JVC JX-ED11 Video Editing Controller, Knox Studio40 Character Generator, Hitachi VM-3700A VHS Camcorder
Every video pro was once a beginner, and one of the first things beginners learn as their interest begins to grow is that there are few products available to support them at their level. Editing VCRs are at the top of the price range, as are camcorders with editing features. Even the simplest editing controllers cost several hundred dollars, and many will only control specific decks.
Perhaps that's why JVC is offering its new JX-ED11 editing controller. The JX-ED11 is capable of controlling almost all of the millions of camcorders and VCRs with infrared remotes in use today. It's very simple to use, and with no connections to make, the unit fits perfectly into the beginning videomaker market.
The first physical feature you notice about the JX-ED11 is its small size. It's about the size and weight of a thick pocketbook. The plastic case comes in the widely popular gunmetal gray. All of the controls are push-button types except for a jog/shuttle knob. These controls provide resistance when pushed, but offer little tactile feel. Power is by batteries only; four penlights (AAs) fit into a compartment on the bottom of the unit.
Since the JX-ED11 uses infrared control for both the source and record units, you'll need to set it up to send the proper infrared codes to control your decks. You can choose from a number of codes preset in the JX-ED11 that cover the infrared protocols of over a dozen VCR and camcorder manufacturers. Both the source and record control sections of the JX-ED11 must be set with their own control codes. You recall these presets for each side using the tape transport controls on the face of the editor.
If either your source or record machine doesn't respond to any of the presets in the JX-ED11, then you'll have to teach the unit the codes directly from your remote. You do this rather simple task by pushing a setup button for the side that you want (source or record), and then using your VCR or camcorder's remote control to feed the proper infrared signals to the editor's memory. As you feed the unit each code (pause, play, rewind, etc.), a flashing red light indicates acceptance. After completion, the codes will remain in memory as long as the batteries are live, and for about 30 minutes after batteries are removed. You can change the setup for either side at any time.
Next, you'll need to set up the unit's operation modes. You'll find the operation mode switches inside the battery compartment on the bottom of the unit. Three switches adjust the search mode of your source deck, the coarse record/pause setting and a fine-tuning record/pause setting for your record deck.
The JX-ED11's infrared emitters have a working range of about sixteen feet. If you place your decks close to the JX-ED11, be sure to keep them near the same height as the editor.
One other switch found in the battery compartment will put the JX-ED11 into JVC's RA (Random Assemble) Edit mode. With this mode, you can control certain JVC camcorders and VCRs with a cable that attaches to the camcorder or VCR's RA Edit jack. The other end plugs into the left side of the JX- ED11 at the connector labeled Remote. While it's not necessary to use the RA Edit function with the JX- ED11, using this jack can improve editing accuracy considerably.
The JX-ED11 is very easy to use. You just connect the audio and video of the source and record machines together, load a blank tape into your record machine and your recorded tapes into the source machine, hook up a monitor to your record VCR's output and you're ready to edit.
The JX-ED11 makes single cuts in an assembly style (one at a time), and that's it. Here's how it works: you put your record deck into play, find the spot where you want to add a scene and hit the Edit Standby button. This places the record deck into record/pause, and starts the source deck playing. Next, you use the jog/shuttle to locate the start of a scene on the source tape. Back it up a few seconds and then let it play. When you see the point where you want the edit to start, press the In button. This triggers the record deck to start recording and the edit takes place. Hitting the Out or Edit Stop button terminates the edit.
An Edit Check button puts the record VCR into reverse search as long as you hold it down. This allows you to back up your master tape to review any number of the edits already done.
The JX-ED11 will not control features like video insert or audio dub, even if you have a record machine that controls these features.
As stated, there are separate transport controls for each deck. These include stop, pause, rewind, fast forward and play. The record side also includes a record button.
Quick & Easy
I tested the JX-ED11 using two infrared VCRs. I had to teach the unit the codes for each deck. This was a surprisingly smooth and quick process.
Editing with this unit is very quick once you get the hang of it, but you might develop a tendency to reach for the source or record deck's jog/shuttle (if it has one) to speed up the search for scenes.
The usual limits of infrared affect the accuracy of this controller. The best I could achieve was about +/-12 frames, but this was better than I expected. If you're just starting out, your should focus on editing aesthetics and not pinpoint accuracy anyway.
The JX-ED11 makes plain and simple edits, just as it's meant to. This unit should be a perfect choice for those who want to edit their vacation tapes. It will also be a good low-budget learning tool for those just at the edge of getting seriously interested in video.
JVC JX-ED11 Video Editing Controller
- Edit control outputs
Source deck: infrared, JVC RA Edit Record deck: infrared
+/-12 frames (approx.)
1 7/16 (height) x 7 1/8 (width) x 4 1/8 (depth) inches
Studio40 Character Generator
8547 Government Circle
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
Professional videomakers have been using Knox character generators (titlers) for years. Now the company offers the Knox Studio40, a titler offering all the basic titling features of a high-resolution, broadcast-quality unit. The unit also sports a price just low enough to attract the high-level prosumer user.
The Studio40 is physically large. While no taller than a computer keyboard, it's half a foot wider and maybe four inches deeper.
The cabinet has an appealing cream color. Along the top surface, surrounding the keyboard, are labels with instructions for different routines and effects. This gives the unit a rather busy appearance. The keyboard has the feel of a standard AT computer keyboard. Each key gives a snappy rebound, giving positive tactile feedback.
The Studio40 supports two independent inputs (NTSC or PAL), each having both Y/C (S-video) and composite connections. Outputs include Program (both Y/C and composite) and Preview (composite only). Right and left audio inputs for each video input act as audio-follow-video channels, which means the audio track will change as you switch between video inputs. Audio connections are RCA types. Y/C connections are the standard 4-pin DIN type. All other video connections are the BNC type.
You can install this unit to operate in several different configurations. You can use the Studio40 as a stand-alone character generator for message board applications. Or you can use it with a switcher in a production setting for live studio work. Also, the unit will work nicely in post-production editing.
When connecting the Studio40 in a studio or editing setup, you may need to match the timing of the unit to your system. The unit provides connections for this, so it shouldn't be a problem for most standard setups.
Fonts & Pages
The Studio40 claims to provide four of what it calls "standard" fonts and four "alternative" fonts. There are really only two standard fonts, including Helvetica in both 32 and 20 line sizes (in upper and lower case) and Eurobold in 32 lines (upper-case only). The fourth "font" is a set of 32 foreign characters. The alternative set of fonts includes Cooper and Pump in upper and lower case, and Times and Disclaimer in upper-case only.
Fonts can be manipulated in a number of ways. You can add edging (black only) to a line of characters or to individual characters in a line. You can also underline your text with a horizontal line in any one of the available colors. Hitting the Flash button will cause all characters you type to flash; hitting the button again returns you to normal mode.
Fonts are available in 32 colors. You can set the colors of each character individually or by line. You can also go back at any time and change the color or formatting of any or all fonts. The background page color can be any of the 32 available, or it can be transparent (color #0, used to superimpose titles over video).
There are two faders available on the Studio40 that are operated by combinations of the keyboard keys. The first one will fade characters in or out of the background picture. The second will fade the entire screen in or out to black. You can use the keyboard numbers to adjust the fading speed.
The Studio40 can display titles in one of three basic ways. You can display each page one at a time, you can display a crawl across a page from screen right to left or you can roll titles from screen bottom to top. Both the crawl and the roll may use multiple pages. You can freeze crawls or rolls and start them again at any time.
The Studio40 works quite well. All characters are sharp and well defined, and the colors are pure and fully saturated. There were certain combinations of colors that didn't look too good when placed side by side, but a little bit of practice will quickly teach you which colors work best together.
The owner's manual is only five and a half pages long. Still, the learning curve on this unit is short. As mentioned, labels on primary operations cover the top surface of the unit, and they help a lot.
There are two drawbacks to the Studio40. The first is the lack of a GPI (general purpose interface) connection. A GPI connection makes it possible to control the unit from an external piece of equipment, like an edit controller. But if you want to do this with the Studio40, you're out of luck. Knox says there are no plans to add a GPI in the future, and that they don't see the need for one. Regardless of your planned use for this unit, I think the lack of at least one GPI is inconsistent with the cost of the unit.
And that's the second problem: price. For about a third the cost of this unit, you can find consumer stand-alone titlers that will give you about the same performance, if not better. In fact, for less than the price of the Studio40, you could by a computer, a good genlock and some pretty wild titling software, and you'd still have a wallet full of money left over. Of course, with the Studio40 you're paying for rock-solid broadcast resolution within a tight RS-140A sync (the FCC's sync requirement for broadcasting).
So what do you need? The Studio40 is a straightforward titler that should appeal to public access users or prosumers looking for high-quality characters with broadcast specifications. Consumers looking to title their vacation gems or even more serious users who want digital effects in their titles might want to look elsewhere.
- Video inputs
Composite (x2), S-video (x2)
- Video outputs
Composite (x2), S-video (x2)
- Display modes
Still, scroll, roll
- Text sizes
- Font colors
- Horizontal resolution
60 nanoseconds (average)
2 1/4 (height) x 22 1/4 (width) x 12 1/4 (depth) inches
VM-3700A VHS Camcorder
3890 Steve Reynolds Blvd.
Norcross, GA 30093
Hitachi has long stood behind the standard VHS camcorder format, and now the company introduces its flagship model, the VM-3700A VHS camcorder.
This unit is no doubt being offered to several markets at once. Its fully automatic artificial intelligence feature (which controls the auto exposure) should appeal to the family camcorder market, while several other control features such as manual focus and audio/video dubbing will attract beginning videomakers.
The VM-3700A has clean lines and is fairly compact for a full-sized unit. You'll find the well placed controls over the left front and top edge of the camcorder. Two tones of gunmetal gray finish the unit.
The VM-3700A collects images through its f/1.8, 12:1 (5-60mm) zoom lens and directs them to a 1/3- inch CCD (charge coupled device). You can focus your images either automatically or manually. You choose this through a pair of switches that also focus the lens in the manual setting.
With the focus on automatic, and the zoom rocker set to fully wide angle, the lens enters the macro mode. It will then focus sharply on items as close as 1.2 inches from the lens surface.
If you push the two-speed zoom control to the fully telephoto end, the camcorder enters the digital zoom mode. This will increase the power zoom's magnification by two times. The unit also offers an Instant Zoom button, which magnifies the screen 1.5 times. Pushing the button again restores the image to normal size.
The VM-3700A uses a Program AE (automatic exposure) circuit which automatically selects one of twelve shutter speeds (1/60 to 1/4000) based on the brightness of the subject. The iris also automatically adjusts along with the shutter speed.
You view images through the LCD (liquid crystal display) color viewfinder, which will slide out from the camcorder body to accommodate anyone's eye position. The eyepiece also swivels through a 260-degree arc to allow shooting from almost any angle.
On the front of the viewfinder are the microphone and the camcorder light. There is no provision for an external mike (or for earphones to monitor your audio).
You operate the camcorder light by a three-position switch with settings for on and off, and a setting that automatically turns it on when the Program AE circuitry says there's too little light.
A diopter adjustment for crystal-clear viewing and both brightness and tint controls for the LCD round out the viewfinder's features. Along with those indicators already mentioned, the viewfinder will indicate shutter speed, linear time count, remaining tape, battery condition, time/date and zoom position, among other things.
Other features include two buttons labeled Instant Review and Display. If you're in record/standby mode, pressing the Instant Review button will play back the last few seconds of the last scene recorded. The Display button allows you to show the linear counter on a TV or monitor along with the recorded image.
A Fade button will allow three different kinds of fades which you choose by repeatedly hitting the button. In one position, you get a regular fade to or from a white/gray screen. Another fade zooms out as you fade in, or zooms in as you fade out, also to a solid color. The last fade position actually does a type of vertical wipe to true video black.
The VM-3700A also offers a two-page titler. Each page can have two lines with up to 16 characters on each line. The lines are at screen center only. One font is available (white letters with a black border). You can superimpose these titles as you shoot scenes, or superimpose them over tapes while dubbing to a VCR or other camcorder. You make titles with the Title button and the tape transport buttons (their secondary function).
Hidden under a small door on the left side of the camcorder are the audio/video jacks. A small switch sets them as either input or output jacks. With the camcorder in record mode and the switch set to input, the camcorder will act as a VCR and record external signals.
The VM-3700A will do audio dubbing and audio/video inserts when in VCR mode. You can use a Counter Memory setting along with the Insert button for accurate dubbing. You use the fast forward and rewind buttons while in play mode to visually search for the scenes you wish to change.
The VM-3700A produces nice video. The colors are accurate except for a slight blue tint when lighting is insufficient (probably due to limited performance of the white balance circuits when lighting is very low). But the built-in video light corrects this. Resolution is average for VHS units.
If you have been reading this column, you know that I'm a stickler for external mikes and headphones. They are the best way to be certain you're getting good audio. They're missing on the VM- 3700A. Hitachi would do well to consider them on future versions of this unit. Even so, audio recorded on the VM-3700A sounds good enough.
The color viewfinder provides enough detail for good focus and is a good assurance that you're recording the right colors. In the near future, I hope to see this feature on all camcorders.
The titler is useful for slating or logging your scenes and for other simple titling chores, and the simple titles may be satisfactory for titling family vacations and other similar events. If you use the VM- 3700A for more serious video efforts, you may want to consider an external titler.
Maybe it's just my personal taste, but somehow fading to or from white just doesn't have the same aesthetic feel as fading to or from black. Who knows? You may like it just fine.
All in all, the Hitachi VM-3700A is a nice full-size VHS camcorder. It should work well as a family camcorder. And beginning videomakers will want to consider the VM-3700A as well.
Hitachi VM-3700A VHS Camcorder
Two-speed 12:1 optical zoom, f/1.8, 5-60mm focal length
Auto or manual
- Other features
Program AE (auto exposure), instant zoom, 2x digital zoom, macro, HQ picture technology, fade in/out, flying erase head, titler, audio dub, audio/video insert, built-in light.
- Video input/output
- Audio input/output
8 1/16 (height) x 4 3/8 (width) x 12 1/4 (depth) inches
- Video performance (approx.)
- Horizontal resolution (camera)
- Horizontal resolution (playback)
- Horizontal resolution (camera)
- Performance times
- Pause to record:
- Power-up to record:
- Fastforward/rewind (120 minute tape):
5 minutes, 50 seconds
- Pause to record:
JX-ED11 Video Editing Controller
41 Slater Drive
Elmwood, NJ 07407