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After some research I have just bought a Sony CCD TRV65E Hi8 camcorder.  Could you please give me some advice on what other equipment I would need to make acceptable videos?  As I am a complete beginner, I don’t understand the stereo side of editing – I have read that I can’t dub the soundtrack, but adverts seem to suggest I can.

D. Lawson Wright

Rugby, Warks


It all depends on what you want to do, how much you have to spend and how far you want to go with your new hobby. I suggest you start with a tripod, and you might want to consider an external microphone and a video light, if you plan to do a lot of shooting indoors. When you come to copy or edit your recordings you'll need a good quality NICAM VCR. If you want to progress to automated editing, then take a look at the August issue of Video Camera, which featured a round up of the best stand-alone controllers. Audio dubbing can sometimes be quite useful, though it's far easier to mix in a new soundtrack at the editing or copying stage, where you will have much more control. All you need is a simple stereo audio mixer, which will allow you to completely replace the original soundtrack, mix in music, effects or a spoken commentary. Prices start from below £20 for a basic stereo mixer. You will also find mixing facilities on some mid-market edit controllers and video processors. Incidentally, whilst it is true to say that the vast majority of 8mm and Hi 8 camcorders do not have audio dub there is provision within the format for a second digital PCM stereo soundtrack that can be dubbed independently of the main analogue hi-fi soundtrack. However, to date only a small handful of semi-pro Sony machine has this feature.



I hope to purchase a Sony DCR-VX1000E digital video camera soon and I would like to know what is the best way to copy and edit mini DV tapes to VHS.  Previously I had an 8mm Sharp ViewCam VL-E31H and by the time I had copies it to VHS using AV leads plugged into my VCR, the results were terrible.


At the moment I have a Sony KV-2982U TV and SLV-E920UX VCR: I also have a PC, but I don’t think I’ll be needing this to copy my tapes.  With the equipment I have will there be a good way to copy my mini DV tapes to VHS with minimal loss of quality, or will I have to buy more equipment?


S. Smith

Welling, Kent


Assuming that your Sony VCR is in good condition you should find that straightforward AV copies of digital recordings look every bit as good as professionally produced rental tapes and off-air recordings. The deterioration you noticed on your ViewCam edits was entirely due to the fact that you were making a low-band recording from a low-band source. In other words the extra noise introduced during the recording process made an already noisy recording look even worse. With a DVC recording you're starting out with a near broadcast quality picture containing far more information than a standard analogue VHS video recorder can handle, so the recording you end up with will be the best the VCR can possible produce. The only other way to improve upon that would be to buy a Super VHS VCR, which has even better performance characteristics. Otherwise go the whole hog and buy a digital VCR (or a DV camcorder with DV enabled inputs), in which case you can make perfect digital copies or 'clones'. The only small problem is cost; digital VCRs cost from around £2500 upwards… You can use a PC for digital editing, but it will need to be a high-spec machine, with a monster hard disc drive, a special DV capture card and video output facilities.



Having had a Canon UC6000 for a few weeks I am pleased with the results. My main reason for buying the camera was to film my model railway: I would like your help and advice on editing my video recordings.  I want to add the sound of real engines from a cassette and to edit the out of focus shouts. There appears to be scores of editing devices on the market and I haven’t a clue which one will suit my needs.

R. Wallace



You're right, there are a lot of editing systems to choose from but for basic day to day jobs any of the sub £200 models would suit your needs. Since you want to fiddle with the soundtrack on your recordings, shortlist models with audio mixing facilities. The Hama Easy Cut (£200) will provide you with a one-box solution, though check that your VCR is included on the list of command codes.



I own a Canon UC-X45.  When I recorded a choir and played it back through my TV the sound wasn’t very good.  Strangely enough, if I play it back through a cheap pair of stereo earphones plugged directly into the camcorder, the sound is tremendously improved. I have enquired at various camcorder shops as to whether an external microphone would make a better recording, but cannot get a definite answer. Can you advise me please?  If such an arrangement would help, what kind of microphone should I get?

D. Hutchinson



I can't think of any reason why the soundtrack should sound better through cheapie earphones, it's usually the other way around, but the advice you have been given about an external microphone is generally correct. It's asking a lot of a camcorder's built-in microphone to pick up sounds more than three or four metres in front of the lens. It will of course, but they will be mixed in with any other ambient sounds that happen to be around at the time, which compete with the sounds you want to record. An external stereo microphone with a long lead is the answer and ideally it should be placed as close to the choir as possible. How close depends on where they are located in relation to the camcorder, the grouping of the choir, the acoustics of the room/hall/church etc and the sensitivity of the microphone. In short you will need to experiment. If a long lead is a problem you might consider a wireless microphone, though most models are mono only. If the choir is using a microphone it might be asking whoever is responsible for the amplification system if you can tap into it.



Before going on my holiday, I ran through quite a bit of footage to get used to my new JVC camcorder – AX270. The results were fine. I loaded the first JVC tape in Italy – no trouble at all.  Switched on and pressed the record button.  The camera started recording, but after about a minute or two an error sign popped up in the view screen and the camera shut down.


As per instructions I turned off the power and removed the battery and waited a few minutes, the reloaded the tape.  The same thing happened again.  I tried another tape and the camera recorded with no more trouble.  For some reason it will not accept this tape.  I took it back to Dixons where it malfunctioned again.  They put the suspect tape into another JVC 270 and it went through without a hitch.  They then said it must be the camera and advised me to contact JVC who referred me back to the dealer.


My question is why did this tape refuse to record in my camera and yet go through another 270 okay?  My camera has not given the slightest trouble since and I am still very reluctant to suspect my camera. Can you advise me what action to take, or even throw some light on the problem?


O. Webb

Hemel Hempstead, Herts


If the camcorder has been checked out and given a clean bill of heath the prime suspect has to be the tape. The likeliest cause is excessive friction, it's possible that it's at the limits of the specification, and the second machine it was tried on was slightly less touchy that yours. The only thing you can do is keep an eye on the situation, and if it occurs again, especially if it happens on more than one tape, take the machine back to the dealer -- with the errant tape -- and ask to have it re-tested.



ã R. Maybury 1998 2007






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