- Canon ES3000 Hi8 Camcorder
- Sony DHR-1000 DV Editing VCR
- Audio-Technica AT835b Shotgun Condenser Microphone
- Seagate Medalist Pro 2520 2.5GB ATA-2 Hard Drive
- Macromedia Extreme 3D 2.0
Hi8 Editing Made Easy
ES3000 Hi8 Camcorder
Canon USA, Inc.
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 11042
For those videographers who prefer to stick with the tried-and-true analog formats, one good thing has come out of the advent of DV camcorders: lower prices for Hi8 and S-VHS gear. Each major camcorder manufacturer, with only few exceptions, has released a high-quality, low-cost, prosumer-quality unit to keep their analog models competitive in a world that’s starting to see the digital light.
Canon’s ES3000 is a case in point. With features that rival and exceed last year’s ES2000, it sports a suggested retail price that’s a full $200 lower than the previous model. Like the ES2000, it has 20:1 optical zoom (40:1 digital), optical image stabilization and FlexiZone autoexposure and autofocus. Unlike the previous model, however, the ES3000 has a handful of digital effects, IR (infrared) Auto-edit capability and two user-programmable Custom Keys that put desired controls right where you want them.
The proof of a good camcorder, however, is not in the list of features that it provides, but in its overall performance. To determine how well the ES3000 performs in everyday situations, we put it through our usual battery of hands-on tests, and spell out the results in detail below.
Those who are familiar with Canon’s camcorders will recognize the sleek, aerodynamic lines of the ES3000. The unit fits easily in the palm, allowing access to most controls with the right or left hand while shooting.
Central to the operation of the ES3000 is the rotating Power/Mode selector. Nine selections are available on this wheel, including Off, VCR, Edit, Easy Recording, Auto Exposure and four program AE modes (Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Sand and Snow).
Of these settings, three in particular–Easy Recording, Auto Exposure and Edit–are worth discussing in more detail. The Easy Recording mode changes all settings to those that will work best in the widest variety of circumstances. The Auto Exposure setting does just what its name implies–places the camcorder into AE mode. This also enables the FlexiZone AE system, which places a small rectangle on the viewfinder screen. Manipulating a tiny joystick on the back of the camcorder moves this rectangle across the screen; the camcorder’s AE adjusts exposure for the portion of the image that resides within the rectangle. You can make Autofocus work in the same way. Both functions are quite handy for getting around those difficult situations that automatic circuitry can often cause (backlighting, choosing the wrong subject for autofocus, etc.).
Built-in Edit Controller
The Edit setting puts you into the camcorder’s IR Auto Edit mode. IR Auto Edit allows you to automatically copy up to eight selected scenes from the camcorder to a VCR, controlling the start, stop, pause and record functions of your record deck with an infrared (IR) emitter located at the back of the unit. Using the system is simple: all you have to do is position the camcorder on its tripod with the rear of the unit facing your VCR’s IR receiver. The ES3000 has the IR codes for almost every VCR in the world pre-programmed, so no further setup is necessary. Using the camcorder’s remote control while scanning the footage, you can then select the in and out points for up to eight scenes at a time, then sit back and watch while the camcorder does all of the work. Because the ES3000 doesn’t have time code, this system gives you variable accuracy–probably about 1/3 of a second at best, and over a second at worst. Still, if you plan ahead, and shoot with plenty of filler space before and after all of your shots, Canon’s IR Auto Edit system provides a simple, effective way for beginning videographers to edit their tapes.
The two Custom Keys on the left-hand side of the ES3000 also put more power into the hands of beginners by giving them a way to place often-used and hard-to-find functions right where you can find them. You can assign 16 different camcorder functions–including Digital Effects, Fade, Record Start/Stop and others–to either of these controls.
All in all, the ES3000 performed quite well–at and above expectations for a quality Hi8 camcorder. Its superior optics, user-friendly features and all-around impressive performance make it a good choice for both prosumers and beginning videographers.
DV Gets a VCR
DHR-1000 DV Editing VCR
One Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
The DV videographers of the world can now breathe a sigh of relief. So, too, can those potential DV converts who have been waiting in the wings to see if the new format will begin to take root in the prosumer video market. As of April, Sony’s DHR-1000 DV editing VCR is available in the United States, and it’s bound to turn quite a few heads at all levels of video production.
What it Is
The DHR-1000, simply put, is a digital video editing deck. Though it does come with a 181-channel digital tuner and VCR Plus+ codes for time-shifting of television programming, it’s hard to imagine anyone using this deck as an ordinary home VCR.
On the front side, the unit’s simple metallic face is broken only by a small opening for the tape, a simple backlit LCD display and a handful of analog video and audio inputs and a DV input/output connector. The analog inputs can convert analog video and audio to the DV format. Sony’s solution to the copyright-protection problem that has held back the deck’s release for so long was simply to include a cutting-edge copyright-protection scheme in their DV VCR. When this system recognizes a commercial tape that carries a certain copy-protection flag, it will simply refuse to go into record mode.
What it will do, however, is record (through S-video or RCA-style composite inputs) any and all of your own video footage onto DV tape. It’s also the first device to make use of the full-size 120-minute DV tape. The tape transport accepts both the 60-minute Mini-DV tapes and the full-size 120-minute DV tapes without requiring an adapter. Now we all have a way to create long-lasting, durable digital archives of our precious analog video footage.
Did You Say Perfect?
Once you record video on DV tape, the only way to keep it pristine and pure when you copy it is to keep the information within the digital domain. Copying through the S-video or composite cables (both analog) will introduce generation loss, just as any normal VCR would. But the IEEE 1394 Firewire interface, labeled DV In/Out on Sony’s DV equipment, keeps the signal digital from source to destination.
To make use of this perfect digital copying ability, the DHR-1000’s built-in edit controller offers a 10-scene, cuts-only edit-decision list that will suffice for most simple projects. Through the Control-L interface, the DHR-1000 is capable of carrying Sony’s rewritable consumer time code (RCTC), which allows an editing accuracy of roughly +/- 2 to 3 frames in most cases. Audio and video inserts are also a possibility on the DHR-1000; unlike VHS hi-fi or 8mm AFM audio, the video and audio information is completely separate in the DV realm.
The DV format allows two distinct modes of audio recording: one, a single, extremely high-fidelity 16-bit stereo signal; the other, a pair of high-fidelity 12-bit stereo signals. You can’t use the 16-bit stereo signal for audio dubbing, but you can use one or both 12-bit stereo signals to dub stereo sources–say, the stereo audio output from your camcorder, and a musical stereo audio soundtrack. The specifications of the 16-bit audio mode exceed that of compact disc. The specifications for the two 12-bit audio signals don’t quite match those of compact disc, but their audible quality is nearly indistinguishable from that of CDs and is considerably better than the dubbable audio available on most camcorders and VCRs.
The Wait is Over
As time passes, more and more features will undoubtedly accrue on future DV VCRs; even so, the DHR-1000 covers all of the basics in a quality package. In fact, the only thing that’s really left to do–aside from adding assorted unnecessary bells and whistles, or improving the time code to zero-frame accuracy–is to make it cheaper.
AT835b Shotgun Condenser Microphone
1221 Commerce Drive
Stow, Ohio 44224
Three basic microphone types round out the typical videographer’s audio arsenal: the lavalier or tie-clip mike, the hand-held mike and the shotgun or boom mike. Audio-Technica’s AT835b condenser microphone fits in the latter category, with its highly directional, long-range pickup pattern and slim, elongated lines.
The AT835b’s aluminum barrel is sturdy enough to sit atop even the most unforgiving sound man’s fishpole boom. But don’t let its rugged construction fool you; inside, the AT835b is every bit as sensitive and delicate as a shotgun mike needs to be for professional video use.
Made for Video
The AT835b comes with a battery, a foam windscreen, a durable shock-resistant carrying case and a snap-in clamp for mounting on a standard microphone stand. Available options include the AT8410A shock mount (ideal for boom mounting) and the AT8202 adjustable in-line attenuator (for use with low-impedance equipment).
The AT835b operates on either phantom power supplied by the audio mixer or on AA battery power. The latter feature is handy for videographers, who must often take their equipment into the field where no power is available.
The microphone’s pickup pattern is wider than most hypercardioid mikes–a feature common to many microphones designed for video and film production. Suspended a few feet above the talent, it will clearly pick up the voices of a handful of people on a set or outdoors.
Included in the design of the AT835b is a 180Hz low-frequency filter switch for minimum pickup of wind, mechanical vibration or other sources of unwanted low-frequency noise. For particularly trying audio situations (like extreme wind or loud traffic), this switch will raise the low-frequency drop-off point to 180Hz. Though this will significantly reduce the quality of the microphone’s response, it could come in handy for situations where the videographer cannot control the audio environment of the shoot.
The AT835b was designed for use in a wide range of settings, both indoor and out; for this reason, we tested the microphone both indoors and out, mounted on a boom and sitting stationary on a mike stand, and both through a mixer and directly cabled into the camcorder’s 1/8-inch microphone plug.
Using the mike in these configurations, we immediately noticed the advantages of the lightweight aircraft-grade aluminum barrel. Even when stretched out over the talent in a difficult position on a boom, the AT835b didn’t add significantly to the weight of the pole.
In all situations, the AT835b performed very well, picking up clear, crisp audio up to 10 feet away from the mike. This long-range pickup pattern would be quite useful for nature videographers, on-the-run interviews, sports videography or other situations where long-distance pickup is essential.
The directional characteristics of the AT835b were also well-suited to a wide range of video applications. Sound rejection from the sides and the rear was near total, which is useful in situations where a noisy appliance or a busy street can be oriented to the rear of the microphone’s pickup pattern.
To summarize: the AT835b offers performance and durability for the serious prosumer videographer. It provides a level of quality that’s found in a number of microphones costing several times as much; its battery-powered portability is also a big plus for shooting outdoors or with a smaller crew. Its price is low enough, in fact, that a few very serious hobbyists might even want to consider adding it to their equipment wish lists.
Medalist Pro 2520 ATA-2 Hard Drive
Seagate Technology, Inc.
920 Disc Drive
Scotts Valley, CA 95066
We’ve said it ourselves several times in the pages of Videomaker: the ruling wisdom states that in order to get quality video playback from a PC, you need to think in terms of SCSI (small computer serial interface) hard drives, not the more common IDE (integrated drive electronics, also referred to as ATA) versions.
Now, however, hard drive manufacturers like Seagate are out to prove that the ruling wisdom isn’t always correct. With their Medalist Pro series of hard drives, Seagate claims that you don’t need to pony up for a more expensive SCSI drive to get quality video performance from a PC-based nonlinear setup.
Fast Data is Key
The Medalist Pro 2520 uses the Fast ATA-2 variety of the EIDE (enhanced IDE) standard interface. Without going into too much technical detail, suffice it to say that Fast ATA-2 and EIDE are all but synonymous terms.
EIDE is about three to four times faster than the old IDE standard, and theoretically able to sustain an average data transfer rate of 3-4MB per second. VHS-quality digital video requires a sustained transfer rate of only about 1MB to 1.5MB per second; Seagate claims the Medalist Pro 2520 can sustain an average data transfer rate of 3.5MB per second. On paper, then, the Medalist Pro 2520 should have been able to deliver VHS-quality video at least.
When you get into the murky world of hard drive specs, however, you quickly find that theoretical maximums and the manufacturer’s ratings for minimum data transfer rates rarely apply in the real world–especially when it comes to capturing digital video. The only way to really know if a hard drive will perform adequately for digital video is to actually use it in a nonlinear setup.
We tested the Medalist Pro 2520 on our Benchmarks 133MHz Pentium test computer, which has 32MB of system RAM and a built-in EIDE interface on the motherboard. Setup of this or any other EIDE hard drive is fairly simple for those who aren’t afraid to open up the computer, plug in a cable or two and make the appropriate changes to the BIOS (even simpler if you’re using Windows 95). If you’re not sure about how to do these things properly without damaging your computer, get a friend to help you or consider having your hard drives installed by a professional.
Using the Fast AV Master to capture VHS-quality, 640×480 NTSC video with 16-bit, 44MHz audio should have posed no problems for the Medalist Pro 2520, if Seagate’s ratings for the drive were accurate.
Indeed, the drive did manage to perform captures at 12:1 compression (about 1.2MB/second, considered by many to be a rough equivalent to VHS quality). For five full minutes, the drive recorded decent-looking 24-bit video with fully synchronized, high-quality stereo audio. Unfortunately, it had a hard time doing anything better than this. When cranked up to 9:1 compression, frames began dropping regularly. Individual systems may vary, but ours seemed to peak out for reliable video use at around 10:1 compression.
Good Enough For…
If you’re a home videographer who’s satisfied with VHS quality, and you’d like a way to get into nonlinear editing without shelling out too much cash, the Seagate Medalist Pro series drives can deliver. Many schools, corporate training facilities and other instructional institutions will find them a good alternative to the SCSI solution.
If, however, you’re a prosumer or broadcast videographer who wants to focus on quality, SCSI is probably still your best bet.
It’s nice to know, however, that the bottom line for acceptable digital videomaking keeps getting lower every year–lower both in terms of price and in terms of additional hardware needed. In fact, the Enhanced IDE interface has been so successful in making inroads on SCSI’s traditional markets that the inventor of SCSI–Apple–has decided to start making computers that support the technology.
Next thing you know, they’ll start making Macs that’ll run Windows. (Don’t laugh; it could–and probably will–happen)[update – it did; checkout VirtualPC and SoftWindows for the Mac].
Extreme 3D 2.0
600 Townsend Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Macromedia is a company name that’s become nearly synonymous with multimedia. They’re the people who created Director, an originally Macintosh-based multimedia authoring environment that has captured a huge portion of the CD-ROM “edutainment” developer’s market.
Now, in keeping with their commitment to provide cutting-edge tools for developing creative visions on a home computer, Macromedia has released version 2.0 of their Extreme 3D software product. This powerful package allows you to create, animate, light and otherwise manipulate your own 3D objects and worlds. You can then easily place these creations on a Web page, in a Director movie, on a digital video clip or even onto videotape for impressive-looking titles and graphical presentations.
Because it’s such a powerful program, the interface for Extreme 3D might be slightly intimidating at first. Knowing how to jump in and start making three-dimensional doodles isn’t as simple as pushing a few buttons and seeing immediate results.
The folks at Macromedia, however, have their own ace-in-the-hole when it comes to instructional materials. Included on the Extreme 3D disk is a Director application that simplifies the task of learning how to operate the program. Simply clicking on the Learning Extreme 3D icon located in the CD’s Learning Viewer directory gives you access to over a dozen short instructional video clips that lead you step by step through Extreme 3D’s learning curve. Using the Learning Viewer, it’s a simple matter to locate a specific piece of information and apply it immediately to the Extreme 3D interface.
The Learning Viewer includes short videos that range from simple topics like Navigating, Modeling, Animating and Lighting, on up to the more complicated and esoteric subjects like Metaforms and Particle Systems.
“We tried to make a product for video, multimedia and graphics producers who aren’t familiar with the creation of pro-quality 3D animations,” says Rix Kramlich, Macromedia’s Extreme 3D product manager. “We wanted the interface to be accessible for the non-professional, yet powerful enough to accommodate him or her further on down the line.” One such powerful feature is the use of procedural materials for texture mapping. In a nutshell, “procedural materials” are a way of describing the surface of an object mathematically, instead of pixel-by-pixel, as in a bitmap. When you can describe a surface (such as a marbled finish) as a set of mathematical values, it’s possible to create an infinite variety of possible surfaces, and to zoom in infinitely on a given pattern. Performing similar functions with bitmaps takes a whole lot more time and RAM to achieve.
Incorporated into the design of Extreme 3D 2.0 is the plug-in extensibility that many professional 3D artists have come to expect from a quality graphics-production package. In Macromedia terms, this means that a number of Xtras will be available for plugging into the Extreme 3D interface. Xtras, the company’s name for plug-in extensions, can provide a wide range of new capabilities for existing products. Some Extreme 3D plugins share functionality with other Macromedia software–Freehand, for instance, the company’s powerful 2D drawing software, can make use of a handful of 3D shading and texture map plug-ins, which are also useful in Extreme 3D.
Many have wished for a bridge between those over-simplified 3D software tools that don’t offer much flexibility, and the difficult-to-master professional code that 3D artists use to create commercials and high-end graphics. If you’re such a person, Extreme 3D 2.0 just might be the product for you.
Sony DHR-1000 DV Editing VCR
- Video inputs
- Composite (RCA-style) x2, S-video x2, DV (IEEE 1394 Firewire)
- Video outputs
- Composite (RCA-style) x2, S-video, DV (IEEE 1394 Firewire)
- Audio inputs
- Stereo (RCA-style) x2
- Audio outputs
- Stereo (RCA-style)
- Edit control protocol
- Built-in time base correction, front-panel LCD display, full-size (120 min.) or mini-size (30 or 60 min.) DV tape play/record, stereo audio level controls, stereo audio-level meters, built-in 10-segment assemble editor, jog/shuttle, DV time code, audio dub, 181-channel tuner, VCR Plus+ programming
- Digital copying
- analog inputs
- built-in TBC
- simple built-in editor
- not zero-frame accurate
- The DV deck is here, and it means business
Canon ES3000 Hi8 Camcorder
- 20:1 optical zoom, 40:1 digital zoom, 4-80mm focal length, f/1.6, inner focus, telemacro
- 1/4-inch CCD, 410,000-pixels
- .55-inch color LCD, 113,000 pixels
- TTL auto, Flexizone auto, manual
Maximum shutter speed
- Auto, Flexizone auto, 4 program AE modes (Sports, Portrait, Spotlight, Sand & Snow), manual
- Auto, manual
- Close-up, Art, 16:9, Negative
- AFM Stereo
- S-video, composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio (RCA-style), microphone
- S-video, composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio (RCA-style), headphone
- IR auto edit, Optical image stabilization, user-definable Custom keys (x2), Record Search, Record Review, backlight compensation, titler
- 4.2 (width) by 4.5 (height) by 7.25 (depth) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery)
- 1.75 pounds
Horizontal resolution (camera)
- 400 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback)
- 350 lines
- Pause to Record
- 0.5 seconds
Power-up to Record
- 2.5 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)
1 minute, 30 seconds
- Flexizone AE/AF
- IR Auto-edit for simple cuts-only edits
- Manual exposure
- white balance
- No time code
- A quality camcorder for beginners or pros
Audio-Technica AT835b Shotgun Condenser Microphone
- Physical type
- Pickup pattern
- Line/gradient polar (hypercardioid)
- Frequency response
- 40 to 20,000 Hz
- Battery or phantom
- Low-cut, 180 Hz
- Balanced XLR
- 14.5 (length) by .8 (diameter) inches
- 5.3 oz
- Light weight
- Battery powered
- Quality audio reproduction
Summary A quality microphone for studio interviews, sideline sports and/or nature videos
Seagate Medalist Pro 2520 Fast ATA-2 hard drive
- Enhanced IDE (Fast ATA-2)
- Storage capacity
- Standard 3.5-inch drive bay
- Average data transfer rate
- 3.5MB per second
- Mean time between failures
- 500,000 hours
- Fast spindle speed
- Less expensive than SCSI
- Difficult to surpass VHS-quality digital video
- A sufficient drive for home video and low-end professional use
Macromedia Extreme 3D 2.0
- Easy to learn with included Director instructional movies
- Slightly difficult for beginning 3D artists to master