VIDEO CAMERA 1999

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TWIN PEAK

 

STANDFIRST

It had to happen and JVC were bound to be first. Presenting the first S-VHS/mini DV twin-deck VCR, the amazing HR-DVS1

 

COPY

Twin deck VCRs have had a somewhat chequered history. Who can forget the infamous Amstrad 'Double Decker', Instant Replay or Diskexpress VHS to VHS copy machines launched back in the late 1980s and early 90s? Then there was the memorable Goldstar (now LG) 8mm/VHS and Hi8/VHS edit video recorders that arrived in 1995 and 96. Suffice it say the idea never really caught onÖ

 

Now JVC is having a turn at reviving the idea with a mini DV/S-VHS twin deck but this time it might just work. The HR-DVS1 sets out to solve a niggling problem with digital camcorders, namely the lack of an easy means of editing footage to VHS. A handful of machines have built-in edit controllers that work with homedeck VCRs but they tend to be rather basic and not renowned for cut accuracy. Most DV cams can be used with an edit controller but this involves extra expense, it can be quite a palaver and we know it can be off-putting to many newcomers. DV footage can also be edited on a PC but this requires even more determination, a good working knowledge of both video and computers and a significant cash outlay. Not that JVC is exactly giving the HR-DVS1 away; it is expected to sell for around £1200 when it goes on sale in a few weeks time. 

 

The twin deck approach solves another little difficulty associated with DV editing and that's ensuring top-grade picture and sound quality. The two tape decks on the HV-DVS1 are optimised to work with each other, there are no problems with noisy or unreliable interconnections and the two decks share a common, integrated control system.

 

Copying and editing DV tapes on the HR-DVS1 is absurdly simple, but it is much more than just a fancy editing machine. It is also a fully-fledged NICAM VCR with all of the facilities you expect on a top-end home cinema machine. These include a VideoPlus + timer with PDC, full auto installation, satellite recording, a multi-brand TV remote and multi-speed replay.

 

It's not just a DV mechanism tacked onto a S-VHS VCR either, the DV deck can do pretty well everything the VHS/S-VHS deck can do, including record and timeshift TV and satellite programs and record from an external source. It can also do something ordinary VCRs can't do and that's record from a digital source, via its FireWire (aka iLink and IEEE 1394) DV in/out jack on the front panel.

 

However, the key movie-making features on the HR-DVS1 are the built-in edit controller and a video processor. The latter has a selection of 17 transitions including wipes fades and dissolves (the latter is from a captured still of the previous scene). Both decks have audio dubbing facilities and the machine has a full set of front-mounted AV input sockets, so it can record from other sources. Also worth mentioning are the special effects, (classic film, B&W, sepia, strobe, video echo) these can be applied to DV replay editing and there's also a digital zoom feature but again this can only be used during DV replay.

 

The HS-DVS1 has a number of extra playback facilities. The VHS deck is equipped with a timebase corrector and digital noise reduction system for de-jittering old, noisy or worn tapes. JVC's B.E.S.T (biconditional equalised signal tracking) checks the condition of VHS tapes and fine-tunes its recording and playback circuitry accordingly.

 

It's not half bad looking in a shiny champagne-silver sort of way. The box is only slightly larger than a normal VCR but if anything it has fewer controls. In addition to the half dozen or so buttons on show there's s few more behind a hinged flap running the width of the fascia but the point is that for such a sophisticated piece of kit, it looks remarkably unthreatening.

 

Installation is fully automatic though it is quite slow, taking just under five minutes to sort out the tuning, time and date setting. Connections to the outside world are entirely conventional; it has two SCART sockets on the back, along with a pair of line-level audio outputs for hooking the machine up to an AV amp or hi-fi system.

 

Two decks might sound like a bit of a handful to control but JVC has put a lot of effort into making the operating system simple to use. Both decks operate more or less independently of one another but share one set of transport controls. The decks can playback simultaneously, or one can playback whilst the other records, (from the other deck or an external source), about the only thing it can't do is record on both decks at once. Two buttons on the remote handset switch between DV and VHS control and a green indicator beneath the two tape hatches light up to show which one is 'active'. A pair of arrow buttons on the front panel controls DV to VHS or VHS to DV tape copying. Otherwise it looks and behaves like most other recent JVC VCRs.

 

The RA Edit controller is a beefed up version of the one used in a lot of JVC camcorders with an 8-scene memory but this one can store up to 8 programmes of 8 scenes each. That means in theory it is possible to edit up to 64 scenes on the trot. Edit in and out points may be marked when the tape is moving 'on the fly', or more precisely by using the pause and jog/shuttle control. Times and totals appear on a superimposed edit decision list. After each scene has been entered you can add a transition and/or an effect; however, the system apparently won't allow you to go back and do it later, which we found very inconvenient. You can't selectively cut move or copy scenes either, and the only way to change a scene's edit points is step back to it by erasing all intervening scenes. It's not very satisfactory, to be frank fact itís a downright nuisance that spoils an otherwise useful feature.  

 

PERFORMANCE

The Super VHS deck works a treat and can resolve a little over 380-lines, which means recordings made on the machine look crisp and detailed. Colour accuracy is very good and noise levels are a little below average. There are no problems with VHS recordings either, they do look a bit hairy next to S-VHS though it has to be said there's not a lot of difference between them when it comes to taping off-air TV programmes. VHS sound is satisfactory there's some background hiss on the hi-fi soundtracks but no more than usual and it makes up for it with a flat wide and uncoloured response.

 

The DV deck is excellent with resolution a whisker over 480-lines. The picture is squeaky clean with hardly a trace of noise; images are sharp and crisply defined colours and not a trace of jitter. Off air recordings made on the DV deck look impeccable, it's the almost complete lack of noise that makes the difference and you sometimes have to look quite hard to spot the difference between off-tape and off-air pictures, especially on recordings of live material, like sports, studio or outside broadcasts.

 

DV sound quality, as we have said on many occasions, is truly wonderful. The DVS1 also allows you to explore the differences between the 12 and 16-bit recording systems, which are just about detectable, if the machine is connected to a decent hi-fi system. 

 

DV to VHS and S-VHS edits are amongst the best we've seen, on any set-up. Recordings have the appearance of first generation originals packing in as much detail as the format allows so there's less room for noise. Images have an added vibrancy; colours and shades are more faithfully rendered. We managed to get DV to VHS edits accurate to +/- 5 frames, which is good, but the fact that the edit list cannot be amended (without erasing data) rather takes the edge off it. The effects work well, edges and transitions are smooth. 

 

THE VERDICT

AV performance on both decks is outstanding we are very impressed by the quality of off-air recordings made on the DV deck. It's not very practical for routine timeshifting since DV tapes only run for up to an hour (2 hours in LP mode), but it could come in handy if you're taking your LCD DV cam on holiday. You could run off a few tapes of your favourite TV programmes, or maybe spread a TV movie across a couple of tapes, to give you something to watch in the evenings or on rainy days.

 

It's hard not to like the DVS1 but it's important to focus on the job it's designed for and that's editing DV tapes to VHS. It makes mincemeat of simple editing jobs but we have to say that the inflexible edit decision list is a real disappointment, not to say a bit of a surprise on what is otherwise a very well equipped and highly desirable machine.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model                         JVC HR-DVS1EK

Tape format          twin deck mini DV/Super VHS/VHS

Guide price                      £1200

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            S/VHS: 8-hours (E240), DV: 120mins (DVM60)

Timer                               6-events, 365-days/Video Plus+ with PDC/teletext programming

Remote control                full function multi-brand TV/Satellite

 

VIDEO

System         PAL, SP, HQ, NTSC

Replay speeds         variable search still frame, frame step (both directions)

 

Main facilities VHS/DV

Slow motion          yes/yes       

Multi-speed           yes/yes       

Insert edit:          yes/yes       

Jog/shuttle          yes/yes

On-screen display          yes/yes       

Video Plus+          yes/yes

Index search          yes/no         

Intro Scan          no/no

Instant timer          yes/yes       

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes/yes       

Repeat play          yes/no

Record search          yes/yes       

NTSC replay          yes/no

Quasi S-VHS replay          n/a    

Auto play          yes/yes

Auto head cleaner          yes/no         

 

Additional facilities

Timebase corrector & noise reduction (VHS only), A-B copying and editing, RA edit (64 program), picture zoom syncro edit control, direct record, Rec-Link, NexTViewLink, auto installation, Playback effects (DV only, classic film, B&W, sepia, strobe, video echo), edit effects (black-white fade, wipe, mosaic, slide, scroll, door, dissolve, window, corner)

 

AUDIO VHS/DV

Stereo hi-fi          yes/yes (12-bit & 16 bit stereo)        

Audio dub          yes/yes       

Man level control          no/no 

Level display          no/no

NICAM sound          yes/yes       

Line output          yes/yes       

 

GENERAL

Sockets          rear: AV in/out (2 x SCART), S-Video out (mini DIN), line audio out (phono), front: DV in/out (DV jack), AV in (phono), S-Video in (mini DIN), remote pause (minijack)

 

Front AV terminal                    yes   

Edit terminal           DV jack,  see text

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          yes, see text

 

Dimensions (mm)     437 x 380 x 127mm

Weight (kg)          7.6kg

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution         VHS/S-VHS  >240/380-lines DV 480-lines

Colour fidelity         very good

Trick play stability         very good

Colour bleed         none

Audio performance         very good

Edit functions         very good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         9

Ease of use         8       

Performance         9

Features         9

 

---end---

” R. Maybury 1999, 2309

 

 


 

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