band VCR have to be of Super VHS quality, or will ordinary VHS do?

 

I have recently bought a 486DX PC with 4Mb Ram.  Is it better to use the PC with either a VGA to video conversion card or an external module, such as the Aver or go for something like the Vivanco editing system?

D. Smith

Huyton, Merseyside

 

As far as the VCR in an editing system is concerned, it is dealing with a video signal. Providing the signal conforms to accepted standards the VCR neither knows nor cares where it comes from, what cassette format the source component is using, or even if it is a camcorder or some other device. Copying from a high-band camcorder, to a high-band VCR has to be carried out using S-Video or Y/C connections. This ensures maximum signal integrity and minimise quality losses, suitable leads are normally supplied with camcorders and VCRs.  High band, i.e. S-VHS video recorders can record on any kind of VHS tape, but S-VHS tape is specially formulated, and the cassettes have ident holes, that tell the machine to record in the high-band mode. In other words, if you use VHS tape, you get VHS quality, only S-VHS tape gives S-VHS quality recordings. As far as  performance is concerned thereís really not a lot to choose between internal and external VGA to PAL converters, editing systems and processors; in the end itís a matter of convenience and budget, something that only you can decide.

 

GREEN SCREEN

I purchased a Sony EVS 9000 last May and am experiencing a persistent and annoying fault.  At the very top of the picture there is a green band extending the whole width of the screen.  It disappears if I repeatedly press pause then pause again.  It re-appears on the next scene which necessitates repeating the whole process.

 

It is most noticeable on orange or beige backgrounds - in normal outdoor shots it changes colour and is hardly noticeable.

 

I spoke to Sonyís service department  - no one has any idea what the problem is.

D. Webb

Woodthorpe, Nottingham

 

I share Sonyís lack of insight, it could be any one of a number of things. The point is, it is virtually impossible to make a diagnosis by letter, or over the phone in a case like this. Thereís clearly a fault -- probably not a serious one, if thatís any consolation -- but your machine needs to be looked at, on the bench, by a qualified engineer.

 

IN CONTROL?

I noticed a couple of letters in a recent issue of the magazine asking questions about a Control-L socket connected for editing.  I checked my Canon A2Hi and could only find a REM socket - the manual doesnít mention its use - is this in fact a Control L socket?  Am I right in believing that such a lead could connect my camcorder with the JVC HR-J725EK VCR but not to the Panasonic VCR NV-FS90 that I use for recording my camcorder footage?

 

Am I also right in believing that the Control L lead causes both camcorder and VCR to be controlled with one operation and avoids the time difference, thereby avoiding the hit and miss cuts I get attempting to offset the start of both camcorder and VCR, or is it simply a technique to start both units at the same time with one press of a button?

 

Whilst reading the February issue I was amazed to read of the use of the PC for computer editing.  Are there really PCs able to access the VCR/TV - and with what success?  I use a Commodore Amiga 1200 computer with 2 or 3 titling programmes and sincerely believe it laughable that a PC could match picture quality - if it can, at what price?

 

G. Thornton

Horsham, W. Sussex

 

The Ďremoteí socket on your A2Hi is in fact a Control L/LANC editing terminal. Since you ask it is a bi-directional serial communications bus, that an external edit controller uses to operate the deck mechanism and read counter codes generated by the camcorder. It can sometimes have a secondary function, as a remote pause, but it has no business being connected to your JVC and Panasonic VCRs.  Iím not sure what you mean by Ďtime differenceí,  but when a camcorder is being used as the replay deck, in an editing system, and itís being controlled, by an edit controller, then it is possible to achieve a high degree of accuracy and consistency with the cuts -- generally to within plus or minus half a second or a dozen or so frames. The controller also operates the recording VCR at the same time, controlling the machineís record-pause function, automating the whole editing process. So yes, in most respects it is better than manual editing.

 

Youíre obviously a big Amiga fan, and good luck to you. Youíre right, PCís cost a lot more than Amigas, and it has taken the industry a while to catch up with some of the things that Amigas were doing five years ago, but the world has moved on. Commodore who made the Amiga have had a very troubled history and support for the system and format is waning fast. Like it or not PCs have become the de-facto standard for desktop editing and thatís where all the time, money and effort is being spent on development.

 

ON YER MIKE

Six months ago I brought a second-hand JVC GR-AX5 video camera; although I donít know much about video movie-making, I have considerable experience in electronics. I am now faced with a problem, which I admit I didnít consider at the time of purchase. The camera has no iris control or external microphone socket, which is a real pain. I recently tried to record a band in concert, but the sound was only as good as the internal microphone, and the changing lights sent the iris crazy. Could you tell me, is it possible to have these two things added to my machine, and if so, by whom, and how much would it cost?

Stephen Mann,

Derby.

 

Whilst it is technically possible I doubt very much you will find any engineers willing to undertake such a task. Obviously if anyone out there has the technical knowledge to carry out such a conversion, please get in touch with us and weíll pass their details on to Stephen.

 

PROJECTOR PROBLEMS

I have been a keen video enthusiast for about six years and have acquired a fair amount of equipment. I am now looking to buy a video projector, but I am having difficulty in obtaining any information. Perhaps you could help?

 

Do projectors accept tapes directly, or do they have to be connected to a VCR? Can projectors receive off-air TV programmes, from BBC and ITV etc.? And is it necessary top have a special screen. Local dealers have been unable to answer  any of these questions.

Leslie P Eden,

Rugby

 

All of the video projectors Iím aware of are stand-alone devices, that have to be connected to an external video source or PC, in the case of models with VGA inputs. None of them have tuners -- so they canít pick up TV programmes --  and most of the oneís Iíve seen have only rudimentary audio systems, that are generally used for monitoring purposes. With most projectors you can get away with an ordinary projection screen, the same sort used for slide and cine equipment. Cheaper models, with lower light outputs, do benefit from specially designed, high-performance screens. Projector prices start at around £700 for basic single element LCD projectors, but if youíre serious about quality you should be thinking of spending in the region of £2500 to £3500 on a high performance single or triple element models. If youíre considering larger screen sizes -- up to 200 inches say -- then £5000 to £8000 is a more realistic budget. For more information about whatís available you should try your nearest Sharp and Sony dealers, both of who have a good range of models this year. 

 

BACK CATALOGUE BATTERIES

I recently rediscovered a JVC GR-C1 camcorder, that I brought in 1983 for £1200. Thatís equivalent to around £3000 at todayís prices. I hadnít used it for about ten years and was very surprised to find that it was still in perfect working order, except for the batteries which were incapable of holding a charge. I have been trying, without success, to get original JVC replacement batteries (NB-P5U and NB-6GU), Can you help? Also, is there a collectors market for old camcorders, as for still cameras?

Ian Weeks

Farnham, Surrey

 

JVC originals are a bit thin on the ground, in fact they tell us that only the NB-6GU is still available. You can get them from their main spares outlet, Willow Vale, for £43 each (including VAT); you can contact them on (01734) 876444. Several accessory firms still carry supplies of compatible 9.6 volt packs, including Keene Electronic (01332) 830550, and firms like DSM (01942) 272730, can replace the dead cells in your original battery packs. As far as camcorder collectables are concerned, itís probably still a little too early. Some machines are undoubtedly sought after, but you only have to walk around your local car boot sale, to find five and ten year old machines selling for just a few pounds. Maybe itís time to start collecting!

 

TECNO BABBLE?

We often come across terms like frequency response, signal to noise ratio, jitter and line resolution. Could you explain what they mean, and what we should be looking out for, when making purchasing decisions?

Sean Doyle

West Bridgford, Nottingham

 

It would take rather more space than we have available, to fully explain all of those technical terms, but hereís the abridged version. Frequency response, when applied to an analogue video recording, playback and display systems, refers to the maximum amount of information that various components, from the image sensor to the monitor screen, are able to process. In the real world frequency response equates to picture detail and colour. In other words, images derived from systems with a higher frequency response will contain more fine detail and have sharper, more clearly defined colours. Signal to noise ratio is a way of relating the amount of wanted information in a video signal, to the unwanted component, which is noise. Noise is generated at all stages of video processing, recording and transmission, by magnetic tape and even connecting leads. Clearly the more signal there is -- in relation to the noise -- the better. Jitter is simply that, a vertical instability in the picture, usually brought about by poor or low grade synchronisation pulses, and errors or inefficiencies in synch pulse processing circuitry. Synch pulses are a bit like the sprocket holes in movie film; if theyíre worn, elongated or missing, then the picture is unstable. The same thing applies to synch pulses, and any degradation shows up as picture instability. Finally line resolution. Thatís related to frequency response, and is a way of defining how much fine detail a video system can resolve, record and reproduce. Resolution can be measured using an electronically generated test signal, made up of a calibrated pattern of fine vertical lines. In the pattern the lines get progressively closer together, and the point at which they merge -- i.e. the system can no longer differentiate between the fine lines -- indicates the systemís maximum resolution.  In other words, if we say a VCR has a resolution of 250 lines, that means you could make out every one of 250 fine vertical lines, if the pattern stretched from one side of the screen to the other.

 

HYDRIDE HORROR?

I have recently purchased a Sony TR510 Handycam and found not one, but two notices with it warning that the warranty would not cover replacement or repair of parts or damage, due to the use of nickel metal hydride batteries. As I have been successfully using a NiMh battery on my old Sanyo machine, I was wondering why Sony are taking this stand? Is it a device to persuade us to use only Sony-made nicads, or is there something we should know about this type of battery, that the other manufacturers are not telling us?

B. Muncaster,

Eastleigh, Hants

 

Iím sorry to quash your splendid conspiracy theory but thereís nothing at all sinister about those warning notices. The official, and quite understandable line from Sony is that they do not endorse third party accessories like batteries, over which they have no control. Admittedly itís very unlikely, but a freak over-voltage condition could fry the delicate microcircuits inside the camcorder, Sony clearly wouldnít feel obliged to repair the machine under those circumstances. Nickel metal hydride batteries also have different charging characteristics, and itís possible they may not perform to spec on original equipment chargers, not designed for the purpose. Again, thatís nothing to do with Sony, who say that they design their camcorders to work with their batteries, and no-one elseís. In practice the risk is very small, and weíve been using Sony camcorders with a huge variety of NiMh packs for years, without any problems, but as they say, you have been warned! 

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1997 2603

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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