VIDEO CAMERA 1999

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ASK RICK – AUGUST

 

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

I have a Canon UC8Hi camcorder, when playing back standard play (SP) recordings on my TV, pressing the pause button on my camcorder causes the picture to break up and disappear from the screen. It does not happen with LP recordings, however. Canon says this is not a fault and it occurs on all camcorders and is due to the fact that LP recordings pass across the screen at half the speed of SP, they suggested that I record in LP only. I also asked a local dealer, who found this explanation hard to believe but he tested a Canon VL-X50 with the same result. Surely there must be an answer?

Charles W. Berry, Willesborough, Kent

 

The person you spoke to at Canon was half-right. The bit about most camcorders not having very good still frame modes is certainly true but the explanation you received is utter tosh. The reason still frame is so bad on most camcorder is simple. As you may be aware video recordings are made by fast-moving tape head(s), that describe a series of diagonal tracks across the width of the tape, as it passes around the rotating tape head drum. During replay the same heads follow the tracks to read back the information. When the tape is stationary – i.e. in still frame mode – the heads try to read the tracks, but because the tape isn't moving any more the angle of the track is slightly different to the path traced by the heads. That means the heads can only read the middle bit of each track. The result is the picture signal is incomplete, which generates the characteristic noise bars and instability. VCRs get around this problem in several ways, the usual method is to have an extra set of heads specifically for 'trick play', they have wider gaps so they can trace the whole of the recorded tracks. However, for various reasons, including a lack of space and the clear belief on the part of manufacturers that still frame on camcorders isn't really necessary, it is a rare feature, on analogue machines at least. Some high-band machines have it, and all DV camcorder have excellent still frame replay. As a matter of interest camcorders with LCD viewing screens appear to have good still frame replay, but usually only on the screen, the video output signal is generally unstable.    

 

WEARS THE PROBLEM?

My question concerns the general wear and tear of small camcorders. With full-sized VHS machines this is not a problem, nor are there any concerns with VHS-C models since tapes can be played back on VCRs using an adaptor cassette. The problem concerns 8mm machines, and in particular editing. The continual stop-start-fast wind etc., must surely put additional stress on the already small components inside the machine? Why is it not possible for a manufacturer to make an adaptor so that 8mm tapes can also be loaded into a VCR?

Alan R. Rich, Mountsorrel, Leicestershire

 

You are assuming that there is an inherent weakness in the 8mm format and that camcorders will only be used for recording and playback. In fact manufacturers design their equipment to be used for the full range of movie-making activities, and that includes all the shuttling back and forth involved in editing recordings. The components inside a typical machine might be small and look fragile but they are in fact very robust and you would be surprised how durable deck mechanisms can be. Consider the rough treatment they have to endure, the wide range of conditions they are expected to work in, not to mention the rigours of editing. The proof of the pudding is most machines are still working by the time they reach retirement age, after five and eight years. We know of many well-used 8mm camcorders that are now over ten years old, and still in full working order. Unfortunately your idea of an 8mm to VHS adaptor is a non-starter. The differences in tape width and track layout are too great for it to be feasible, however I think there may still be one or two 'dual' decks on the market, with both 8mm/Hi8 and VHS tape mechanisms.

 

OFF CENTRE?

I have been using a Panasonic DX1000 for more than a year and have been very pleased with it. I edit down to a Panasonic NV-HS950 recorder to make the edit master, which I copy for friends and relatives etc. I would prefer to create a digital master, which I could them copy directly to either S-VHS or VHS with no more losses. At this point in time I do not wish to upgrade my computer to be capable of non-linear editing. On the face of it, creating a master edited tape on a Sony GV-D300/900 DVC VCR should do it, but would it be possible? This would also allow me to convert Hi8 tapes from my Sony V800 to digital format before using them (and perhaps use the V800 directly connected to the DV VCR if I should need an additional camera). I visited my local Sony Centre to ask for more details of the 300 and 900 but all they had was a bare statement of its characteristics – not a specification of the inputs, outputs or control methods. The assistant did not seem to think that what I wanted to do was reasonable and no one would want to create an edited master in this way. Could you comment please?

Geoffrey Moss, Liphook, Guildford

 

Shame on that Sony Centre! The GV-D300 or 900 is perfect for you and will do everything that you want or need. I am very surprised they didn't think anyone would want to create digital edit masters since that's one of the main purposes of these machines. The 300 is the better bet, unless you want or need the LCD screen. Both models have a full set of inputs and outputs, including composite video, S-Video and FireWire (iLink or IEEE1394) DV in/out. Edit control is via a Control L/LANC terminal, so as you can see it lacks for nothing. If you want to know what we thought about the GV-D900 (along with a full set of specs) why not order a reprint from the review that appeared in the November 1988 issue?

 

EDIT ENIGMA

Can you help me out with a couple of queries regarding digital edit decks? I have had it in mind to buy one of the two DV edit decks available to improve the final duplication quality from my original mini DV tapes. I am presently using the Panasonic NV-HS950 S-VHS edit deck. I'm perplexed; having waited nearly two years for the price of either the Sony DHR-1000 or the new Panasonic DX1000 edit decks to fall in line with just about every other video product from the far east of late. Why are they still so darned expensive? Even my Panasonic VCR has fallen in cost by around 20% in a year in some outlets. Would it be worth waiting for the forthcoming Digital VHS format VCRs?

 

My second question is whether going via the S-Video socket connection on my Panasonic DX1 camera (no FireWire output on that model) to any digital edit deck will make a very noticeable difference in picture quality to that of a direct FireWire connection. I prefer to use a Videotech video processor, to enhance colour etc., before going on to the edit deck but this only has S-Video inputs and outputs. I have not heard of a digital video processor, if they exist I expect they would be comparable in price to the Casablanca system.

T. Anderson, Penpont, Thornhill.

 

You seem to be forgetting the excellent Sony GV-D300 and 900 mini DV decks, which are now selling for around £800 and £1200 respectively (even less if you shop around) either would suit your purposes. Nevertheless, as you point out DV equipment is still quite expensive but that's to be expected from a relatively new technology and given the fact that they are made by fewer manufacturers and in much smaller numbers than their VHS counterparts, so there are not the economies of scale. Price will continue to fall, but at a relatively leisurely pace. D-VHS is not yet an option and I doubt that it even when it appears it will have much of a role to play in movie-making since it has been designed to work in conjunction with digital satellite and terrestrial set-top boxes. As far as the connection schemes are concerned, yes there will be small but noticeable reduction in picture quality when copying DV material using S-Video leads. However, it is acceptable and second and third generation copies should still look very good. You are also right about digital processors, there's not many about and they are dear but on the other hand there is generally less need for video processing of DV material since the quality is so good.

    

KIWI CONNECTION

I am in the process or replacing my five year old Panasonic NV-R50 camcorder. Unfortunately the Sony PC1, as recommended in Video Camera, is on the expensive side here in New Zealand, costing $3999 (NZ). I thought when Sony introduced the new Digital 8 camera (TRV110, $2299) that would be it, but although you praise the concept you end up by saying, 'we wish D8 well, but remain to be convinced that it has much of a future'. This statement of course put me on the back foot. I am now left with a dilemma, what do I do? I have the added problem that much of what is available in the UK is not on sale here. I did ask Panasonic if they would be adopting the Digital 8 format but I have had no reply…

W. Lane, Miramar, Wellington, New Zealand

 

Don't get us wrong, we've absolutely nothing against Digital 8 per-se, all of the machines we've reviewed so far work superbly well. Our concerns are based on the fact that at the moment it is seems unlikely any other manufacturers will adopt the format, least of all Panasonic who are staunch supporters of the VHS and DV formats. We cannot see any reason why it should introduce another camcorder format into its already comprehensive product range. Unless and until other companies make D8 equipment it will remain a one-brand format, so its future depends on Sony sticking with it for a long time to come.

 

On the plus side Digital 8 has a number of advantages for those who already use 8mm and Hi8 equipment, but that obviously doesn't apply in your case. On the other hand the DV format is now very well established and in the UK at least DV several camcorders now cost less than D8 machines. I cannot make any specific recommendations since I have no idea of what is available to you locally. However, as far as I am aware there is nothing to stop you buying equipment from the UK by mail order, NZ also uses the PAL system so there are no compatibility issues. You should do some homework first, contact some UK companies for quotes and find out about local taxes and import duties. I suspect you may be pleasantly surprised. The only disadvantage I can foresee concerns warranties for 'grey imports' but I assume that the major brands all have local servicing facilities, so you shouldn't be stuck if it ever goes wrong.    

 

POWER POSER  

I have a Sony V2000 camcorder, which uses NP22 nickel cadmium batteries. Would you please advise me if any firm manufactures nickel metal hydride batteries of this fitting?

Keith Morris, Rainham, Kent

 

I am not aware of any NiMH packs in NP22 style cases and according to one expert I spoke to it is not possible to 're-cell' these packs so I'm afraid you'll have to stick with nicads. They are still available though, and they're relatively inexpensive, try Keene Electronics on (01332) 830551 or J.E.M on (01942) 820438.

 

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ã R. Maybury 1999 2506

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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