Black Button Blues
Why does the consumer have to put up with these solid black units? I don’t mind the black cases but why
can’t we have different colored buttons for the operations? Before I retired I used Sony BVW-65 and 70s.
They have a gray case with a solid red button for record and a different color for play, etc. I am sick of
these mental midgets in sales and design that evidently never use their equipment and come up with this all
black color scheme. I don’t mind the black case but give me a different color buttons that I can see at a
glance without having to use a magnifying glass and a toothpick to operate.
I wrote to a number of companies concerning this problem, but only Matsushita and JVC
responded. Matsushita thanked me, but JVC implied that I must be stupid because everyone else likes their
Grand Terrace, CA
Why Superior Euro Equipment?
Yesterday I received your February 1995 issue and your “Viewfinder” article caught my eye. The issues
you deal with in your article aroused in me the urge to respond because each and every one of them is a
pearl. But it seems to me that, like many others in this country, you missed a very important point.
I grew up in one of the European “markets” and spent the earlier years of my video production
career there. Therefore I am familiar with the European video market and find myself qualified to respond
to your article.
I must stress at the outset that I agree with everything you wrote in your article. The consumer
video products aimed at the American market are indeed substantially inferior to those aimed at the
European market. But while greed and strategic considerations of manufacturers of video camcorders and
VCRs can’t be ignored, the real reason for the inferiority of such products in the American market is far
deeper than that.
I remember noticing this phenomenon while I was still working in the European market, when the
video medium took shape. Every new video product or model arrived first in the American market. The
first color cameras were all NTSC; the first color VTRs were all NTSC; everything new in this field was
available, at the beginning, in NTSC. How jealous we were! We received all the specs about a new product
and had to dream about it for anything between six months to a year before we could get it in PAL. It was
When we had the opportunity to ask why it was that the Americans were getting all these new
models before we did, the reply was that the American consumer market is a huge one, so the
manufacturers were “testing” their products there and only after a product had proven itself there would
they release it in Europe.
But then, when the European twin arrived, we would discover that it was much superior to the
American version–at least according to the specs we had. When I had the opportunity to inquire about this,
I was told that while the Americans were lucky in having the products first, Europeans were lucky in
getting improved equipment, based on the experience gained in the American market.
But still, the reason for superior European equipment is much deeper than this. Manufacturers of
consumer video equipment simply do not consider the American consumer to be very sophisticated. The
claim is that they have spent a fortune on market research and concluded that the Europeans are much more
intelligent than the Americans when it comes to coping with electronic equipment. They claim that
Americans are afraid of buttons; therefore, the fewer the better.
The European consumer, they claim, is a researcher. Before buying anything, a European will
check it all around and learn everything there is about the product. The American consumer is not like that.
If the product is glitzy enough and fits the budget, the American consumer will buy it–regardless of its lack
How many Americans know how to connect their VCRs to their TV sets? How many Americans
know how to program their VCRs for automatic recording in their absence? How many Americans are
aware that their VCRs can record one channel while watching another?
The bottom line to all this is that, greed and twisted strategies aside, American consumers should
look more at themselves and learn to be consumers before blaming the manufacturers for their
A Note From Inside
I just wanted to drop you a note and say thanks for printing such a fine magazine.
I am an inmate at Freemont Prison and work in the video department. I depend on your magazine
for info on products and helpful tips. Please keep up the good work so I can stay updated on the newest
equipment and info.
Robert Van Allen
Canon City, CO
More Mobile Shooting Ideas
After several cross country trips to Alaska and to several national car shows, I was eager to read what your
article “Buckle Up and Shoot” (January ’95) had to say.
My approach is quite different. I never use a tripod, and my shots are quite steady. There are
several reasons they turn out so well.
- I use a 7 hour battery pack and keep the camera at my side.
- I prefocus to exclude auto parts but don’t use too much telephoto; this helps to prevent “jitters.”
- Always use manual focus set on infinity. Also, I prefer shooting at high shutter speeds (1/500). Why? It
allows you to view your shots (even over bumpy roads) in a relatively smooth slow motion. Slower speeds
do not view well in slow motion.
- Autofocus often causes the lens to read the windshield, resulting in blurred videos. Another good reason
to leav it off.
- You might be amazed at how steady you can hold a video camera. Mine is a large Canon A-1 but I am
able to get steady shots over mountain roads. Your arm does a great job absorbing shock.
- Aiming is quite easy. Just use your natural ability.
- I keep windows up to keep out noise. Also, I tend to narrate as I shoot.
- When I shoot wildlife, I stop and turn off the engine to reduce noise and vibration and rest the camera on a towel on the open window.
After being a still photographer for 35 years, it’s a joy and a challenge to make quality videos. As
you can see, I try to use the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
These are good tips, Guy, with one exception–you should never try to hold and operate your camcorder while driving. Doing so may impair your ability to pilot the vehicle, potentially causing physical harm and damage to car or camcorder. Perhaps a better KISS principle would be “Keep it Safe and Simple.”
Canon UCS5 Corrections
In the October and December issues of Videomaker I read your Hi8 Camcorder buyer’s guides. I own a
Canon UCS5 and noticed that the information you gave on it was not entirely accurate.
First I read that you said the UCS5 does not have a two-speed zoom. You also reported that the
UCS5 does not have a manual white balance or a manual shutter speed. Whoever wrote the article must not
have known that there is a menu system; the manual white balance and shutter speed are on the menu. You
also say that there is not a wireless remote, but I have one. My UCS5 has a black and white viewfinder;
you say that it should have a color one.
I bought my UCS5 in March of 94. Has there been a new version of the camera that has come out
We checked on this; sure enough, everything you say about the Canon UCS5 is true. Hi8 camcorder
shoppers should adjust their buyer’s guide data accordingly. We apologize for any inconvenience this may
Let’s Put On a Show
Hi. My name is Nick Hartman and I am 13 years old and live in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I love to read
Videomaker a lot. Me and about 10 of my friends like to make short skits and movies and then
show them to our parents and friends. We have a small video production company that we named J.N. Kids
Video Productions. We just kind of do it as our hobby. We get a lot of our ideas from
Videomaker. I think that your reports and stories help us out a lot. I am hoping to become a
doctor but I still think that videomaking would be a fun hobby and a nice source of extra income. I also
hope to contact any other young people interested in making videos like me. Thank you very much.
I received my first issue of your magazine today, and I was disappointed at best, horrified at worst.
I received the “free issue” card inside the box of a piece of software I purchased for my Amiga
computer. The bad ink you spill on this computer hardly seems justified if you intend to market your
magazine to users of the Amiga, a computer renowned for its video capabilities.
It makes no sense to discourage any future potential Amiga owners by telling them it is a defunct
computer. As far as video goes, absolutely nothing compares to the Amiga. (Need proof? Look at Babylon
5, Seaquest DSV, and Robocop, the series.)
While it is true that Commodore US and Commodore International have voluntarily liquidated,
Commodore in other nations is going strong–and Commodore UK still operates on a profit and imports to
the U.S. Some other companies have intentions to buy Commodore and continue its product line. The
Amiga isn’t finished yet, and Macs and PCs are a joke by comparison.
And not just in video: in price, performance and games the Amiga is the ONLY true personal
computer–it does everything better than anything else.
Finally, where else can you get all equipment necessary to do a 4,096 simultaneous color
animation at 60 frames per second–in full screen and if you wish, coupled with a genlock device, for
$413.99 including monitor, 5-item software bundle, and all the amenities including shipping and
Personally, I do no video, but I love to read about it. I use my Amiga totally for personal
use, and I couldn’t be happier. Being a 13-year-old user makes me quite a rare breed, especially in the
We have never stated that the Amiga was a “defunct” computer. And while many would debate that the
Amiga “does everything better than anything else,” it does have certain advantages for video.
These advantages do not change the fact that, at the time of this writing, the future of the
platform is uncertain. Prospective Amiga buyers should proceed with caution.
Applause for Encouragement
Just a short note to say thank you for your commitment to Videomaker.
Your recent editorial, “Just Do It,” is typical of the continuous stream of encouragement that I’ve enjoyed in the years I’ve read your work. While I do enjoy and benefit from the instructional content, it’s the encouragement to act that excites me monthly when the magazine arrives.
Your ability to participate in the adventure with your readers is a most wonderful gift and very unique in your field.
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