This month:


Hi8 Performer

CCD-TR930 Hi8 Camcorder
($1099)

Sony Electronics
One Sony Drive
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
(800) 222-7669
http://www.sony.com

tech specs

A common complaint among first-time camcorder shoppers is that it’s difficult to sift through all of the marketing hype and settle on those few features that are truly essential for making good home movies. In the race to ensure that you’ll spend your hard-earned dollars on their gear and not someone else’s, manufacturers play up all of their latest, greatest new features while neglecting to mention the lack of basic but important features–features such as manual focus or exposure control, microphone and headphone jacks and good, solid video and audio performance.

One of the latest in a long line of Hi8 camcorder offerings from Sony is the CCD TR930, a mid-priced model with a simple, no-nonsense approach to camcorder design. Though it isn’t without its special features–such as optional Laser Link cable-free playback, Sony’s infoLithium battery system, a handful of picture effects and a color viewfinder that turns itself off when not in use–its key advantage lies in its ability to deliver the basic necessities of quality video production.

Familiar Face

The CCD TR930 looks very similar to many of Sony’s earlier compact Hi8 camcorders. With the right hand inserted into the hand strap, the forefinger controls a variable-speed zoom rocker, while the thumb has easy access to the record/pause button. Most other controls–including manual focus, Steady Shot electronic image stabilization, picture effects, exposure and program AE–are found on the left side of the unit, along with an LCD readout showing tape remaining, counter numbers, battery power and recording speed (SP or LP).

The focus control for the TR930’s 15:1 optical/30:1 digital zoom lens is a small wheel on the left-hand side of the camera body; turning this wheel operates the lens’s inner-focus system. Like most camcorders with color viewfinders, the TR930 is sometimes difficult to focus, especially at wide-angle settings, due to the somewhat low resolution of the tiny LCD monitor. The colors and brightness of the viewfinder, however, are better than most.

Another small wheel on the back of the camcorder controls picture effect, exposure and program autoexposure. To set the exposure, for example, you push the exposure button, then turn the wheel to open or close the iris. This feature–manual iris control–is one of those basic necessities of good video production that we spoke of earlier. All too often, manufacturers leave off the manual controls and try to hide behind some of the flashier features. Three other essential features also present on the TR930 are the microphone input, headphone output and Control-L port. These provide the audio-input, audio-monitoring and edit-control capabilities that many serious hobbyists and prosumers have come to expect in a camcorder.

Not present, however, is any form of time code. If you have an editing system that can add time code onto a Hi8 tape, then this isn’t much of a drawback. However, if you plan to use your Hi8 camcorder as a source deck for editing, this could present some accuracy problems.

Other essential features of the TR930 include the Steady Shot electronic image-stabilization system, the edit-search controls and the built-in lens cover (which only exposes the delicate outer lens when you put the unit into camera mode).

New Tricks

When you turn on the TR930 and put it up to your eye for the first time, you’ll notice something different from most other camcorders: the color LCD viewfinder only turns on when you’re looking at it. Pull it away from your eye, and it immediately shuts itself off to conserve energy.

To help you keep track of how much battery power you have left, the TR930 makes use of Sony’s infoLithium battery system, which provides a readout in the viewfinder showing how much time you have left on your battery. The battery itself is a lithium-ion model that provides over two hours shooting time under normal conditions.

An optional feature of the TR930 is the Laser Link system, which provides cable-free playback from the camcorder to a VCR or television. Here’s how it works: point the front of the camcorder at the optional cordless IR receiver, make sure your TV is in VCR mode, push the Laser Link button on the camcorder, then hit the play button. The camcorder transmits the audio and video signals across the room via infrared pulses to the receiver, which then displays them on the TV screen.


Bottom Line

The TR930 is a good working camcorder that includes most of the basic controls necessary for quality video production. It has no overwhelming new technology to offer, but those few features it does include make shooting video easier and more enjoyable.


Clearly Sharp

VL-E720 8mm Camcorder
($1049)

Sharp Electronics
Sharp Plaza
Mahwah, NJ 07656
(800) 222-7669
http://www.sharp-usa.com

tech specs

The trend in 8mm camcorders these days is affordability–which is a very good thing for consumers who have often thought about getting into home videography, but couldn’t justify the expense. This is true of both the low and the high end of the 8mm-camcorder market. Many top-shelf models that used to cost several hundred dollars more than their competitors have now come down a few notches in price.

A member of the latter category is Sharp’s VL-E720 8mm camcorder, which uses the company’s distinctive ViewCam styling and a full 4 inches of LCD monitor for easy viewing of your shots. Similar to previous ViewCams, the VL-E720 offers easy access to controls, all of which are clearly visible and easy to operate with the right or left thumb while the tape is rolling.

Look Familiar?

Those who aren’t familiar with Sharp’s innovative ViewCam styling might be a little confused when first confronted with the VL-E720. Instead of holding the camcorder up to your eye, you operate a ViewCam by holding it in front of your body, a couple of feet away from your face. The right hand holds a small, vertical lens assembly, while the left hand grips the larger portion of the camcorder, which houses the tape transport and LCD monitor. Between the main body of the camera and the lens assembly is an articulated joint that allows you to rotate the camera section 270 degrees away from the main body’s position. This configuration has several advantages: it makes it easier to hold the camera steady, because the eyepiece isn’t glued to your face the way a traditional camcorder viewfinder is; it allows you to shoot very high- or low-angle shots by simply stretching your arms up or down while still keeping an eye on the image in the LCD monitor; and it lets you set the camcorder down on a flat surface and view your footage without an external monitor. Also included for playback is a small monaural speaker, located on the lower part of the camera section.

On the right-hand camera section are three buttons and a horizontal rocker switch. The three buttons are (from top to bottom) the record start/stop button, the fade button and the power switch, which has settings for VCR or camera operation. Zooming in and out is the main function of the rocker switch, but it also does double-duty as a volume control during playback, and as a manual focus controller when the unit is in manual mode.

On the main body of the camcorder are the standard tape-transport controls–rewind, play, fast forward, etc.–as well as buttons that govern the menu system and the LCD’s on-screen display. The on-screen display itself will differ based on whether the camcorder is in VCR or camera mode. In camera mode, the display shows bright red counter numbers and the record/pause indicator in the upper left, followed by a green Auto/Manual indicator. You can access four separate menu screens along the bottom of the LCD monitor by pressing the menu button below the LCD screen. These menus govern such diverse camera functions as 10-second recording, backlight compensation, gain up, titles, 16:9 recording and others. Also present is a bright green battery-level indicator, which will help you to avoid losing a good shot if the battery starts to run out of juice while you’re taping.

Turn it On

One of the more striking features of the VL-E720 is the bright, clearly lit LCD display, which offers better resolution than previous ViewCam models. This, together with the generous size of the monitor, makes it easier to see your images while you record outside in daylight–a shooting condition that has been one of the ViewCam’s weak points in the past.

On the down side, the VL-E720 lacks three essential connectors that greatly enhance the videomaking process: microphone input, headphone output and edit control (such as Control-L or Control-S).

All in all, the VL-E720 is one of the better-performing 8mm camcorders available on the market today. Its not a camcorder for professionals, but weekend video warriors should be very happy with its user-friendly features and its overall good performance.



Double-barrel Shotgun

CK 69-ULS Condenser Shotgun Microphone
($785)
AKG Acoustics
1525 Alvarado Street
San Leandro, CA 94577
(510) 351-3500

tech specs

Just in case you’re new to Videomaker, and you haven’t yet heard our stance on the importance of good audio in every video production, here it is again: when you’re shooting video, you can’t forget that the sound is at least as important as the image. Few things can ruin an otherwise good video production like a poor sound track. So what’s the first step in getting good, crisp audio to go with the video? Use an external microphone.

A wide variety of external microphones are available for video production at an equally wide range of prices and features. The budget-conscious videographer can get by with a pair of inexpensive lavalier microphones, or perhaps just a good hand-held mike. But another avenue available to the serious videographer who wants an all-purpose solution is the shotgun mike. Though the high-quality models do tend to be a bit more expensive than most other microphone types, a single fishpole-mounted shotgun microphone can replace multiple-microphone setups in some situations.

AKG’s CK 69-ULS is a high-quality, high-priced shotgun microphone that’s designed for film, television and video use. Its highly directional pickup pattern and rugged construction make it a good choice for long-distance pickup at sporting events, staged productions or studio interview settings. The CK 69-ULS also takes the versatility of the shotgun design one step further by making about half of the pickup element–the "capsule"–removable, thus making a whole new microphone with reduced sensitivity and directionality. This fact alone makes the CK 69-ULS less expensive than it seems, because it’s really two microphones in one–a long-barreled shotgun mike for picking up sounds from a distance, or a short-barreled shotgun mike for handheld use or other applications.

Directivity

As stated before, the CK 69-ULS–in its longer configuration–is a highly directional microphone, even when compared to other shotgun mikes. It picks up sounds mainly from a very narrow angle extending outward from the front of the capsule. This makes it very useful for long-distance audio pickup, and for selectively choosing which audio sources to focus on and which to leave out. For example, let’s say you’re shooting an interview near a busy street. A typical omnidirectional microphone will pick up audio from all directions, including sounds of the passing cars and other unwanted noises. A well-placed unidirectional microphone, on the other hand, will focus the audio pickup on the interviewee, leaving the traffic noise well in the background.

Other uses for the CK 69-ULS include sporting events, stage productions, handheld interviews (mainly in the half-size configuration) and fishpole-mounted studio settings. The latter configuration involves the use of an audio assistant to suspend the microphone above the talent with a long pole–commonly called a "fishpole"–effectively reducing the number of microphones necessary in a studio setting to one.

One of the main problems with on-camcorder microphones is the fact that they operate at such a distance from the talent. A good shotgun microphone mounted onto the camcorder, however, can effectively reduce this distance by ejecting unwanted noises coming from the sides. The very tight pickup pattern of the CK 69-ULS makes it an excellent choice for a camcorder-mounted microphone, or for those situations where you can’t place the microphone very close to the talent.

Loud and Clear

In all tests we conducted, sounds produced by the CK 69-ULS were very crisp and true to life. Also, the long-range sensitivity of the microphone was exceptional; picking up a spoken voice from 25 feet away indoors presented no difficulties.

For rejecting unwanted wind noise, the bass rumble of air conditioning machinery or other difficult on-location noises, the low-cut filter of the CK 69-ULS works well, but at a price. Though you can set the low-cut switch on the microphone’s barrel to filter out all frequencies below 150Hz, the resulting audio tends to have a flat quality that lacks warmth.

As stated before, the CK 69-ULS is an extremely directional microphone. More specifically, it has a pickup pattern that’s twice as narrow as the average shotgun mike. As a result, you can place it twice as far away from the sound source while still rejecting the same amount of ambient noise. At times, this makes it too directional for other conventional uses, such as standard handheld interview situations. This is part of the reason why the removable capsule is such a good idea. By providing two microphones in one, AKG turns a highly specialized microphone with limited uses into an all-around performer that works well in a number of situations.

Let’s face it: the CK 69-ULS is no toy. It was designed for professional video and film production, a fact that is clearly reflected in its price (which is equivalent to that of a typical 8mm camcorder). But when you consider the number of situations in which it can be useful, the quality of the sounds it delivers and the number of microphones it could potentially replace, its price might seem a little bit more in reach.



Master of the Game

DV Master FireWire Audio/Video Capture Card
($3995)
Fast Electronic U.S., Inc.
393 Vintage Drive Suite 140
Foster City, CA 94404
(800) 249-FAST
http://www.fastmultimedia.com

tech specs

The Ecstasy of Pure DV

Even though the mainstream home-video market is still ruled by the analog formats such as VHS and 8mm, prosumer videographers just can’t stop talking about the new DV format and what it means to the industry. Since late 1995, when the first DV camcorders hit the shelves, folks have been raving about the superior quality of the picture and the ability to make perfect digital dubs with the IEEE 1394 FireWire connection that exists on some models. In April of this year, the first consumer DV VCR became available in the U.S., and the prospects of prosumer videographers who use the DV format became even brighter.

Still, one of the chief selling points of FireWire-equipped camcorders has been the ease with which you can transfer your digital video information directly onto a computer’s hard drive for nonlinear editing. As a result, early adopters of the new DV technology have been waiting patiently for the next piece of the puzzle to fit into place: an IEEE 1394 FireWire interface for desktop computers.

Now the wait is over. A handful of manufacturers have offered their much-anticipated new DV-interface computer hardware products, each with its own quirks and selling points. Among the manufacturers are Fast Electronic and DPS, both of which have made names for themselves in the desktop-video world with popular and highly effective products in the past. Other companies have also offered FireWire capture boards, but these two have initially risen above the pack as the two most serious options for pure DV editing on a home computer.

That’s why we’ve decided to rev up our Benchmarks test computer (133MHz Pentium, 32MB RAM, wide SCSI hard drive for video capture) and put these two boards–the Fast DV Master and the DPS Spark–through their paces in a side-by-side review. Our goal is to discover the strengths and weaknesses of each, and to discover if there’s room for both products in the emerging world of DV nonlinear editing.

Most videographers who follow desktop-video trends have become quite familiar with Fast Electronic, a company whose past products have included such popular names as the Video Machine computer-based edit controller and the AV Master MJPEG audio/video capture board. Now, the company is using its experience with computer-based video hardware to bring you one of the first complete FireWire-based DV input/output boards, the DV Master. Their goal: to ship a nonlinear editing product that integrates the world of FireWire-equipped DV camcorders and VCRs with analog video formats, like Hi8 and S-VHS.

Unfortunately, things aren’t as simple as just downloading your DV data onto your hard drive and editing away. As the video data come through the FireWire, they’re compressed at a 5:1 ratio using the DV codec (compression/decompression scheme)–which means that once you’ve transferred the video to the hard drive, you’ll need some way to decompress it in order to view clips, render transitions or make your final movie.

Fast’s solution was to include Sony’s DV codec chips–the same ones that exist inside their DV camcorders and VCRs–right on the DV Master board. This allows you to do a number of things with the DV Master that simply isn’t possible without the hardware codec. With the DV Master, for example, it’s possible to digitize your Hi8 or S-VHS videos through the S-Video inputs, in effect recording them onto the hard drive with the DV codec. If you then record the video and audio onto your DV camera or VCR through the FireWire, you’re effectively using the DV Master as a set of analog inputs for DV. This may not seem like much, but if you’re familiar with the typical DV camcorder’s lack of standard analog inputs, you’ll know that this function of the DV Master is one of the only ways in which it’s possible to transfer analog footage onto a DV tape.

In the Box

Included with the DV Master is a breakout box that holds all of the analog video and audio connections available to the board. Inputs include Y/C (S-video), composite video through a special RCA-to-Y/C adapter and a pair of 1/4-inch phone plug jacks for stereo audio. Outputs available are Y/C video, YUV component video, stereo audio through a pair of 1/4-inch phone plugs and a single stereo headphone output–again, through a 1/4-inch phone plug. The use of the phone plug connectors–which are identical to the plugs you’d find on both ends of an electric guitar cable–is curious, though it does provide an easy way to quickly connect and disconnect your cables. For those who would rather use the more standard RCA-style phono plugs, Fast includes a full set of adapters.

On the board itself are three IEEE-1394 FireWire connectors–two external, and one internal. The purpose of the internal connector is to provide a way to install another product that’s new to the nonlinear editing world: a miniature DV tape transport into one of the standard computer drive bays, in effect providing a means to input and output DV footage to the computer regardless of whether or not your camcorder has a FireWire connector. (For more on this exciting product, see the June 1997 issue of Videomaker, page 12.)

The DV Master comes bundled with an impressive array of audio and video editing software. It includes the full version of Adobe Premiere 4.2, and the XP version of Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge audio-manipulation software. For RS-422 control, Fast throws in DiaQuest’s DQ TimeCoder software/hardware package. And finally, CrystalGraphics’ Flying Fonts Lite adds a little 3D titling pizazz to the mix.

In Use

Installing the DV Master into our Benchmarks test-bay computer (133MHz Pentium computer, 4GB Seagate Barracuda capture drive, Adaptec AHA2940 PCI SCSI adapter, 32MB RAM) was relatively simple, requiring only a few trips into the Windows 95 Control Panel to set things right. Ideally, a plug-and-play board should require no trips into the Control Panel, but this is rarely the case with video capture devices. After only about 10 minutes of re-adjustment, we had everything running smoothly.

Once installed, operation of the DV Master board was all but invisible. Adobe Premiere operated in almost exactly the same way it ordinarily would for the purposes of capturing, editing and outputting video projects. The DV Master has one very nice feature not present when using other capture boards. At the bottom of the PCI overlay window, which you use to view clips on the computer monitor as you capture them or view them during the editing process, is a series of standard tape-transport controls. They offer a way to control your DV camcorder or deck from within Premiere. Without requiring an editing protocol such as Control-L, Panasonic 5-pin or RS-422, you can send commands over the FireWire to play, rewind, fast forward, stop or pause your source deck.

Rendering transitions with the DV Master is much less of a chore than you might imagine, due to the presence of Sony’s hardware DV codec, which speeds up the process considerably. A one-minute project with five simple transitions, for example, took only three minutes to render completely.

The DV Master does have a few very minor drawbacks. For one thing, there is no true composite video input on the breakout box. The supplied Y/C-to-composite adapter doesn’t work as well as an ordinary composite input, due to the different nature of the two connectors. And while both YUV-component and Y/C-video outputs are available, you can’t use both at the same time–a minor point, but one which might involve some otherwise unnecessary re-cabling during the editing process.

The price is also a little higher than it needs to be, but this is understandable; the folks at Fast Electronic have produced a product that’s in high demand among prosumer videographers, with features that, at the time of this writing, are truly unique and wonderful. Though we dream of the day when this kind of power, functionality and ease of use are available at a price more people can afford, we applaud Fast for making the DV Master into something that’s all too rare in the desktop video world: a product that does everything it claims it will do, and beautifully.



The Flint-and-Steel Solution

Spark Direct DV Editing System
($995 with Adobe Premiere 4.2; $699 without)
Digital Processing Systems
11 Spiral Drive, Suite 10
Florence, KY 41042
(606) 371-5533
http://www.dps.com

tech specs

In all this discussion of DV camcorders, tapes and VCRs, we often forget that one of the defining elements of the technology–the IEEE 1394 FireWire–is not a video-specific technology; it’s a high-speed serial bus, a fast and convenient way to transfer data from point A to point B.

That’s why DPS, maker of digital video products for prosumer and professional markets, decided to contact Adaptec, a company that specializes in computer interfaces, when it was time to consider solutions for desktop nonlinear editing of DV footage. The product the two companies came up with is the Spark, a combination of Adaptec’s AHA-8940 PCI bus IEEE-1394 host adapter and DPS’s Spark Recorder software. Their goal: to ship a product that delivers on DV’s promise to provide an easy interface between digital videotape and a standard nonlinear-editing platform. Though initially shipped in the Windows NT version, later versions promise to include Windows 95 and Macintosh users as well.

The Hardware

The Adaptec AHA-8940 PCI card has two female FireWire connectors for hooking up your DV camcorder or VCR to the board, as well as a single internal FireWire connector for connecting other FireWire-based devices. If you try to connect your camcorder’s FireWire cable to the card, however, you’ll be in for a surprise: the FireWire jacks on the Adaptec board were made to receive a different type of connector than those found on the typical cable supplied by DV camcorder manufacturers. This means that only the cable that came with the Spark card, and not the one that you may have bought from the camcorder manufacturer, will allow you to cable your DV camcorder or VCR to the Spark.

Installation of the Adaptec card was very simple and straightforward; within five minutes of opening the box, we were ready to start moving video off the DV tape and onto the hard drive. This shows how wise the folks at DPS were to pick Adaptec as their partner in producing the Spark; the company’s long experience in the field of computer hardware becomes apparent when you find that it’s possible to just install the board and forget about it. There were a few driver-related problems in early versions of the Spark, however; owners of the Matrox Millenium graphics accelerator, for example, had problems playing back their video creations, as did those who tried using the Spark with a Pentium motherboard that utilized the 440FX chipset and a Pentium Pro processor. DPS assures us that they will fix these problems for later release of the drivers; by the time this article goes into print, it may have been fixed already. Even so, a large number of early-adopters who were anxious to try the Spark as soon as it shipped were disappointed to discover that they had to wait a few weeks before their new FireWire card would operate properly. This practice is all too common in the fast-paced world of computer hardware. The manufacturers, in their race to bring a product to market ahead of their competitors, release a buggy, sub-standard version of the hardware drivers to the public, long before all of the research and development is completed, with the intention of releasing the fully functional versions of the driver software later.

The Software

Aside from the bundled Adobe 4.2 nonlinear editing package, the Spark software consists of a single item: the Spark Recorder, a simple, straightforward application for transferring clips from the DV camcorder or VCR to the hard drive. The interface is familiar, consisting of a frame counter display, a scroll bar (for "scrubbing" back and forth through a clip), a video monitor output button and a set of standard transport controls for playing back your video clips once they’re on the hard drive. The earlier versions of the Spark Recorder–including our test model–would not control the source deck with these transport controls, but future versions of the software promise to provide this capability.

Editing with the Spark requires moving back and forth between Premiere and the Spark Recorder. First, you transfer your clips to the hard drive; then you edit within Adobe Premiere; and finally, you output the finished production to tape, again with the Spark Recorder. While operating the Spark Recorder, you can view transferred clips or finished productions from the hard drive on a television monitor if you leave the FireWire cabled up to the camcorder or VCR. The reason: Spark has no hardware DV codec; it must use the hardware codec inside the camcorder or VCR to display images on the monitor (through the DV camcorder or VCR’s analog video connection).

Working with DV clips from within Premiere is a little trickier; you can’t preview your edits on an NTSC monitor from within Premiere, only on the computer screen. This means that the speed of your computer’s CPU and graphics accelerator will directly affect the quality of your previews. On our 133MHz test computer, equipped with the Diamond 3D Stealth 2000 graphics card, full-motion playback was limited to a tiny 180×120 window. Another processor-related issue was the time it took to render a short one-minute project with five simple transitions–which came out to about 18 minutes on our test-bay computer. Again, the reason for the relatively long wait is the lack of the hardware DV codec on the Adaptec board.

In short, the Spark will be a good low-budget option for DV editing, once DPS irons out a few bugs in the software. It doesn’t offer anything but IEEE-1394 input and output, and it won’t help you with the task of incorporating your existing analog footage into your DV productions. But it will allow you to edit your DV footage on the hard drive and transfer it, loss-free, back onto the DV tape. For some–especially those who can’t afford to put down $4000 for a FireWire input device–this will be enough to produce high-quality videos on their computers with a minimum of fuss.



Tech Specs

Sony CCD-TR930 Hi8 Camcorder

  • Format
    Hi8
  • Lens
    15:1 optical zoom, 30:1 digital zoom, 4.1-61.5mm focal length, multi-speed power zoom, f/1.4, inner focus, telemacro
  • Image sensor

    1/4-inch CCD, 410,000 pixels

  • Viewfinder

    Color, 113,000-pixel LCD

  • Focus

    Auto, inner manual

  • Maximum shutter speed

    1/4000th of a second

  • Exposure

    Auto, manual, 6 program AE modes (spotlight, soft portrait, sports lesson, beach and ski, sunset and moon, landscape)

  • White balance

    Auto

  • Digital effects

    8 (stretch, slim, mosaic, solarize, black and white, sepia, negative art, pastel)

  • Audio

    AFM stereo

  • Inputs

    Microphone, S-video, composite video, stereo audio

  • Outputs

    Headphones, S-video, composite video, stereo audio, Laser Link (infrared)

  • Edit interface

    Control-L

  • Other features

    Electronic image stabilization, 5-second shooting, stereo microphone, titler, alkaline battery adaptor, fader, 16:9 recording, LCD tape counter display, backlight compensation, edit search, infoLithium battery

  • Dimensions

    4.4 (width) by 4.25 (height) by 7.1 (depth) inches

  • Weight (sans tape and battery)

    1.9 pounds

  • Video Performance (approx.)
    • Horizontal resolution (camera)

      390 lines

    • Horizontal resolution (playback)

      350 lines
  • Performance Times
    • Pause to Record

      0.5 seconds
    • Power-up to Record

      5 seconds

    • Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

      1 minute 15 seconds
  • Strengths
    • Good resolution
    • Manual exposure control
    • Microphone and headphone jacks

  • Weaknesses

    • No time code
  • Summary

    A great performer at a decent price

Tech Specs

Sharp VL-E720 8mm Camcorder

  • Format

    8mm

  • Lens

    16:1 optical zoom, 4.0-64.0mm focal length, multi-speed power zoom, f/1.4, inner focus, telemacro

  • Image sensor

    1/4-inch CCD, 270,000 pixels

  • Viewfinder

    4-inch LCD monitor

  • Focus

    Auto, inner manual

  • Maximum shutter speed

    1/500th of a second

  • Exposure

    Auto, 4 program AE (autoexposure) modes

  • White balance

    Auto

  • Digital effects

    None

  • Audio

    AFM monaural

  • Inputs

    Composite video, mono audio (via 1/8-inch mini phone plug)

  • Outputs

    Composite video, mono audio (via 1/8-inch mini phone plug)

  • Edit interface

    None

  • Other features

    Edit search, index search, fader, titler, backlight compensation, gain up, 16:9 recording, LCD monitor backlight, 10-second recording

  • Dimensions

    7.1 (width) by 4.5 (height) by 3.75 (depth) inches

  • Weight (sans tape and battery)

    1.6 pounds

  • Video Performance (approx.)

    • Horizontal resolution (camera)

      300 lines

    • Horizontal resolution (playback)

      220 lines
  • Performance Times

    • Pause to Record

      1 second

    • Power-up to Record

      5 seconds

    • Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

      1 minute, 20 seconds
  • Strengths

    • Bright, clear LCD monitor
    • Good video and audio performance

  • Weaknesses

    • No edit protocol
    • No microphone or headphone jacks
  • Summary

    These ViewCams keep getting better and better

Tech Specs

AKG CK 69-ULS Microphone

  • Physical type

    Shotgun

  • Transducer

    Condenser

  • Pickup pattern

    Hypercardioid, directional

  • Frequency response

    20 to 18,000 Hz

  • Signal-to-noise ratio

    85 dB

  • Power

    Phantom; battery power via accessory (part number B 18)

  • Filter

    Low-cut, 150Hz

  • Connector

    Balanced XLR

  • Dimensions

    With capsule extension: 12.5 (length) by 0.8 (diameter) inches
    Without capsule extension: 7 (length) by 0.8 (diameter) inches

  • Weight

    With capsule extension: 3.5 ounces
    Without capsule extension: 2.5 ounces

  • Strenghts

    • Excellent long-range pickup
    • Dual-barrel design
  • Weaknesses

    • Expensive
    • Accessory battery pack required for on-location use
  • Summary

    A great multi-purpose microphone for the serious videographer

Tech Specs

Fast DV Master FireWire Capture Card

  • Platform

    PC

  • DV Codec

    Hardware-based (Sony DVBK-1)

  • Bundled software

    Adobe Premiere 4.2 (full version), Sonic Foundry Sound Forge XP, CrystalGraphics Flying Fonts Lite, DiaQuest DQ TimeCoder

  • Inputs

    IEEE 1394 FireWire, S-video, stereo audio

  • Outputs

    IEEE 1394 FireWire, S-Video, YUV component video, stereo audio

  • Minimum System Requirements

    • Motherboard

      PCI local bus

    • Processor

      100MHz Pentium

    • Memory

      16MB RAM

    • Graphics

      24-bit (16 million colors)

    • Hard drive

      SCSI-2; 3.6 MB/second minimum data transfer rate

    • Operating system

      Windows 95
  • Recommended System

    • Processor

      Pentium MMX 166MHz+

    • Memory

      32MB+ RAM

    • Graphics

      DirectDraw support

    • Hard Drive

      4GB+ or RAID array
  • Strengths

    • Hardware DV codec
    • YUV and S-video output
    • Analog video inputs
  • Weaknesses

    • No true composite input
    • YUV and S-video output cannot operate simultaneously
    • Expensive
  • Summary

    An excellent, all-encompassing solution for incorporating both analog and DV footage in your nonlinear editing system

Tech Specs

DPS Spark Direct DV Editing System

  • Platform

    PC

  • DV Codec

    Software-based (DVSoft)

  • Bundled software

    Adobe Premiere 4.2 (full version)

  • Inputs and outputs

    IEEE 1394 FireWire

  • Minimum System Requirements

    • Motherboard

      PCI local bus

    • Processor

      133MHz Pentium

    • Memory

      32MB RAM

    • Graphics

      24-bit (16 million colors)

    • Hard drive

      SCSI-2; 3.6 MB/second minimum data transfer rate

    • Operating system

      Windows NT
  • Recommended System

    • Processor

      Pentium MMX 166MHz+

    • Memory

      64MB+ RAM

    • Hard Drive

      4GB+ or RAID array
  • Strengths

    • Inexpensive
    • Easy to install
  • Weaknesses

    • FireWire only; no analog inputs
    • Buggy in initial release
    • No device control in initial release
  • Summary

    A good FireWire input/output solution for the low-budget nonlinear editor, once they fix all the bugs

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