Ever wish for a camcorder that has it all? Maybe that’s asking too much. After all, the perfect camcorder for you might not help me. That’s why we get to choose from among so many models–each one offers a unique combination of features. Still, there are a few features which we find nowhere at all. Wouldn’t you like to see some of these?
Cams for Editing
Searched for a camcorder perfect for editing? You’ll find many camcorders in the 8mm family sporting control-L jacks. This great feature allows you to take control of your camcorder with an edit controller. If you use your camcorder as a deck in editing, control-L gives your controller the power to cue shots. Control-L on a source camcorder also enables pre-roll. You get editing that is reasonably accurate and glitch-free. Nice.
But camcorders from the 8mm family do not offer audio dub capability, and only a few perform reliable video dubbing. That makes replacing only the sound or only the picture very difficult–and that limits editing versatility. 8mm camcorders that record a second, linear, sound track could overcome this limitation. Wouldn’t that be loverly?
On the other hand, camcorders from the VHS family (including the S- and -C varieties) often have audio/video (A/V) dub capability. This helps editing greatly; you can add music or B-roll shots without adding a generation. But guess what. They do not have an agreed-upon edit control protocol. This limits your ability to control VHS-family camcorders accurately with edit controllers.
One company developed a VHS-style equivalent of control-L. We call it the Panasonic 5-pin protocol, after its developer and the style of jack it uses. Like control-L, it allows edit controllers to cue and pre-roll the camcorder or VCR. Just think, a camcorder that allows A/V dubbing and editing control. When it comes to editing, that camcorder nearly would have it all. But manufacturers grace only a small minority of their industrial equipment with the neat 5-pin jack. Only one current camcorder and VCR offer it. No other makers picked it up.
If manufacturers would embrace a standard protocol and put it on all VHS-type camcorders (including the S- and -C varieties), they’d put smiles on the faces of many editing videomakers. By the way, JVC has recently begun using a 9-pin serial edit control jack on some of its industrial decks and controllers. The associated technology allows the user to write CTL time code to the control track of any VHS-type tape. We might well wonder whether any manufacturers will soon offer this jack on consumer camcorders.
Speaking of camcorders that can edit, time code writing would make them even better. A camcorder that can write time code places an unique number–an address–on each frame of video you shoot. Edit controllers that read time code take advantage of this address when you set the in-points and out-points of your edits. They find the exact first and last frames of each shot you select, and do not lose accuracy as you shuttle your tape. Time code comes in various flavors, but try to find a current consumer camcorder that can write any of them. Such models are exceeding rare. Wouldn’t you like to see more?
Sony plans to offer its proprietary recordable consumer time code (RCTC), on all new Hi8 camcorders it sells in the United Kingdom. Why not in the USA?
As we’ve often repeated in these pages, the mikes built into camcorders have limited use. Why not build a camcorder that has, in addition to its on-camera mike, a built-in wireless receiver for an accompanying handheld mike? A switch would select between the on-camera mike and the handheld one.
This would make it very easy for even the beginning videomaker to improve sound. Hand the mike to your talent and shoot. Audio improves 100 percent and you gain a far greater range of acceptable shots. Could be an attractive selling point on, say, one of the easy-to-use auto-everything models….
Okay, it’s your turn. What features would you like to see on camcorders?
Send us your schemes for the perfect camcorder or simply ideas for features you’d like to see. If you’ve got a good hand, you might draw a picture to accompany your description. Send your ideas by paper mail or e-mail. We’ll publish the most interesting letters.
Stephen Muratore is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.