This month:

Digital Movies, Digital Stills

Optura Mini DV Camcorder

($2699)

Canon USA

One Canon Plaza

Lake Success, NY 10042-1113

(800) 828-4040

http://www.canon.com

tech specs

The problem of which camera to bring with you on vacation–camcorder or 35mm SLR (single lens reflex)–has just taken a giant step toward being solved forever. Canon’s new Optura Mini DV camcorder clearly illustrates the point that once you’re in the digital realm, the concepts of paper-based still photography and tape-based digital videography become a little blurry around the edges. What we end up with is digital imaging as a broad category, and the potential for consumer imaging products to cross traditional product lines.

Of course, there have been many camcorders in the past that incorporated digital still-image capture capabilities. Problem is, these camcorders didn’t record a high-quality still image when you compared the results to a traditional 35mm film camera. Also, they offered no easy way to get the images out of the camera and onto paper. Neither did they give you any of the traditional control features you’d expect to find on the simplest consumer SLR–like aperture or shutter-speed priority when setting exposure levels. With the Optura, Canon seeks to change all of that, and offer a true hybrid of the SLR film camera and the home camcorder.

First Looks

The Optura looks very much like a cross between a 35mm still camera and a camcorder. You hold it in your hands and hang it around your neck like you would a typical still camera; it even has a flash mount located directly above the lens, but that’s where the similarity with most cameras ends. Instead of a roll of film, the Optura has a Mini DV tape transport buried inside its small body. Instead of a tiny peephole, it has both an external 2-inch LCD monitor and a typical camcorder-style color viewfinder. And hidden under a bevy of tiny trap doors and secret entrances are the controls and connections you’d expect to find on a camcorder: S-video, composite video, stereo audio, Control-L, microphone and headphone jacks, even DV In/Out (IEEE 1394 FireWire).

It’s easy to figure out how to operate the Optura the first time you pick it up. A power selector switch on the left side places the unit in Camera or VCR mode with a simple sliding action, and an easy-to-locate dial on top of the camera body selects Photo or Movie mode; inside this switch, a button with a clearly marked red circle is easy to identify as the Record button.

A rotating wheel on the left side of the camera controls the unit’s exposure settings, which include pre-programmed modes for Spotlight and Sand & Snow. Also present are the Tv (time value) and Av (aperture value) settings, which allow you to either freeze the iris setting in place and manipulate the shutter speed (Tv) or freeze the shutter speed in place and manipulate the iris (Av) when setting exposure levels. This allows for a great deal of precise control over the camera’s ability to freeze rapid motion and/or manipulate the depth of field in a composition.

On top of the Optura sits a small metallic mount with five pins in the center. Videographers will correctly recognize it as a non-powered accessory shoe that’s capable of holding a microphone, light or other attachment in place while shooting. Still photographers, on the other hand, may think that it looks more like a flash mountand they’d be absolutely right, too. With one of Canon’s Speedlight flashes (model 220EX or 380EX), you can coordinate the Optura’s still-image capture capabilities with the operation of the flash, much the same way you would for a typical SLR.

The Optura operates in three different modes, called Photo, Movie and Progressive Scan. In Photo mode, the Optura records approximately six seconds of a still image onto tape, along with audio recorded simultaneously by the built-in mike (or by an external microphone). In Movie mode, you can use the Optura to record the usual high-quality video with synchronized stereo audio typical of most Mini DV camcorders. In Progressive Scan mode, you can flip through a video sequence frame by frame, freezing each image as a high-quality still image, suitable for output to a computer or video printing facility.

Why do they call it Progressive Scan mode? Because of the way in which the Optura’s 1/3-inch CCD records the image. Ordinarily, a camcorder’s CCD records in interlaced mode, gathering only half of the horizontal lines in the image at a time. The Optura’s CCD, however, records all of the horizontal lines at once, top to bottom; this is called a Progressive Scan, and it has some advantages for producing high-quality digital still images.

Because the Progressive Scan mode operates in Movie mode, what you have with the Optura is a digital camera that records 30 high-quality still frames per second, each of which can be individually accessed and downloaded onto a computer for printing, placement on a WWW page, e-mailing, etc.

Overall, the camcorder section of the Optura performs very well, capturing high-quality images that are rich in color and detail. The Optura isn’t, however, the digital version of the L2 that everyone has been waiting for; most of the features that made the L2 popularsuch as interchangable lenses and independent audio level controlsare missing on the Optura. Also missing is any way to record analog audio or video onto DV tape from external sources (a problem with most DV camcorders on the market today). Some of the automatic systems, such as exposure and focus, responded slowly to changing conditions. This is Canon’s first shot at the DV camcorder market, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that the Optura has left some room for improvement in future models.

Pictures on Paper

Once you’ve recorded dozens of movies and still images, you’ll want a way to transfer your digital files to a computer. This is the reason for the DV In/Out (IEEE 1394 FireWire) port. If your computer has a FireWire serial interface card and a suitable hard drive, you’ll be able to transfer all of those high-quality still images and movie files into the purely digital realm for cutting, pasting, nonlinear editing, etc. Canon has announced that it will offer a package deal that includes a FireWire capture card and some still-image manipulation software, but the details on this package were not available at the time this was written. With a FireWire card and one of Canon’s BubbleJet printers (such as the BJC-700, which sells for around $425 street price), you can print out some very impressive slick copies of your digital photos. It isn’t 35mm quality, to be sure, but it’s a whole lot better than most of the still-image capabilities available on camcorders today. Visible on all still images captured by the Optura is a certain amount of sharpening and digital enhancement performed in the camera; this does help to clear up sharp, contrasty lines in the image, and it even brings out some of the natural colors present in the image. It can, however, wreak havoc on a sweater with a busy print or a complex background. Sometimes, the effect of this processing produces stunning results; other times, you may wish you could turn it off.

As a website production tool, the Optura excels. Though it doesn’t by any means rival existing 35mm SLR cameras, it does record good digital stills and excellent DV-quality video and audio. It also points the way towards a


Going Tapeless

MP-EG1A Digital Recorder
($2,500)
Hitachi
3890 Steve Reynolds Blvd.
Norcross, GA 30093-3012
1-800-HITACHI
http://www.hitachi.com

tech specs

If you’ve ever played a multimedia CD-ROM in your computer or downloaded a small digital video clip off the Web, you’ve probably come across the MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) acronym by now. MPEG is a codec (compression/decompression scheme)–essentially a way to produce highly-compressed videos that will play in a wide variety of media–and the earliest version of that codec, MPEG-1, has become a de facto world standard for transmission of small, short digital videos across the globe on the Internet.

Now, Hitachi offers the MP-EG1A, a digital imaging device seeking to simplify the process of shooting MPEG-1 videos and snapping JPEG digital still images by eliminating the middleman (videotape), recording images, video and sound directly onto a small 260MB PC-card hard drive. The MP-EG1A is the first of its kind in the consumer marketplace–the world’s first mass-market camcorder that records directly onto a nonlinear, random-access medium. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come near existing tape-based formats in terms of image quality, and it suffers from the lack of those benefits that tape does carry with it (like easy, massive, cheap storage) It does, however, pave the way for an entirely new mode of thinking about video and still-image recording, storage and delivery.

Nuts and Bolts

The MP-EG1A looks and feels unlike any camcorder you’ve ever seen. Because there’s no tape, there’s no need for a tape-transport mechanism–a factor which contributes to the unit’s small size and symmetrical design. The lens assembly–which swivels 180 degrees for self-recording–sits atop the camera body, while the LCD viewscreen sits in the middle of the unit. Together, these two design factors make for a fairly non-intuitive mode of operation. The first time you pick it up, you’re likely to be a little bit puzzled about how to hold it comfortably while shooting–especially when you consider that the unit has no image stabilization, a serious omission in such a small camcorder.

The MP-EG1A records images in three different file types: as still JPEG files, still JPEGs with 10 seconds of audio, or MPEG videos with synchronized audio. (A JPEG, short for Joint Photographics Experts Group, is to a still image what an MPEG is to a video stream: a highly-compressed chunk of digital data, optimized for use on the Web or in CD-ROM productions where space is at a premium.)

All controls for operating the MP-EG1A are on the front panel, including a red record button and a small zoom rocker for operating the camera’s very limited 3:1 zoom lens (6:1 with 2x digital enhancement). These two controls, in fact, are the only ones that the MP-EG1A allows you to operate manually; all others (white balance, shutter speed, exposure, focus) are controlled by automatic systems. While most of these systems operated fairly well in our test unit, the autofocus had a hard time resolving a sharp image while shooting in motion capture mode. This failure to resolve a sharp focus was made worse by the digital artifacting that is a natural result of using the MPEG compression algorithm.

Once you’ve recorded up to the unit’s limit of approximately 20 minutes of MPEGs, 3000 JPEGs or 1000 JPEGs with audio onto the unit’s 260MB hard drive, you’ll no doubt want an easy way of viewing and manipulating them. Built into the MP-EG1A is a system of digital files and folders similar to that found on a home computer’s hard drive. Also built into the camcorder is a simple way of organizing a series of shots, still images and sound bites into a simplistic multimedia presentation, which can be viewed on a standard TV monitor with audio and video inputs. When viewed in this fashion, the still images look quite good, and the audio is decent–but the MPEGs leave a lot to be desired, especially if you’re used to videotape. Shots with a lot of movement look jerky, inconsistent and unnatural–again, an effect that’s unavoidable whenever you use the MPEG-1 algorithm. The MP-EG1A records images in 352×240 resolution–exactly one-fourth of the standard for high-quality television transmission, but right on the money for CD-ROM or Web multimedia production.

Which brings us to the whole point behind the MP-EG1A’s existence: multimedia production. It simplifies a task that used to require a separate camcorder, video capture card and MPEG hardware or software, making it a simple matter to create your own computer-based presentations. To download the files from the camera to your computer hard drive, however, you still need to install an ISA card into your computer. Once transferred, the files can be manipulated with the included software before recording onto a CD-ROM or posting on your Web page.

Is It a Camcorder at All?

It isn’t quite fair to judge the MP-EG1A by comparing it to a traditional camcorder. Over the years, we’ve come to think of a camcorder as a self-contained device for recording events and special occasions for posterity, or perhaps for taping news events and television shows. On this level, the MP-EG1A performs rather poorly–so much so that almost any consumer-grade camcorder will out-perform it in terms of image quality, realism and storage efficiency.

The MP-EG1A, however, defies the simplistic categorization that the term “camcorder” lends it. It’s a member of a new breed of computer peripherals that’s designed to get the most out of the potential of the Web and CD-ROM multimedia presentations. It simplifies the task of MPEG creation and makes it highly portable. As for its shortcomings, these are perhaps more palatable once you take a close look at the medium in which it operates. The very best MPEG-1 videos don’t look all that great anyway. It still would be nice, however, to have just a little bit of control over focus, iris and compression levels–especially with a $2,500 price tag. At this stage of the game, the same money could buy a good camcorder and an MPEG-optimized video capture card for your multimedia productions; that way, at least you’ll have some manual control over your focus and exposure while you shoot.


New Kid on the Block

SE-200 Integrated Editing Center
($579)
DataVideo Technologies
12300 E. Washington Blvd.
Whitter, CA 90606
(562) 696-2324
http://www.datavideo-tech.com

tech specs

If you look at the advertisements in a European video magazine, you’ll quickly notice that there are a large number of editing products available overseas that simply don’t exist on store shelves on this side of the pond. There are a number of reasons why this is true, not the least of which is the existence of incompatible video standards (PAL or SECAM vs. our NTSC) in Europe. This, however, does nothing to explain the richer features and capabilities of many European consumer video products. In Europe, for example, it’s quite common to find low-cost editing solutions that support time code, whereas such products are quite rare in the U.S. The reason? Manufacturers’ perceptions of a European consumer-electronics user that’s more sophisticated than the U.S. counterpart, for one.

Fortunately, one manufacturer of video editing gear that was formerly available only overseas–Taiwan-based Datavideo Technologies–has decided to offer their wares directly to the United States. Their SE-200 Integrated Editing Center provides the capabilities of a number of stand-alone video editing products–including a titler, a switcher, a color corrector, an audio mixer, a microphone and an edit controller with RCTC and VITC time code support–in a single low-cost package. Though many of the features of the SE-200 are not the most sophisticated in today’s consumer market, the unit contains a few hidden surprises sure to delight the budget-conscious video editor.

Video Potpourri

For a unit that incorporates so many different functions, the SE-200 is unexpectedly small and light. Its footprint measures roughly 15 by 10 inches, making it easy to fit into a typically cramped home editing configuration.

Setup of the unit was easy, owing in large part to the clearly labeled inputs and outputs on the back panel. Connectors exist for two S-Video or composite video sources, each with its own pair of stereo audio phono-style connectors. The unit also has an additional set of audio inputs for a CD or cassette player, as well as a pair of 1/8-inch microphone inputs and a headphone jack for listening in and setting levels as you record. Taken together, these audio inputs make up a five-channel audio mixer, each with its own linear faders for volume control (with the exception of the microphone inputs, both controlled by a single rotary fader). Other connectors on the back panel include S-Video, composite video and stereo audio output; edit A and edit B (for controlling camcorders or decks via LANC, Panasonic 5-pin or Infrared commands); and a GPI trigger for controlling an external titler or special effects generator.

The SE-200 operates in three different modes, selectable by repeatedly hitting the Mode key. The Title mode allows you to enter text and simple graphics commands; the SEG (special effects generator) mode controls the unit’s fades, wipes and dissolves; and the Edit mode allows you to program an edit decision list of up to 99 scenes. On top of these three modes, the SE-200 offers color correction controls, an RGB-correction joystick for adjusting the hue, and the audio mixer controls discussed earlier.

Push the Buttons

The SE-200’s titler is primitive at best. The keyboard is difficult to work with for two reasons: because it’s made up of tiny rubber buttons that offer no tactile response, and because it doesn’t have a standard QWERTY layout you’d find on a typical keyboard (the top row of keys are QWERTZ, for example). Its single font looks jaggy and extremely aliased, and there are only eight colors and four sizes available. Today’s home videographers have become spoiled by the clean, smoothly curving lines that their computers and other electronics gear routinely produce for them, so the blocky appearance of the SE-200’s titles will have a tendency to look like a throwback to the early days of home video games. To its credit, the titler does offer several very useful features, such as the ability to create your own custom characters and animations. Even so, the primitive, jaggy look of the font is unavoidable.

As a special effects generator, the SE-200 has a bit more to offer. Though signals must be pre-synchronized with a time base corrector in order for the unit to make clean A/B-roll transitions, the SE-200 does offer a number of programmable wipe effects and nice-looking dissolves and cuts. If you’re working with a single source, it’s still possible to wipe and/or fade to one of eight colors. The wipes, by the way, are limited to the same blocky appearance that the titles suffer from; even so, they produce effects that are much more watchable than the SE-200’s titles.

The edit controller functions of the SE-200 are what really make the system worth buying, mainly because they offer time-code accuracy and A/B-roll capabilities. It isn’t the easiest consumer editing system in the world to use–in fact, with all of its tiny multi-function buttons and confusing on-screen menus, it’s probably on the difficult side of the scale–but once you get past the learning curve, you’ll find that the SE-200 is a powerful edit controller, and fully capable of frame-accurate A/B-roll edits.

Electronic glitches we noticed included a tendency to display ghostly images of source A while color-correcting source B, and an occasional flaw in the movement of wipes and transitions. Also, the microphone that comes with the SE-200 isn’t anything to write home about.

If you’re in the market for a stand-alone A/B-roll edit controller that supports time code, consider the SE-200. Its titles aren’t that great, but the GPI trigger works well, so you can always add a titler to the mix yourself and trigger it from the edit decision list. Even without the titler, the unit still comes out a bargain when you consider how much you’d spend on a time-code-capable A/B-roll editor, a simple audio mixer, an inexpensive microphone and a non-synchronized switcher.


Chasing Rainbows

Rainbow Runner Studio MJPEG Video Digitizer
($279; Mystique 220 graphics accelerator, $159)
Matrox Graphics Inc.
1025 St-Regis Blvd.
Dorval, Quebec, Canada H9P 2T4
(514) 969-6320
http://www.matrox.com/mga

tech specs

It sounds almost too good to be true: a product that records full-screen, full-motion, Hi8-quality digital video for under $500. Yet the Matrox Rainbow Runner Studio–a daughtercard for the Mystique series of 3D graphics accelerators for Windows-based PCs–does this and more, offering one of the first truly affordable and easy-to-install solutions for consumer-level nonlinear editing. Aside from those few quirks outlined below, the Rainbow Runner Studio delivers all you need to edit your own nonlinear productions on your home PC, then output them back onto videotape for easy distribution to family and friends.

If you already own a high-quality 3D graphics accelerator other than the Matrox Mystique, and you’re not willing to replace it, you’ll have to look elsewhere for your video digitizing solution, because the Rainbow Runner Studio operates only with the Mystique. This proprietary configuration is a two-edged sword: you might have to replace your 3D graphics accelerator to purchase the Rainbow Runner Studio, but you’ll never have to worry about compatibility issues between your video display card and your video digitizer (a recurring theme in the video digitizer installation business). Besides, the cost of the Rainbow Runner Studio and the Mystique combined is lower than most full-screen, full-motion video digitizers currently available–and in most cases, the Mystique will represent an upgrade over your old 3D graphics accelerator (see Tech Specs for details).

Plug It In

Though installation of the Rainbow Runner Studio is as easy as carefully pressing the daughterboard onto the proper pins of the Mystique card, special care is necessary to ensure that the pins line up properly and that all connections are solid. It’s possible to ruin one or both cards by just lining things up a hair off-center and bending the connecting pins, so be sure to proceed with caution and follow the directions.

Once the Rainbow Runner Studio and the Mystique have been installed in an available PCI slot, Windows 95 will prompt you to install the software drivers for both cards. If the connections between the Rainbow Runner and the Mystique are not perfect (a frequent problem, according to Matrox tech support personnel), the software will very politely prompt you to turn off the computer, remove the Mystique and check to make sure all connections are flush. This, by the way, is one of the quirks of the Rainbow Runner Studio mentioned in the introduction: it’s more difficult than it should be to ensure a perfect fit between the two boards.

Part of the Rainbow Runner Studio’s bundled software is the Matrox PC-VCR Remote, a clever application that looks like a typical remote controller for a VCR or television. This handy device controls video capture and playback with a familiar-looking point-and-click interface. (If you own the Matrox Rainbow Runner Television card–yet another Mystique peripheral–you can also use the PC-VCR Remote to change the channel on your computer-based TV tuner.) To record an incoming video stream, for example, all you have to do is hit the record button on the remote control. A small preview screen gives you a full-motion monitor to view the incoming video, so an additional monitor is not necessary.

Clips thus recorded are easily transferred into any standard nonlinear editing application (Ulead’s MediaStudio Pro 2.5 comes bundled with the product). Maximum resolution is 704×480, and the minimum amount of compression is 6.6:1. Performance while capturing at this data rate is good, but not perfect; on the average, a one-minute video captured onto our Benchmarks test computer’s Seagate Cheetah 4GB wide SCSI hard drive dropped about five or six frames, and maintained 16-bit, 44MHz audio synchronization throughout. Performance while rendering was comparable to other MJPEG capture cards in the under-$1000 price bracket (such as the Bravado 1000, miro DC30 or Fast AV Master); a complex five-second 3D transition, for example, took about 20 minutes to render at maximum-quality settings (Adobe Premiere 4.2, 133MHz Pentium, 32MB RAM). Using these settings, the edited video came out of the computer looking very good–good enough, in fact, for all levels of hobbyist work. Professionals may sniff at the quality that 6.6:1 MJPEG compression provides, but the Rainbow Runner was made for editing home videos, not for cutting commercials or sitcoms.

Some may think that Matrox is just playing games with us by making a video digitizer that only works with their Mystique graphics accelerator. Maybe, but they’ve succeeded in delivering a product that performs as well as most boards costing twice as much as the Rainbow Runner and the Mystique combined. Therefore, if you’re in the market for a good low-cost video digitizer, you may just find yourself with a very nice 3D graphics accelerator thrown into the bargain.


Make it Simple

VideoWave Nonlinear Editing Software

($100)

MGI Software Corporation

40 West Wilmot Street

Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada L4B-1H8

(888) MGI-SOFT

http://www.mgisoft.com

tech specs

They’re coming out of the woodwork: dozens of low-end video editing and image manipulation software packages that allow you to produce your own digital video projects without emptying your bank account in the process. Aimed primarily at the multimedia enthusiast, these software products usually work best with small, 1/4-screen (320×240) computer-based presentations, leaving the full-sized, output-to-tape editing to the big boys (like Adobe and Ulead).

Even so, some of these low-cost nonlinear editors will work with full-size screen resolutions for decent-quality output to videotape. This places them in an awkward position in the marketplace, primarily because you’ll need a video capture card to handle those higher resolutions, and nearly all full-resolution, full-motion video capture cards come bundled with either Ulead’s MediaStudio or Adobe’s Premiere–both of which are high-priced, industry-standard editors that out-perform the low-budget software packages by a considerable margin.

MGI’s VideoWave, which operates at resolutions up to 640×480 with 24-bit color depth, is just such a product. With VideoWave, you can capture and edit your videos, apply titles and special effects, perform chromakey-style overlays and just generally perform the whole range of basic nonlinear operations–including outputting your project to videotape, if you have a video capture card that supports this feature. But the problem still remains: how to sell a nonlinear software product to people who probably already own Premiere or MediaStudio?

MGI’s answer is this: “PC Video Made Easy,” as printed on the product’s retail packaging. The premise is that many nonlinear video editing products are too difficult to use for the casual videographer. To rectify the situation, VideoWave presents an interface that’s completely different from any other nonlinear editor currently available on the market.

A Pretty Face
Upon first launching the program, the user is immediately hit by what’s perhaps the best-looking work area available in any nonlinear editing solution. All of the bare-bones, clinical-looking controls and windows ordinarily found in video editing software are gone, replaced by a highly textured, slightly three-dimensional screen. Divided into three main areas, the interface consists of the Storyline, which corresponds to the timeline of clips and transitions; the Preview screen, which is surrounded by a number of various controls and windows depending on which part of the program you’re in; and the Library, which lists available media clips, transitions, effects, etc. for the project you’re working on.

Breaking the interface down further, we find a series of seven buttons located on the left side of the Preview screen. These buttons–the Video Mode selectors–allow you to toggle between the seven main areas of the program: Video Editor, Special Effects, Text Animator, Transitions, Video Animator, Audio Studio and Capture. Whereas most Windows-based video editing programs handle each of these functions in a separate window, often resulting in a general mish-mash on the screen, VideoWave maintains the purity of the interface by changing the available options on the screen each time you enter a different mode. This approach is a throwback to the pre-Windows era of DOS computing, and it’s open for debate whether or not it’s a simpler way of working.

Looks Aren’t Everything

As stated above, the purpose for VideoWave’s graphical approach is to make things easier and more approachable–but it goes without saying that better-looking doesn’t necessarily mean easier to use. In fact, the VideoWave interface is even less intuitive than the tried-and-true timeline approach to nonlinear editing. With a timeline, you can easily see how long a certain clip will be simply by looking at it; you can handle issues like pacing and title placement at a glance; you can even trim a clip by just grabbing the end of it on the timeline and moving it back and forth. Performing any of these edits with VideoWave is more difficult, and requires more steps to perform. Also, certain portions of the VideoWave program–the titler in particular–don’t provide the kind of output quality you might expect from a nonlinear editor.

On the plus side, VideoWave comes with a CD library of images, video clips and sound files for use in your productions. In fact, if all you want is an easy way to add a little multimedia pizazz to a computer-based presentation, the files in this multimedia library provide plenty of clip-art material to work with.

In short, VideoWave is heavy on style, but light on substance. It works well as a tool for creating multimedia presentations, but it doesn’t quite succeed in its goal to make PC video editing easier.


Tech Specs

Canon Optura

Format

Mini DV

Lens

14:1 optical zoom, 35:1 digital zoom, 5.4-75.6mm focal length, multi-speed power zoom, f/1.8, inner focus, wide macro, 49mm filter diameter

Image sensor

1/3-inch CCD, 360,000 pixels (progressive scan)

Viewfinder

2-inch color LCD

Focus

Auto, inner manual, FlexiZone AF

Maximum shutter speed

1/2,000th of a second

Exposure

Auto, manual (shutter-priority or aperture-priority), program AE (sand & snow, spotlight)

White balance

Auto, manual

Digital effects

Negative/positive conversion, vertical wipe, 4-way wipe, fade, mosaic fade

PCM stereo, 12-bit or 16-bit

Inputs

IEEE 1394 DV (FireWire), external microphone (1/8-inch stereo minijack)

Outputs

IEEE 1394 DV (FireWire), composite video, stereo audio, headphones

Edit interface

Control-L (LANC)

Other features

LP recording, lithium-ion battery, self-timer, flash mount for still-image acquisition, Progressive Scan mode, 6-second still recording, stereo microphone

Dimensions

5.25 (width) by 4 (height) by 4.25 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery)

1 pounds

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)

400 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)

400 lines

Performance Times

Pause to Record

second

Power-up to Record

2 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)

1 minute, 25 seconds

Strengths

  • Very flexible shutter speed and iris controls
  • Takes excellent digital stills
  • Innovative design

Weaknesses

  • No analog inputs

Summary

An unprecedented merging of digital photography and videography


Tech Specs

Hitachi MP-EG1A Digital Camera

Format

MPEG video, JPEG still images (260MB PC-Card hard drive)

Lens

f/2.4, 3:1 optical zoom, 6:1 digital zoom, 3.6-10.8mm focal length, wide macro

Image sensor

1/4-inch CCD (390,000 pixels)

Viewfinder

1.8-inch LCD panel (61,380 pixels)

Focus

Auto

Exposure

P ALIGN=”JUSTIFY”>Auto

White balance

Auto

Audio

Monaural

Inputs

None

Outputs

Composite video, mono audio (via proprietary cable)

Recording capacity

MPEG video: approx. 20 minutes

JPEG still images: approx. 3000

JPEG still images with audio: approx. 4 hours

Other features

ISA computer interface, interval recording, wireless remote, LCD sunshade, lithium-ion battery (2 included), swivel stand

Dimensions

3.25 (width) by 5.5 (height) by 2.1 (depth) inches

Weight

13 ounces

Strengths

  • Very compact and lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Simplifies MPEG production

Weaknesses

  • No manual controls
  • Automatic systems don’t respond well
  • Expensive
  • 20 minutes maximum recording time per hard disk
  • Low-quality video
  • Requires installation of ISA board in computer

Summary

An important breakthrough, but needs a lot of work


Tech Specs

Datavideo Technologies SE-200 Integrated Editing Center

Functions

Titler, special effects generator, audio mixer, color processor, A/B-roll edit controller

Time code support

RCTC, VITC

Synchronizer

None

Inputs

S-Video (x2), composite video (RCA-style, x2), stereo audio (x2), microphone (x2)

Outputs

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

Edit control

Control-L (LANC), Panasonic 5-pin, infrared (record deck only)

Edit decision lists

4 total, 99 scenes

Special effects

Dissolve, 24 wipes, 24 pre-set animated transitions, 5 user-defined animated transitions

Colors (for titles, backgrounds, wipes, etc.)

8

Titles

One font, four sizes; programmable borders, animation, character editing

Video gain control

+4dB/-2dB

Color control range

-30dB/+5dB

Dimensions

15 (width) by 10 (depth) by 2 (height) inches

Weight

2.5 pounds

Strengths

  • Time code support
  • All-in-one solution
  • Inexpensive

Weaknesses

  • Difficult to operate
  • TBC required for synchronized switching
  • Low-quality built-in titler

Summary

Hobbyists: the SE-200 is worth the investment even without the titler. Prosumers: seek richer pastures.


Tech Specs

Matrox Mystique/Rainbow Runner Studio MJPEG Digitizer

Platform

PC

Bundled software

Ulead MediaStudio Pro 2.5 nonlinear editing software; Ulead iPhoto Express still-image editing software; Ulead MPEG convertor; Matrox PC-VCR remote

Video inputs and outputs

Composite (RCA-style), S-video

Minimum System Requirements

Motherboard

PCI-compatible (Type 2)

Processor

486

Graphics accelerator

Matrox Mystique (required)

Memory

16MB RAM

Hard drive

Enhanced IDE (Fast ATA-2) or SCSI

Operating system

Windows 95 or NT

Other requirements

16-bit sound card and speakers, CD-ROM drive

Recommended System

Processor

133MHz+ Pentium

Memory

32MB+ RAM

Hard drive

2GB+ Wide SCSI-2 (4MB/second minimum sustained throughput)

Mystique specifications

4MB video ram, 1600×1200 maximum resolution (24-bit color)

Maximum MJPEG video resolution

704×480 (24-bit)

Strengths

  • Inexpensive
  • User-friendly interface

Weaknesses

  • Difficulties making a good connection between Mystique and Rainbow Runner daughterboard

Summary

A good way for hobbyists to get into nonlinear editing


Tech Specs

MGI VideoWave Nonlinear Video Editing Software

Platform

PC

Minimum System Requirements

Processor

486DX2/66MHz

Memory

16MB RAM

Graphics

800×600 resolution, 16-bit

Operating system

Windows 95

Hard drive

Enhanced IDE (Fast ATA-2) or SCSI

Other requirements

16-bit sound card and speakers, video capture card, CD-ROM drive

Recommended system

Processor

133MHz+ Pentium

Memory

32MB+ RAM

Hard drive

2GB+ Wide SCSI-2 (4MB/second minimum sustained throughput)

Strengths

  • Pretty interface
  • Nice-looking effects
  • MPEG output
  • Multimedia library included

Weaknesses

  • Non-intuitive interface
  • Titler needs work

Summary

VideoWave aims at simplicity, but the lack of a timeline interface makes operation less intuitive

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