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Sony CCD-FX730V 8mm Camcorder
Sony Corporation
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
($1100)

Sony continues its line of simple to use FX-model camcorders with the CCD-FX730V. This unit is as easy to operate as past FX family members, and it even looks the same as recent units like the CCD-FX630 that preceded it. This is a family camcorder made easy to use for almost any family member. The unit is ideal for vacations or travel, or even camping. It’s about the same size and weight as past FX models.

The CCD-FX730V comes with a few new twists, the most striking of which is the swing-out 3″ color Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) monitor. This monitor uses an active matrix system with 324 horizontal by 234 vertical pixels, which is just good enough for manual focusing. For more accuracy, you should use the black and white viewfinder.

When the monitor swings out from the left side of the camcorder body, it shuts off the standard B/W viewfinder mounted in the traditional location. Both viewfinders display data–battery strength, tape counter, and so on–but the color monitor must be open and in use to change any of these settings.

The setup menu is the second new twist in the CCD-FX730V. It offers the usual time/date settings but includes several other features, like controls for the built-in video processing amplifier. You use this to control color saturation, hue, depth and shade for the LCD monitor. Oddly, the processing amp has no effect on incoming or outgoing video, only the LCD. This may be of some value while viewing tapes on the LCD, or setting the LCD for proper color rendition, but it is otherwise useless.

One interesting control is the Age/Event button. With this, you can store your child’s present age or the date of a yearly event, and the camcorder will re-calculate and display them whenever you desire, even years later.

The CCD-FX730V has a backlight function which stays engaged until you push the button again. This is handy. Unfortunately, backlight opens the iris sometimes more than 2 stops, making most everything overexpose and ruining the shots. This may have been a problem with the test unit we received, but it still wouldn’t hurt to use the back light switch with caution.

Other interesting features include a two speed, f/1.8, 12 to 1 zoom (5.4-64.8mm); a Control-L jack for editing; a menu-controlled edit switch to assist in maintaining image quality when dubbing or editing; fade to or from black and a built-in speaker (with its own volume control) that only functions during playback. There is little tactile feedback from the control buttons, but the unit responds quickly to commands.

On the down side, there is no digital extension or image stabilization of any kind. The unit also has only one AFM audio track. This makes it impossible to record stereo sound for editing to your videos. The real-time tape counter slips a lot and is quite inaccurate–it will offer little help in editing or rewinding to a specific frame. This counter slippage is common on units without time code.

Working with it
Using the LCD color monitor while shooting is awkward. Although the unit has the usual right hand strap, you’ll find yourself grabbing the monitor with your left hand to help steady the shots.

Overall, the CCD-FX730V is a simple camcorder to use. Everything on this camcorder (including focus, iris, white balance, shutter, and audio level) is automatic. This contributes to the simplicity of the FX730V, but leaves you with no control when you need it.

A remote control comes with the FX730V. It offers control of the basic transport functions of the camcorder both during playback and record. It will also turn the display of counter numbers and battery level on and off, as well as control the zoom lens.

The playback picture looked pretty good on the test unit with approximate resolution of the VCR section reading about 250 lines. The camcorder displayed very accurate color when played back into a test monitor, and only minimal chroma noise showed up when shooting a color bar chart.

The camera section output a horizontal resolution of about 350 lines–average for the format. The image appeared slightly warm (favoring reds) but was very acceptable overall.

Frankly, I liked the CCD-FX730V. It’s easy to carry around and very easy to use. It is capable of producing images for fledgling videomakers that do not look amateurish. The LCD is quite useful in focusing at angles where the standard viewfinder is difficult to see. When set up properly, the LCD helps check color and white balance. When the LCD makes the unit too awkward to hold, you can always fold it away and use the regular viewfinder.

Sony markets the CCD-FX730V as a point-and-shoot camcorder and that’s exactly what it is. If the higher resolution formats are not important to you, and you’re looking for a snapshot video camcorder with overall good performance, you probably won’t go wrong with the CCD-FX730V. Besides, the LCD screen is fun to watch.



Technical Specifications

Sony CCD-FX730V 8mm Camcorder


Format:
8mm
Lens:
Two-speed 12:1 optical zoom, f/1.8, 5.4-64.8mm focal length
Focus:
Auto only
Iris:
Auto with switchable backlight
White Balance:
Auto, no override
Inputs:
External mike, composite video, mono audio
Outputs:
Composite video, mono audio
Edit Protocol:
Control-L
Other Features:
Fade, remote control, diopter control, in-camera battery
charge indicator, processing amp controls and edit mode.
Dimensions:
4 3/4 (width) x 4 3/8 (height) x 10 1/4 (length) inches
Weight:
3 pounds, 2 ounces (with tape and battery)

Video Performance (approx.)
Horizontal Resolution (camera): 350 lines
Horizontal Resolution
(playback): 250 lines

Performance times (30 minute tape)
Pause to record:
10 frames
Power up to record:
6 seconds
Fast forward/rewind:
1 minute, 40 seconds


Magic Box

JVC TM-1400SU Video Monitor
41 Slater Drive
Elmwood Park, NJ 07407
($820)

With the growing market of serious videomakers comes the need for monitors that will not only present accurate colors, but scrutinize the signal for problems as well. Such monitors allow you to “see” your sync stability (important in making copies or dubs). You can more easily adjust the monitor for proper color to see what you have on tape. And you can see the true quality of your recorded images.

Prices of these high quality monitors have dropped recently, putting some of the less expensive units within the price range of many semi-pros and consumers. Quality of the finished product makes or breaks the professional videomaker, so these types of monitors, along with other test equipment, are becoming important tools in their arsenal.

All Business
The TM-1400SU is all business in its square, dark gray cabinet. Cooling slots sit towards the rear on both sides and on top. The unit has plastic handles on the sides to move it around, and at about 35 pounds, these come in handy.

Though heavy, the monitor is compact. The case is not much bigger than the CRT (cathode ray tube) inside. If you don’t plan to move the unit, you can mount it in a standard rack using the RK-150E mount adapter.

The CRT is the heart of the TM-1400SU. It is a 14 inch, data-grade tinted CRT with a very high quality picture. The monitor produces more than 450 lines of horizontal resolution, which is almost double that of a regular TV. The 14 inch screen size is small enough for the monitor to be portable (where A/C power is available), yet large enough to provide comfortable viewing in almost any studio.

All the controls you will ever need are in a little trough under the screen. These include knobs for volume, vertical hold, phase (color hue), chroma level, brightness, and contrast. Nearby push buttons include two for input selection (marked Video-Y/C and Video A & B), as well as Underscan, Pulse Cross, Color Off, Blue Check, and Power. All of these controls are easy to use, and the chroma and phase controls (color and tint) offer a wide latitude of adjustment.

All of the connections are on the rear panel. These include three inputs marked A, B and Y/C. The A input has a looping BNC composite video connector with 75 ohm terminator switch. Input B uses the standard 8-pin VTR connector which has been around for many years. It terminates internally and does not loop through.

The Y/C input incorporates a loop-through 7-pin connector with a 75 ohm switch for termination when needed. These 7 pin connectors (common on professional Y/C equipment) receive Y/C signals from multi-pin camera connectors or S-video gear. Unfortunately, you’ll need to buy an adapter cable ($67) to use this input with a standard 4-pin S-video output.

Below input A is a looped mono audio input. Remember that monitors like this are primarily for video signal use and testing. Audio support is minimal, included simply as a reference for playback at remotes or in a studio. If you’re serious about sound, you’ll have your audio running through a mixer and amp anyway.

X-ray Vision
The Underscan button shrinks the picture slightly, so you can see the normally invisible “sync” portions of the video signal. This allows you to check for instability or other problems. For example, a trained eye knows to look at the lower edge of the vertical blanking bar found at the top of the screen. If it is wavy, shaking or rippling along its edge, you have a “skew” problem (a physical tension problem in your playback or record VCR).

The underscan setting is also useful for making sure your framing is right when shooting, since you can see to the outermost edges of the frame. The monitor’s underscan setting is quite satisfactory for this purpose.

Pulse Cross shifts the image down and to the right, putting the cross between the vertical and horizontal blanking bars smack dab in the middle of the screen. This allows you to check the overall quality of the sync signal.

The Blue Check switch is very useful in adjusting the monitor for proper color. By shutting off all but the blue electron gun, this function allows for quick and easy monitor calibration to color bars. Once your monitor is set up correctly, any flaws in your tape become obvious.

There are two more controls on the rear panel near the connectors. One is the Set Up switch. This cuts the vertical deflection, collapsing the image into a thin white line in the middle of the screen. A technician will then use this line to make several adjustments, including gun alignment. You will probably never need to use this switch.

The other control is an AFC (auto frequency control) switch. This adjusts how the monitor responds to the horizontal sync of a tape. To put it simply, it can stabilize some skew problems while watching a tape on the monitor. It will not correct the tape.

Seeing is Believing
The TM-1400SU is a serious videomaker’s monitor. Its 450 lines of resolution can produce very high picture quality, especially when using S-video signals. Colors are very pure and smooth with little bleed between hues and a minimum of
noise. All of the controls are easy to use and very responsive. The blue screen setting is nice, assuring good color reproduction. The cross pulse mode is rock solid.

The only possible flaw I see may be the single (mono) audio input. The audio speaker in the TM-1400SU is under two inches and the sound quality is poor. But, as mentioned before, audio circuits found in test monitors are for reference only. Serious users will want to send their audio to a dedicated sound system.

You can spend more for a higher resolution monitor, but there’s only so much detail you can use, especially when checking final tapes intended for distribution. When you consider the lower quality of most of the TVs used in playing back your distributed tapes, the resolution of the TM-1400SU should be more than sufficient.

The JVC TM-1400SU is an excellent piece of equipment for the money. It should fit very well into any post production environment, and work well for production signal monitoring. It should also excel as a test bed monitor, and I would not hesitate to use it for any editing purpose.

I’d say the JVC TM-1400SU has all the features and quality most videomakers
will ever need.



Technical Specifications
JVC TM-1400SU 14″ Video Monitor


Format:
NTSC
Video Inputs:
7-Pin S-Video (looped), Composite (x2, looped), one standard
VTR 8-pin plug
Audio Inputs:
Mono (x2, looped)
CRT:
14 inch (diagonal), 90 degree deflection, in-line gun, data-grade
tinted CRT,
tri-dot pitch 0.499 mm
Horizontal Resolution:
More than 450 lines
Screen View Size:
(approx.) : 11 1/4 Horizontal by 8 1/3
vertical inches
Other Features
: Rack mountable (RK-150E kit), Blue Check, Underscan, Cross
Pulse, Color Off, AFC, Set Up, Bridged connections of the composite and the Y/C
inputs
Dimensions:
12 3/4 (height) by 14 (width) by 15 1/2 (depth) inches
Weight:
35 pounds


Simple Titler

JVC JX-T88 Character Generator
JVC
41 Slater Drive
Elmwood, NJ 07407
($450)

Though the JX-T88 character generator is the successor to the earlier JX-T66, the two units share little in common. The JX-T66 was portable, offering battery power and a size smaller than a VHS cassette; the JX-T88 runs only on AC and is about twice as big as the JX-T66.

Clearly, JVC thinks this unit should reside in your editing area, rather than in your equipment bag on the way to some remote shoot. The greater size
has allowed JVC to improve some of the areas where the earlier model was lacking.

Controls and Wiring
The greater size of the JX-T88 allowed JVC to spread out the controls a bit and make the keyboard easier to use.

Though the control layout is easy to understand, all controls are of the plastic-membrane type and offer no resistance or tactile response at all. While typing on the JX-T88, I missed many letters due to the lack of feedback from the keyboard.

To make things worse, any glare or strong light from lamps in your work area makes the controls very difficult to see. You cannot work fast on this unit.

On the plus side, some controls use a tiny LED light to indicate that they are on. This helps a little to compensate for the lack of tactile response.

Ordinarily, the titles from a CG output directly to the recorder. From there, they go to the monitor like you’d expect them to. But the JX-T88 does things a little different–once you’ve recorded your titles, you have to play them back through the CG again before sending them to the monitor. Unless you remember to press the Return button each time, you will think your recorder didn’t work!

Luckily, you can ignore the return output and the monitor output and wire the unit as a pass-through CG if desired. This will make the unit operate in a more “normal” fashion.

Fonts
The JX-T88 retains the single-font style of the JX-T66. You can choose from four different font sizes in upper and lower case. These sizes range from small (11 lines of 24 letters each) to extra large (3 lines of 6 letters each), with two sizes in between.

Oddly, only the top line can be a different size than the others. If you’re using just one or two lines, this is no problem, but the second line and any line after must be the same size.

Unlike the earlier unit which offered only white fonts, the JX-T88 gives you eight colors to choose from for your fonts, letter outlines, or backgrounds. You can choose the color of letters beforehand, or color them after completion. The unit has several tools to assist you in laying out the screen. With the four arrow cursor buttons, you can put colored boxes around lines of letters, and you can move titles around the screen for proper layout after completion. Once you complete a title, you can save it to one of ten memory storage buttons. You can recall saved titles at any time and insert or fade them into or out of any video you like. To protect your saved work, the CG will store titles even after unplugging (for about three days).

The last two storage buttons, nine and ten, are reserved for scrolling titles. You can use these buttons to store scrolls at five different speeds. The top line of the title is always stationary; if you want the entire text to scroll, simply leave this line blank.

When using the small font size, the JX-T88 will store a scroll of up to 40 lines. At larger font sizes, the number of lines available decrease, so if you use this unit, plan your titles with this in mind.

One way that JVC could improve this unit would be to combine the two scroll memories into one and offer 80 lines to scroll. This probably wouldn’t increase the unit’s cost or complexity.

Title Test
The JX-T88 works pretty well. The enclosed manual is easy to follow, so consumers will have no trouble getting the right text into their videos. After learning to use the unit, it actually becomes fun to play with.

But the JVC isn’t without its drawbacks–the lack of response to button touch will befuddle some people at first, especially when they make a mistake and then get way ahead of themselves before realizing it.

Some flicker is noticeable when starting scrolls or inserting video. The flicker is much more evident in darker scenes.

These drawbacks, including the JX-T88’s lack of fonts, will send professional videomakers looking elsewhere. Likewise, consumer videomakers with more money to spend and more sophisticated needs should check out the JX-T88’s competition. But the consumer looking for a simple titler for their home videos can’t go wrong with this unit.



Technical Specifications
JVC JX-T88

Video Inputs: Composite and S-video
Video Outputs:
Composite and S-video
Display modes:
Still, scroll
Text sizes:
Four
Fonts:
One
Color generator:
8 solid colors
Dimensions:
2 13/16 (height) x 12 7/8 (width) x 8 5/16 depth inches
Weight:
5.1 pounds

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