VIDEO CAMERA 1998

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DIGITAL DOMINATOR

 

STANDFIRST

Up to now if you wanted a digital VCR it was any colour you like, as long as its Sony, now there's a new kid on the block…

 

COPY

And then there was two…Sony has had the DVC video recorder market all to itself since the introduction of the DHR-1000 a couple of years ago, and what an incredible machine that was (and still is…) but at long last there's an alternative. It's the Panasonic NV-DV1000, dubbed the Digital Video Master and they're not kidding, it is the dogs…

 

It's a real lump of a thing, weighing in at 7kgs, but the styling and cosmetics are very classy indeed. All of the front panel controls sockets and switches are discretely tucked away behind hinged and drop-down panels. 

 

Let's get the price out of the way. Yes, it costs the thick end of £2500, and yes you could buy ten half-decent stereo VHS video recorders for that but even mentioning the NV-DV10000 in the same breath as VHS is verging on blasphemy. The DVC format is capable twice the resolution of VHS and it even puts Super VHS in the shade, but that's still not the point.

 

A DVC video recorder is currently the only way of editing or copying footage shot on a digital camcorder without loss of quality. Of course you could stump up for several grand's worth of exotic PC kit, but even then you'll be hard pushed to match the 2-hour recording capacity of a single DVC tape cassette, and you still wouldn't be able to copy back to tape, without sacrificing quality.  

 

Video editing is the DV10000's primary role but it can do a lot more besides, in fact just about anything a normal VCR can do. That includes taping and time-shifting off-air broadcasts (it has a Video Plus+ timer with PDC) it also has a NICAM decoder and comes with a multi-brand TV remote. It virtually installs itself and it can download tuning information from TVs (via a SCART lead) with NexTViewLink and SmartLink facilities. The only thing it can't do is play movies on VHS from your local Blockbuster, but we'll overlook that.

 

It's the digital video editing facilities you're paying for, and we're most interested in, and it has them in spades. At the top of the list is the dual-mode deck mechanism that handles both standard and mini DV cassettes. They're loaded on to a motorised tray that slides out from the front panel. The machines has an LP recording mode that extends playing times by 1.5 times without any significant loss of picture or sound quality. The only real drawback to LP operation is that you can't use audio dub.

 

The DV1000 has an on-board edit controller with a 40-scene memory, and this is where it starts to get really interesting. It has two standard editing terminals, Panasonic 5-pin, and Control L, plus the all-important FireWire or IEEE 1394 interface, now also known as i.Link. This two-way serial data bus carries digital video and sound, plus control signals between the VCR and a digital camcorder. One cable does it all, so no more messing around with phono leads and infra-red wands. It gets better. The control panel with all of the editing and transport controls is not only detachable, it uses a wireless link, so you can edit your movies from the comfort of your armchair (a connecting lead is supplied, should you wish).

 

Editing DV footage is a cinch, press the edit button and the control panel takes charge of both decks. Press the player button, select replay, use the jog/shuttle dial to find the scene and use the 'Mark In' and 'Mark Out' buttons next to the jog/shuttle; an edit decision list (EDL) is compiled as it goes. We have a couple of small grumbles. The first is the need to search and designate edit points with the jog/shuttle; you can't edit 'on the fly'. The second is the inflexible EDL; to change a scene you have to go back and re-make the cut in and out points.

 

Back to the editing goodies, the DV10000 has the full set of DV soundtracks, namely two 12-bit stereo tracks (stereo 1 and 2), and one 16-bit stereo track; stereo 2 can be dubbed and mixed with original sound on Stereo 1. It has separate video and audio insert facilities and there's a serial output on the back panel for downloading still images to a PC.

 

PERFORMANCE

Taping TV programs on the DV1000 video recorder is a reminder of how bad VHS is. We suspect most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference between an off-air broadcast and off tape recording made on this machine. The clarity and detail is stunning but it is the complete absence of added noise that really stands out. Resolution on our sample topped 480 lines, which is more detail than many domestic TVs can handle. However, the proof of this pudding is what sort of a job it does on DVC recordings. First generation copies are flawless, what comes out of the camcorder ends up on the tape, and that doesn't just apply to digital footage. It is completely transparent to analogue material, everything is recorded, warts and all, and nothing is added.

 

The real test is to see what DV recordings look like a few generations down the line. We copied some test signals onto a mini DV tape, replayed them on a camcorder and recorded them on a mini DV cassette on the DV10000. The recording went back in the camcorder and another copy was made. It wasn't until we got to the fifth generation that we saw a small increase in noise in saturated colours, otherwise it looked as good as the original. There seemed little point going on, picture quality is quite simply excellent.

 

The same goes for the audio tracks, even the supposedly lower quality 12-bit tracks sounded better than some CD systems we've tried. Cut points on DV footage are frame accurate. You can reckon on at least plus or minus half a second if you're editing from analogue camcorders using Control L or 5-pin control.    

 

THE VERDICT

If you have a digital camcorder and your wallet isn't starting to itch by now then you haven't been paying attention. The DV10000 is an outstanding piece of kit. This is a serious VCR that enthusiasts and semi-pro users are going to be queuing up for.

 

THE RIVALS

There is only one and that's the Sony VHR-1000, it still delivers the good but it's getting on a bit now.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         Panasonic NV-DV1000

Tape format          DVC and mini DVC

Guide price                      £2500

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            3-hours (DV120 tape)

Timer                               8-events, 31-days/Video Plus+ with PDC

Remote control                full function, multi brand TV

 

VIDEO

System                             PAL

Replay speeds          15x, 7x, still frame, frame step & slomo (both directions)              

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes  

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes             

Jog/shuttle          yes

On-screen display          yes   

Video Plus+          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          yes   

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          yes   

NTSC replay          no

Quasi S-VHS replay          n/a    

Auto play          no

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

i.Link DV terminal, wireless edit controller (40-scene), audio mixing, on-screen display, timing control, printer synchronisation,      

 

AUDIO      

Stereo hi-fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          yes   

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   

H/phone level control          yes   

     

GENERAL

Sockets          Rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo audio in/out (phono), S-Video out (mini DIN), digital still out Control L (minijack). Front: AV in (phono), S-Video in & Panasonic 5-pin (mini DIN), DV in/out (DV jack), microphone, headphone (minijack)

 

Front AV terminal                    yes   

Edit terminal           yes RMC/LANC & FireWire, see text

Microphone          yes   

Headphones          yes

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          no

 

Dimensions (mm)           445 x 123 x 373 mm

Weight (kg)           7 kg

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         480-lines

Colour fidelity         excellent

Trick play stability         very good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         excellent

Edit functions         very good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         8

Ease of use         8       

Performance         9

Features         9

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1998, 1510

 


 

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