VIDEO CAMERA 1998

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TWO OF A KIND

 

INTRO

Curry and lager, Morecambe and Wise, Benson and Hedges Some things are just meant to be together, like the Datavideo SE200 and TBC-2000

 

COPY

Until a year or so ago Datavideo was little known outside of the video accessory industry. It has been one of the largest manufacturers of editors and processors for some time but most of its products ended up with someone else's badge on them. Mark the name well, from a relatively modest start it's building up a good range of own-label devices, marketed in this country by Holdan Limited.

 

We've been looking at the SE-200, a well-appointed two-machine edit controller with built-in titler, processor and special effects generator. However, we've decided to review it in tandem with another one of Datavideo's boxes, it's the TBC-2000 timebase corrector and genlock. When used together they become a fully-fledged A/B edit suite, capable of mixing and wiping two independent video sources. The combined cost comes to just under 800, which is pretty good value when you add up all the features.

 

First the SE200. It's housed in a neat looking console with most of the controls grouped together on the top panel, according to function. The top half is concerned with audio mixing -- it can handle three stereo channels and a microphone (one is supplied with the outfit), next to the audio faders there's a pair of sliders for adjusting saturation and video gain. A pan pot in the middle controls colour balance, to the right of that is a bank of buttons for selecting input, video and audio modes and on the far right it the main fader T-bar. A QWERTY keyboard that is used to compose titles dominates the lower half of the top panel. The two large 'in' and 'out' buttons and a grey coloured keypad to the right of the keyboard are concerned with VCR control, editing and title functions. All of the video inputs and outputs (composite and S-Video) are on the back panel; there's a set of minijack sockets on the top panel for a microphone and headphone.

 

The edit controller can handle two source decks and one record deck. The SE-200 can read RCTC, VITC and DV timecodes, or camcorder counter data; needless to say edit accuracy will not be as good with the latter. It has the usual mixture of control options. Control L or Panasonic 5-pin hard wire interfaces operate the source decks, the record deck control link uses an infra-red wand, transmitting stored or learned commands. There's a 100-scene memory with on-screen edit decision list (EDL); it can store four EDLs and all timings can be retrospectively altered. In addition scenes can be inserted and deleted but not copied, though it's a simple enough matter to create a new scene with duplicate timings.

 

The titler can superimpose text and graphics over the video, or against a solid background colour, 8 are available. There's a choice of three fonts in four sizes, it can accommodate up to 24 characters per line, with up to 11 lines per page. Display options include scroll, roll and wipe. Custom characters and icons can be created using a simple matrix map utility.

 

Moving now to the video processor and special effects generator, it provides control over colour balance and tint, using the joystick; the output can be switched to monochrome. There's a total of 24 wipe patterns, to or from a background colour or the second video channel (when used with the TBC-2000), plus 24 pre-programmed effects, these are mostly simple blocky wipes and trails. Users can also create their own effects, which the SE-200 will store in its memory.

 

All this sounds reasonably straightforward on paper, until you try to actually use some of the functions. Everything is controlled from a set of on-screen menus but it's not what you'd call intuitive. In fact we'd go so far as to say it's a bit of a mess and it's made worse by the instruction book, which is full of irritating spelling mistakes, it is difficult to follow in places, and plain wrong in others. Getting the unit into the wipe and effects modes is badly explained, and effects patterns in the book do not correspond with the unit. We managed to get most things to work after a lot of trial and error but some routines are just too convoluted and it's easy to make mistakes.

 

Now we come to the TBC-2000, this is much easier to get to grips with. It's an unassuming black box, with a set of video input and output sockets (composite and S-Video) on the back and a few simple controls sprinkled across the front panel. It takes two free-running video sources (A and B) and -- via digital jiggery-pokery -- synchronises the two signals, so they can be mixed together and fed to the SE-200. Additionally it has video processing facilities, for adjusting brightness, contrast and saturation. There's also a freeze mode, though this is only available on input channel A.

 

OPERATION

The SE200 needs to know about the equipment you're using, the choice of source machines is very simple indeed, either Sony or Panasonic, though clearly other brands of camcorder and VCR -- with suitable edit terminals -- can also be used.   The menu screen also has a facility for adjusting pre and post roll times. The record deck is chosen from a fairly extensive list of manufacturers. If yours isn't included the SE-200 can learn the necessary IR commands from the VCR's remote handset. VCR timings can also be adjusted, from zero seconds to 9 seconds and 24 frames, for really slow machines. The set-up menu has a 'switch' for toggling GPI triggering between one or two devices. There's a facility to create blank leaders and trailers, at the start and beginning of a edit session, and a calibration mode, which automatically pauses playback when the edit in and out buttons are pressed, so the tape can be stepped backwards or forwards, to the desired frame.

 

Marking cut points is simple enough, blinking clapperboard icons marked 'in' and 'out' appear in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The counter or timecode readout is in the top right corner; the source deck and scene number are shown in the left corner. When the sequence is complete you can display the EDL and make any necessary changes. When that's done it's time to move to the project screen, and load the EDL. This is where timings and effects come together but it's all a bit confusing and not very clearly presented.

 

The finished production can be previewed and if everything is okay, committed to tape. Where necessary the on screen display prompts the user to insert tapes, and then gets on with the job.

 

PERFORMANCE

Edit accuracy was checked using our standard test routine. This involves calibrated timecoded and non-timecoded recordings and a set number of cuts spanning a 30-minute stretch of tape. It averaged out at +/- 2 frames on the timecoded recording, and +/- 15 frames using counter data. This is quite good and we suspect that with a little more fine-tuning timecoded cuts could be brought down to +/- 1 frame.

 

Video signals pass through the TBC-2000 with no noticeable increase in noise, the digital processing seems to be fairly clean too, there was some minor motion artefacts on very rapid movement but it's unlikely you would spot them, unless you were looking for them.  The SE-200 also gets a clean bill of health, as far as noise is concerned. Mixes are very smooth with no visible interaction between the two channels. Effects are sharp and transitions reasonably smooth. No complaints with the audio mixer either, it works well and the sliders are free of noise.

 

THE VERDICT

The biggest problem with the SE-200 and TBC-2000 is the poor instructions and on-screen displays, which are both a bit messy in places. Together they make it quite difficult to use. It's not an insurmountable problem and we suspect that given time you can get used to it, but newcomers will probably find it a bit off-putting.  On the plus side it has a most impressive range of facilities for the price moreover the editing and processing functions work really well. If you don't mind a bit of a challenge they're both worth getting to know.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/Model                  Datavideo SE-200

What is it?                    Two source video controller          

Guide price                    400

Scene memory            100

Control Systems            Source & record decks: LANC/Control L, Panasonic 5-pin, programmed IR

Timecode systems            RCTC, VITC, DV

Edit features                  A/B control, modify edit points, insert and delete scenes, four EDL memory

 

Sockets                        composite video and line audio (phono), S-Video (mini DIN), IR wand, headphone, microphone, remotes and GPI trigger (minijack)

Power supply             12 volt DC (adapter supplied)

Dimensions                   380 x 240 x 50mm

 

Make/Model                  Datavideo TBC-2000

What is it?                    Two channel timebase corrector and genlock            

Guide price                    400

Features                       2-channel frame synchronisation, freeze frame

Sockets                        composite video and line audio (phono), S-Video (mini DIN)

Power supply             12 volt DC (adapter supplied)

Dimensions                   420 x 229 x 50mm

 

PERFORMANCE

Cut accuracy                 +/-2 frames (RC-timecode), +/- 15 frames (non-timecode)

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            8

Ease of use                 6

Performance              8

Features                     8

 

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R Maybury 1998 2105

 

 

 


 

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