VIDEO CAMERA 1997

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KIWI CONUNDRUM

I recently bought a Canon X2Hi camcorder which I used to film a Yacht race and the results were fantastic.  I decided to get the film edited professionally as I donít have the facilities to edit film. 

 

The results were okay but I now wish to do my own editing which brings me to my question: what equipment do I need?  I have a Hi8 camera and a Panasonic VCR.  Would one of the products like Video Director Suite do what I want, or is this a toy?  I have found the NZ agent for Videonics and they have the Thumbs Up and the AB-1 in stock. What do I need and where do I go?  I would like to primarily get good film-visual quality and it would be nice to add a few titles and music.

What are your suggestions?

Mike Richardson

Aukland, NZ

 

The key to editing is not lots of expensive equipment, it is possible to achieve some very good results using your camcorder, VCR and index finger. Edit controllers are simply tools that automate the processes, and make it more consistent. In the end it is you who decides what shots to use, when and how they appear in the final sequence, and thatís something you canít buy. None of the products you mention are toys, but they are all quite different. Video Director is a PC-based package, it works well and comes highly recommended, but it only makes sense if you have a PC. Thumbs-Up and the AB-1 are at the opposite ends of the edit controller spectrum, I suggest you get to grips with the former, which should leave you with some money left over for a simple audio mixer and/or title generator. However, whatever you decide itís worth remembering that editing starts before you press the stop/start button on your camcorder, and the more effort you put into composing and organising your shots the less work youíll have to do afterwards.

 

EYES RIGHT?

Having ordered and waited patiently for my new AB-1 editing suite, it finally arrived and excitedly I wired it up and went on to edit my videos.  To my amazement there was no on-screen  RCTC, VITC or LTC display.  How can you be precise if you canít see what it is you are editing?  You cannot look at the small crystal screen on the edit suite and watch the TV screen.  Am I really meant to have two sets of eyes - one for the AB-1 and one for the TV screen?

H. Procter

Gumpsall, Manchester

 

Whilst it can sometimes be useful to have a timecode display in your field of vision most people use the visual image on the screen to decide where to makes their cuts, the numbers are merely a reference. If it comes down to stepping between single frames then the playback deck will normally be in freeze-frame mode, which leaves you plenty of time to refer to both the screen and timecode display.  

 

SUPER SUBSTITUTE

I have recently upgraded to Hi8 but as yet do not have a TV with S-Video input.  My present television (Hitachi C2519) does have RGB input on the SCART socket. Can you tell me if converting to RGB input via a converter such as the Canon RGB100 results in a significant and worthwhile increase in picture quality, bearing in mind that the unit is usually priced at around £80.

E. Angell

Middlesborough, Cleveland

 

It depends on your definition of significant and worthwhile. You may see a small improvement; at the very least this kind of set-up will eliminate patterning, but you have to ask yourself would the £80 be better spent going towards a new TV?  Shop around, you can find good quality 25-inch NICAM sets -- with S-Video inputs -- selling for less than £350. Your present TV must be a good seven or eight years old which puts it close to retirement age, when expensive parts can and do start to go wrong.

 

MINORITY MONITOR

I enjoy filming wild-life which means sitting in a hide for long periods of time.  Looking through the camcorderís tiny 0.7in viewfinder makes the eye get very tired.  What I would like is a 2 to 4 inch black and white monitor which is small enough to be mounted on or beside the camera to act as a viewfinder.  It needs to be powered by a battery up to about 12v DC.  I have tried a colour LCD but even with the colour turned off the picture is not good or sharp enough for focusing.

I would be grateful for your help.

R. Aldridge

Alton, Hants

 

They do exist, though itís unlikely youíll find one at your local video dealer. Portable, battery-powered, flat-screen CRT mono monitors are widely used in the surveillance industry, for setting up security cameras, though be warned, theyíre not cheap. Weíve tracked down two models, the Sony FDM-030 and the Computar PSM012. The Sony model has a 2.7-inch screen and runs on 4 AA-sized batteries, it has recently been discontinued but stocks are still available, the price is likely to be in the region of £270. The PSM012 has  4-inch screen and is also powered by internal batteries, it sells for around £350. Check Yellow Pages for details of your nearest security specialist.

 

LENGTHY DISCUSSION

I notice that a new one-hour VHS-C tape from JVC is now available, which prompts me to ask if itís likely to have any detrimental effects on camcorder performance? Would the additional tape drag result in shorter battery running time or perhaps, cause premature wear on the deck mechanism?

Your observations would be greatly appreciated.

R. Rose

Mappleborough Green, Warks

 

In a word no. The tape substrate is slightly thinner than regular formulations, and the shell has been redesigned to accommodate the extra length, but to all intents and purposes it performs and behaves normally.  Itís just possible that it might disagree with some very old machines or inferior deck mechanisms on very cheap camcorders, though weíve yet to hear of any reports. As a matter of interest the JVC EC60 was one of the top performers in our tape test, late last year.

 

SOCKET SENSE?

I have recently acquired a Sony TR780E camcorder.  I was surprised when I could not record from my Panasonic NV-HD100 VCR onto the camcorder.  Can you tell me why they donít make camcorders that can record from a source other than through the lens and is there any way I can make copies of my tapes without the extra cost of an additional VCR?

S. Maher

Hersham, Surrey

 

Blame it on the bureaucrats. The reason your camcorder, and 99% of the others available in this country, do not have video input sockets is down to EU import tariffs and quotas. Camcorders with a video input facility are officially classified as VCRs, they are subject to a higher import tax and this would be reflected in the selling price. Video input sockets are fitted to a lot of models sold outside the EU. The next time youíre in the market for a camcorder have a word with any friends or relatives you might have in non-EU PAL counties, such as Australia, New Zealand or the Middle East. If you want to make VHS to VHS copies, then Iím afraid youíll need a second VCR.

 

HIGH BAND, HIGH COST?

Regular readers of your magazine are advised that as Hi8 and S-VHS camcorders give better and sharper pictures we should, when purchasing, aim at one of these.

My present camera is the Sony F555E and though satisfied with the results I have been considering upgrading to a Hi8 palmcorder because of the image stabiliser.  However, I feel that in order to benefit from the higher resolution I should have to: 1. use Hi8 tapes, 2. own a S-VHS VCR and 3. use S-VHS tapes unless I play through the super VHS socket of my television without the benefit of editing.

 

If I continue to use my present set up, i.e. record and edit on my VHS VCR will the picture using a Hi8 camcorder be an improvement?  Must I use Hi8 tapes or continue to use 8mm tapes as I do now?

 

M. Pounde

Streatham Hill, London SW2

 

Maybe youíre missing the point. The main advantage of Hi8 (or S-VHS-C) is to produce a high-quality master recording, so that when you come to edit or duplicate your recordings, thereís a smaller reduction in quality on the second generation copy, compared with an 8mm to VHS (or VHS-C to VHS) transfer. However, in order to achieve the higher quality you have to use Hi8 tapes, otherwise the machine will record in the standard (low band) mode. Hi8 cassettes have ident holes, to tell the machine which type of tape is being used. The usual reason for buying a Super VHS VCR, is if you want to make third generation recordings, i.e., make multiple copies of your final edited tape, in which case you would edit from Hi8 to S-VHS, then copy from S-VHS to VHS.

 

SMALL WONDER

I have just purchased a Sony SC5 Handycam.  I am very pleased with this model; however, I was surprised at a couple of its features.  First of all, the tape transport and loading mechanisms look rather unique. Secondly, this Sony seems to use a rather tiny head drum.  Are there any obvious advantages or  disadvantages with using these mechanisms?

W. Findlay

Larkhall, Warks

 

I donít think you have to look much further than the features list, which begins by stating that it is ĎThe Worlds smallest Hi8 camcorderí. The only real disadvantage is the cost of miniaturisation, otherwise the SC5 has a perfectly normal record for performance and reliability.

 

TRUE BLUE?

Being new to the world of video, and having recently purchased a Panasonic NV-S88B camcorder, I accepted the fact that it would take a little time to become familiar with all the new technology.  I have noticed that on occasion the picture is blue for perhaps 2-4 seconds before correcting to the proper colour balance.  My usual setting of white balance control is automatic.

 

I assumed that this delay in colour correction might be normal behaviour for camcorders.  Panasonicís service department assures me this is so.  I was not totally convinced that this was correct and having to edit out the first few seconds of the affected shots seemed less than satisfactory.  Am I expecting too much from the automatic white balance?

R. Jamieson

Troon, Ayrshire

 

Someone has been telling you porkies. Thereís no way you should be suffering from that sort of picture disturbance. Auto white balance kicks in from the moment you switch the machine to the record/standby mode and operates continuously, not when you press the stop/start button. From the sound of it thereís something else wrong with your machine, if it is still under warranty insist that it is put right.

 

ON THE SLIDE

Until recently all my photography was still camera and slides, but I purchased a Samsung VP-U10 so I am on the learning curve.  Some time ago I had all my slides converted to video professionally and the results were awful.  I set up my slide projector and screen and viewed my slides through my Samsung, but I got the wind up. Do you think the glare from the screen is too bright and might damage my camcorder?  Being over 70 I had to buy a tripod, so I think Iím ready to try.

I would be very grateful for any help.

J. Wilson

Falkirk, Stirlingshire

 

Fortunately it takes a darn sight more than reflected glare from a slide projector to damage the image sensor on your camcorder. It may well cause over-exposure problems and Ďhot-spotsí in the recorded image, though. If so it might be worth experimenting with lower a wattage projector bulb, or try the old trick of giving the bulb a coat of Tippex correction fluid.

 

NINE IS FINE...

Just over a year ago I purchased the Panasonic M-3000 which I believe is equivalent to the NV-M40. However, having used this for some time there are some drawbacks. I should first like to mention that I had no opportunity to try the camera before purchase.  It is very difficult to locate a bird in a bush while looking through a black and white viewfinder and the digital zoom is practically useless over around 20X; even using a tripod the picture is literally digitised. I noticed in last Octoberís Buyersí Guide that the NV-M40 gets a 9 for performance.  Taking into account the questionable digital zoom, and my other misgivings, I have to ask is your score correct, or does my camera have a fault?

N. Cohen

Nairobi, Kenya

 

Weíll stick with that score. It was based on a number of factors, the performance of the digital zoom was a relatively minor consideration. We have always regarded digital zooms merely as an interesting effect; add-on optical zooms or telephoto lenses are the only option, if you want to maintain image quality. Your comments on the black and white viewfinder are interesting. Many serious users prefer monochrome viewfinders -- compared with colour LCD types --  as the brighter image, higher resolution and better contrast range make it easier to adjust  focus and exposure manually.  

 

GERIATRIC JVC

I have a JVC GR-S99 camera which has an animation facility.  I purchased this second-hand and would like to know more of its history, as it does not appear in any of the normal listings.  Can you help?

 

J. McCready

Greenock, Inverclyde

 

Itís a real old-timer, launched back in Summer 1990. It was one of JVCís earliest compact S-VHS-C machines, and the first to use as 62mm DA4 head. It was also notable for having stereo hi-fi sound -- a comparative rarity back then -- plus a variable time-lapse facility and colour fader. Donít get too excited about the animation feature, it simply shoots a dozen or so frames at a time (around 0.5 seconds), so stop-motion movement looks very jerky. The original selling price was £1300 -- a lot of money then, and now! We never got around to doing a stand-alone review, though it was included in a couple of group tests, published in late 1990 and early 1991, where it did quite well.  

 

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R. Maybury 1997 1306

 

 

 


 

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