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Video Equipment Reviews

"Alpermann+Velte TE501 Editor.Mitsubishi HS-U650 VHS VCR.Goldstar GVC-D475 VHS Camcorder

Down Under

Alpermann+Velte TE501 Editor
Ace Edit, Australia
c/o Better Reception
Columbia, KY 42728 ($859)

The Alpermann+Velte TE501 video editor is a stand-alone edit controller of German manufacture. Ace Edit of Bondi Junction, Australia distributes the unit, which is available in the U.S. from Better Reception of Columbia, Kentucky. How's that for making the rounds?

The TE501 has the features and price tag that place it in the mid- to upper-level consumer, and low-level prosumer markets. Alpermann+Velte seems to have focused on ease of use as one of the unit's selling points. Unfortunately, this all too often means a sacrifice in its overall ability to perform professional-quality edits.

Controls and Connections

A minimum of controls break up the TE501's very smooth dark gray plastic case. Only seven buttons and a single jog/shuttle knob control everything. A single display screen indicates all editing procedures, source tape locations and setup routines. These controls are easy to use once you understand their function.

The video in and out connections are on the back of the unit. These allow the TE501 to read VITC time code. Before the editor can use VITC time code or control track pulses to locate edit points on the source deck, you must route the source video through the in and out connectors. When using RCTC time code, the video should bypass the unit altogether.

Like a number of other cuts-only editing configurations in its price range, this editor uses hard wiring to control your source machine and an infrared emitter for controlling the record machine.

Connections for VCR control cables share space on the rear panel. For source deck control, you may use Cable-U (Control-M) for five-pin Panasonic decks or camcorders, Cable-R (for Control-L) 8mm and Hi8 decks or camcorders, and Cable-T for other VHS/S-VHS decks and camcorders.

On the record side, only IR signal control is available. You place the small IR transmitting tower that comes with the TE501 against the IR receiver of your VCR. Since the unit only controls the pause/unpause feature of the source deck, almost any IR controlled deck will work. For solid, clean edits, though, be sure your source deck has a flying erase head.

Making it Work

Once you've connected the source and record machines, you use the TE501's internal programming menus to set up the unit to best control your decks. At the push of a button, the TE501 automatically interacts with your source machine until the unit learns to control it.

On the record side, you can pick out one of four different preset IR codes built into the TE501 to control your record deck, or you can teach it IR codes directly using your deck's remote control unit. Once the TE501 learns all necessary controls and you've put it through its built-in tests, you're ready to edit.

Editing is the simplest part of all. You simply choose in and out points from desired scenes on your source tapes, push a few buttons and you're done. Keep in mind that the first time you use the TE501 you'll probably have to adjust or trim the in/out points for your record deck. This is because IR control is inherently sloppy. The TE501 menu offers trimmers which allow for adjusting your in and out points as much as 100 frames to compensate for common IR control slippage.

Frankly, I have never understood why manufacturers will go as far as designing the source side of cuts-only edit controllers with full use of time code, then stop halfway. What's the point in having source sides using VITC or RCTC time code, and a record side devoted to sloppy old IR control? True, the trimmers can make your edits quite close, but would you want to replace the control of your source decks with IR control? Of course not. Manufacturers should design the record side with equal sophistication for maximum control, or at least offer this as an option.

Once you've got it all tweaked in, it's time to edit. There are two ways to do this. You can choose to go one edit at a time, or you can build up a list of as many as 99 edits and then automatically perform all of them at the push of a button. Unlike some more expensive units, you cannot print out this list, but the TE501 will keep your list in memory, even after you turn off the power. The unit automatically maintains and adds to this list even as you do single edits. You can change the order, add new edits or delete specific edits at any time. Unfortunately, the TE501 won't let you store multiple lists; you must delete each list before starting a new production.

Caveat Editor

While the TE501 is extremely easy to use, it does have some drawbacks.

Ace Edit admits that the part of the manual that tells you how to set up your edits is less than clear, and it took some calls to them before I could achieve any fairly accurate editing. Even so, the most accurate result I could obtain was about +/-5 frames, even using RCTC time code on the source deck. I attribute this primarily to the infrared control of the record unit, which I found myself constantly trimming to maintain accuracy.

Another problem is the jog shuttle knob (for the source side only), which works too well. This two-position shuttle offers nice single-frame reviewing when in its Fine setting, but once switched to Normal, the slightest over- twisting can cause your source deck to blast ahead or backwards at full speed, running miles from where you want it to be.

There is no provision for transport movement of your record deck. You perform all record deck control by hand, with the exception of record/pause control during edits.

Also, there's no provision for any kind of inserts. But if your record deck has an insert feature and your manual dexterity is good, you can do inserts during what the TE501 thinks is a normal edit by placing the deck in the insert/pause mode before you begin.

The unit has no General Purpose Interface (GPI) connections. These connections trigger external video sources like titlers or special effects generators (SEGs). Should you choose to use these devices with the TE501, you'll have to operate them manually. A GPI connection would be an ideal addition to all future units.

I might have liked the TE501 better were it not for the limited accuracy and missing GPI. I certainly liked its sleek looks and easy controls. But I have to admit that better control is available at better prices. While this unit might be a useful tool for editing simple home movies, those with more serious video interests might want to look elsewhere.

Technical Specifications

Alpermann+Velte TE501

  • Video inputs
    Composite video (x1)
  • Video outputs
    Composite video (x1)
  • Edit control outputs
    • Source deck--Control-L, Control-M, Cable-T
    • Record deck--Infrared
  • EDL storage
    99 edits in non-volatile memory
  • Other features
    Reads VITC and RCTC on source side; Control cables included
  • Accuracy
    +/-5 frames using RCTC on source deck
  • Dimensions
    2 (height) x 13 1/2 (width) x 6 1/2 (depth) inches
  • Weight
    1 pound 15 ounces

Smooth Mover

Mitsubishi HS-U650 VHS VCR
Mitsubishi Electronics America, Inc.
Norcross, GA 30071 ($699)

Mitsubishi continues its HS line of video cassette recorders with the HS-U650. This VHS machine offers a high quality, high speed tape transport, audio and video inserts, hi-fi stereo sound, and Synchro edit functions. Considering the price, this makes the unit an excellent choice for either a source or record deck in a simple VHS editing setup.

The HS-U650 has a smooth, uncluttered look. An overall flat black finish compliments the unit's simple controls, and a wide fluorescent display dominates the front panel. The minimal transport controls, placed around the jog/shuttle knob, are easy to use and offer good tactile response when pushed. All of these design elements combine to make the HS-U650 an elegant, attractive package.

Features

The HS-U650 has a number of unusual features, one of which is the PerfecTape button located near the jog/shuttle knob. When you press this button, the VCR plays a small portion of your inserted tape, then displays a rating of your tape's quality and adjusts its internal electronics to match.

A pair of LED meters located on the front of the unit display audio levels while recording. To the left of the front panel is a doorway that opens to reveal a set of audio/video inputs, as well as controls for audio level and audio/video insert.

Also located behind this door is a button that activates the on-screen display. This shows elapsed and remaining tape times as well as the status of the unit's Child Lock, a feature that keeps younsters from playing the wrong tapes or fouling up internal adjustments.

The front panel display also offers all the basic information about what the VCR is doing at any given time. This includes indicators for A/V insert status, tape speed and time, and selected audio functions.

On the rear of the HS-U650 is a host of connections. There are the usual antenna/cable connections for the internal tuner, the main set of audio/video inputs, and two sets of audio outputs.

Also found here is the "edit" connection. Mitsubishi makes no claims that this connection will control the pause on other brands of decks, but past tests have indicated that it has worked fine with the Synchro edit connections of other brands. If you wish to try this, you may have to make your own cable to connect Mitsubishi's RCA jacks to the 1/8-inch mini phone plugs found on most Synchro edit jacks.

Finally, connections for Mitsubishi's Active A/V Network are on the back panel. This system connects Mitsubishi products with one another, enabling them to "talk" to each other through the remote controllers.

The heart of the HS-U650 is its full-featured remote control. Virtually every function except audio and video insert is controllable from this remote. A control called Function Audio/Video allows you to monitor and mix any of several combinations of the audio tracks. You can also turn the audio meters on or off, check your record speed, and turn on a dubbing setting to improve dubs and edits, all from the remote.

The remote also has a jog/shuttle knob which does double duty as a fine tracking adjuster. This knob offers smooth single-frame advance, reverse and high speed search, all with a watchable picture on the screen. This jog/shuttle is easy to use compared to the deck's front panel knob, which is slightly difficult to grasp due to the shape of the panel.

Performance

Okay, so how well does the HS-U650 edit? To test the editing jack, I used the HS-U650 with a slightly older Mitsubishi HS-U69 and I was able to achieve edits that where often within 10 frames of accuracy. This is exceptional for a Synchro edit setup. Also, the unit's flying erase heads created very clean edits. Audio and video insert functions worked well, although accuracy in the video insert mode is limited unless you use the out-point/in-point method discussed in the manual.

This well-written manual is concise, though it spends far too much time discussing how to set up the deck's built-in menus. I thought they added these built-in menus to make life easier for us videomakers. A flick of the thumb and everything's all set up--isn't that what they promised?

Here's another interesting thing about editing with the HS-U650. If you use the unit as a source deck (while using the editing connector), it will backwind and then pre-roll before the edit function takes effect.

The Final Word

I like the HS-U650. I could find no major faults with this VCR and I would not hesitate to suggest this deck as a source or record deck in a simple, straight cuts VHS editing setup. I expecially liked the smoothness and speed of the tape transport. This deck seems to go from stop to play almost instantly. When you add in the sharp, clear picture quality and the crisp, clean sound, you get a high quality editing VCR at a reasonable price.

The next step up is a S-VHS deck with a fixed editing protocol, but for that you'd take a big step up in price. For a nicely priced, high quality VHS deck with basic editing features, check out the HS-U650.

Technical Specifications

Mitsubishi HS-U650

  • Format
    VHS
  • Video inputs
    Composite (x2)
  • Audio inputs
    Stereo (x2)
  • Video outputs
    Composite (x1)
  • Audio outputs
    Stereo (x2)
  • Remote control
    All deck controls plus TV channel and volume, setup menu selections, VCR Plus+ settings, index marks, tracking controls, A/V functions
  • Control protocol
    Mitsubishi edit jack
  • Other features
    High-speed rewind, auto head cleaner, cable box control, audio record level control, front panel LED audio meters, flying erase heads, audio/video insert
  • Dimensions
    3 1/2 (height) x 15 1/2 (width) x 13 (depth) inches
  • Weight
    12 pounds

Cats' Eyes
Goldstar GVC-D475 VHS Camcorder
Goldstar Electronics Int'l, Inc.
1000 Sylvan Avenue
Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632 ($1100)

With the GVC-D475, Goldstar adds a low-light performer to its line of camcorders. Able to shoot in very little light, this VHS unit is built around the digital enhancement of its auto focus, zoom, and iris circuits.

The GVC-D475 is a well-designed, full-sized unit. You'll find you have easy access to all of the important controls near your left hand as you hold the camcorder on your right shoulder. Once loaded with tape and battery, the GVC-D475 balances out well and is easy to use for extended shoots.

Low Light Performance

The camcorder sports an f/1.6, 5.5 to 66mm (12 to 1) single speed zoom lens. The digital enhancement of this lens's auto focus system is one of the major selling points of the GVC-D475. This system includes a macro function which will focus down to a scant 1.2mm away from the lens surface in the telephoto position. Manual focus is also available.

The iris has been digitally enhanced to provide the best aperture for the unit's 1/3-inch, 270,000-pixel CCD. There is no manual iris control. The iris interfaces with the electronic shutter through the digital circuitry for best results. The shutter speed ranges from 1/125 to 1/10,000 of a second.

You focus the image through a 0.6-inch black and white viewfinder with diopter adjustment. The image is easy to see and the screen provides such information as battery condition, dew sensor, record, tape counter, time and date. At the front of the viewfinder is the unit's mono microphone. When shooting in windy weather, a switch hidden under the viewfinder will provide a windscreen effect. On top of the viewfinder is a true "hot shoe" mount which will accept an optional DC light.

You'll find all of the major controls, including the deck transport controls, on the left front of the unit. When in the record mode, some of the transport buttons control other features. For example, the Play/Pause button becomes the Fader, while the Rewind button doubles as the Backlight button, which can change the exposure as much as two stops. The Stop button also controls the high speed shutter already described.

Located near the tape transport buttons are controls for the unit's two-page titler. This is a simple utility that offers only one single sized font in white. Each titler page can hold four lines of twelve characters each. The cursor move, title and character buttons control all titler functions (as well as set the time and date).

Also found here is a self-timer that gives you ten seconds to get into the shot after you push the record button. When in this mode, the camcorder will stop five minutes after you start it.

Finally, the self-timer button becomes the audio/video insert button when in the playback mode. Using this button along with the play and pause controls allows you to insert audio, video or both.

On the back of the unit is Goldstar's special A/V input jack. This jack requires the use of a specialized cable for inputting external signals for recording, which means if you lose the cable, you're out of luck until you get a new one to replace it.

Shooting

How good is the GVC-D475? In ideal conditions, the camcorder makes good looking, finely detailed images. It also makes good, clean audio/video inserts, although there is a limit to the accuracy of these edits. And while it certainly does shoot well in low light, darker shots can come out grainy.

Though the new focus, white balance, and digital iris enhancements are nice, the focus on my test unit hunted a bit, especially in lower light. Luckily, the manual focus setting allows you to compensate for this. And while the iris is smooth, quick and forgiving of sudden light value changes in the scene, color balance is on the warm side in anything but the brightest light (regardless of light color).

The GVC-D475 has a few other simple problems worth mentioning. There is no external mike input jack. Without the ability to use external microphones, you have no flexibility in working with audio.

The rather slow single speed of the zoom lens and the lack of a manual override means that you won't be doing any quick manual focuses with this lens. The only other drawback I see is the titler which is simply too crude for any serious use.

And then there's the matter of the specialized A/V cable. I wish manufacturers would stop using these uncommon connections and rely on the tried, true, and long-standardized RCA connectors.

These problems, however, are limited when compared to the advantages that the unit offers. Though designed for low-light performance, the Goldstar GVC-D475 produces good results in all kinds of lighting. So whether you plan to shoot night time sporting events or you just want an all-around good camcorder, give this unit a look.

Technical Specifications

Goldstar GVC-D475 VHS Camcorder

  • Format
    VHS
  • Lens
    One-speed 12:1 optical zoom, f/1.6, 5.5-66mm focal length
  • Focus
    Auto/manual
  • Iris
    Auto only with switchable backlight
  • White balance
    Auto, no override
  • Inputs
    External mike, composite video, mono audio
  • Outputs
    Composite video, mono audio
  • Other features
    Fader, titler, diopter control, low light CCD, self timer, hot shoe, in-camera battery charge indicator, high speed shutter, flying erase head
  • Dimensions
    4 (width) x 8 (height) x 14 1/2 (length) inches
  • Weight
    4.6 pounds
  • Video Performance (approx.)
    • Horizontal resolution (camera)
      360 lines;
    • Horizontal resolution (playback)
      240 lines
  • Performance Times (T-120 tape)
    • Pause to record:
      1 second;
    • Power up to record:
      2 1/2 seconds;
    • Fast forward/rewind:
      4 minute, 35 seconds
Tags:  April 1995
Doug
Polk
Sat, 04/01/1995 - 12:00am