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returns to the top
Our biggest gripe
when reviewing camcorders over the past few months has been the fact
that almost all of them have been bottom-loaders. Despite the continued
integration of bottom-loading tape carriages on Sony and Canon machines,
Panasonic actually seems to have listened to the cries of despair.
Panasonic came to Computer Video Towers to announce the launch of its
latest range of consumer MiniDV models, and one of its first comments
was that these machines would not be bottom-feeders! This is great news
- and a little surprising as Panasonic was probably the first company
to implement this ludicrous design. The NV-DS27, DS28, DS37 and DS38
will all load from above - and whoever bent the ear of Panasonic and
made the company listen deserves a big shiny medal (especially if it
Each machine uses the same housing, measuring 77(w) x 96(h) x 179(d)
mm. Each will sport a 1/4in, 800,000 pixel CCD; an electronic image
stabiliser; a 2.5in LCD panel; a 15x optical zoom; and a massive (and
pointless) 600x digital zoom. An IR nightvision filter is now a standard
feature, but these machines do feature a couple of potentially useful
toys, too - a zoom microphone
and an audio filter to cut out wind noise.
At the bottom of the range are the DS27 and DS28, with the DS28 distinguished
by its working DV-input. Next up are the DS37 and DS38, each supporting
MultiMediaCard and SD Card. Again, one is nEUtered (the DS37) while
the other has a DV input, and an analogue input, too.
Real-time Mac editing - at a price
RTMac/FCP combination won't be an option for a lot of Mac users. For
a start, the cost for the hardware alone (£820, inc VAT) is the
same as for the RT2000 Windows package, which comes bundled with editing
software - Adobe Premiere 6. With no editing software included with
the RTMac, the overall outlay increases by £800 for Final Cut
Pro 2 or £200 for those upgrading from FCP V1.25.
More important still, the system requirements are rigid and include,
at their most basic, an Apple motherboard with an AGP slot - which means
G4-based machines but, even then, not the earliest models. Also necessary
are a 400MHz (or faster) G4 processor; 256MByte RAM; OS9.1 (plus QT5
and, initially, Final Cut Pro 2); and a hard disk able to sustain two
3.6MByte/sec data streams - though that should include most modern IDE
On the plus side, users of RTMac who wish to increase their desktop
space by running two monitors (and that really ought to include most
video editors) will be saved the expense of adding an extra card. RTMac
doubles as a graphics card and works together with the AGP card fitted
in these particular Macs to allow the desktop to be spread over two
says that editors using RTMac can work with three layers of video and
graphics in real time and create effects instantly, without rendering.
It also reckons that finished projects can be recorded to videotape
in real time. What isn't clear, though, is whether some effects and
transitions work in real time and others have to be rendered, nor whether
projects need to undergo a final render prior to output. Watch out for
early, and definitive, reviews of RTMac, FCP 2 and any of the above
mentioned goodies we can lay our hands on.
Apple, 0800 783
Adobe, 020 8606 4001; www.adobe.com
Digital Marketing International, www.dmi-njusa.com/
Matrox, 01793 441107; www.matrox.com
OS X at last - but still under construction
Apple has finally
released its long-heralded Unix-based operating system OS X (oh-ess-ten).
The operating system, retailing for £100 (inc VAT), has been in
gestation since December 1996.
built-in support for twin processors, plus other features vitally important
to stability (and its credibility as a modern operating system) - such
as pre-emptive multi-tasking and robust virtual memory management -
the initial version of OS X is hamstrung in a number of ways.
At the outset, there is - astonishingly - no support for CD-RW and DVD.
Perhaps even more amazingly, there are only three programs available
that can run natively in OS X and, hence, take proper advantage of the
protected memory system which prevents software crashes bringing down
the entire operating system.
Two of the
OS X-native programs are from Apple - revamped versions of the iMovie
low-end video editor (a 16.3MByte download), and iTunes jukebox software
(3MByte) - the other is Media Player 7, from Microsoft (5.5MByte). Some
reports also say that one game, the Tomb Raider-basher, Oni, from GodGames
supports OS X but, if so, GodGames itself appears not to realise, judging
by its web site.
Mac staples - such as Quark Xpress, Microsoft Office and Adobe's Photoshop
and Illustrator - are missing from the compatibility list, as is Apple's
top-end video editor Final Cut Pro.
OS X's part-finished
nature is underlined by the revelation that Apple won't be shipping
Macs with the new operating system installed until July. By that time,
hopefully, the missing hardware support will be present and there will
be some major programs available that will run natively.
Apple, 0800 783
CD Creator 5 Platinum
Roxio - Adaptec's
software division - has launched an improved version of its flagship
CD authoring software, Easy CD Creator. Like its forerunners and its
sister product, WinOnCD 3.8 (review this issue, p64), Easy CD Creator
5 Platinum offers a wide selection of tools for very little money -
in this case £45 (inc VAT).
In terms of menu creation and multimedia features, the program's VCD
authoring tools are largely unchanged from version 4 (review Nov 99,
p52). As a result, WinOnCD 3.8 is still the clear winner for making
complex, highly-customised VCD presentations, at least for those adept
enough to figure out how to use WinOnCD without the aid of an English
However, Easy CD Creator 5 does include an improved MPEG-1 encoder.
This will be a relief for many who were miffed that V4 rejected their
MPEG files. Version 4 came bundled with a light version of MGI VideoWave
III, which - maddeningly - was unable to make White-Book standard MPEG-1
files. Roxio doesn't bundle VideoWave with Easy CD Creator 5, but instead
includes a strangely familiar-looking integrated video editor, called
As with VideoWave, VideoImpression is storyboard-based, and allows assemble
editing only. There are, however, some attractive transitions, image
filters and titling tools. Video can be captured from standard OHCI
FireWire ports and encoded as PAL or NTSC MPEG-1 files for burning to
VCD. Unlike WinOnCD 3.8 and Nero 5, though, Easy CD Creator 5 can't
be used to make MPEG-2 based SVCDs.
The DV market is
typically a place where big companies provide cost-effective tools for
low-budget DIY productions. ALARMDV, from csb-digital, breaks the mould
slightly, being a special effects tool - geared squarely at the ambitious
guerrilla movie-maker - but created on an equally DIY basis. ALARMDV
(£45), is the brainchild of three 21 year-old students, Joshua
Davies, Dave Cranwell and Toby Walsh.
The program is available for Mac and Windows PCs, and uses QuickTime
4 at its core. Customers buy the program, and from then on all effects
plug-ins are free. Given that most of today's film students were raised
on Star Wars movies, we expect its presence to be very obvious in degree
shows from now on. ALARMDV's prize effect is a lightsword - similar
to the Light Sabres of George Lucas's saga. Lightsword clashes and the
muzzle flashes from guns are also available. We're sure that someone
will find a way of using this rotoscoping tool in a way that enhances
a movie's narrative and helps develop characters, but for the moment,
it's nice that people are having fun!
Canon reaches for the bottom
MiniDV camcorder models, the MV400, MV400i, MV450 and MV450i are housed
in the same chassis as the MV300 - Canon's first and, we'd vainly hoped,
only bottom-feeding MiniDV camcorder.
Prices are expected to start at £650 for the basic, nEUtered,
MV400, rising to £750 for the DV-in enabled MV400i. The MV450
models are much the same as the MV400s, but with MultiMediaCard and
SD Card support, and will cost around £800 for the nEUtered model
- and £900 for the DV-in enabled MV450i.
Compact size is now the focus for Canon's consumer DV camcorders - with
each of the newcomers measuring a mere 57(w) x 102(h) x 134(d)mm. Sadly,
this also means that Canon's lovely trademark - the optical image stabiliser
- is unlikely to feature on any future entry-level MiniDV models.
Each new camcorder
features a single 1/4in CCD with 540,000 (340,000 effective) pixels;
and a lens with an f1.8 maximum aperture, a 10x optical zoom, and 100x
digital. Also common to each model is a colour viewfinder and a 2.5in,
112,000 pixel, flip-out LCD monitor. Shutter speeds vary between 1/12
and 1/8,000 second, and audio is recorded as 16-bit sound at 48kHz,
or 12-bit at 32kHz. Another surprise is a move away from another Canon
feature - progressive scan CCDs. These models feature a Progressive
Shutter System, similar to that found on Sony's MegaPixel models, the
PC100, PC110 and TRV20.
plus point is that Canon appears to have seen the light, and blessed
its DV-in enabled models with analogue inputs too. This has traditionally
been a practice exclusive to Sony, and we're delighted to see that others
are catching on.
Canon, 020 8459
Reviewed in May's
In this month's
Panasonic returns to top
Real-time Mac editing
Mac OS X at last but...
Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum
Canon reaches for bottom