VIDEO CAMERA 1998

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THE CUTTING EDGE...

 

STANDFIRST

If you’re about to buy a new homedeck VCR, and you’ve got a camcorder, it makes good sense to choose a models with at least some editing facilities. We’ve rounded up ten machines that in one way or another, make video movie-making a little bit simpler

 

COPY

When it comes down to it you can edit your camcorder footage using any old video recorder. Some do, and then wonder why the results look so poor. The fact is not all VCRs are up to the job, and we’re not just talking about AV performance. There’s a number of features that can make the process of editing a lot easier, quicker and more accurate, that you should look out for, if you’re in the market for a new video recorder.

 

Nevertheless, AV performance is at the top of the list, for the simple reason that tape-to-tape copying and editing using analogue equipment degrades the picture, so the better the picture quality of the copy machine, the less degradation there will be on the finished tape. That means avoiding budget mono VCRs with odd-sounding names. In fact give mono VCRs a miss full-stop, unless you have only one working ear or absolutely no interest in stereo sound. The deck mechanisms used in stereo video recorders are normally built to a higher standard too, and stereo sound will make the best of your soundtrack, even if your camcorder has a mono recording system.

 

Your basic shopping list should includes four other items. Front-mounted AV input sockets are a boon, it means not having to root around the back of the machine, disrupting the rats-nest of cables. On the creative front there’s audio-dub, it is well worth having, so too is insert edit, which often means the machine is fitted with a flying erase head. Another good sign of a deck’s abilities is smooth multi-speed replay, preferably controlled by a jog/shuttle dial. It’s not necessary to have them all, but two or more suggest the manufacturer has made at least some provision for video movie-making. 

 

You can also award extra points for syncro edit sockets and editing terminals, though they’re not essential for general-purpose editing, where the VCR is normally used as the record machine. A few VCRs now sport built-in edit controllers, though we only count them as useful if they can control camcorder replay. Only a couple can.

 

AKAI VS-G745

The G745 only just makes it in by virtue of its front-mounted AV sockets and above average picture and sound quality, otherwise editing facilities are a bit thin on the ground.  One of the reasons it is so good at copying is the I-HQ tape tuning, which optimises the recording system for higher grade. This results in noticeably lower levels of picture noise, which can be one of the biggest problems on second generation recordings.  It is easy to set up and use, auto installation is unusually fast and the on-screen displays are well presented. Normal homedeck operation and timer programming is not going to confuse granny.

 

Resolution is a little over 240 lines, but as we’ve said, noise levels are very low, resulting in a crisp, clean picture. Background hiss on the stereo soundtracks is acceptable and it has a reasonably flat response. Very good value, worth considering if you’re on a tight budget and have only modest editing requirements.

 

Make/model                  Akai VS-G745

Price                             £300

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, Hi-Fi stereo sound, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, loudness and ‘theatre sound’, multi-speed replay, NTSC replay, I-HQ tape tuning

Edit features                  front AV inputs, edit search

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, stereo line out (phono), front AV inputs (phono), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                   380 x 93 x 298 mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ****

AV performance            ****

Edit performance            ***

Value for money            *****

 

HITACHI VT-F660

Hitachi have had an on-off involvement in video movie-making over the years. They used to be a major player, with some really innovative mainstream products but lately they’ve been concentrating on advanced digital technologies, like the MPEG camera. The VT-660 is a solid middle of the road NICAM machine with some handy editing features. They include front AV sockets, audio dub and multi-speed replay (with jog/shuttle). Dynamic Picture EQ works to reduce picture noise levels.

 

Auto installation is fast and includes time and date setting. Resolution is just under 250 lines, the picture is generally clean, though our sample had a very slight amount of jitter, colours on second generation copies were reasonably sharp though some slight displacement was evident. Whilst the 660 is geared towards home cinema operation it stacks up quiet well as a part-time edit deck and the price is fair.

 

Make/model                  Hitachi VT-F660

Price                             £380

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, Hi-Fi stereo sound, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, multi-speed replay, NTSC replay, satellite control, multi-brand TV remote

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio dub, jog/shuttle control,

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio out (phono), front AV in (phono), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                   435 x 99 x 282mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ****

AV performance            ****

Edit performance            ****

Value for money            ****

 

JVC HR-J435

Yes, we know this is a mono VCR, and we still maintain that stereo video recorders are best for editing, but if JVC can’t make a decent mono machine, who can? The J435 sneaks in under the fence mainly because of its outstanding picture performance and handy extras, like front AV sockets, syncro edit socket and front panel jog dial, which steps through a recording, one frame at a time, in either direction -- useful when you’re lining up cut points.

 

Picture performance is very good indeed for a mono VCR, just a gnats under 250 lines on our sample. Tape tuning and noise cancellation circuitry ensures a crisp second generation picture, colours remain stable, though areas of high saturation can get a little rough around the edges. The price is on the high side for a mono machine but JVC equipment has a good reputation for reliability and longevity so if you have absolutely no need for stereo sound it is worth considering.

 

Make/model                  JVC HR-J435

Price                             £300

VCR features                 VHS, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, repeat play, NTSC replay, tape tuning, multi-brand TV remote, NTSC replay

Edit features                  front AV sockets, remote pause/syncro start, jog dial    

Sockets                        2  x SCART AV, AV in (phono), remote pause (minijack) RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                   400 x 94 x 340

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   *****

AV performance            *****

Edit performance            *****

Value for money            *****

 

JVC HR-DD845

Dynamic Drum and Time Scan are the main features on this machine, and whilst they’re not specifically billed as editing aids, they do have some useful spin-offs for video movie-making. The main benefit is noiseless replay and real-time sound, at all speeds and in both directions. It’s a very neat trick, and at its most basic, it means you can watch a full-length movie, at 9x normal speed, and not miss a thing! This requires precision mechanics and advanced video processing, that translates into outstanding picture and sound quality. It also has a good assortment of the most useful editing aids, including front AV sockets, audio-dub, jog/shuttle and remote pause.

 

Picture performance is pushing the VHS envelope, with resolution just over 250 lines, and very little noise. Second generation copies look good too, with minimal disruption to colour, and only a small increase in noise levels. It sounds as good as it looks, background hiss is below average and it has a clan, flat response. It’s a well appointed dual-role machine, equally at home playing films or time-shifting and putting together video-movies.

 

Make/model                  JVC HR-DD845

Price                             £400

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, Hi-Fi stereo sound, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, Dynamic Drum & Time Scan, noise-free multi-speed replay with real time sound, NTSC replay, repeat play, spatial sound, tape tuning, multi-brand TV & satellite receiver handset,

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio dub, jog/shuttle control, remote pause/syncro edit

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, stereo line out (phono), front AV in (phono), remote pause (minijack)         

Dimensions                   400 x 94 x 340mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ****

AV performance            *****

Edit performance            ****

Value for money            *****

 

JVC HR-S9400

This is one of only two Super VHS video recorder in this roundup, it’s the format of choice if you have a high-band (S-VHS-C or Hi8) camcorder. Like the DD845 it has Dynamic Drum and Time Scan as well, for noiseless replay and real-time sound, during trick play. It’s also loaded with editing features, in addition to front AV sockets, audio dub and syncro edit, it has a built-in assemble edit controller, that works with other JVC VCRs, and other brands, using an optional remote controller. Additionally it has a JLIP (joint level interface protocol) interface, that allows its transport functions to be controlled by a PC. A flying-erase head produces seamless insert edits.

 

S-VHS resolution spot on 400-lines, regular VHS recordings come in at just under 250 lines, picture noise levels are very low in both cases, which means copies and edits look very good indeed. Replay at all speeds is very stable, colours are clean and well defined. Background hiss is below average, audio response is even and uncoloured. The S9400 is a fine home cinema VCR that’s equally adept at editing, put it on the list if you need high-band performance.

 

Make/model                  JVC HR-S9400

Price                             £800

VCR features                 S-VHS, NICAM, Hi-Fi stereo sound, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, Dynamic Drum & Time Scan, noise-free multi-speed replay with real time sound, NTSC replay, repeat play, multi-brand TV remote, spatial sound,

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio dub, manual recording level control, insert edit, random assemble edit,  JLIP interface, jog/shuttle dial, syncro edit

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio in/out (phono), S-Video in/out (mini DIN, front AV in (phono and mini DIN), remote pause/RA Edit headphones (minijack)

Dimensions                   465 x 82 x 335mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   *****

AV performance            *****

Edit performance            *****

Value for money            ****

 

MITSUBISHI HS-761

Mitsubishi VCRs tend to be quite generously endowed with convenience features, and the HS-761 is no exception. In fact, for the price it has a quite remarkable specification, particularly if you’re looking for a well qualified home cinema machine. Editing comes a very close second, it has all of the basics -- front AV sockets and  audio dub  -- plus insert edit and edit search, for precise alignment when joining scenes. There’s also a microphone socket and it has a jog/shuttle dial on the front panel.

 

Picture quality is satisfactory, we noted a resolution of 240 lines on our test sample, but the picture did tend to look a wee bit grainy at times. Insert edits were clean though, and the stereo soundtrack is crisp and detailed. Maybe better suited to home cinema than home movies, but still a very capable machine, dripping with features and good value.

 

Make/model                  Mitsubishi HS-761

Price                             £360

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, Hi-Fi stereo sound, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, multi-speed replay, NTSC replay, satellite control, tape tuning, rental replay, multi-brand TV remote

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio dub, jog/shuttle control, edit search, microphone input                

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio out (phono), front AV in (phono), microphone & headphone (minijack), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                   380 x 92 x 310mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ****

AV performance            ***

Edit performance            ***

Value for money            ****

 

PHILIPS VR-969

If you’re looking for a serious edit VCR, you’ve found it. The VR-969 is a brilliantly well specified Super VHS machine, and the first domestic VCR to sport an RS232 PC interface. More about that in a moment. Ironically, what really gets it noticed is the apparently low-tech analogue clock on the front panel, it’s smarter than it looks however, it is controlled by radio time signals, so it should be incredibly accurate. Other interesting, though less visible features, include teletext page recording and programming and an EasyLink interface, that allows it to communicate with suitably equipped TVs.

 

Editing is its real forte though, unfortunately the PC interface isn’t supported by Philips but third-party software is available. The edit controller is unusually talented, it can control replay on camcorders with Control L or Panasonic 5-pin edit terminals, and it has a flying erase head for perfect inserts. Picture quality is superb, a full 400-lines on S-VHS material, just over 240 lines on VHS recordings, Noise levels in both cases is well below average. An outstanding machine for demanding movie-makers, looking for quality, performance and flexibility.

 

Make/model                  Philips VR-969

Price                             £800

VCR features                 S-VHS, NICAM, stereo hi-fi sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, teletext programming and recording, auto installation, , NTSC playback EasyLink, radio-controlled analogue clock

 

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio dub, insert edit, 10-scene edit controller, syncro Edit with LANC, Panasonic 5-pin, RS-232 interface, flying erase head, manual audio level control

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV in/out, S-Video in/out (mini DIN) edit terminals (minijack and mini DIN), composite video and audio in/out (phono) RS232 (9-pin D-sub), RF bypass (coax)

 

Dimensions                   435 x 110 x 318mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ***

AV performance            *****

Edit performance            *****

Value for money            ****

 

SONY SLV-E920

The SLV-E920 is a classic edit deck, designed by the people who really know a thing or two about camcorders and movie-making, so they’ve got no excuses! Fortunately they don’t need any, it is a real peach, bristling with useful edit facilities, and top-notch AV performance. VCR features are fairly run of the mill, the only one you may not have come across before is SmartLink, which allows the machine to communicate with compatible TVs which include models made by Philips (EasyLink), Grundig (Megalogic) and Panasonic (NexTViewLink). Benefits include easier set-up, and ‘wizzywire’ (what you see is what you record), one-button TV channel record). 

 

A full 250-line resolution and low noise levels gives good second generation copies; heavily saturated colours are a tad fluffy but the results are amongst the best we’ve seen on a non S-VHS machine. Stereo sound is sharp and well defined, background hiss is lower than average. The highish price is offset by outstanding build quality, performance and edit facilities. Put it on the shortlist.

 

Make/model                  Sony SLV-E920        

Price                             £500

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, Hi-Fi stereo sound, Video Plus+, PDC, auto install, multi-speed replay, NTSC replay, shuttle control, SmartLink, multi-brand TV remote, tape tuning,

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio/video dub, insert edit, Control L edit terminal

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, AV in/out (phono), front AV in (phono), Control L (minijack), RF bypass (coax)               

Dimensions                   430 x 109 x 317mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ****

AV performance            *****

Edit performance            *****

Value for money            ***

 

TOSHIBA V857

Toshiba are leading lights in the home cinema market and not usually associated with video movie-making, so the V857 comes as a pleasant surprise. Most of the headline features are targeted at time-shifting and replaying pre-recorded tapes, but it stands up well as an edit deck with top-notch AV performance and several  very useful movie-making facilities. There’s a set of AV inputs, a microphone socket and jog/shuttle dial on the front panel, it has audio dub and there’s insert edit, for slotting new sequences into existing recordings.

 

On-screen performance is excellent, our managed to resolve 250-lines without any difficulty, picture noise is minimal, though inevitably some extra grain is apparent on second generation copies, and bright colours tend to smear a little. The hi-fi soundtracks produce a clear, open sound with no more than average levels of background hiss. A camcorder-friendly home cinema machine, performance and features justify the price.

 

Make/model                  Toshiba V857

Price                             £450

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, NTSC playback, satellite control, auto installation and clock set, digital noise reduction, NTSC replay, multi-brand TV remote

Edit features                  front AV sockets, audio dub, video insert, jog/shuttle control

Sockets                        rear: 2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio out (phono), front AV (phono), microphone (minijack), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                   430 x 92 x 315mm

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   *****

AV performance            *****

Edit performance            ****

Value for money            ***

 

THOMSON VPH-670

The stack of four instruction manuals supplied with this machine are almost two-inches thick, an early indication that this is no ordinary VCR. Thomson have got a lot of balls... It’s a recurrent theme on VPH-670, there’s one in the middle of the remote control handset, and they bounce around the on-screen displays. The machine was styled by French minimalist designer Philippe Starck, it says so on the side, and that’s something else you don’t see every day. The core features are designed to make movie viewing and time shifting easy, but not just here in the UK, it has a multi-band tuner, and can handle multi-standard replay, if it wasn’t so big you’d want to take it on holiday with you.

 

There’s plenty of editing goodies too, like the front AV sockets, which include jacks for a microphone and headphones. There’s audio dubbing, insert edit and a built in edit 5-scene edit controller, a second machine is controlled using a remote pause cable. Picture quality is good, just under 250 lines on our sample, with very little noise. Colours are well defined, though contrast is reduced somewhat on a second generation copy. Background hiss is muted on the stereo soundtrack, which has a broad, open response. The 6790 is a bit of an oddity, and quite pricey but it delivers the good, where it really matters, on the screen, and if you can make sue of its special abilities, it could be worth thinking about.

 

Make/model                  Thomson VPH-6790

Price                             £500

VCR features                 VHS, NICAM, hi-fi stereo sound, Video Plus+ with PDC, satellite control, auto installation and clock set,  multi-system operation including NTSC record and play, SECAM, multi-band tuner, multi-brand TV remote, child lock

Edit features                  audio dub, insert edit, sequence edit (5 scene program play),

Sockets                        2 x SCART AV, stereo line audio in/out (phono), front AV (phono), microphone and headphones (jack), remote pause (minijack), RF bypass (coax)

Dimensions                   440 x 99 x 321mm                 

 

Video Camera Ratings

Ease of use                   ***

AV performance            ****

Edit performance            ****

Value for money            ***

 

 

---end---

Ó R. Maybury 1998 1501

 

 


 

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