Go-Video GV-8020 8mm/VHS Dual Deck VCR
Sony UVW-1800 Betacam SP VCR
Panasonic PV-IQ604 VHS-C Palmcorder
Go-Video GV-8020 8mm/VHS Dual Deck VCR
14455 N. Hayden Road, Suite 219
Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Committed to the dual deck concept from the beginning, GO-Video offered quality VHS to VHS decks. Now, GO-Video answers the call for an 8mm to VHS deck you can use both as a dubber and an editor. The result is the GV-8020 8mm/VHS dual deck.
Two in One
This is a dual VCR deck containing an 8mm transport on the left side (as seen from the front) and a VHS transport on the right. Front panel controls on the unit are simple and easy to use. A single button will start the dubbing process. Another button assigns the front panel controls to either the 8mm or VHS side.
The unit comes with a remote control that will operate every function including some--like tracking--that are not deck controllable.
Even more useful are the menus that superimpose over your video each time you hit a control button. The menus advise you of transport actions and tape counter numbers, among other things. Unfortunately, the menus disappear from the screen in about 4 seconds, long before you can read them.
You can lock them on with the remote control, which calls up other menus to set the clock, record a time and date stamp, prepare for Automatic Assembly editing, adjust Timer Recording and so on. You can program up to eight Timer Recording events (TV shows) on the VHS side of the unit.
In addition, there is a menu which will allow you to superimpose titles over any signal coming from the 8mm side. The mix records on the VHS side. You can compose two lines of up to 14 characters each. All characters are white with black outline. Start the VHS side recording while sending a signal from the 8mm side (tape, camera, or TV) and a button on the remote will superimpose your message for 10 seconds.
A large LED screen on the front panel tells you what the GV-8020 is doing at all times. The info provided appears cluttered; it is sometimes difficult to understand what you are looking at, or looking for. The screen displays the audio levels of the VHS side; there are no level controls, so the only value of these levels is to indicate any distortion in the audio signal.
This LED readout has a rather odd feature I've never seen before on any piece of video gear of any level. The whole LED panel readout goes dim between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Apparently Go-Video thinks you should be sleeping during this time--not using this machine. Whether you can still see the LED screen depends on how much light there is and how much glare obscures the screen. If you still want to use this unit after 10 p.m., you must go back into the menus and reset the clock to the wrong time.
Both 8mm and VHS will advance single frames when you push the pause button again after an initial pause. You must push play to get out of pause.
Each side of the GV-8020 operates independently; you can use only one side at a time unless you are editing or dubbing between them. You can only output 8mm from the unit by sending signals through the VHS side.
Oddly, the VHS side boasts two hi-fi tracks (and one mono track), while the 8mm side has only a single AFM track. This is a serious flaw for those who wish to dub or edit 8mm stereo tapes. Inputs for the 8mm deck grace the front panel under a doorway. VHS inputs appear at the rear.
Picture quality from the 8mm side is much like that of any mid-level 8mm deck. The VHS side proved a disappointment, with horizontal resolution of second generation recordings falling off badly on playback. There was also some chroma bleed and other artifacts.
The company promotes the editing abilities of this unit. Indeed its Automatic Assembly editor, which stores up to 8 assembly edits in memory, is accurate within 4 or 5 frames each edit. The unit also has a Sync Edit button which allows control of each individual edit.
Unfortunately, in neither of these edit modes can you move the VHS transport between edits. This gives you less control when using the Sync Edit function.
The biggest surprise of all: no flying erase heads. This omission makes for some dirty footage. Color roll, snow and glitches mark every edit attempted either in Automatic Assembly mode or manual Sync Edit mode. A big disappointment in a deck promoted for its editing capabilities.
Our sample unit from Go-Video included a promotional flier stating that flying erase heads will be available in the future, along with jog/shuttle remote control, Hi8 playback capability, mike and headphone jack, manual record level adjustment and 8mm stereo audio. Also to come: record sequencing and external edit controller connections.
Go-Video plans "...minor electrical and cosmetic improvements" for future versions. The company also claims that its model GV-8080 will be available in the fall, featuring all these additions. Considering the price of the GV-8020, you could buy two other decks with higher editing quality.
Or you might want to wait until the GV-8080 is available.
Go-Video GV-8020 8mm/VHS Dual Deck VCRFormat: 8mm/VHS dual deck, Record/Playback heads (VHS)
Video: 4 rotary heads
Audio 8mm: AFM single track
Audio VHS: Stereo hi-fi, mono
Video: 2 rotary
Inputs: 8mm Composite video, stereo audio, VHS Composite video, stereo audio, Other Antenna
Outputs: 8MM None, VHS Composite video, stereo audio
Other: Antenna Video signal to noise ratio Better then 43 dB FF/REW time (120 min. tape) Less than 6 minutes with T- 120
Tracking: Auto digital, manual
Other features: Automatic assembly editing, sync edit, on- screen menus, 181 channel tuner
Dimensions: 4 1/8 (height) by 17 (width) by 16 (depth) inches
Weight: 14 pounds, 13 ounces
Sony UVW-1800 Betacam SP VCR
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
Betacam for the People
Sometimes manufacturers offer professional equipment priced within the grasp of consumer Videomakers. This is the case with Sony's UVW-1800 Betacam SP deck.
But is this deck of great benefit to the consumer? To answer this without getting too technical, let's first look at the differences between consumer and Betacam operating systems.
Betacam uses a helical scan recording/playback system just like consumer gear, which mounts the heads on a rotating drum. Like the 8mm and Hi8 formats, Betacam SP also uses metal particle tape which allows recording higher bandwidths with increased signal to noise ratios. Overall, the tape allows a much sharper and cleaner recording and playback.
Consumer recorders--VHS/8mm and so on--record color by separating the color signal from the incoming video signal and converting it down (from its original frequency) for recording. Later during playback, it's converted back up to its original frequency. We call this system "color under."
But why go to the hassle of converting and reconverting the color frequency? Because recording the color signal directly to tape at its original frequency causes pronounced, pulsating interference with the luminance signal during playback.
Betacam recording uses an entirely different approach. Incoming signals separate into luminance (black and white) and color signals. As we said earlier, S-VHS and Hi8 combine the luminance and frequency-shifted color signals when recording to tape. Betacam actually splits the color signal in two, and records these color signals on a separate area of the tape from the luminance signal.
This helps eliminate crosstalk between different tracks and greatly improves color accuracy. To accomplish this, the deck uses four record and playback heads and two flying erase heads.
The net result of all this is very evident on the UVW- 1800. Second-generation tape recorded on the UVW-1800 from Hi8 camera original showed almost no chroma noise or NTSC artifacts. Resolution of this tape remained close to the original 400 lines.
Noise in the reds appeared in the second-generation tape; color smear was almost nonexistent. Red noise was very smooth when recorded directly from the camera; I'm certain that the camera caused most of the artifacts observed. In a word, the video quality is fabulous compared to most consumer equipment.
The deck is very straightforward. A front panel cover hides switches that include time code int/ext selector, video in selector, time code selector and a remote/local selector. The remote/local selector must be in local if you want to operate the deck from the front panel.
Inset, front-mounted controls allow you to match the UVW-1800's timing and color to the rest of your system; this way it will work properly with special effects generators (SEGs), switchers and other gear.
You need a reference signal to operate the built-in time base corrector (TBC) properly. If you bring in video from a stable sync source, such as a camera or corrected video, you can fool the reference input by looping video through the reference signal connectors. If you use a less stable reference signal, it impairs TBC operation.
A front panel LED screen displays plain-English messages to the user. These include no input reference signal, threading, unthreading, play, stop and a host of other information. The video 2 output (marked super) on the rear of the unit will superimpose these English displays onto the monitor screen.
Many more menus are available through a four-way set of buttons under the front cover to access them. You choose different setups and save them this way.
The UVW-1800 is a low-level Betacam SP editor. It acts as a record deck in both straight cuts and A/B-roll editing. Full assembly or audio/video insert editing is available. The deck features independent audio record level controls on the front panel with LED level indicators.
The deck has two AFM channels, and two longitudinal channels used in audio insert editing. These channels incorporate switchable type-C Dolby NR processing and sound quite good.
The deck's RS-422 connector allows connection to any Sony edit controllers such as: the PVE-500; BVE- 600/800/910/2000/9100 editors; the RM-450; and other editors using the RS-422 protocol. The unit will read longitudinal time code, and write it using an external generator. There is also a Control-S connector on the front panel.
Has the price of this equipment dropped far enough to qualify as consumer gear? Almost. The not-so-portable deck won't work as an acquisition unit, except within a studio. So any interest the consumer would take in this unit would be as a record deck in dubbing and editing.
If you are a consumer with mostly Hi8 or S-VHS equipment, you may not want your finished master in Betacam SP. Ask yourself if the protocol and quality of your editing equipment is good enough to drive this unit.
On the other hand, if you're a prosumer and intend to copy and distribute your masters, this deck would be ideal for your editing suite. If you shoot a lot indoors, or encode a lot of computer work to tape, this deck would give you much higher quality originals.
Either way, let's not lose sight of the most important thing here. Which is that some professional equipment has dropped far enough in price that we prosumer Videomakers can nearly afford it.
With any luck prices will continue to fall--and manufacturers will continue to recognize the needs and wants of consumers.
Sony UVW-1800 Betacam SP VCR
Format: Betacam SP
Tape speed: 118.6mm/s
Record/Playback heads: 4 record and playback heads, 2 flying erase heads FF/REW time 180 seconds or less
Luminance: bandwidth 4MHz
Video: S/N ratio 52dB Control protocol RS-422, Control S
Audio: Two AFM tracks, two longitudinal tracks with Dolby noise reduction
Audio: S/N ratio 70dB
Tracking: Digital auto
Video inputs: Reference video, NTSC video (x2), component 12-pin connector, component BNC (x2), S-video, time code
Video outputs: Reference video, NTSC video (x2), component 12-pin connector, component BNC (x2), S-video, time code
Audio inputs: Balanced XLR (x2)
Audio outputs: Balanced XLR (x2), RCA monitor out
Other features: Setup menu, external sync input, built-in TBC
Dimensions: 16 3/4 (width) by 7 5/8 (height) by 18 5/8 (depth) inches
Weight: 42 pounds
Panasonic PV-IQ604 VHS-C Palmcorder
1 Panasonic Way
Secaucus, NJ 07094
The PV-IQ604 VHS-C Palmcorder is the latest in Panasonic's line of comfortable and easy-to-use VHS-C mid-sized palmcorders. Panasonic advertises this unit as a simple point-and-shoot model--one of the features stripped away in the name of simplicity and affordability is the stereo sound offered in earlier PV models.
With just a little practice, you'll find the PV-IQ604's controls easy to locate and use during shooting. The zoom buttons are right at the fingertips. The lens is a 12:1 zoom with a focal length of 5.4mm to 64.8mm set by what appears to be a 3-speed zoom.
Iris control is fully automatic, which can prove limiting. You might gain some control by using one of the three back lighting settings featured on the top panel; this too seems a less-than-desirable option. It would be more effective simply to move your subject to a better- lit environment than to use the third setting.
The lens also uses an auto shutter speed called auto- hss. This automatically adjusts the iris between 1/60 and 1/250, depending on the brightness. If this is not enough, speeds of 1/500, 1/1000, 1/2000, 1/4000 and 1/10000 are available from another top panel switch. Most of these speeds produce noticeable and distracting strobing, especially in wide-angle lens settings.
The PV-IQ604 incorporates Panasonic's digital electronic image stabilization system (EIS), which helps minimize "the image shakes" when you move the camera. Unfortunately, when you pan across a subject, the EIS responds somewhat slowly. Likewise, it overreacts when it does finally kick in. This handicaps the start and end of any kind of camera movement.
Such problems worsen when you mount the PV-IQ604 on a tripod. Fortunately, at the flip of another top panel switch you can turn off the EIS.
As with most stabilization schemes, EIS proves to be most helpful at telephoto lens settings. The rest of the time you might as well leave it off.
The top panel controls also include: fade, which fades both sound and video when you hold it down; a still/strobe effects switch; and tape eject. A display switch causes time/date characters to appear in the viewfinder; there's also a switch for SP or SLP speeds.
The PV-IQ604 offers a digital zoom that extends only to 20X, resulting in minimal pixel enlargement and image distortion. You access the zoom through a final top panel switch.
With the PV-IQ604, focus can be automatic or manual. Automatic focus kicks in rather slowly, leaving shots soft for as long as a second or more.
However, manual focus performs nicely, since the lens has enough depth of field to be forgiving on wider shots. Unfortunately, the manual switch and focus adjuster fall just under the front of the lens, making them rather difficult to access. (The palmcorder has a small door that automatically covers the lens when not in use.)
The bad news: the palmcorder has an auto reset mode that returns all settings to automatic operation in five minutes. This may irritate you, especially if you need more time to shoot a special setup. The good news: reestablishing such setups shouldn't take long.
The 0.7-inch liquid crystal color viewfinder uses around 200 horizontal pixels. The color is accurate and the image looks good. Located under the viewfinder, the VCR controls are easy to find and use.
Playback of the PV-IQ604 in the SP speed reveals an average VHS-quality image; horizontal resolution ranks a bit below average at about 220 to 230 lines. The color exhibits some red spectrum noise, but little bleed or smear. Overall image quality is good.
Stored in a slot in the body of the palmcorder is the remote control. It provides full transport control over the PV-IQ604 in both playback and record modes, but its small size makes it easy to lose. Note: the rewind is very slow.
The PV-IQ604 comes with a 5-watt shooting light that mounts just above the lens. The light enhanced the color of subjects within six feet, but proved of little use beyond that distance.
Also included with the unit is one battery, a battery charger/AC adaptor, one compact-to-standard VHS adaptor, a shoulder strap and cables for hooking up to other equipment.
Point and Shoot
Panasonic bills its new PV-IQ604 VHS-C palmcorder as a
point-and-shoot model. And indeed, built-in presets make
it ready to shoot right from turning on the power. This
unit is small and easy to use; if you're looking for a
simple palm-sized camcorder, you might do well to
consider the PV-IQ604.
Panasonic PV-IQ604 VHS-C Palmcorder
Lens: 12:1 zoom lens, F1.6 with focal length 5.4mm-64.8mm Digital zoom 20X
Focus: Auto or manual Iris Auto with switchable backlight settings
White balance: Auto
Outputs: 1 video 1.0 V p-p, 1 audio
Other features: Auto white balance, SP and SLP VCR speeds, nine shutter speeds, digital freeze and strobe, remote control, battery, A/C adaptor, charger
Dimensions: 4 1/8 (width) X 4 5/8 (height) X 6 7/8 (length) inches
Weight: 2.0 pounds
Performance: (approx.) Horizontal resolution (camera) 300 lines Horizontal resolution (playback) 220-230 lines Doug Polk is Videomaker's technical editor. Send e-mail to 71161, firstname.lastname@example.org.