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Pricey Performer

XL1 Mini DV camcorder
($4699)
Canon USA Inc.
One Canon Plaza
Lake Success, NY 10042-1113
(800) 828-4040
http://www.canon.com

tech specs

Every once in a while, a consumer electronics manufacturer will come up with a design for a camcorder that's truly innovative and inspiring. Such is the case with Canon's newest three-chip Mini DV camcorder, the XL1, which in the few months since its release in late 1997 has already taken the prosumer camcorder industry by storm. Looking more like a weapon from a science fiction movie than a camcorder, the XL1 is all attitude with its slim, angular styling and its colorful approach to design.

As we've often said in these pages, looks certainly aren't everything. The XL1, however, is one of those rare birds that combines elegance and panache with ergonomic functionality and rock solid performance.

Power Up
At first glance, the XL1 may seem like an awkward camcorder to shoot with, but it isn't. In its normal shooting position, the XL1 rests comfortably on the shoulder with the help of a small flip-down shoulder pad, while the right hand fits into the hand grip, offering easy access to the Record, Photo and Zoom controls. From this position, it's easy to hold the camcorder steady for prolonged periods of time, especially with the help of Canon's proprietary optical image stabilization system, which is among the best we've ever tested. For low-angle shooting, the top-mounted hand grip provides a second set of controls, including a Zoom toggle, a Record button and a Photo button. The viewfinder also flips up easily to accommodate this shooting position, offering a secondary setting for viewing its tiny image from afar. This handle also serves as a firm, well-balanced grip to hold the camera while you're carrying it from place to place.

Every nook and cranny of the XL1's convoluted body holds some sort of trap door or flap that opens to reveal more inputs, outputs or controls. Intimidating at first, this extensive array of buttons and jacks is fairly easy to master, though some are a bit small and unwieldy. Once you get used to the controls and their locations, the system of flaps, trap doors and hidey-holes serves to keep the buttons and plugs out of your sight until you need them.

A brief note about the XL1's Photo mode: the XL1, like its less-expensive brother, the Optura, includes a number of features intended to maximize the camera's digital still-image acquisition capabilities. These include a mounting plate and power receptacle for Canon's Speedlites for still-camera-style flash photography; a specialized Photo Mode, which allows you to freeze a frame on the screen before you decide to record it onto tape; and a Photo Search mode that gives you quick access to all of the still images recorded on tape. Unlike the Optura, however, the XL1 does not include any internal circuitry to massage the picture, which is a good thing, because busy patterns shot by the Optura sometimes looked blotchy as a result of the manipulation being done by the image enhancement circuits. In terms of image quality, the XL1's still-photo capabilities are unrivaled by any camcorder we've ever seen – better even than Sony's VX1000.

From the Hip
In general, the XL1 is a dream to work with. The combination of well-designed manual controls, ergonomic body design, clear color viewfinder image and handy carrying handle make shooting with this camera very pleasurable. Some videographers – beginners, most notably – might be intimidated by the quantity of controls available, but should a beginning videographer be lucky enough to get his or her hands on the XL1, a simple all-automatic point-and-shoot mode is available.

The 16:1 zoom lens that comes standard with the XL1 has a few features worth mentioning. The built-in ND (neutral density) filter is handy for shooting on bright, sunny days, and both the manual zoom ring and the manual focus ring offer smooth, precise control. The iris control,located on the side of the camera body, leaves a little something to be desired; because it moves in precise f-stops, you can't dial in an exposure setting that's between stops. Used in conjunction with the AE shift control, however, you should be able to get the precise exposure setting you're after.

The XL1's interchangable lens system is one of the crucial features that separates it from other prosumer DV camcorders. Granted, it isn't the standard C-Mount found on professional cameras. Called the XL mount system, it will only accommodate Canon's XL lenses or (with an adapter) lenses made for Canon's EOS series of 35mm still cameras. This means that currently there are about a dozen lenses available for the XL1 in a wide variety of focal lengths and styles.

In a word, images shot on the XL1 look gorgeous. Precise colors, fine lines and a realistic sense of depth come through on each shot, if it's lit properly. For low-light situations, the combination of manual iris control and slow shutter speed (as low as 1/8th of a second) helps to fish images out of most low-light environments – we even tried it at nightclubs and night-time sporting events.

Used as a source deck in an editing environment, the XL1 performs very well. With a DV in/out jack (IEEE 1394 FireWire) and Control-L support, it'll fit easily into many prosumer editing environments, both linear and nonlinear. Editing accuracy over the Control-L connection is limited to plus or minus two to five frames, however a limitation of the DV timecode implementation over a consumer editing protocol.

Audio, likewise, comes through clean and clear on the XL1. The camera gives a choice between one 16-bit stereo audio track and two 12-bit stereo tracks. Also, if you're using the 12-bit tracks, you can plug a CD player or other line-level stereo audio source into an extra set of audio inputs located on the XL1's handle and perform audio dubs right in the camera, without disturbing the existing 12-bit audio track. The presence of independent audio level controls for each stereo channel is very helpful, as are the well-placed audio level meters. The on-camera shotgun mike that comes with the XL1 is highly directional and fairly sensitive to spoken narration originating at a distance of up to five or six feet from the camera.

One minor flaw was noticed while testing the XL1: the autofocus system is rather slow to respond. True, most people who buy this camcorder won't be relying much on autofocus; nonetheless, those who do might find themselves waiting a few seconds for the camera to focus itself.

All in all, the XL1 is a videographer's dream come true. It's one of the finest camcorders we've ever tested, if not the finest. It is fairly expensive, but in our opinion, it's worth every penny. Bravissimo, Canon!

 


Just Point and Shoot

VM-8300A VHS Camcorder
($599)
Hitachi
3890 Steve Reynolds Blvd.
Norcross, GA 30093-3012
(770) 279-5600
http://www.hitachi.com

tech specs

 

In the realm of modern technological gadgetry, one generally expects products to keep getting both better and cheaper as time goes by. VHS camcorders, unfortunately, don't seem to fit this rule. While it's certainly true that they've been getting cheaper over the years, they have not all been getting better. In fact, in some cases, they've been getting worse and worse. Witness the lack of manual focus controls on many newer models, and the slowly dwindling picture quality of even the most expensive models, and you'll see what we mean.

Hitachi's VM-8300A is a case in point. It's a study in the cost-cutting, minimalizing and just plain dumbing-down of the VHS camcorder market. For example: just five years ago, the typical VHS camcorder had manual focus (controlled by a handy outer focus ring), manual iris control, lever-controlled manual zoom and manual shutter speed. Hitachi's current top-of-the-line VM-8300A, on the other hand, has no manual focus, no manual exposure control and a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. Granted, the zoom range of the older units was more limited, but zoom range certainly isn't everything.

Nuts and Bolts
Shooting with the VM-8300A is a fairly easy task. With no manual controls to worry about, all you have to do is point the lens in the right direction, zoom in or out to the desired focal length, engage the electronic image stabilization if you think it's necessary, and press the record button. Zooming with the VM-8300A is a painfully slow process, however; with only one slow zoom speed available, videographers who require the ability to quickly frame up a shot might be disappointed.

Because the VM-8300A has no manual controls, the videographer is left at the mercy of whatever automatic systems are present in the camera. Luckily, the automatic focus and exposure systems in the VM-8300A are quite good; both respond quickly and accurately to changing conditions. Listed among the VM-8300A's features is what Hitachi calls Program AE (auto exposure). This is in fact a misleading name for a simple automatic exposure feature; there are no pre-set programs available for sand and snow, portrait, etc.

Adding to the overall ease of use of the VM-8300A is the built-in video light, which can be set to come on automatically whenever a little extra illumination is necessary. This feature works well to minimize one of the worst problems with beginner-level video: inadequate lighting.

Most of the potential buyers of the VM-8300A will probably be composing their videos in the camera (no editing). For this reason, a few features are included to help the in-camera shooter develop a coherent video program without any additional equipment. These features include digital effects, 4 kinds of fade, and a built-in titler, which allows for 2 lines of 16 boxy-looking characters each. The digital effects on the VM-8300A are like most others in the marketplace: interesting at first, but not very useful in the long run. (Mirror image was our personal favorite, with the 2x digital instant zoom coming in second place.) Using all three features together (the titler, the fader and one of the digital effects), it's theoretically possible to create an interesting title sequence for a video. However, the only time you can record titles with the VM-8300A is when you're actually shooting videoa fact which makes our theoretical special-effects video introduction considerably more difficult to achieve. Also, the fader won't fade the titles in or out; it just leaves them on the screen as the video disappears.

Another important feature for the in-camera editor is audio dub, which allows you to replace your existing sound track with a new onea music bed, for example, or voice-over narration. Missing, however, is video dubthe ability to record over existing video without destroying the audio track.

As a source deck for editing, the VM-8300A has little to offer. With no edit control protocol and no built-in editing functions, it serves only the most basic functions of a source deck; camera-to-VCR editors will be stuck using the two-finger method with this one.

Curiously, the VM-8300A has an antiquated method of keeping track of elapsed time during shooting or playback. A simple counter ticks off digits on the screen, not seconds, as with a real-time counter, but digits that don't correspond to any specific length of time. This makes it impossible to keep track of elapsed time while you compose your video in the camera – a serious drawback for in-camera editors.

Summary
In short, Hitachi and other camcorder manufacturers seem to have located a bottom line for the mass camcorder market, one which will fulfill the basic needs of the first-time camcorder buyer, and nothing more. Its most serious flaws are the lack of manual controls and the poor resolution; video shot on the VM-8300A looks barely acceptable, with a healthy dose of color bleed and indistinct details. For the money, there are a number of better cameras available. Its price and ease of use might be acceptable for some casual weekend shooters, but if you're at all serious about your video, you'll probably want to steer clear of this one.

 


VHS Quality

SCF34 VHS Camcorder
($549)
Samsung Electronics
105 Challenger Rd.
Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660
(201) 229-4000
http://www.samsung.com

 

Since we've been talking about the pros and cons of the recent VHS camcorder market, it's only right that we should include a discussion of last year's winner of the Videomaker Best VHS Camcorder award: the Samsung SCF34. Like the Hitachi VM-8300A reviewed above, the Samsung SCF34 has many problems that it shares with the entire VHS camcorder market, including a less-than-stellar image quality and a lack of manual features. It also shares the primary advantage of the VHS format: without editing or copying the tape to another format, you can send your video directly to a friend or family member, who can easily play it in their home VCR. Unlike the Hitachi VM-8300A, however, the Samsung SCF34 includes manual focus control, an external microphone jack and a handful of honest-to-goodness pre-set Program AE (auto exposure) modes to help with your videography. Moreover, the Samsung SCF34 has both audio and video dub capabilities, which means you can re-record new video clips over existing video without destroying the audio. This is handy for in-camera editors who want to be able to make last-minute changes to the video even after the sound track has been dubbed in. Seen in this light, the SCF34 holds its own in today's VHS camcorder marketplace.

On the Shoulder
Though it's a little heavier than the Hitachi VM-8300A, the Samsung SCF34 feels very solid on the shoulder, a fact which helps to keep the camera steady while you shoot. Although the SCF34 has no image stabilization, it isn't difficult to hold the camera still, except when shooting at extreme zoom ranges. In fact, the SCF34 is even a little bit easier to hold still than some small-format camcorders with image stabilization, owing to its solid bulk and the ease with which it rests on the shoulder.

One of the first things you notice when you prepare to shoot, however, is the small apparent size of the SCF34's color viewfinder screen. This may be simply due to the different magnification power of the SCF34's diopter lens that covers the viewfinder; in any case, the viewfinder appears small, and it's slightly more difficult to shoot as a result.

Like the Hitachi VM-8300A, the SCF34 has only one slow zoom speed to work with, making it difficult to capture those fleeting, far-off moments on tape quickly and efficiently. The manual focus controls are likewise a little bit slow to respond. This, combined with the SCF34's small, low-resolution color viewfinder, makes it difficult to achieve a sharp focus at times.

For enhanced in-camera editing, the SCF34 includes three special effects that are controlled by repeatedly hitting the Digital Effect button. These three effects, however, really boil down to varying levels of one effect (the type that's usually called Paint or Posterization). Also included is a built-in titler that stores up to two pages of text (each with two sixteen-character lines of all-too-familiar boxy-looking text). With the SCF34, it's possible to record titles in the camcorder over existing video footage, but when you do so, you destroy the audio track. This is not such a bad thing if you're planning to dub audio over the video in a later stepbut if you aren't, it could be a significant drawback.

The inclusion of microphone input on the SCF34 is what really separates it from the mainstream pack of full-size VHS camcorders. With an external microphone attached, it's possible to squeeze every last bit of quality out of the VHS tape format's barely adequate linear audio track. Without an external microphone, you'll be forced to shoot with the camcorder up close in your subject's face, or suffer the consequences (low, muffled, unintelligible speech).

Pictures shot by the SCF34 looked decent, but not great by any means. The colors looked rich and saturated, and bleeding was minimal. Resolution, however, was pretty poor, coming in at just below 200 lines.

Why It Gets the Prize
It may seem, after reading this review, that the SCF34 doesn't sound much like a winner. With no manual exposure control, a difficult-to-use manual focus system, a single slow zoom speed and poor resolution, one might well expect the winner of a Best of 1997 prize to be a better camcorder overall. The fact is, however, that the SCF34, with all its flaws, is truly the best available in the VHS format at this time. This fact alone should make the camcorder manufacturers ashamed; we know that they can do better, because past versions of VHS-format camcorders out-performed today's models by a considerable margin. The VHS format is capable of producing 240 lines or more in the best conditions; if this is true, then why do the camcorders in this format keep dropping further from this mark?

All of this is not intended to frighten you away from the VHS format when you're shopping for a camcorder; all in all, it's still a viable format, and the SCF34 is a decent camcorder for those who rate simplicity and convenience over image quality and manual controls. It's just unfortunate that the manufacturers seem to have decided for you that this is all you want from a VHS camcorder, because in the current crop of VHS units, you won't find anything better.

 


Tap Into the Stream

Kohesion Nonlinear Editing Software
($349)
in:sync Corp.
7920 Norfolk Avenue 7th Floor
Bethesda MD 20814
(800) 864-7272
http://www.in-sync.com

 

tech specs

 

One of the more interesting recent developments in desktop video has been video that plays over the Internet, streaming video, as it has come to be called. With streaming video, there's no need to wait for huge digital video files to download from a Web site; the video data simply flows from the Web site's server to your video screen and plays as it arrives.

The technology that makes streaming video possible has been provided by companies like Progressive Networks (of RealAudio and RealVideo fame) and VDONet, but until recently nobody has offered much in the way of content creation for this exciting new distribution format.

That's why in:sync Corporation has developed Kohesion, a "nonlinear editor for the Web," to use their phrase. Kohesion is primarily a tool for capturing and editing video, similar to many other nonlinear editing packages currently available. What makes it special, however, is the fact that it's specifically designed to create streaming videos. It includes controls for regulating the speed of the data flow (or "bit rate") necessary to play back the video. Other features that make it Web-friendly include the ability to place hotlinks directly onto the moving video image, and the ability to directly output digital videos in Progressive Networks' RealMedia file formats (Kohesion is currently the only nonlinear editor that's capable of this). Though operating Kohesion can be a little bit confusing at times, the excellent online documentation available at http://www.kohesion.com makes the program relatively easy to learn.

First Cuts
The basic elements of Kohesion are similar to those found in most timeline-based nonlinear editors. When you open the program, four windows appear on the screen. These include the Composition window, which holds the timeline and all major commands; the Library window, which holds all media you'll be working with, including video clips, audio clips, transitions, titles, still images, animations, etc.; the Item Info window, which includes various data and controls related to specific parts of your project; and the Preview window, which is used to play back specific clips or finished projects. Unlike most software programs, these windows float independently of one another over the Windows desktop. Also, each takes up a considerable amount of desktop real estate on its own, so it's advisable to set your monitor for the highest resolution possible when working with Kohesion.

As stated above, there are few new elements in the Kohesion interface; all basic operations will be familiar to those who have used Premiere, Ulead's MediaStudio, or any other timeline-based editor. Clips, transitions, effects and titles are imported to the Library window, then placed onto the timeline by dragging and dropping with the mouse. Eight commonly used transitions are available, including crossfade, page curl and clock wipe; these can be quickly applied by simply selecting the starting clip in the timeline, then right-clicking the transition you want in the Library window. Titles are handled similarly; if you want a title to appear over a clip, just select the clip on the timeline, then right-click the box labeled Titles in the Library window; a dialog box will appear, giving you all the tools you need to enter text and attributes.

While we're on the topic of titles and effects, let's take a look at the way in which Kohesion lets you control parameters such as duration, movement, size, etc. for these elements. When you open the dialog box for an effect, transition or title, you'll see a long list of graphs; these are the primary controls for elements such as size, color, movement, etc. For example: if you want your titles to be a little bit bigger, grab the line on the Size graph and drag it upwards. This system can be difficult to get used to at first, but it can be an excellent way to make quick changes to an attribute.

All in all, though the Kohesion system of editing is a bit quirky at first, it's very powerful.

Web Stuff
Once you've got the basics of editing in Kohesion down, you'll no doubt be ready to put it to the use it was designed for: creating streaming videos. These operations fall into two basic categories: identifying hotlinked areas in the video, and regulating the data rate for optimized streaming playback.
Embedding hotlinked events into a streaming video file is very easy with Kohesion. Each event is treated the same way that a title, effect or transition would be treatedit's placed directly on the timeline, and associated with the specific clip that's to be hotlinked. Once placed, a right-click of the mouse button on the event brings up a dialog box, where you can specify a URL to link to and precisely identify the clickable area of the screen. You can even create an event that links to another video file, or another point in the current video file.

When you've finished making all of your editing decisions, and it's time to render the final project into a RealMedia file, you have some options available that will help you create exactly the type of streaming video you want. Settings for the precise data rate necessary to play back the video (28.8 kilobits per secondthe standard for many of today's modemsis the default) are adjustable, as are precise keyframe controls. Rendering times are fairly quick, which is not surprising when you consider that most streaming videos will be somewhere in the 160×120-pixel range. A ten-second video with titles, effects and half a dozen transitions took our Benchmarks test computer (Pentium 133MHz, 32MB RAM) about two minutes to render fully.

After editing the video, your next step would be to acquire space on a video streaming server that can transmit your file to the world's Web surfers.

In short, Kohesion is, despite minor quirks, a step in the right direction. Streaming video is truly the wave of the future, and in:sync has done forward-looking content creators a big favor by creating this valuable tool.

 


3D Power for Macs

StudioPro 2.1 3D Animation Software
($1495)
Strata Inc.
2nd West St. George Blvd.
St. George, UT 84770
(800) STRATA3D
http://www.strata3d.com

tech specs

 

The contest to provide the most comprehensive low-cost 3D animation software has become quite heated in the past year or so. That's why products like Strata's StudioPro for Power Macintosh computers have been gaining a myriad of new capabilities lately–capabilities that only the most expensive 3D animation software packages were capable of just a year or two ago.

Since January 1997, when Strata released StudioPro 2.0, the product has had some problems with buggy operation and failure to provide some of the more advanced features promised by the company (features like inverse kinematics and multi-processor support). Now, perhaps to appease the grumbling of early purchasers, the upgrade from StudioPro 2.0 to 2.1 is free, and even includes the new Power Module 1 plug-in (a $495 value). For others, the $1495 purchase price might seem a bit steep, and if you're making video on a budget, it certainly is steep, no question about it. Nonetheless, the combination of raw power and relative ease of use is difficult to find in a product of its power and ability. When Strata claims StudioPro 2.1 will produce broadcast-quality 3D animations, they have proof to back it up. Ever seen those fancy titles on the David Letterman show, or the CBS Evening News? Those were created with Strata's StudioPro software.

Easy Interface
Installation of StudioPro 2.1 was a snap, but it did require the reservation of a healthy chunk of RAM for the software to operate properly. Though the box lists 32MB as the minimum required to run the program, users who operate StudioPro 2.1 with just 32MB will likely find themselves wishing they had more; like many graphics production software packages, it's got a voracious appetite for RAM.

After about a half an hour of running through StudioPro 2.1's tutorial, we had the basics of the program down, and could easily create a stunning 3D title complete with extruded letters in the font of our choice and a nice-looking lens flare for added effect. Not content with a nice still image, we had to move on immediately to the animation controls.

In StudioPro 2.1, every aspect of the image has a time component, which is controlled in the program's Project Window. Animating an object, then, becomes a simple process of setting points along the object's timeline in the Project Window. Don't like the motion path of one or more objects? Just select the object on the screen, and the motion path can be easily accessed and manipulated.

One interesting feature available in StudioPro 2.1 is the ability to use any Quicktime movie as a texture map. This means you can perform impressive-looking effects like a raging fire or perhaps a rushing river over the top of your titles. Used correctly, this technique can be very effective in grabbing your audience's attention with a title.

In a program as complex and powerful as this one, it's easy to get lost in the multitude of settings, parameters, options, tools, etc. that are available. We found this to be the case with StudioPro 2.1. Whenever this happened, however, the manual provided a quick, easy-to-find solution.

Render Me
StudioPro 2.1 renders photorealistic images astonishingly fast. Our test computer (Power Macintosh 7600/132, 40MB RAM, 604e processor) churned out a simple five-second animation in just a few minutes (using the very high quality Scanline Render option, which is designed to optimize graphics for output to videotape). Multimedia content creators will be happy to hear that StudioPro 2.1 outputs 3D content directly into either Quicktime VR or VRML format, which are nice for instructional CD-ROMs or entertainment software, though not much use for tape producers.

If you're a Macintosh user who is ready to produce some animated 3D titles that will take your breath away, StudioPro 2.1 has what you need–even if you've never made 3D graphics before. Its combination of elegant, easy-to-use controls, quick rendering and excellent output quality are hard to beat in the Macintosh market. In fact, the only thing it really lacks when compared to other 3D animation programs in its class is affordability, a feature which has always been difficult to find in the realm of the Macintosh.

 


Tech Specs
Canon XL1 Mini DV Camcorder

Format
Mini DV

Lens
XL interchangeable lens system; supplied lens16:1 optical zoom, 32:1 digital zoom, f/1.6, outer focus ring, wide macro, 5.5-88mm focal length, 72mm filter diameter

Image sensor
Three 1/3-inch CCDs, 270,000 pixels each

Viewfinder
0.7 inch LCD, 180,000 pixels

Focus
Auto, manual (outer focus ring)

Maximum shutter speed
1/15,000th of a second

Exposure
Auto, manual, Tv (shutter speed priority), Av (aperture priority), AE shift, spotlight mode

White balance
Auto, manual

Digital effects
Fade, slow shutter speed

Audio
One 16-bit (48kHz, 2-channel) or two 12-bit (32kHz, 4-channel) PCM stereo tracks

Inputs
Stereo audio, DV (IEEE 1394), microphone

Outputs
Composite video, S-Video, stereo audio, DV (IEEE 1394), headphones

Edit interface
Control-L (LANC)

Other features
Gain control, 16:9 recording, accessory shoe, built-in ND filter, optical image stabilization, independent audio level controls, remote with jog-shuttle controller, headphone level control, audio peak meters, backlit LCD display, record search, zebra stripes

Dimensions
8.75 (width) by 8.45 (height) by 16.3 (length) inches

Weight (sans tape, lens and battery)
3 pounds 12 ounces

Video Performance (approx.):

Horizontal resolution (camera)
500 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)
500 lines

Performance Times

Pause to Record
0.1 seconds

Power-up to Record
4 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)
1 minute 20 seconds

Strengths

  • Outstanding audio and video quality
  • Full manual control
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Stylish, effective design

Weaknesses

  • Expensive
  • Iris control only moves in stops

Summary
A very cool camcorder, if you can afford it

 

 


Tech Specs
Hitachi VM-8300A VHS Camcorder

Format
VHS

Lens
16:1 optical zoom, 130:1 digital zoom, single-speed power zoom, f/1.4, inner focus, wide macro, 46mm filter diameter

Image sensor
¼-inch CCD, 270,000 pixels

Viewfinder
0.5 inch color LCD

Focus
Auto, inner manual

Maximum shutter speed
1/4000

Exposure
Auto

White balance
Auto

Digital effects
Negative/positive conversion, half-mirror, mosaic, 16×9

Audio
Mono VHS linear

Inputs
Composite video, mono audio

Outputs
Composite video, mono audio

Edit interface
None

Other features
Flying erase head, lens cover, electronic image stabilization, digital instant zoom, fade, character generator, audio dub, index search

Dimensions
4.25 (width) by 8.5 (height) by 13.25 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery)
4.4 pounds

 

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)
230 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)
180 lines
 

Performance Times

Pause to Record
0.5 seconds

Power-up to Record
2 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)
1 minute 50 seconds

Strengths

  • Low cost
  • Autofocus and autoexposure systems respond quickly

Weaknesses

  • No mike or headphone jacks
  • No manual exposure control
  • Slow power zoom
  • No real-time counter

 

 


Tech Specs
Samsung SCF34 VHS Camcorder

Format
VHS

Lens
16:1 optical zoom, 3.9-62.4mm focal length, single-speed power zoom, f/1.4, inner focus, wide macro, 52mm filter diameter

Image sensor
¼-inch CCD, 270,000 pixels

Viewfinder
0.5 inch color LCD

Focus
Auto, inner manual

Maximum shutter speed
1/1000

Exposure
Auto, program AE

White balance
Auto

Digital effects
3 kinds of paint, fog, sepia

Audio
Mono VHS linear

Inputs
Composite video, mono audio, external microphone

Outputs
Composite video, mono audio

Edit interface
None

Other features
Flying erase head, fade, character generator, audio/video dub, index search

Dimensions
4.6 (width) by 7.9 (height) by 14.3 (depth) inches

Weight (sans tape and battery)
4.4 pounds

 

Video Performance (approx.)

Horizontal resolution (camera)
250 lines

Horizontal resolution (playback)
200 lines
 

Performance Times

Pause to Record
0.5 seconds

Power-up to Record
2 seconds

Fast-forward/Rewind (30 min. tape)
1 minute 45 seconds

Strengths

  • Low cost
  • External microphone jack
  • Solid, sturdy feel

Weaknesses

  • No manual exposure control
  • No image stabilization

Summary
A good bargain with some very nice features.

 

 


Tech Specs
in:sync Kohesion Nonlinear Editing Software

Platform
PC

 

Minimum System Requirements

Processor
Pentium 133MHz

Memory
16MB RAM

Disk Space
At least 200MB free

Operating system
Windows 95 or NT
 

Recommended System

Processor
Pentium 200MHz+

Memory
32MB+ RAM

Hard Drive
Wide SCSI-2

Strengths

  • Direct output of RealMedia files
  • Precise bandwidth controls
  • Ability to create hotlinked events

Weaknesses

  • Quirky interface
  • Limited transitions and effects

Summary
A good first step into the future of digital video content creation

 

 


Tech Specs
Strata StudioPro 2.1 3D Animation Software

Platform
Power Macintosh

Minimum System Requirements

Processor
Power Macintosh

Operating System
Mac System 7.6 or later

Memory
32MB RAM

Other requirements
Quicktime 2.0 or later; Quickdraw 3D 1.5 or later

 

Recommended System

Processor
604e series PowerPC

Memory
40MB+ RAM

Strengths

  • Easy to use interface
  • Nice animation controls
  • Animated texture maps
  • Fast rendering

Weaknesses

  • Too expensive

Summary
A great combination of modeling and rendering power and easy

 

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