Sony SV-S7000 Hi8 VCR
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
Sony has taken some heat, in this magazine and others, for being slow to grant certain key features to consumer-level Videomakers. In the case of Hi8, at the top of the “most wanted” list are the capabilities that bring real editing power–time code support and audio dub.
Well, it appears someone has been listening. The new EV-S7000 Hi8 VCR offers both full RC time code support and PCM digital audio dub. It also has an internal TBC, digital noise reduction and an 8-scene edit controller built right in. Sound like a Hi8 editing powerhouse? It is.
Thanks to Sony’s Control-L protocol and RC time code, the EV-S7000 is capable of editing with surprising speed and accuracy. For simple deck-to-deck editing, the Sony will either generate or receive Control-L commands. You can control it, either as source or record deck, from control-L capable edit controllers.
In addition to automatically writing time code while recording, the EV-S7000 will add RCTC to any prerecorded tape. If you use the Sony as a source deck with an external edit controller, you can write time code to older tapes for optimum accuracy.
It’s most convenient to use the EV-S7000 as the record deck, and let it generate the commands. Sony put a nifty little button on the panel, LANC Remote, which allows you to control any LANC device from the EV-S7000.
Pressing this button sends all transport commands down the cable, allowing you to cue up your source to the perfect spot. Press LANC Remote again, and you’re back in control of the EV-S7000. Another plus–you can shuttle around your tape while the Sony is in record/pause mode.
Synchro-editing with an RCTC source delivers consistent accuracy within about 3 frames. I disabled RCTC on my source camcorder and did a few edits. Accuracy slipped to +/- 5 frames. In counter mode, results depend on the quality of the playback unit’s transport.
In assemble edit mode, the EV-S7000 functions as the record deck. You shuttle your source around, picking the in and out points for up to eight scenes. The Sony then cues up and prerolls the source for clean edits. Preroll is as low as 3 seconds on some edits, which makes for a very speedy assembly. Accuracy with RCTC: +/-2 frames; with counter: +/- 5 frames.
Regardless of editing mode, the EV-S7000 consistently impressed me with the smoothness and accuracy of its transport. This unit moves the tape with authority, yet appears gentle enough to avoid excessive dropout. The Sony is nimble when locating scenes as well; visual search modes range from 1/5th speed to a whopping 35x speed. High Speed Rewind zips through a 120-minute tape in about 60 seconds.
Visual search modes stay very clean with the EV-S7000, all the way up to 35x speed. Thanks to the built-in TBC, still frame and 1/5th slow are pristine. You can use these effects in your videos without sync problems.
The 8mm family’s inability to audio dub has been one of its biggest drawbacks for editing. 8mm camcorders and VCRs reserve a section of the tape for digital audio, but this area has gone unused in consumer products. The EV-S7000 reads and writes to this PCM track, allowing for high-quality, stereo audio dubs. What a welcome relief to see an Audio Dub button on a piece of consumer Hi8 gear.
With VHS formats, you can dub only the relatively low-fidelity linear track. The EV-S7000 lets you dub to the digital PCM tracks, which boast outstanding audio performance.
In addition to manual PCM record level and balance controls, the Sony offers a STD Audio Level knob. When monitoring both AFM and PCM channels at playback, this control allows you to adjust the level of the standard AFM audio relative to the PCM. Thus you can add just a touch of natural sound from your camcorder underneath a music or narration dub. Bravo, Sony–this is much better than the VHS-family’s straight linear/hi-fi mix.
I have two minor complaints with the EV-S7000’s audio features. The first lies with its knobs–they’re small, inset and hard to control. If you’re fading or crossfading the audio tracks, you’ll have a hard time pulling off gradual, smooth volume changes.
Second, I could find no way to defeat PCM recording. This is only a problem if you’re editing to the EV-S7000 and plan to overdub an occasional sound. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up with the same audio on both PCM and AFM tracks–mix these together, and the slightly out-of-sync result sounds terrible. To avoid this, you’ll have to remember to turn the PCM input level control all the way down during editing.
Those are the gripes, and here’s a small wish–the EV-S7000 would be an even stronger editing deck if it offered an audible search mode. Common on professional Hi8 decks, this feature allows you to select edit points based on the soundtrack. As it is, the Sony mutes audio output for every speed but standard play.
Here’s a larger wish: video dub capability. Like its 8mm predecessors, the EV-S7000 does not allow this. You can’t lay down the PCM sound track first–say a narration or music track–then go back and drop in your shots. This is where many S-VHS decks still hold an advantage.
Voice boost adds some equalization to the Sony’s stereo output, collapsing it to mono in the process. The end result is a soundtrack with more intelligible voices, especially useful with noisy dialogue from a camcorder.
Stylish To Boot
The EV-S7000 offers more than just great performance. The unit is also one the nicest looking VCRs I’ve seen, with a spartan front panel and small backlit LCD display. The front panel itself has only three buttons, one of which extends the main control panel out from underneath the unit.
The motorized panel slides straight out like a CD transport, revealing the majority of the VCR’s controls and displays. If that isn’t enough to wow you, part of the display shows two spinning circles that mimic the motion of the tape’s supply and takeup reels. Very cool.
The Sony has a jog/shuttle assembly in the middle of the control panel. The jog wheel is odd in that it doesn’t have a dimple for your fingertip. It relies on friction, which works well if you didn’t just finish eating fried chicken. The unit’s large remote control has the same transport control arrangement, with dimple-less jog wheel.
A cable “mouse” attaches to the EV-S7000, emitting infrared codes to change channels on a cable box or decoder. VCR Plus+, eight program memories and one-touch record make this a good VCR for general home use. Index record and search makes it easy to locate any section on the tape.
The only drawback of the Sony’s design is its physical size. This VCR is quite a bit larger than even the average VHS VCR. It’s almost 2 inches wider than your standard 17-inch VCR, which may create a space problem in your edit bay or home entertainment center.
Basic image quality is excellent, and the Sony hands you a lot of control to tweak and twiddle. An on-screen menu has controls for hue, color level, sharpness and Y/C delay. The EV-S7000 will even store one complete video setup for later recall.
TBC and digital noise reduction (DNR) help clean up the signal. The Sony’s DNR offers two settings; even the maximum setting offers very subtle correction most effective in areas of solid color.
Audio quality, as you might guess, is superb. The PCM tracks boast near CD-quality audio, with a frequency response that extends to about 15KHz. Because the PCM tracks are digital, tape noise is nonexistent. Add to this the unit’s respectable stereo AFM tracks, and you have the potential for great sounding videos. The EV-S7000 boasts the best audio support in the consumer realm –sound on even professional S-VHS decks can’t touch the flexibility and quality of the Sony.
In both visual aesthetics and performance, the EV-S7000 sets a new standard for consumer Hi8 VCRs. It’s the first unit to really fulfill the Hi8 Videomaker‘s wish list with RC time code, PCM digital audio, TBC and built-in edit controller. Videomakers with RCTC-capable camcorders are just one control-L cable from a fast, accurate editing system.
The EV-S7000 may be the Hi8 deck you’ve been waiting for.
Sony SV-S7000 Hi8 VCR
Format: Hi8 (8mm compatible)
Audio: Stereo AFM, stereo PCM digital
Video quality controls: Hue, color level, sharpness, Y/C delay
Control protocol: Control-L, control-S
Edit memory: 8 scenes
Other features: Built-in TBC, 2-level digital noise reduction, RCTC read/write, data code read/display, high-speed rewind, voice boost, VCR Plus+ programming, cable mouse, synchro-edit, LANC remote
Inputs: Composite and S-video (x2), stereo audio (x2), external mike
Outputs: Composite and S-video (x2), stereo audio (x2), headphones
Dimensions: 4.5 (height) by 18.5 (width) by 14.5 (depth) inches
Weight: 19 pounds
Hitachi VM-2600A VHS Camcorder
3890 Steve Reynolds Blvd.
Norcross, GA 30093
Though full-size VHS is the oldest of the consumer formats, units continue to sell relatively well. Sure, there are disadvantages to the format: greater size and weight, low-fidelity audio from the linear track and less-than-stellar image quality. But the format’s advantages–full compatibility with home VCRs and low tape costs–win out for many users. Hitachi continues to address the full-size VHS market with its new VM-2600A.
The VM-2600A sports something growing more and more rare on today’s camcorders: an outer-focus lens system. Like the lenses of old, it has a real manual zoom lever, and an honest-to-gosh focus ring. These make snap zooms and fast focusing easy. It’s a good thing the Hitachi has a manual zoom lever–its single-speed power zoom is irritatingly slow.
Digital magnification increases the Hitachi’s healthy 12x optical zoom to 24x. Resolution drops quickly as zoom increases, so you’ll want to use it sparingly. Hitachi had the good sense to not include the virtually worthless 96x zoom setting. Digital zoom speed matches that of the optical–too slow.
The Hitachi’s record trigger is actually in the middle of the zoom rocker. This makes zooming and shooting a three-finger affair, which is a unique system that takes some getting used to.
The Hitachi uses an infrared autofocus scheme in lieu of the more common through-the-lens system. It locks in relatively fast, but tends to shimmy around a bit when low light creates a shallow depth of field. As with any camcorder, the only sure-fire results come from staying in manual focus mode. You can enable momentary autofocus with the push of a button if needed.
Thanks to its lens design, the Hitachi can focus at full zoom on objects just 2-3 feet away. This allows you to fill the viewfinder with small objects without moving in super close. You also can achieve the compressed look of a long focal length with small subjects. Other companies call this macro-zoom; Hitachi doesn’t name this valuable feature.
Shutter speeds up to 1/10,000th allow the unit to stop fast-moving action. In addition to normal iris exposure mode, the VM-2600A offers an auto exposure mode that raises shutter speed as high as the lighting conditions will allow (up to 1/250th).
The VM-2600A has no manual iris control. Instead, the unit has a backlight button which increases overall exposure, and a low light button that increases electrical gain. The latter offers a relatively mild boost in image brightness, with a pretty stiff penalty in noise. Otherwise, the VM-2600’s image is largely noise-free in adequate light.
A two-page alphanumeric titler allows you to overlay text on your video image. The Hitachi’s titler offers no color choices or transitions; you get basic, white titles more suitable for slating important info to tape than wowing an audience.
A self timer/time lapse button allows you to get in on the action, as well as compress lengthy events. The trigger-linked fade works on both audio and video. Unfortunately, there’s no way to execute a fade without starting or stopping recording.
Audio and video dub will take signals either from the camcorder or from the A/V inputs. Unlike many VHS-family units, the Hitachi will stay in the video dub mode for any number of edits. This feature makes for simple, instant music videos.
Just record a favorite song all the way through, rewind to the top and put the camcorder in video dub mode. Listening with headphones, you can then insert short snippets of video in time with the music. Sure beats cuing the tape and entering video dub mode again after every shot.
The built-in mike sits way out front under the lens, picking up very good audio. A wind position reduces the roaring effects of wind, but I found it quite drastic in bass reduction. The resulting sound is thin and edgy. You’re better off waiting until it stops blowing. For situations that demand an external mike, the VM-2600A boasts a mike input jack.
Another nice feature is mike mix. When engaged, mike mix adds audio from the built-in or external microphone to the audio outputs. Thus you can add comments or narration when editing or copying from Hitachi to another VCR. One not-so-nice feature is the unit’s use of proprietary A/V jacks. There are no standard RCA-style jacks on the VM-2600A.
Overall, the Hitachi provides a comfortable shooting experience. The viewfinder extends and rotates through a large range of motion, though supported by a somewhat spindly-looking shaft. Handstrap, zoom rocker and record/pause trigger set up an unstrained hand position.
Though arranged logically, buttons and controls don’t offer much difference in feel. Plan on looking at the camcorder to engage a function. Transport controls, tracking and audio/video dub buttons sit on the upper left side of the unit. This is fine when the camcorder’s sitting on a table, but when shooting handheld your head will get in the way.
Video performance of the VM-2600A is good. Resolution is average, though with good color reproduction. Noise performance is respectable, with little video noise seen even in low light shooting conditions.
Audio quality is very good; the built-in mike picked up little button or motor noise. The only audio problem lies with the mike’s overdone wind setting.
If you’re shopping for a moderately priced full-size VHS camcorder, you should test drive the VM-2600A. It doesn’t offer breathtaking performance, but it remains a good value in full-size units.
Hitachi VM-2600A VHS Camcorder
Lens: 12:1 optical zoom, 6.7-80.4mm focal length
Digital zoom: 24:1
Image sensor: 1/3-inch CCD
Audio: Linear mono
White balance: Continuous auto
Titler: Alphanumeric, 2-page, 2×16 characters per page
Other features: Audio and video fade, mike wind selector, edit search, backlight, low light button, high speed shutter, self timer/time lapse
Inputs: Composite video, mono audio, external mike
Outputs: Composite video, mono audio, earphone
Dimensions: 4.5 (height) by 18.5 (width) by 14.5 (depth) inches
Weight: 19 pounds
Video Performance (approx.): Horizontal resolution (camera) 290 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback): 220 lines
Pause to record: 1 second
Power-up to record: 7 seconds
Fast forward/rewind (120 min. tape): 5 minutes
Sony FXE-100 Video Editor/Switcher
Sony Business and Professional Products Group
3 Paragon Drive
Montvale, NJ 07645
Perhaps it’s a response to the excitement about desktop video edit controllers. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the success of the Panasonic line of digital audio/video mixers. Whatever the motivation, Sony has designed a marvelous little machine that is both an edit controller and a special effects generator. The FXE-100 is a two-bus, three-input switcher/SEG like the Panasonic WJ-MX30, combined in the same housing with a professional-grade A/B roll edit controller.
The switcher section offers a wide variety of wipes including novel heart and star effects and a powerful rotating square transition. Mixes include trendy mosaic, black and white, and posterized effects during the dissolve. It has independently adjustable hue, luminance and chrominance on each bus and a joystick-style color corrector. It also performs both luminance and chroma keying.
The edit controller looks a lot like Sony’s BVE-600, a three-machine controller (two source decks and a record deck) that uses professional RS-422 connectors. But the new FXE-100 offers both RS-422 and RS-232 ports, for use with much lower-cost industrial decks as well as broadcast equipment.
Sony added RS-232 control ports to its popular Hi8 Desktop Editor, the EVO-9700, to work with the FXE-100, renaming it the EVO-9720. It features two transports in a single standard-width chassis, and it can read both RC time code and industrial Hi8 time code. The player side sports a digital drop-out compensator, which eliminates a major weakness of the Hi8 format. When the player encounters a loss of signal from dropout, it substitutes the stored video signal from the same line of the prior field.
The FXE-100 has four audio inputs for each player, two AFM and two PCM. Transitions can have audio follow the video, crossfading as the picture dissolves.
We tested the FXE-100 with the EVO-9720 and EVO-9850. The latter is Sony’s top-of-the-line Hi8 industrial deck with RS-422 control. The results were frame-accurate A/B-roll editing and superb audio. Our only criticism of the FXE-100: it offers the positionable picture-in-picture in just one size.
At a list price $500 less than the BVE-600 edit controller alone, and only $1700 more than a WJ-MX50, this is a very competitive new editing machine. Videomakers could design an analog studio around the FXE-100 with almost any industrial recorders they own today, and use it with future machines–from Hi8 to Sony’s inexpensive new Betacam SP decks.
Sony FXE-100 Video Editor/Switcher
Frame synchronization: Digital field sync (TBC) on each bus
Transition effects: 130 wipe patterns, 8 image mixes, picture in picture, audio follow video
Digital effects: Still (frame/field), strobe, mosaic, posterize, monotone, trails, zoom, multi
A/B-roll edit memory: 99 event EDL, including effects
Edit modes: Assemble, insert (V, A1, A2), 1st edit, A/V split edits
Edit accuracy: +/- 0 frames w/TC, +/1 frame with CTL (RS-422)
Time code support: SMPTE/EBU, Hi8 industrial, RCTC (via 9850, 9720)
Other features: Auto take, dynamic motion control, jog/shuttle wheel, A/X edits, chromakey, luminance key, 25 background/border colors, color correction, hue/luma/chroma level control
Control inputs/outputs: RS-422, RS-232, GPI in, GPI out (x2), EDL list in/out
Video inputs: Composite and S-video (x4)
Video outputs: Composite (x3) and S-video (x2), black burst (x4)
Audio inputs: Stereo (x4), aux audio, mono microphone
Audio outputs: Stereo (x2), monitor
Dimensions: 5.5 (height) by 16.75 (width) by 17.25 (depth) inches
Weight: 16 pounds
Video Performance: Signal-to-noise ratio 53dB
Video bandwidth: 5 MHz +1db/-3dB
Loren Alldrin is Videomaker‘s technical editor. Bob Doyle is a Videomaker contributing editor.