This month:


Smaller is Better

DCR-PC7 Mini DV Camcorder
($3199)
Sony
One Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
http://www.sony.com

The trend of miniaturization is certainly nothing new to the consumer camcorder marketplace. Even while Videomaker was busy publishing its first issue over a decade ago, consumer electronics firms were trying very hard to make their products smaller, lighter and easier to tote around.

Now, the tiniest tape format of them all–DV–offers unparalleled opportunities for miniaturization, and Sony has taken advantage of these realities to produce the DCR-PC7. Latest in a long line of “world’s smallest” camcorders, the DCR-PC7 is an attempt to provide what was hitherto impossible: a truly pocket-sized unit with most of the bells and whistles that consumers look for in a camcorder. With 120:1 digital zoom, 400 lines of resolution, a lithium-ion battery, Super SteadyShot image stabilization, DV input/output and a 2.5-inch flip-out LCD monitor, the DCR-PC7 delivers features and performance that would give most full-size camcorders a run for their money.

Passport to Quality

The DCR-PC7 has a very distinctive look and feel. Modeled in familiar gunmetal gray and anodized
silver tones, its metal and plastic casing feels solid and sturdy in the hand.

A permanently fixed hand strap on the right side of the unit adjusts to secure the camcorder to your
palm while shooting. In this position, the thumb can easily access the four-position Power/Record switch,
which includes settings for VTR mode, Camera mode, Photo mode and Off. Manipulating the power
switch isn’t as easy as it could be–toggling the various positions with your thumb takes a little bit of
practice, and sometimes requires the assistance of the left hand.

Below the Power/Record toggle is a tiny Start/Stop Mode switch. This switch selects one of three
different modes for the Record button: one selects the traditional push-once-to-record, push-again-to-stop
mode; another sets the camera to record only while the button is depressed; a third enables the recording of
video in 5-second intervals.

Two other controls found on the rear of the unit are the AE Lock and Fader buttons. The former is
useful for controlling exposure, while the latter is the standard triggered fader found on many consumer
models. (Push it before you hit record, and the image fades up from black when you start shooting; push it
while the tape is rolling, and the image fades out when you stop recording.) These buttons are located in a
somewhat awkward place on the camcorder body, where accidental triggering of their effects is all too
easy. Actually, it’s hard to imagine where else you might put them on such a small camera body.

Opening the 2.5-inch LCD monitor reveals a small speaker for audio playback and an array of
membrane-type pushbutton controls for Volume, LCD Brightness, Display on/off, Menu controls and End
Search. The latter function, End Search, is a handy way to locate the last bit of recorded material on the
tape, thus avoiding loss of previously recorded material by accidentally taping over it.

When the unit is in Camera mode, the Menu controls offer easy access to the DCR-PC7’s Autoexposure
(Auto, Sports, Sunset/moon, Landscape), White Balance (Auto, Hold, Indoor, Outdoor), Digital Zoom
(on/off), Super SteadyShot (on/off), Record Mode (SP/LP) and other camcorder functions.

In VTR mode, the menu controls include Audio Mixing (for balancing left and right channels recorded
from the DCR-PC7’s stereo microphone), LCD Color (saturation) and Data Code (for displaying the day of
the year and/or various camcorder functions on playback, such as Time Code or Record mode).

The lens controls found on the right-hand side of the camcorder include a simple variable-speed zoom
slider and a button that toggles between Automatic, Manual and Infinity focus settings. In Manual mode,
focusing is accomplished by turning the focus ring on the front of the camcorder–a nice, simple feature
that too many camcorder manufacturers have replaced with push-button focus systems.

Outputs on the camcorder body include an S-video connector and a 1/8-inch stereo phone plug
headphone jack. This tiny connector also does double-duty as a composite video and stereo audio (RCA-
style) output when you plug in the supplied proprietary A/V cable. Control-L and microphone connectors
are also available, but only if you purchase an optional VMC-LM7 accessory ($50) that attaches to the
bottom of the unit.

Though the DCR-PC7 has no analog inputs, it does have that one little connector that separates Sony’s
DV camcorders from all others currently available: a DV in/out jack. This allows lossless digital dubbing to
or from another Sony DV Handycam, or even onto and off of a hard drive or RAID in an IEEE-1394-
equipped DTV editing system.

Image is Everything

Images shot on the DCR-PC7 looked sharp and richly detailed, with only minimal color bleed.
Playing back through the proprietary A/V connector introduced some noise, causing sharp edges to crawl
and resolution to suffer a bit–not a great surprise for a system that sends composite video and stereo audio
through a tiny mini-plug connector. S-video playback, however, provides images that surpass most
anything a single-chip Hi8 or S-VHS unit can deliver.

All in all, the DCR-PC7 is a compact technological marvel, suitable for almost any video application
from home or event videography on up to broadcast-level work. It’s already seen plenty of use in the fields
of surveillance and ENG (Electronic News Gathering); it’s also found its way into plenty of the Christmas
stockings of the well-to-do. Someday, perhaps, we’ll see a version of this camcorder with a price tag that
the rest of us can afford.

Tech Specs

Sony DCR-PC7 Mini DV Camcorder

Format: Mini DV
Lens: 10:1 optical zoom, 4-40mm focal length, 120:1 digital zoom, continuously variable zoom
control, f/1.8, inner focus, wide macro
Image sensor : 0.33-inch, 680,000-pixel CCD
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch color LCD; 2.5-inch flip-out LCD monitor
Focus: TTL auto, manual, infinity
Maximum shutter speed: 1/4000th of a second
Exposure: Auto, 4 program AE modes, AE Lock
White balance: Auto, hold, interior, exterior
Digital effects: None
Audio: 12-bit PCM stereo
Inputs: DV, microphone (1/8-inch mini; optional)
Outputs: DV, S-video, composite video and stereo audio (via 1/8-inch mini plug)
Edit interface: Control-L (optional)
Other features: LP recording, End Search, DV time code, Super SteadyShot image stabilization,
5-second record, InfoLithium battery readout (accurate to 1 minute), audio dub, built-in speaker
Dimensions: 1.75 (width) by 4.25 (height) by 2.25 (depth) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery): 6.7 oz.

Video Performance (approx.)
Horizontal resolution (camera): 400 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback): 400 lines

Performance Times
Pause to Record: .5 seconds
Power-up to Record: 3 seconds
Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape): 50 seconds

Strengths:

  • Compact design
  • Excellent image quality
  • Manual focus ring

Weaknesses:

  • No manual iris control
  • Accessory needed for Control-L and/or microphone jack
  • Expensive

Summary

Just the ticket for travelers, executives, private investigators and anyone else who wants both small size and excellent picture quality.


One Thousand More

Titlemaker 3000
($799)
Videonics, Inc.
1370 Dell Avenue
Campbell, CA 95008

Since deciding to explore the budding market of consumer-level video editing back in the late 1980’s,
Videonics has become a brand name that’s nearly synonymous with prosumer video. The product that
brought the company brand-name recognition was the Titlemaker, a stand-alone black box that gave people
the power to create their own titles for less money than they paid for their camcorder. With its ease of use
and relatively low cost, the Titlemaker (and its more recent upgrade, the Titlemaker 2000) actually helped
to create the prosumer revolution–a movement that has profoundly changed the consumer camcorder
market for the better.

Now, Videonics has released another upgrade to this award-winning line of products, the Titlemaker
3000. With more fonts, more options and a full-size keyboard for easier typing, the Titlemaker 3000 aims
to please a whole new generation of video editors.

Similar, but Not The Same

If you’re familiar with the Titlemaker 2000, you’ll notice one crucial difference between the earlier model
and the new unit at a single glance: on the 3000, the keyboard is separate from the body of the titler,
connected only by a slim cable. What’s more, the keyboard of the latest model is one that you can actually
type on at a decent rate, similar to a typewriter or computer keyboard. The poor quality of the keyboard has
been a consistent flaw of most low-cost titlers, and Videonics is to be commended for remedying the
situation.

The Titlemaker 3000 offers a simple user interface that’s nearly identical to that of its predecessor–
which means that even beginners will have no trouble getting the machine to perform within about five
minutes of turning it on and opening the manual. The first thing you see when you hit the Power switch is
the Editing Screen, where a blinking cursor and a handful of icons help you in the creation of your first
titles. The icons across the top of the page indicate Project number, Page number, a summary of selected
transitions for the title (both incoming and outgoing) and the length of time the title is to be displayed on
the screen.

Directions for how to operate most functions of the titler are present right on the keyboard. Playing the
titles, for example, is as simple as pressing the button marked Play. Fonts, Backgrounds, Transitions,
Projects and other functions are similarly labeled for clarity and ease of use.

The Titlemaker 3000 offers 51 fonts–quite an improvement over the 2000’s 23 choices. What’s more,
the fonts available on the 3000 include a wider range of basic, readable designs than those found on the
earlier model.

The back panel of the Titlemaker 3000 includes inputs and outputs for composite video, S-video and
stereo audio. (The audio inputs and outputs are merely a convenience for easy cabling; audio signals pass
through the unit untouched.) Also included is an output jack for a preview monitor, which allows you to
preview your titles before you record them to tape. Finally, an input for a GPI (General Purpose Interface)
trigger allows automatic operation of the Titlemaker 3000 with an edit controller (such as the Videonics
AB-1 Edit Suite, the FutureVideo 3300 or any other system that utilizes a GPI trigger).

One Step Beyond

Fans of the Titlemaker and Titlemaker 2000 will find that the new unit performs at least as well as its
predecessors, and often a little bit better. Resolution of the titles is crisp and clear, even when the size of
the lettering is quite small. Some color/background combinations might bleed or crawl a bit, but such
things are normal in this price range (and, with some extreme color combinations, at any price point).

So what’s the bottom line? If you’re an event videographer or even a weekend hobbyist who wants an
inexpensive way to add titles to your productions, the Titlemaker 3000 is an excellent choice. Like its
predecessors, it stands far ahead of the pack within the category of prosumer video titlers, offering quality
and affordability in a compact, attractive package.

Tech Specs

Videonics Titlemaker 3000

Fonts

51

Font styles

36

Font sizes

4

Special character features

Bold, outline, shadow, spacing, color, boxes, lines, special and
foreign characters

Colors

1 million+

Background patterns

32

Display modes

Scroll, crawl (8 speeds)

Transitions

Cut, fade, slide, 18 wipe patterns

Title memory

16,000+ characters

Resolution

720 by 480 pixels (70 nanosecond)

Inputs

S-video, composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio, GPI trigger

Outputs

S-video, composite video (RCA-style), stereo audio, preview

Dimensions

12 (width) by 4 (height) by 9.5 (depth) inches

Weight

3 pounds

Strengths

Easy to use, Good resolution

Weaknesses

Backgrounds tend to crawl

Summary

A step above its award-winning predecessor


Wireless on a Budget

WR22-PRO 2-Channel VHF Wireless Receiver
($280)
Azden Corporation
147 New Hyde Park Road
Franklin Square, NY 11010

Videomaker has long advocated the use of wireless microphones in video production, due in part to the convenience and increased mobility afforded by cable-free operation. The low-budget videographer, however, is often disappointed by the high price of professional-quality wireless systems, which can cost nearly as much as a new Hi8 camcorder.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. Azden’s WR22-PRO is a discrete 2-channel VHF wireless receiver
that operates with any of their PRO-series wireless microphones. With this receiver, videographers can set
up their camcorder to receive sound from two wireless microphones simultaneously, and even record the
output in stereo (if your camcorder supports it).

Many professional videographers, however, might warn against using low-end receivers like this one for
serious video production. In order to assess whether this is the product for you, let’s examine the potential
claims of these professionals in a little more detail, and see whether the WR22-PRO fits your particular
audio needs.

The Basics

The WR22-PRO mounts directly on your camcorder in one of two ways: on the camcorder’s shoe mount
(if it has one), or with the supplied Velcro adhesive strips. In either case, once it’s securely mounted, all
you have to do is attach the receiver’s output to your camcorder’s microphone input, and you’re ready to
go.

The WR22-PRO receives on VHF frequencies 169.445MHz and 170.245MHz. This is perhaps the first
point that the above-mentioned videographers would warn us about: transmission in the VHF (very high
frequency) range. The professional might note that only mikes in the UHF (ultra high frequency) range
qualify for professional use, due to their increased performance. While it’s true that UHF mikes will
perform better than their VHF brethren, the frequencies used by the WR22-PRO are sufficient for most
purposes. In fact, they’re better than some other consumer-level wireless systems, which operate down in
the sub-VHF (49MHz) range.

The Nitty Gritty

While the WR22-PRO does operate on two discrete frequencies for two-channel operation, it isn’t a true-
diversity receiver (nor does it claim to be). A true-diversity design (such as Azden’s WDR-PRO, tested in
the August 1996 issue of Videomaker) incorporates two separate receivers, both of which
operate on the same frequency. A diversity circuit monitors the signal coming from the
microphone/transmitter and silently switches to the receiver (A or B) with the strongest signal. This is a
tried-and-true solution to the problem of audio dropouts caused by interference and other forms of RF
signal loss; it’s also the second caveat that our professional videographer might issue about the
WR22-PRO.

Does this mean that the WR22-PRO has no place in the serious videographer’s audio arsenal? No. It
might provide a decent-quality backup unit for use in wide, open spaces where there’s little chance of
dropout caused by interference. Its superior outdoor range (250+ feet) will prove useful in shooting nature
videos or other types of outdoor images. It should also work well indoors in a tightly controlled studio
setting, where you can isolate and control problems with audio dropouts. Problematic situations might
include any setting where large amounts of people are milling around, and/or the audio you’re after is a
once-in-a-lifetime, no-second-chance soundbite (a wedding, for example, or a public speech).

In short, the WR22-PRO is a good solution for videographers who want quality audio, but can’t afford a
true-diversity system.

Tech Specs

Azden WR22-PRO Wireless Microphone Receiver

System

Discrete 2-channel VHF receiver

Frequency

169.445 or 170.225 MHz

Output

Stereo or mono audio (1/8-inch mini phone plug)

Compatibility

All Azden PRO-series wireless microphones

Power

9V or AC

Camera mount

Shoe or velcro (supplied)

Outdoor range

250+ feet

Strengths

Low cost, Excellent range

Weaknesses

Not a true-diversity system

Summary

A good solution for videographers who want quality audio, but can’t afford a true-diversity system.


Crossing the Line

Casablanca
(2GB:$3995)
(4GB:$4695)
(9GB:$5695)
DraCo Systems
3380 Mitchell Lane, Ste. 102
Boulder, CO 80301
http://macrosystem.us/

Nonlinear editing–the ability to cut and paste video and sound clips on a hard drive rather than recording them from VCR to VCR–has, as a rule, always required the use of a computer. This means that in order to build and use a nonlinear editing system, the videographer must learn to cope with the intersection of two different lines of product development. The computer, with its constant operating system upgrades, quirky hardware configurations, incessant RAM demands and general tendency to crash whenever possible must communicate with the stand-alone consumer electronics device–the camcorder, the VCR, etc., each of which has quirks of its own.

Enter DraCo Systems, a European company that has its roots in the Amiga-based nonlinear business.
The engineers at DraCo wondered whether it would be possible to remove the stand-alone computer from
the nonlinear puzzle and produce a low-cost, VCR-style nonlinear editing appliance. Their goal was to
produce a device that required only the use of an electrical socket, a camcorder or VCR and a handful of
cables to operate.

The product of their wonderings is the Casablanca, the world’s first consumer-priced stand-alone
nonlinear editor. Unlike computer add-on boards it’s a complete “turnkey” system: nothing to install, no
IRQ conflicts to solve. Just plug it into the wall, your camcorder and a monitor and start editing.

Random Access VCR

The size, weight, styling and all-around look and feel of the Casablanca are very similar to that of a
common household VCR. It isn’t difficult to imagine its case sitting in a home entertainment console near
the family VHS unit.

When you compare the Casablanca’s connections to your standard VHS VCR, however, you’ll
immediately notice a few differences. The only analog A/V inputs and outputs are S-video and stereo audio
(no composite video). Other connectors on the back of the unit include a SCSI-2 port, a standard keyboard
connector and a standard serial mouse port. The trackball provided with the Casablanca is all you need to
operate every feature of the unit. But if you want to use a keyboard for easier titling, the connector gives
you a way to provide your own.

The front of the Casablanca is even simpler than the back. In the upper-left corner of the front panel is
the on/off switch; below this, a small door opens to reveal an extra set of S-video and stereo audio inputs.
Flipping down the entire front panel reveals the SCSI-2 hard drive bay and a 3.5-inch floppy drive, which
will be used for future upgrades of the Casablanca software.

Menu, Please

When you turn it on, the Casablanca takes you straight to the Main Menu, where 11 options await the click
of the left trackball button. These options are separated into four groups–one for system settings; one for
recording and editing; one for transitions, titles and special effects; and one for audio. All are placed within
the group in the specific order in which they should be performed. The record/edit group, for example, lists
Record, Edit and Finish, indicating that you should first digitize your clips, then edit them, then send them
out to tape. Similarly, the pair of buttons in the audio group indicate that you should first record your
audio, then modify it with the Audio Mix/Dub button.

You edit video through a story board-type interface. This allows you to place still frames representing
your various clips onto a single bar representing your edited movie. This looks and feels different from the
multi-roll timeline interface used in nonlinear editing software like Adobe Premiere; still, it’s easy to
learn.

All this adds up to a graphical interface that’s very intuitive and easy to use, especially if you’re already
an experienced computer user or video editor.

Output and Render Times

To test the Casablanca, we digitized seven short clips and threw in four complicated 3D transitions and a
handful of titles. The quality of the clips was roughly in the upper S-VHS range, and the 3D transitions
were hand-picked for difficulty (a page turn, a flying slab, a picture-in-picture and a spinning vortex). To
make a comparison with a more common nonlinear setup: on a Windows-based, 32-bit, Pentium-class
nonlinear system with 32MB of RAM and no hardware acceleration for the transitions, you’d expect to
spend at least the better part of an hour rendering such a work; the Casablanca finished the job in about
seven minutes. The quality of both the digitized video and the rendered transitions was good enough for
broadcast or professional use.

To summarize: the Casablanca isn’t just a new kind of editing device. It’s the future of low-end video
editing, and the closest thing to a real toaster the video world has yet seen. If you’ve been thinking of
setting up a nonlinear system, but haven’t been too enthusiastic about wrangling the hardware, think about
the Casablanca as a serious option.

Tech Specs

DraCo Systems Casablanca Nonlinear Editor

Platform

Stand-alone

Video inputs and outputs

S-video

Audio inputs and outputs

Stereo, RCA-style

Recording method

2GB, 4GB or 9GB SCSI-2 hard disk

Maximum data rate

3.5 MB/sec (BetacamSP-quality)

Transition types

17

Image filters

19

Motion effects

Slow, Quick, Backward, Still, Stutter

Strengths

Excellent image quality, Low render times, Easy to use

Weaknesses

No composite video input/output

Summary

Nonlinear power in one box–awesome!


Take the L Train

L-Port 422
($495)
TAO Media Systems
501 West 5th Street
Rolla, MO 65401

Prosumer videographers, as their name implies, often find themselves with a mixture of both professional
and consumer gear. As a result, incompatibility issues often arise when these same prosumers try to use
two or more pieces of equipment in an editing system.

In the L-Port 422, TAO Systems offers a solution to the problem of connecting professional decks and
controllers to consumer devices. By translating RS-422A commands into Control-L (LANC), the L-Port
422 is an inexpensive solution to many protocol-compatibility crises.

Do You Speak 422?

The back panel of the L-Port 422 has only two connectors–one for LANC and one for RS-422. The
supplied high-quality LANC cable is the only other piece of hardware that comes in the box. Because the
L-Port 422 gets its power from the Control-L connection, you won’t even find an AC power connector on
it. The unit doesn’t require any specialized software to operate, so the only setup required involves the
connection of the two machine control cables.

On the front of the unit are four indicator lights for Power, Data, Sync and TC (Time Code). These light
up at appropriate times to indicate whether a given function of the L-Port 422 is in operation (or, in the
case of the Sync indicator, to show whether a reliable protocol connection has been established).

Once it’s in place, the L-Port 422 will respond with a device ID similar to that of a Sony BVU-900.
From that point on, the unit will translate all commands from RS-422A into Control-L.

Applications


The translation between the two protocols only happens in one direction–from RS-422A to LANC.
Also, the only side you can use it on in your editing setup is the player side; record-side LANC commands
are not supported.

Potential buyers of the L-Port 422 should also be aware that while it’s designed to operate with the
widest possible range of equipment, some tweaking might be necessary to get it to work with your gear. If,
for example, the power adaptor for your Control-L device isn’t rated at DC 9V 500ma, the L-Port 422
could produce random control errors. Purchasing a power adaptor with the correct power rating is
necessary to cure the problem.

These factors certainly limit the functionality of the L-Port 422. Also, the price is pretty steep; we’d
have expected a protocol convertor to sell for less than $100. Still, it should be able to find a home in a
number of computer-based and traditional analog setups that support the RS-422A protocol. Some
nonlinear editing programs (such as Adobe’s Premiere and In:Sync’s Razor Mach III) can be configured
for batch capture via the computer’s serial port; likewise, certain logging programs utilize RS-422A control
to perform their functions. In these and other situations, the L-Port 422 would provide an excellent way to
use a Control-L device in place of a standard professional VTR.

Tech Specs

TAO Systems L-Port 422 Protocol Convertor

Input

RS-422A

Output

Control-L (LANC)

Indicators

Power, Data, Sync, TC (Time Code)

Power

Supplied via Control-L cable

Strengths

Easy setup

Weaknesses

Not compatible with all setups, Very expensive

Summary

A handy tool for those who need it, but the price isn’t even in the ballpark for most prosumers.

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