VIDEO CAMERA 1998

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TECH SUPPORT

 

STANDFIRST

Could this be the best mid-range editor to date? The Video Tech VC501 is certainly one of the easiest to use, with the kind of flexibility and facilities that will please both newcomers and enthusiasts

 

 

COPY

It’s been a very long time since we took an edit controller out of its box and got it to work, without once having to refer to the instruction manual. It’s not something we’d recommend to newcomers – remember well the old adage, RTFM*… -- but it is a very clear illustration of how intuitive the Video Tech VEC 501 is to use.

 

Few edit controllers, it seems are actually designed by people with more than a passing acquaintance with camcorders or the people who use them but you get the feeling right away that the VEC 501 was put together by someone who actually makes and edits their own video movies. It doesn’t assume any technical knowledge; in fact it has been designed to accommodate both beginners and enthusiasts with the unique storyboard/list feature.

 

This is an option to display either a conventional edit decision list (EDL), or a storyboard, made up of a sequence of ‘Picons’ (picture-icons), thumbnail screen grabs from the beginning of each scene. Either way, once stored, each scene can be moved, copied or deleted, and the timings changed, to within one frame at a time if necessary. The 501 is as precise as your equipment allows, it can read RC timecode, as well as read and write VITC. The control system covers most eventualities, it works with source decks that have Control L (LANC) and Panasonic 5-pin edit terminals, the record VCR can also be controlled by cable, or IR commands, that the 501 learns from the remote handset. It can also control the source deck using only IR commands, though edit accuracy will be very poor, unless the source tape is VITC coded, which normally means it will be a second generation copy, in which case the final copy quality could be a bit iffy. 

 

Up to 99 scenes can be stored on the EDL/storyboard, which should be more than enough for most users. Another useful feature is that the EDL and picons are not erased when the machine is switched off, so you’re not forced to complete a production in one session. Other handy features include a variable audio and video fade – from 0.5 to 4.5 seconds – variable pre/post-roll times, for maximising accuracy, and it has two GPI triggers, for connection and control of other items of post-production equipment.

 

On the back there’s an RS-232 port, enabling the 501 to be controlled by a PC. Video Tech say it will be fully supported with software sometime soon but for those who cannot wait full connection details are included in the manual and Video Tech will supply control listings to anyone who wants to develop their own software.

 

IN USE

Connections to the camcorder and VCR couldn’t be simpler. Phono sockets carry composite video and stereo audio inputs and outputs, a pair of mini DIN sockets are used for S-Video input and output, and minijack sockets handle the control signals for the camcorder and infra-red wand; a full set of connecting leads are supplied. Set-up takes just a few minutes, source and record deck types are chosen from an on-screen menu, the learning IR facility requires the user to run through the commands, one at a time, pointing the remote handset at a receptor mounted on the sloping top panel. The controls are well spaced, arranged logically and colour coded according to function.

 

So far so good. The only fly in the ointment is the jog/shuttle control. Don’t get us wrong, it’s a very useful facility, that works well, and we welcome it with open arms, we’re just surprised that Video Tech used such a horrible mechanism. It feels cheap and nasty, the surfaces grate and it wobbles around.

 

Following the preliminaries it’s time to start editing; you can switch between EDL or storyboard display at any time. Select the source machine and hit the play button, at the first cut-in  point press the Yes/In button, the timings are duly recorded and presented at the bottom of the screen, and the first picon is placed on the storyboard. At the end of the scene press the No/out button the time is stored and the scene counter steps to scene two. Cut points can be made on the fly or by stopping the tape and using the jog/shuttle to locate the exact frame. When the list is complete you can go back into the EDL or storyboard and change the timings, scene order, add fades or GPI triggers, in short you have full control. A single scene, or the whole list can be previewed, when you’re happy with it, it can be committed to tape.

 

That’s really all there is to it. It is exceptionally easy to use and it does what it is told. It also stops you from doing daft things, like creating scenes with a minus time value, though this nannying occasionally interferes with normal time adjustments, but we found it was usually possible to make it do what you want, in the end.

 

PERFORMANCE

Using a Sony Hi8 camcorder (LANC) and JVC VCR, (IR control), plus our calibrated editing tapes – normal and time-coded – editing accuracy on RCTC material over a ten scenes, on a 30 minute length of tape was never more than 5 frames. The average was closer to 3 frames and single scene cuts were frame-accurate. On a non-timecoded recording accuracy dipped somewhat, to around 30 frames at the end of the sequence, or just over a second, but we still count that as a good result. We’re convinced that by fiddling around with the pre and post roll times a little longer, we could have got that down to less than a second.   

 

THE VERDICT

We usually manage to find something to grumble about with stand-alone edit controllers, and the VEC501 is no exception. However, the fact that our biggest gripe concerns grindy noises made by the jog/shuttle dial is a measure of how much it impressed us. A few quid off the price wouldn’t go amiss either, but then we say that about almost everything… It’s a superb piece of kit, no frills, no fuss, and it does the job well. Recommended. 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/Model                  VIDEO TECH VEC501

What is it?                    multi-scene storyboard edit controller

Guide price                    £399

Scene memory            99

Control Systems            Control L/LANC, Panasonic 5-pin/RMC, learning IR (source and record)

Timecode features            RCTC, VITC (read/write)

Edit features                  scene trim, move, copy, insert, delete, AV fade (variable 0.5 – 4.5 secs)

Other features            picon/storyboard or EDL, jog/shuttle control, VITC record, pre/post roll adjustment, 2 x GPI trigger, PC control (see text)

 

Sockets            AV in/out (phono), S-Video in/out (mini DIN), deck control/IR wand/GPI (minijack), serial RS232 (mini DIN)  

Power supply             plug-in mains adaptor

Dimensions            395 x 270 x 75mm

 

PERFORMANCE

Cut accuracy                 +/-3 frames (timecode), +/- 15 frames (non-timecode)

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money            8

Ease of use                 9

Performance              9

Features                     8

 

 

* Read the Fucking Manual, but I’m not sure you’re allowed to say that…

 

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R Maybury 1998 0202

 

 

 


 

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