- RCA ProV2000D MiniDV Camcorder
- Pinnacle Systems miroVIDEODC30 plus
- DataVideo TBC-2000 Time
- Smith-Victor K-86 Light
- Canopus DVRex M1 DV Capture
RCA ProV2000D MiniDV Camcorder
One of the many entrants into the MiniDV camcorder fray is RCA’s ProV2000D,
which appears to be a clone of the Sharp VL-DC10U. The ProV2000D offers
the best of two worlds: the easy-to-view convenience of a large LCD monitor
and the improved image quality of the DV format.
The ProV2000D mounts its lens assembly on a rotating handgrip, allowing
you to change your shooting angle independent of your viewing angle. The
crucial zoom and stop/start controls fall under your right thumb, while
all other controls fall under your left thumb. The RCA’s bright, sharp LCD
viewfinder sits in between, almost filling the camcorder’s entire back panel.
Out front are the 12x zoom lens and stereo microphone. The ProV2000D’s lens
offers four zoom speeds, as well as digital zoom to 30x. On the right handgrip
is a small built-in speaker; the back panel sports a plug-in-power mike
jack and stereo headphone jack. In VCR mode, the camcorder’s zoom rocker
doubles as its speaker/headphone volume control.
The ProV2000D uses an output module that plugs into the left side of the
unit. This allows the manufacturer to avoid the age-old "where do we
put the jacks?" quandary, and makes the camcorder a little lighter.
You can also purchase an accessory tuner module ($249) that plugs into the
same spot. Unfortunately, the ProV2000D will not record an external source,
nor does it have a FireWire connector.
The ProV2000D’s four-inch LCD is more than just a viewfinder–it’s the
heart of the camcorder’s user interface. A four-way rocker button selects
on-screen controls that appear at the four edges of the LCD. In the normal
shooting mode, for example, the four on-screen options are gain-up, DIS
(digital image stabilization), fade and extend (instant digital zoom). The
word "FADE" sits at the bottom of the screen; push the rocker
button down, and it engages the fader.
Pushing the ProV2000D’s MENU button cycles through the various on-screen
control menus. When the word "MENU" appears on-screen, you can
select it to bring up a more in-depth menu. These menus (one each for both
camera and VCR mode) offer numerous options. This on-screen system means
the camcorder has a minimum of dedicated controls and buttons, an approach
some users will appreciate. If you loathe pecking your way through menus,
though, the ProV2000D may be frustrating. If you like a less-cluttered viewfinder,
the DISPLAY button removes the overlayed text legends from the screen (though
the four controls remain active).
Though it lacks dedicated buttons and knobs, the ProV2000D offers a good
complement of manual controls. Manual focus uses the rocker switch to power
the auto-focus motor, a control scheme not quite as smooth or accurate as
a manual focus knob. The MANUAL menu offers control over shutter speed (up
to 1/10,000th of a second), white balance lock and iris adjust. Here at
Videomaker, we prefer white balance lock to presets, and we were glad to
see it on the ProV2000D. This method allows you to frame up a white object,
lock the white balance and be all but guaranteed good color.
The camcorder’s manual iris is an offset-style control, offering six steps
above and below the auto setting. At the furthest extremes, the ProV2000D
didn’t appear to offer more than about one stop of adjustment. With an iris
offset, auto iris continues to function–this means the camcorder will still
respond to changing lighting conditions, which may not be what you want.
As with white balance, we find a true iris override to be preferable as
it disables the easily fooled automatic circuits in the camcorder. That
said, the offset-style adjustment is better than nothing.
Other picture controls include backlight compensation, gain-up and digital
image stabilization (DIS). The ProV2000D’s gain-up circuit works reasonably
well, and includes a clever noise reduction circuit to make the resulting
video noise less objectionable. DIS takes a toll on image sharpness, and
bumps the shutter speed to 1/100th of a second.
The ProV2000D offers just two video effects: strobe and fade. You can engage
the strobe effect on playback, though only with the remote. Other remote-only
modes include slow motion playback and frame advance.
The ProV2000D offers a few other features worthy of note. One is an on-screen
stopwatch with lap time and 1/100th of a second accuracy. The camcorder
does not record the stopwatch to tape, but you can use it in record or playback
mode. Two still image modes record field-resolution images to tape. Finally,
a unique MESSAGE mode lets you flip the lens over and shoot a 30-second
monologue to tape. The viewfinder even counts down the remaining time and
finishes your message with a fade.
The ProV2000D is a light and well-balanced camcorder. We found it to be
quite comfortable to shoot with, and the large LCD monitor keeps its picture
quality, even in bright lighting conditions. Once you get the hang of the
menu system, it’s relatively easy to activate any function.
The ProV2000D’s video performance is about on-par with a premium Hi8 camcorder;
it doesn’t touch the performance of a high-end DV unit like the Canon XL1
or Sony CCD-VX1000. The ProV2000D’s camera output went well beyond 400 lines
of resolution, but tape playback was struggling to reach that figure. Recordings
done with the ProV2000D are a touch noisy even in adequate light, with the
tell-tale speckles most visible in areas of dark color. Low-light sensitivity
of the RCA is fair.
Audio quality of the ProV2000D is quite good, which surprises us for one
reason: the ProV2000D’s mike sits less than an inch from the transport.
We were expecting motor noises galore–turns out they’re present but not
objectionable. The designer that created the mike’s mounting system deserves
Overall, the ProV2000D is a well-designed camcorder that offers a good complement
of controls, a unique interface and average image quality.
miroVIDEO DC30 plus
280 N. Bernardo Avenue
Mountain View, CA 94043
When we reviewed the original miroVIDEO DC30 card just over a year ago,
we found it to be a solid performer with a somewhat challenging installation
curve. Since then, Pinnacle Systems bought miro and competition has heated
up considerably in the low-cost capture-board market. The miroVIDEO DC30
is still around, however, re-released with new software and drivers and
a "plus" after its name.
The DC30 plus is a PCI bus-mastering card that uses Plug-and-Play
technology to ease installation (or so the theory goes–more on this later).
The DC30 plus offers S-video and composite inputs and outputs, as
well as stereo audio in/out. The stereo RCA jacks are on a small breakout
cable that hangs from the card; video connections are on the back of the
The DC30 plus allows you to mix and match between two horizontal
resolutions (640 or 320 pixels) and two vertical resolutions (480 or 240
pixels). The DC30 plus will also crop off the outermost pixels if
you want, cleaning up the image slightly and saving some disk space.
If your hard drive system is up to it, the DC30 plus‘ Motion-JPEG
(MJPEG) chipset will pump out video rates up to about 7MB a second. At a
full 640×480 resolution, that translates to an extremely transparent 2.5:1
compression ratio. For most consumer-level video editing, that’s more than
Compared to video, still images are a slam-dunk for a card like the DC30
plus. It grabs very nice stills at resolutions up to 640×480, with
good color and crisp resolution. The video compression slider affects stills
at the digitization step, not during saving–make sure you’ve got
the quality slider maximized before grabbing a still. The card will also
pack stills one after another into an AVI file, saving a new frame each
time you press the ENTER key.
The DC30 plus bundle includes full working versions of Adobe Premiere
4.2 and Asymetrix 3D FX. That’s several hundred dollars worth of software
you won’t need to purchase, which is good news indeed. DC30 plus
buyers will also get limited edition versions of Adobe Photoshop and Crystal
Graphics Flying Fonts.
The clever "instant video" drivers really make the editing process
more efficient. Premiere usually re-renders each and every frame of video
for the final movie, even if it’s unchanged by a transition or filter. This
makes for a lot of wasted hard drive space, and a great deal of time lost.
When you export your timeline to the DC30 plus instant video drivers,
the system renders only the changed video frames; it plays the finished
movie back from the original video files wherever possible. This speeds
things up considerably, and also does away with the 2GB AVI file size limit
for your finished movie.
The DC30 plus package also includes drivers to route Windows sounds
through the card’s on-board audio system. Having audio support right on
the board is a two-edged sword. On the plus side, it makes for a more foolproof
integration between audio and video digitizing, with fewer potential sync
problems. On the negative side, on-board sound capabilities can conflict
with an existing sound card. This may mean enabling and disabling drivers,
especially if you switch from editing video to an application that requires
more sophisticated sound capabilities.
A small setup utility allows you to route the DC30 plus‘ display
to the S-video output, composite output or back to the VGA display as an
overlay. Before the latest drivers came out, only DirectDraw-compatible
VGA cards supported the overlay function. Now, according to Pinnacle, most
VGA cards should support overlay. If your VGA card doesn’t offer overlay
capabilities, you’ll need an NTSC monitor to work efficiently.
Print to Tape
We tested the DC30 plus on a 300MHz Micron Millennia XKU system with
64MB of RAM and 4GB Fast SCSI A/V hard drive. This configuration renders
transition and filters quickly, even at full resolution. Factor in the miroINSTANT
video driver, and the DC30 plus was surprisingly fast at assembling
a final movie.
The quality of the video and audio coming out of the DC30 plus is
very good. We found the highest resolution mode and a compression setting
of around 6:1 to be suitable for Hi8 source footage, leaving minimal compression
artifacts in the finished movie. This mode kept data rates under 3MB per
second, a workable figure for home video production.
As compression settings neared 8:1 and 10:1, artifacts became obvious (as
they would with any MJPEG compression board). The board’s 320×480 resolution
mode works great for VHS footage, and isn’t half bad for Hi8 or S-VHS work.
The 240-pixel vertical resolution mode isn’t well-suited to video, and flickers
How easy is the DC30 plus to install? It depends–if your system
has a PCI-friendly BIOS and an IRQ to spare, you’ll be fine. In the Micron
test system (Phoenix BIOS), IRQ conflicts took several hours to solve as
the DC30 plus scuffled with the Diamond Viper 330 VGA card. You’ve
heard it before, folks–Plug-and-Play doesn’t live up to its name.
Installation aside, we had a few other minor problems, most courtesy of
the instant video driver. The output driver would sometimes miss a transition
entirely (the simple Premiere "take" transition, in one instance).
The edit would play fine in the preview window, but disappear on final playback.
Trying a different approach on the timeline usually corrected the problem.
A few other minor gremlins plagued playback, though it was hard to nail
down their exact cause.
All in all, the miroVIDEO DC30 plus still stands as a viable option
for people shopping the under-$1,000 PCI card market. The board offers very
good image and sound quality, and installation will either be a snap or
a snafu depending on the host system. Once up and running, the miroVIDEO
DC30 plus is hampered only by the occasional software hiccup.
A few months back, we tested DataVideo Technology’s SE-200 Integrated Editing
Center, a device that took the all-in-one approach to consumer video peripherals.
In that review, we noted one primary weakness of the SE-200: it didn’t have
a built-in time base corrector (TBC)/frame synchronizer for performing true
This month, we test DataVideo Technology’s own solution to this problem
for owners of the SE-200: the TBC-2000 time base corrector. With the TBC-2000,
it’s possible to synchronize two moving sources of video for applying dissolves,
fades, wipes and other types of special-effect transitions. If you don’t
know what a time base corrector is, don’t worry–we’ll explain the functions
and capabilities of this product in enough detail for you to decide whether
your video arsenal needs one. If you’d like to study up on the subject before
continuing, consult the article "Video Calibration" in the December
1996 issue of Videomaker.
TBC or not TBC
First, before we go into detail about the TBC-2000, let’s simplify a bit
and jump to the conclusion of our story: if you own the SE-200 Integrated
Editing Center, you should buy the TBC-2000. If you don’t own the SE-200,
and you just want a general-purpose TBC for your video productions, you
may wish to shop for something with more features. Here’s why: the SE-200,
needs a device like the TBC-2000 in order to provide its full dose of A/B-roll
functionality. Also, the SE-200 is very much a product in the consumer realm,
which means that the TBC you’d need to match its level of quality doesn’t
necessarily have to be a wonderful professional-level piece of equipment.
In other words, the TBC-2000 provides adequate synchronization of two moving
video sources, but not much else.
There are two main purposes for owning a TBC: to synchronize two (or more)
separate moving sources of video, and to clean up minute timing errors that
occur during the duplication process. In the latter category, the TBC-2000
does not perform well enough to merit recommendation. The chief drawback
of the TBC-2000 is the poor quality of the digitized image. Because it actually
makes a digital copy of one full frame of video at a time, the quality of
any TBC’s output links directly to the quality of the still frames it captures.
The quality of the still images on the TBC-2000 is noisy and grainy at best,
and sometimes will have a tendency to break down completely into a jittery
For signal adjustment, the TBC-2000 provides brightness, contrast and color
(saturation) controls, which are of adequate quality, but don’t appear as
if they could withstand the rigors of regular use. Also present on the front
panel of the TBC-2000 is a Still button, which holds a single frame (both
fields) on the screen.
On the back panel of the TBC-2000, the inputs and outputs are easily accessible,
clearly labeled and logically arranged. A tiny switch next to each set of
plugs selects between composite (RCA-style) and S-video connectors. Unfortunately,
the device won’t pass video through it when the power switch is off–a minor
annoyance that DataVideo could’ve easily avoided.
The TBC-2000 is not a serious solution for professional-level work. The
ad for the product appearing on DataVideo’s Web site is a bit misleading:
"Use the TBC-2000 together with the SE-200 to create fully professional,
synchronized video effects." Eliminate the word professional,
but keep the emphasis on using the product primarily with the SE-200, and
you have a much more accurate view of the TBC-2000’s main purpose.
Let’s face it–what really separates good video from bad video is lighting.
The mere presence or absence of lighting instruments on a shoot is one of
the most important factors in getting the maximum production value out of
Even so, many amateur videographers wouldn’t think of purchasing a video
light–let alone a complete lighting kit–to enhance their productions.
This is probably due to the fact that many amateurs consider lights an expensive
luxury that only professionals can afford. There are many low-cost lighting
kits available on the market, and though professionals might sniff at them,
they could be the best way for many amateur videographers to take that first
big step towards better-looking home video productions.
One such kit is Smith-Victor’s model K-86, a simple three-light affair that
provides all a fledgling video hound needs to begin experimenting with basic
three-point lighting scenarios. While this kit certainly won’t win any awards
for elegance of design or all-around functionality of the equipment, it
does fill an important niche in the market, where folks are just beginning
to get serious about the craft of video.
In the Case
The kit consists of three very basic Smith-Victor model A80 lights,
three model RS-8 stands and a rugged, wheeled plastic case. The wheels on
the case are an especially good idea that will hopefully someday become
a standard feature on equipment cases of this size. It isn’t the most awe-inspiring
case in terms of physical security; in other words, checking this kit as
luggage at the airport might not be a great idea. It does, however, travel
fairly well in a car or truck.
The model A80 lights are mounted on swiveling stands that appear somewhat
flimsy, but which adequately perform their job of dialing in an exact angle
and holding it in position. The only form of lighting control available
is a single on-off switch. A simple black knob provides a way to move the
light when the metal housing begins to get hot (which it does quite rapidly).
The socket of the A80 is the same kind you’d find in your lighting fixtures
at home. Though any incandescent light bulb will work fairly well in these
lights, we recommend using bulbs or floodlamps designed for video production;
otherwise, you may have problems achieving a proper white balance in your
The RS-8 stands also appear quite flimsy, and in use they failed to consistently
provide the rock-steady sturdiness that one naturally desires in a light
stand. Even so, they did have one redeeming feature: the lock-down bolts
on the telescoping shafts were of sufficient quality to survive the occasional
weekend video project. In short, the stands performed their job adequately,
but not by any means perfectly.
A Good First Light Kit
Let’s recall that we reviewed this product from the perspective of the amateur
videographer. From this point of view, the kit is delightfully simple and
straightforward. It does what you most need it to do: it throws light on
your subject. If you need to control the intensity of your illumination,
you’ll have to resort to clamping some heat-resistant diffusion material
to the rim of the light, or perhaps turning a light upward and bouncing
it off the ceiling (if it happens to be white).
The kit’s biggest flaw lies in its overall flimsy nature. It’s certainly
not the flimsiest equipment we’ve ever seen, but it doesn’t take much imagination
to see these lights falling over frequently and wearing out after a few
years of steady use.
To summarize: the Smith-Victor K-86 light kit is a good, inexpensive way
for amateur videographers to start taking control of their video lighting.
The level of lighting control they provide might be just one step above
using shop lights or floor lamps for your video productions, but it’s an
important step that we would encourage beginning readers to take at their
Another Star is Born
Last year, Videomaker tested the first DV capture board ever to hit
the shelves, Fast Multimedia’s DV Master. The DV Master has held a privileged–and
somewhat costly–position in the prosumer nonlinear editing marketplace,
due mainly to its incorporation of Sony’s DVBK-1 hardware codec. The presence
of the hardware codec on the DV Master meant that rendering times while
working with DV footage on the hard drive were greatly enhanced, and that
the possibility existed to incorporate analog footage into your DV-based
productions, among other things.
Now Canopus Corporation has released the DVRex M1, a DV audio/video capture
board aimed directly at the same market that Fast’s DV Master previously
occupied alone. In this review, we’ll be taking frequent opportunities to
make comparisons between the two products, but to cut to the chase: in general,
we found the DVRex M1 to provide all of the functionality of the DV Master
and more–at a suggested retail price that comes in about $500 less than
Ins and Outs
Like the DV Master, the Canopus DVRex M1 installed easily into our Benchmarks
test computer (133MHz Pentium, 32MB RAM, 4GB Seagate Barracuda Wide SCSI-II
capture drive). Though the system requirements for the DVRex M1 list a 166MHz
Pentium as the minimum required CPU speed, we found that Videomaker‘s
133MHz test computer kept up with the card’s needs most of the time, with
the occasional slow operation of some on-screen functions. In these cases,
our test machine suffered such a serious performance lag, that we doubt
whether a 166MHz processor would be enough for smooth, seamless performance.
Bottom line: if you’re thinking of purchasing a computer to go with the
DVRex M1, get the fastest CPU you can afford.
The DVRex M1 ships with the board itself, a stylish breakout box with all
of the necessary inputs and outputs, a CD-ROM with all of the necessary
drivers, and a full copy of Ulead’s MediaStudio Pro 5.0. The breakout box
can operate either in an internal or external configuration. When configured
internally, it occupies a single standard drive bay, offering a very convenient
location (the front panel of your computer) for all of the necessary video
and audio connectors. In its external configuration, the breakout box has
a much nicer appearance than other products of its type. All too often,
manufacturers put too little thought to how a product will affect the appearance
of an editing workstation; Canopus is to be commended for providing something
other than the standard, ugly stamped-metal affair.
Installation of the board was a breeze; within five minutes of opening the
computer’s case, the DVRex M1 was operating perfectly.
Like the Fast DV Master, the DVRex M1 offers a very nice full-motion video
overlay on your computer screen. This in effect means you can use your computer
monitor as a high-quality preview monitor for your video productions. When
doing so, however, note that the colors on your computer screen may not
match the NTSC colors you’ll see when you output the final production to
Rendering times with the DVRex M1 were comparable to that of the DV Master.
A one-second 3D transition, for example, took about five minutes to render
fully on our test computer. (Note: faster computers with more RAM will speed
up the job considerably.) Though the manual recommends the included MediaStudio
Pro 5.0 software, we had no problems using Adobe Premiere 4.2 as our editing
software, once we configured the appropriate pre-sets.
One very nice feature of the DVRex M1 is the ability to perform batch captures
with the included RexEdit software. Using the IEEE 1394 FireWire for deck
control, it’s possible to quickly download a selection of clips, with the
audio, from your DV camera or deck to the hard drive automatically.
By way of comparison with the DV Master: the DVRex M1 includes several features
not found on the Fast product. One is the ability to use a Microsoft Intellimouse
as a physical jog/shuttle controller to move through your tapes. Another
is the ability to input and output digital audio directly through the breakout
In general, the DVRex M1 is a superior, stable product that beats the DV
Master hands down in almost every way. The only thing, in fact, that the
DV Master provides that the DVRex M1 does not is YUV (Betacam) output–but
this feature is available on the optional DVRex M2 upgrade for $895. If
you’re a prosumer video editor who wants the ultimate in DV nonlinear performance,
the choice is clear: Canopus’ DVRex M1 is a nose ahead of the competition.
Contributing editor Loren Alldrin is a freelance video and music producer.
Joe McCleskey is a freelance journalist and video producer.
RCA ProV2000D MiniDV Camcorder
12:1 optical zoom (4.2-50.4mm), 30:1 digital zoom, four-speed power
zoom, f/1.8, inner focus
1/4-inch, 410,000 pixels
auto, push-button manual
Maximum shutter speed
auto, manual offset, backlight compensation
continuous auto, hold
fade, strobe (record and playback), slow motion (playback only)
stereo microphone (plug-in power)
S-video, composite video, stereo audio, stereo headphone
still image record, digital image stabilization, gain up, infrared remote,
on-screen stopwatch, self-record message mode, built-in speaker
7.1 (width) x 3.8 (height) x 3.5 (depth) inches
Weight (sans tape and battery)
Video Performance (approx.)
Horizontal resolution (camera): 450
Horizontal resolution (playback): 380
Pause to record: 1 second
Power-up to record: 12 seconds
Fast-forward/rewind (30 min. tape): 45 seconds
Large, crisp LCD viewfinder
Unique on-screen interface
No FireWire connection
No analog inputs
A fun-to-use MiniDV camcorder with average image quality
miroVIDEO DC30 plus
Windows PC, PCI slot
S-video, composite video, stereo audio
S-video, composite video, stereo audio
Digitizing resolutions (NTSC)
640×480, 320×480, 640×240, 320×240 (plus user-selectable cropping)
11kHz, 22kHz, or 44kHz sampling rate; 8- or 16-bit resolution; stereo
VGA video overlay, still image capture, "instant" playback
driver, selectable comb filter, picture controls, system performance diagnostics
Adobe Premiere 4.2, Asymetrix 3D FX, Adobe Photoshop LE, Crystal Flying
Minimum System Requirements
one bus-mastering PCI slot
Very good audio and video performance
On-board audio digitizing
Generous software bundle
Potentially challenging install procedure
Some software/driver hiccups
A tried-and-true PCI capture card that’s still a good value
TM-2000 Time Base Corrector
Frame synchronization with full-frame (dual-field) memory
8-bit video resolution
Composite (x2), S-video (x2)
Composite (x2), S-video (x2)
Mediocre image quality
A decent supplement product for DataVideo’s SE-200 Integrated Editing Center
3 model A80 lights; 3 model RS-8 stands;
Light Cart plastic rolling case
100 degree illumination, 8-inch fixtures, 250-watt lamps provided
6-foot extension, telescoping, 360-degree swivel mount
Overall flimsy construction
No barn doors
A good first light kit for the serious amateur videographer
Canopus DVRex M1
DV Capture Board
PC (Windows95 or NT)
Minimum System Requirements
24-bit, DirectDraw hardware support
Digital audio input/output
Nice breakout box design
Requires powerful system to run properly
Look out, DV Master–here c