GR-AXM700 VHS-C Camcorder
JVC of America
1700 Valley Road
Wayne, NJ 07470
JVC adds another camcorder to its traditional line of simple VHS-C camcorders
designed for beginners and hobbyists with the GR-AXM700. With several additional
advanced and production oriented features, such as color bars, insert editing,
and digital still camera, this is also a good camcorder for the creative
A Production Cam for Home Videos
Overall, we were pleased with the GR-AXM700’s design as a production
camcorder for the home market. It’s refreshing to see a VHS-C camcorder
with manual controls and insert editing ability. The GR-AXM700 also functions
as a digital still camera, capturing up to 44 images in local memory that
can be inserted onto tape or downloaded to a PC. The GR-AXM700 even includes
the ability to record color bars on tape, a very rare feature in consumer
camcorders and extremely helpful for editing.
The camcorder is capable of audio and video insert editing. We quickly
and easily performed a nice video insert edit using the RM-V705U remote
control unit included with the camcorder. The GR-AXM700 additionally includes
JVC’s Random Assemble Edit (R.A. Edit) feature, which allows the user the
option of building a small edit list (eight shots) in the camcorder. The
R.A. Edit feature controls certain JVC decks to perform insert edits automatically.
The optional RM-V700U remote control is required for R.A. editing to function.
In the fully-automatic mode, the camcorder performed satisfactorily.
The autofocus worked well, even though it sometimes took a couple of seconds
to find focus when shifting from a near object to a far object or vice
versa. The GR-AXM700 has a great macro focus, which easily focused on anything
held in front of the lens. For example, it was able to focus on a 35mm
color photographic slide held extremely close to the lens, which is useful
for copying slides and print photos to tape for use in a program.
The auto iris exposed correctly and adjusted quickly to widely different
light conditions (indoors to outdoors, for example). The manual iris control
was especially useful for manipulating depth of field.
For sports programs the camcorder includes a sports mode with a high-speed
shutter setting. The manual shutter speed has an even faster setting (1/2,000th
of a second) and we were able to use it to capture a nice clear freeze
of a car traveling at just over 30mph.
The GR-AXM700 has five white balance modes: auto, daylight, overcast,
tungsten, and manual. The auto white balance worked well in most situations.
Exposure modes for the GR-AXM700 are set with a dial that’s also located
on the LCD panel. There are nine exposure modes, including some unique
settings that are more picture effects then exposure settings. The settings
include fog, ND (neutral density) and high-speed shutter. The fog mode
is rather unusual. It’s an electronic fog filter that lightens the entire
image to simulate fog. The fog mode works pretty well creating a foggy
look and it softens contrast in the process. The ND (neutral density) mode
is also unusual and works as an electronic neutral density filter to cut
the brightness out of the scene.
The fades and wipes are activated with a picture effects button on the
back of the LCD monitor. The two fades are black and mosaic. The two wipes
are shutter and slide. The fades and wipes are a bit slow. You can turn
the picture effects on and off while shooting, however, which comes in
handy if you’re in the middle of a shot and you want to fade out of it.
Although the GR-AXM700 seems a bit bulky and heavy compared to most of
today’s compact camcorders, it fits the hand well.
The zoom control button has two speed settings: fast and slow. The menu
additionally allows you to choose “fast” or “slow.” This means you have
two speeds on the zoom button, and two speeds on the menu. You can zoom
really fast, normal fast, really slow or normal slow. It’s a somewhat confusing
configuration and unique to this camcorder, but it worked like it was supposed
to once we figured it out.
The Electronic Image Stabilizer (EIS) is easy to turn on and off and
worked well to reduce shaky camera syndrome. With the EIS engaged, the
camcorder zooms in slightly (to allow room for the EIS to adjust the image)
which cuts a small percentage of the image area.
The GR-AXM700 has a flip-out three-inch LCD color monitor. With the
monitor open, we found we needed two hands to hold the camcorder steady:
one to hold the camcorder itself and one to support the monitor. Unfortunately,
the controls for picture effects (fades and wipes), low light shooting
and wide screen picture mode are on the back of the LCD monitor, so holding
it like this sometimes engaged those functions unintentionally.
Menus on the camcorder are operated with a wheel-style function button
also located on the LCD panel. The menus control manual focus, manual exposure
and manual white balance. Although the settings for focus are easy to manipulate
using the wheel, getting to the settings by going through several menu
choices could be awkward without some practice. It is also difficult to
hold the camcorder steady and change menus at the same time. With the exception
of these items, the buttons are well positioned and easily accessible.
The GR-AXM700 also functions as a digital still camera, storing up
to 22 high-resolution or 44 standard-resolution digital pictures in the
camcorder memory. The images we captured were crisp and clean. The digital
still pictures can be transferred via a digital output port directly to
a computer using the cable and software included with the camcorder. This
feature is very helpful for creating opening titles for videos. With its
manual controls and editing abilities the GR-AXM700 is a versatile camcorder
that would be useful for the creative home video producer.
A Microphone on the Edge
AT851a Micro Cardioid Condenser Boundary Microphone
Audio-Technica U.S., Inc.
1221 Commerce Drive
Stow, OH 44224
Event and performance videographers are often called upon to tape in
situations where they have little control over the program and little chance
to form a plan. Because of this, they need tools that allow them to be
versatile. Designed for the professional and prosumer market, the Audio-Technica
AT851a boundary microphone qualifies as one of these tools.
A boundary microphone is placed at the edge, or “boundary” of the area
to be miked. Normally in this situation, sound energy will reflect and
bounce around, creating interference. The boundary microphone does not
pick up the reflected sound. Ambient noise is therefore reduced and sensitivity
is increased, improving the signal to noise ratio. A boundary mike is useful
when a surface mounted microphone is called for. This would typically occur
in an interview situation, a conference setting with subjects sitting at
a table, an auditorium setting with speakers or performers on a stage or
as a hidden microphone on a set.
Small and Sleek
The AT851a microphone is compact and slick looking. Because of its
small size and availability in either black or white colors, the mike hides
well on camera. The AT851a comes with a dedicated 25-foot long balanced
audio cable that is smaller then standard mike cables and therefore easier
to hide. The cable connects to a power module that uses a single, AA-size
battery. The AT851a boundary microphone can also be powered by an audio
mixer’s own phantom power supply, if it has one. The power module of the
microphone has two positions, one for flat response and one for low frequency
roll-off. Flat response is good for most normal-sounding situations. The
low frequency roll-off setting is useful for troublesome situations where
low frequency rumbling or booming is a problem, such as near heavy traffic
or when you are recording footsteps on an uncarpeted wooden stage.
We tested the AT851a in both performance and lecture scenarios by placing
the mike at the front of an 18×12-foot stage and at the front of a lecture
table. The AT851a was easy to set up. We plugged the mike’s cable in, attached
the power module and plugged in a standard XLR balanced mike cable going
to our Mackie Micro Series 1202 mixer. The mixer output went to a Panasonic
AG-1980 S-VHS deck.
For our first test we placed the AT851a on the stage with two people
as talent. One subject moved around the stage, as if addressing the audience,
while the other sat on a chair near the center. The AT851a was able to
pick up both subjects clearly, with good volume and fidelity. We were impressed
by the microphone’s sensitivity. We could hear both subjects, with equal
level and fidelity at distances up to 12 feet. It was not until our roving
subject reached the very back of the stage, about 15 feet away, that we
started hearing some reflected sound.
We had one of the subjects do a little dance and scrape and bump chairs
on the stage. While the AT851a was able to pick up the sounds of the footsteps
and chairs, those sounds didn’t overpower the voices as so often happens.
The microphone reproduced the sounds much the way they sounded to the ear,
not as though the sound was being transferred through the wood of the stage
With the frequency roll-off mode engaged, we conducted the same tests.
We noticed little difference in the subject’s voices, but the ambient noise
from the foot and chair movement was noticeably reduced. In the videotape
of the test, the black, low-profile mike was nearly invisible and we could
hear both subjects as clear as if they were both wearing high-cost wireless
Interviews and Conferences
Next we tested the AT851a at a table, as it would typically be used
in an interview or press conference situation. The microphone picked up
the subject’s voice equally well whether he was leaning forward or back
in his seat. Once again, we noticed that although the microphone did pick
up the sounds of hand movements on and against the table, the mechanical
surface noises did not boom or overpower the voice. The surface noise sounded
the same on tape as it did to the ear–barely noticeable.
We then added another person to the set. With two people sitting opposite
each other and speaking into different sides of the mike, the AT851a reproduced
both voices equally well.
We found the AT851a boundary microphone to be an excellent tool for
the prosumer event and performance videographer. This mike would be a good
choice for videographers shooting lectures, stage performances, interviews
Up, Up and Away
Classic Video Products
93 Cottage Lane
Aliso Viejo, CA 92655-4204
Prosumer, professional and even advanced hobbyist videographers are
always looking for ways to make their footage stand out from the crowd.
One shooting technique that always captures attention is the crane shot.
We’ve all seen crane shots in big-budget movies and on television. The
camera seems to be flying and can move from floor level to many feet above
the action. Although camera cranes have traditionally been beyond the reach
of most low budget producers, Classic Video Products Cobra Crane is an
affordable solution built to handle consumer camcorders.
A camera crane is a long boom arm with a camera mount on one end and
a counterweight on the other end. Most low cost, practical cranes mount
on standard tripods and are sometimes called jib arms.
The Cobra Crane is a low cost unit that mounts on a heavy duty tripod
with a quick release mount. For our test we used a Bogen 3036 tripod and
a Bogen 3063 head with a Canon ES4000 camcorder. Using a cable and pulley
system, the Cobra Crane allows the operator to tilt the camcorder up to
180-degrees with the tripod’s tilt handle. This tilting feature helps make
the Cobra Crane very versatile and is a feature seldom found on low cost
consumer cranes and jib arms. The Cobra Crane will allow camcorder boom
shots from floor level up to nine feet high. There is an optional boom
arm available which will extend the crane’s reach to 12 feet.
Of course, with the camcorder so far away you can’t see though the viewfinder,
so the crane comes with a video cable, which runs inside to attach the
camcorder to a video monitor. Classic Video Products also makes an optional
bracket used to attach a two-inch LCD monitor to your tripod. For the most
creative configuration, there is also an optional remote control for camcorders
with a LANC control port that can control the camcorder’s zoom, pause and
For the crane to be balanced it needs counterweight for the camcorder
and boom arm. To accomplish this task inexpensively, the Cobra Crane has
a bracket to mount ordinary barbell weights for ballast, available at many
department and sporting goods stores.
The Cobra Crane is surprisingly easy to set up. We attached the mounting
bracket to the tripod’s quick-release plate with no problem. Mounting the
boom arm on the tripod was the next step. At only eight pounds it easily
snapped into place. The camcorder was next, which we easily mounted with
the sliding plate and thumbscrew. The last step was to add weights until
the arm was sufficiently counterbalanced. We fine-tuned the balance with
an adjustable sliding weight attached to the boom arm. Finally, only minutes
after we began, we plugged the video line into the camcorder, plugged the
other end into a monitor, and we were ready to fly.
Learning to operate the Cobra Crane took only a matter of minutes.
The boom moved smoothly and the tilt function was easy to operate. We were
able to start a shot with an extreme closeup, raise the boom a few inches
to a top view, and pan across the subject within this same view. We boomed
the camcorder around the studio in an arc and stopped with a wide shot
of our set. All the movements were smooth and graceful, and created a very
slick, dynamic look and feel to the video footage that we shot.
Although it’s typically not a good idea to use crane shots to video
tape an entire production, crane shots are effective in industrial videos,
training videos, promotional videos, performance videos, wedding receptions
or in establishing shots that set the stage for any of these productions.
The Cobra Crane is a great, low cost way to achieve very professional-
looking camcorder movements. It is portable, quick and easy to set up and
simple to operate. Most of all, it’s a lot of fun. The Cobra Crane is a
great product for the prosumer, professional or advanced hobbyist.
Scriptware Scriptwriting Software
($300, $180 for DOS version)
1750 30th Street, Suite 360
Boulder, CO 80301
Scriptwriting is one of the most overlooked steps in the video production
process. Ironically, it is also one of the most important for a well-made
video. Comments like, “We’ll figure it out as we shoot,” doom too many
productions. One of the most common excuses for skipping the scripting
stage is, “I don’t know how to write a script.” Cinovation has helped eliminate
that roadblock with Scriptware, available for Macintosh, Windows and DOS,
a scriptwriting program aimed at the serious producer who wants to create
Over the years the film and video industries have standardized scripting
formats. This makes it easier for writers, producers and directors to communicate
their ideas. Cinovation created Scriptware to help writers and producers
of all experience levels, from the first time producer to the seasoned
professional. Scriptware is a scriptwriting program that takes care of
the script formatting chores and helps to organize and arrange your script.
With Scriptware you don’t have to worry about where the different elements
of the script are supposed to appear, how they are formatted or what the
differences are between television and film scripts. You don’t even have
to write your scenes in order. Scriptware makes it easy to reorder your
script by scene.
While working on a script, writers will often outline scenes on 3×5
note cards and then mount them on a wall or bulletin board. That way the
writers can look at the flow of the script and reorder scenes by moving
cards around. Scriptware simulates this task by giving the user the option
of displaying outlines of the scenes in individual squares (which can be
resized as needed). The scenes can be reordered quickly and easily using
the scene shuffle tool. Unfortunately, Scriptware only formats for dramatic
or screenplay types of scripts. Scriptware will not format a script in
the side-by-side, A/V (audio-video) format.
The Easy Way
We tested the Macintosh version of Scriptware. Installing the software
was easy and took less than five minutes. The program is intuitive and
quick to learn. Menus include lists and tools you need to create a script,
such as characters, transitions, scene intros, scene locations, time of
day indicators and shot intros. You add the names of the characters that
will be in your script. Don’t worry if you forget someone, you can add
new characters at any time and you don’t have to put the characters in
the list first. You can add them in as you write. Once a character is added
to the list you will not have to type that character’s name again. The
program does that for you. If you know all of your locations before you
start writing you can enter them too.
Putting Our Writing to the Test
To test the program we wrote a short script about our editors going
out for donuts (pure fiction, of course). After entering the characters
and the scene locations we started the script with the first scene location.
We typed “int” (for interior) and pressed the space bar. The program automatically
reformatted the “int” to all capital letters, added the correct spaces
and opened the scene location list. We clicked the mouse on the location
we wanted and pressed tab. The cursor moved to the next location and the
“time of day” list opened. We picked “morning.” The cursor moved to the
next line where we wanted to start our dialogue. We hit tab to move the
cursor to the character title location and the character list opened. We
just typed the first letter of a name and that name appeared correctly
formatted. If you have two characters with the same name you type the first
two letters. Then we hit return and the cursor moved to the correct location
for that character’s dialogue to start. We wanted to describe what the
character was doing before his dialogue so we pressed tab and the cursor
moved to the correct location for action and appeared inside parenthesis
(action descriptions in scripts are parenthetical). After typing the action
we hit return and we were ready for the dialogue. When we finished the
last dialogue of our scene we went to the next line and pressed tab three
times. The cursor moved to the correct location for transitions and the
transition list opened. We choose our transition and pressed enter. Our
first scene was done.
We created several more scenes this way and then decided to check how
the scenes flowed together. We opened the outline menu from the pull down
menu and chose the scene cards option. We then decided we needed to reorder
the scenes so we closed the scene cards and opened the scene shuffle option,
also under the outline menu. The scene shuffle menu appeared as a list
of the scene descriptions. We were able to move scenes around quickly by
just dragging and dropping a scene where we wanted it.
A Handy Way to Write
Scriptware is a handy way to write scripts. The program takes most
of the troublesome housekeeping chores out of the scriptwriting process
and makes it very easy to reorder the scenes in a script. Scriptware would
be useful to any writer–hobbyist or professional–who works with dramatic
programs. Unfortunately, because it doesn’t format for A/V scripts, it
is not as useful for producers of industrial videos or training tapes.
Bravado 2000 Video Capture Card
($699 with Adobe Premiere 4.2 and $649 with Ulead MediaStudio Pro
2500 Walsh Ave.
Santa Clara, CA 95051
As the price of consumer desktop video (DTV) products continues to drop,
more prosumer and advanced hobbyist producers have started jumping into
Truevision has kept the needs of prosumer and advanced hobbyist video
producers in mind. Truevision’s Bravado 1000 was an early product for this
market that was designed by another company and marketed by Truevision.
The Bravado 2000, on the other hand, was designed entirely by Truevision
and includes better features at a lower cost.
The Bravado 2000 is a video and audio capture and playback board that
features a breakout box and hardware codecs. The breakout box is a very
handy feature that moves all of the audio and video inputs and outputs
from the back of the board to a small box that sits on your desktop. Truevision
includes either a breakout box or cable set on nearly all of its products.
Another important change from the Bravado 1000 is the addition of audio
capture. The Bravado 2000 includes both audio and video hardware codecs
on the card. You will need a separate audio board if you wish to capture
audio from your CD-ROM drive.
Our Benchmark test computer used a Pentium 200MHz CPU with 64MB of
RAM and a Seagate Barracuda Wide SCSI-2 hard drive for video capturing.
Because the Bravado 2000 board is a full length PCI board, you may have
some trouble fitting it into your computer’s box. Often, a full-length
board will be blocked by the CPU’s fan. We had to do some board shuffling
(moving boards currently in the system around to make room for a longer
board) to install the Bravado because all the open slots were in front
of the CPU and the Bravado board would not fit. Installing the software
went smoothly. The version of Bravado 2000 we tested was shipped with Adobe
Premiere 4.2, which was also a simple install. Bravado 2000 is also available
with Ulead MediaStudio Pro 5.0.
Next we connected a Panasonic PV-DV710 DV camcorder to the breakout
box inputs (using the DV camcorder’s S-video output) and an NTSC monitor
to the output of the breakout box. We found the breakout box is a great
way to get video and audio in and out of the board. The S-video jacks on
the breakout box are some of the best jacks we’ve seen. They have spring-loaded
retainers so the plugs are easy to get in, but stay in place once there.
Working in the Background
The Bravado 2000 board worked seamlessly from within Premiere. To input
video, we just went to the capture command under the file menu, clicked
on “Capture Movie” and the NTSC monitor (plugged into the output of the
Bravado breakout box) became active. As soon as we rolled our source, the
video was displayed on the NTSC monitor. After we finished capturing, we
played the clip back and it appeared on the NTSC monitor just as clean
and crisp as it looked while recording. We could not tell any difference
between the hard disk playback and the original tape. Displaying (or recording)
video through the NTSC output of the Bravado’s breakout box is an automatic
function. Whatever video we captured or played back in Premiere was displayed
on the NTSC monitor at full screen (720×480) and full speed (60 fields
Did You Hear Something?
We did have a small problem with the audio. The Bravado was not recording
or playing back audio when we first started to use it. Drivers were the
problem, and after we activated the Bravado 2000 drivers from the “multimedia
properties” menu in Windows 95, the audio worked fine.
There were no problems keeping the audio and video in sync. We captured
an interview we had recorded on tape that lasted more than five minutes
and, on playback, the audio remained in sync. Truevision ships an audio
mixer program with Bravado 2000 that is used to adjust record and playback
levels and balance.
We found the Bravado 2000 to be a great digital video and audio capture
board. Capturing was quick and simple and the quality of the playback was
very good. The hardware worked well with Adobe Premiere, one of the most
popular editing programs. It would be useful for prosumer and hobbyist
video producers alike.
Lens: 22:1 optical zoom (3.8-83.6mm focal length), 44:1 digital
zoom, four-speed power zoom, f/1.6, inner focus, telemacro, 46mm filter
Image sensor: 1/4-inch 270,000 pixel CCD
Viewfinder: 0.5-inch black-and-white, 3-inch color LCD viewscreen
Focus: auto, manual
Maximum shutter speed: 1/2000th of a second
Exposure: auto, manual
White balance: auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, manual
Program Modes: 4 – sports, twilight, high-speed shutter, low-light
Picture effects: 7 – fade, wipe, neutral density, wide screen,
sepia, fog, negative/positive
Inputs: external microphone
Outputs: composite video, mono audio, headphones, JLIP edit
control and digital mini DIN 8-pin (for digital transfer of still pictures
to a computer)
Other features: random assemble edit, electronic image stabilization,
insert editing, A-V dub, built-in lens cover, built-in light
Dimensions: 4.6 (width) x 4.6 (height) x 9.6 (depth)
Weight (sans tape and battery): 2.3 pounds
Video Performance (approx.)
Horizontal resolution (camera): 250 lines
Horizontal resolution (playback): 200 lines
Pause to record: 1 second
Power-up to record: 6 seconds
Fast-forward / rewind (30 minute tape): 2 minutes
- Manual controls
- Color bars
- LCD monitor
- Poor location of effects control
Access manual controls through menu summary: Good camcorder for home video
Element: fixed-charge back plate permanently polarized condenser
Polar pattern: half-cardioid (cardioid in hemisphere above mounting
Frequency response: 30 to 20,000Hz
Low-frequency roll-off: 80Hz, 18dB
Impedance: phantom 200 ohms, battery 270 ohms
Maximum input sound level: phantom 135dB SPL, battery 121dB
Signal-to-noise ratio: 67dB
Switch: off, on-flat, on-roll-off
Battery type: leakproof, AA/UM3 1.5 volt
Battery life: 1200 hours (alkaline)
Phantom power requirements: 9-52 volts DC
Output connector: integral 3-pin XLRM
Cable: 25 foot, .13-inch diameter, 2-conductor shielded cable
with TA3F connectors
Weight: microphone 4.2 ounces, power module 5.2 ounces
Dimensions: microphone 2.52 (width) x 3.60 (length) x .63 (height)
inches, power module 3.27 (height) x 2.48 (width) x .87 (depth)
- Wide frequency response
- Small and stealthy
- Poor rejection of sound from behind the mike
summary: An excellent microphone for use in difficult-to-mike situations
where you don’t want the mike to be seen.
Height: from floor level to 9 feet, with optional extension
arm from floor level to 12 feet
Tilt: 180 degrees
Boom pan: 360 degrees
Camcorder weight supported:1 ounce to 6.3 pounds
Boom weight: 8 pounds
- Low cost
- Easy to setup and operate
- Wide range of movements
- Too large for some locations
summary: A good way to get unique and interesting footage.
Will make your videos standout.
Platform: Macintosh and Windows
Minimum system requirements
MacOS system: 7.1, 68020 Ð 33MHz processor, 8MB RAM, 6MB
free hard disk space
Windows: 80486 at 66 MHz, 4MB RAM, 4MB free hard drive space
Other features: spell checker, thesaurus, also available for
- Automatically formats
- Easy to reorganize scenes
- Displays scenes in card format weaknesses
Does not format for AV scripts summary: A great scriptwriting program for
dramatic programs and screenplays.
Platform: Windows 95
Bus interface: PCI v2.1 slot (non-shared PCI interrupt)
Codec: Hardware Motion JPEG
Video Standards: NTSC and PAL
Video resolution: NTSC: 720 x 480, 720 x 240, 360 x 240. PAL:
720 x 576, 720 x 288, 360 x 288
Sampling Structure: YUV 4:2:2
Video inputs: one composite, one S-video
Video output: one composite, one S-video
Minimum System Requirements
Processor: 133 MHz Pentium
RAM: 32 MB
Video display: VGA display board (4MB) and an NTSC monitor
Drives: 100 MB hard drive space, 3.5 inch high density floppy
Recommended System Requirements
Processor: 200 MHz Pentium
RAM: 64 MB
Video display: SVGA display board (4MB Direct Draw compatable)
and an NTSC monitor
Drives: SCSI bus mastering drive controller with 32-bit Windows
drivers, separate 2 GigaByte AV hard drive space, 3.5 inch high density
floppy drive, CD-ROM
- Hardware codecs
- Breakout box
- Works with Premiere and Ulead
- No board cutout for CPU
summary: An easy to use and affordable high-quality video