Mixer Mix Up

I would like to make a small correction to William Ronat’s Edit Points column “Special Effects Your Way” (August 1994, Videomaker). The article says that with the MX-1 Digital Video Mixer, the user cannot transition to or from a still frame, which “makes it impossible to switch between two still images or a still frame and a live video.”

The MX-1 does permit transitions between a still frame and live video. To do this, the user presses FREEZE to freeze the field, then performs the transition as usual. After the transition, the still field is lost, so a retake would require refreezing the field. And the article is correct–there is no way to transition between two freezes.
Moe Rubenzahl
Marketing Director, Videonics
Campbell, California

Sound How Tos

Allow me to congratulate you on your magazine and offer some feedback. I’ve been a subscriber for about a year, and I still read most issues cover to cover. The equipment reviews and buyer’s guides are great, but what keeps me reading between gear purchases are the features and columns: the how-to articles, the how-the-pros-do-its, the explanations of the techy engineer stuff, the articles which help me get the most from the gear I already have. Loren Alldrin’s column Sound Reasoning is always especially good.
Eric C. Bigas
San Francisco, California

Big Camera, Small Camera

I confess to sharing Matt York’s liberal, radical and generally unpopular view (among professional videographers) that anybody who wants to make a video should be allowed to….

I actively endeavor to help people make videos as they help me earn a living as a videographer and editor. My advertisement in the the regional editing facilities section of the Videomaker classifieds testifies to my devotion to videomaking for the fun of it….I try not to discourage anyone from making videos. Producing exceptional video with nominal equipment requires an individual more clever and creative than someone with the entire NAB showroom available for videomaking.

Most of the people I know with talent and imagination who have wisely invested in “macho” equipment have reaped benefits and prestige, but the imagination and talent remain the most important factors.
David Frantz
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

Make Your Own Movie

My fellow Videomaker readers may be interested in hearing about a new motion picture shot on a consumer-level, S-VHS camera and transferred to 35mm film. How to Meet Strangers in a Movie Theater premiered in the Boston area June 30 at the Norweed Cinema.

The footage looked fabulous (high resolution)–and no one guessed it was generated on video or commented adversely on the image quality. One member of the audience said he especially like the flesh tones; another, a projectionist, did not know it was generated from video.

The film used original and second generation S-VHS footage shot on the Panasonic Omnimovie PV-S440, a consumer S-VHS camera that went out of production in 1988. The sound was recorded on a Sony ECM-50 mike–without an impedance matching retransformer. Nevertheless, the sound was fine. Industrial S-VHS equipment was used in the edit suite.

As the proud videomaker who shot this experiment, I was surprised at the quality of the S-VHS to 35mm transfer I achieved. Encouraged by the quality of the transfer, I want to produce a feature film using this technology. I may shoot it in Hi8 rather than S-VHS–if I can achieve similar test results in the Hi8 format. I will soon be conducting such a test.

This is the type of news that brings hope to low-budget filmmakers who want to reduce their front-end production costs and still produce an edited video to show investors, who can then help finance the transfer to 35mm film for theatrical release.
Mark Halberstadt
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Term of Endearment

If no one has stolen my idea, I’d like to offer up a new word for use in your magazine: “Vidiotic.” The term could be used as an adjective to describe the utterly stupid state of affairs within video industry design and marketing, especially prosumer editing equipment.
Peter Apanel
Pasadena, California

Stoked!

Just a letter to let you know that quality control and caring about the customer is still alive and well. Let me elaborate.

I recently purchased a Steadicam JR for use in my work as a San Diego-based journalist and sports filmmaker. I was extremely happy with my purchase, as I had seen others use the Steadicam JR with impressive results. I use a Sony CCD-TR81 to tape interviews and action shots and was eager to smooth out my hand-held work with the Steadicam.

However, after watching the video, reading the instructions and setting up my camera on the Steadicam, I could never quite achieve the ultimate balance shown in the video. I tried different shop blocks, weights, and settings but still no luck. At this point I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to get some professional help from a seasoned user. I believe, and still do, that the problem was one of simple adjustment, and not a flaw in the unit.

I called Cinema Products, explained my problem and they stated that if a technician were available he would help me out. All I had to do was call ahead on my next trip through Los Angeles.

However my first encounter with a technician there was less than satisfactory, if not downright irritating. After a cursory look I was told by the technician there was nothing that could be done without leaving my unit at the factory or going to a dealer in my area. I left, no better off than when I started.

I was steamed, as was my car in the four hours of LA rush-hour traffic that followed. When I returned, I wrote a letter to Cinema Products expressing my dismay and displeasure that a company building such a fine product could be so cavalier with their customers.

To my pleasure and surprise, both the president of the company, Ronald J. Lenney, and the inventor of Steadicam, Garrett Brown, called me personally to see what they could do to make the situation right. Ronald found some experienced users down in the San Diego area and Garrett talked me through the balance set-up for 20 minutes, long-distance, from his home in Pennsylvania.

That’s service! And as we say in the surf world, “I’m stoked!” Kudos to Cinema Products for standing behind their product.
Steve Barilotti
Encinitas, California

On Trial

I just received my trial subscription to Videomaker today. While it appears that some of the articles tend to be more professional than what I do, I am sure that there is a lot I can learn from your magazine, and I plan to subscribe. I would, however, like to offer a few comments on two of the articles.

The article on “Sound Reasoning” was good, but I felt the author left out one or two important items with respect to sound. There was no mention of using wireless microphones, yet there are some cases where there’s hardly any alternative.

A good example is if you are making a video of a guided tour. If your tour guide is willing to wear a lapel-type wireless microphone, you can capture the audio portion of the tour very effectively.

If you are doing such a tour, a good quality portable audio cassette recorder is very useful–it will record everything the guide says. The camcorder will record sound, but only when you are capturing video. The audio cassette may be dubbed in when the video is edited.

In the article on titling, the author missed a very good low-price alternative to good titles. Provided you are willing to have really good titles with no video background (i.e. title only), all you need is a scan converter.

This assumes, as was my case, you already have a computer and some suitable software. All I had to buy specifically for title making was the scan converter (about $250). I will frequently scan in a photo or drawing and incorporate this into the title. I admit that the titles are not quite as nice as those superimposed on video backgrounds, but the price is right! You can do some really neat fades and scrolls and such things on a low budget.
Wayne McMorran
San Luis Obispo, California

Dream Cam
In his July 1994 Pause column, executive editor Stephen Muratore imagined-up his own idea of a “Dream Cam,” and invited readers to share their own ideas. Here are two of the responses.

My idea of a Dream Cam may be somewhat different than most of your mail, since I’m thinking more of a consumer item…but I hope you’ll find it interesting enough to put pressure on manufacturers!

I call it the “Video Appliance.” The concept is simple (and we’re almost there): take one Sony Snap 8mm camcorder. Add a TV tuner, antenna, clock and control circuits, and A/V input and output jacks (standard phono, please).

Imagine a day with this product…you watch TV on the bus to work. Seeing that Oprah has an interesting show on later, you set the unit to time-shift record the show and start your work day.

During lunch you watch part of Oprah! and decide to save it for your spouse.

That afternoon you use the camcorder lens to record the office surprise party for a co-worker’s birthday.

You watch TV on the bus home, and during dinner, prop the unit up so your spouse can see the party. Before going to bed, you plug it into the cable box and set it to record a late movie, also plugging in the trickle charger to charge it up for tomorrow.

Wouldn’t that be fun? And really handy, especially for vacations. Developing this unit should be easy.

For traveling light, it would be nice if manufacturers would build in trickle charge circuits that could operate directly off a small 12VDC wall transformer or cigarette lighter cord in the car. I would love to quit carrying the multipiece quick-charger/adaptor my current camcorder requires.

I really enjoy Videomaker–keep the fun coming!
Mike Rejsa
Eden Prairie, Minnesota

I own a Sony CCD-FX710 (now discontinued). What I like best about this model is that the manual override functions on almost everything: shutter speed, iris, focus, white balance.

There is one automatic feature that can’t be controlled, however: audio record level. I would like switchable auto/manual record level, left and right record level settings, and VU meters on my next camcorder.

But I’ll settle for less instead: an audio “peak hold” button. When engaged, the audio level control circuit would reduce gain in response to loud signals, but not subsequently increase gain when those loud signals stop. Once someone started speaking, for example, I wouldn’t have to worry about recording background noise between pauses.

For years, 35mm cameras have had an “auto lock” button: set the exposure for this level, regardless of what else happens. Is demanding the same for camcorder audio asking too much?
Jason Kazarian
Ridgecrest, California

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