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Working With Video

The picture shows Mitsubishi Electric's new HS 302 video cassette recorder. Recommended price £549.

With the New Year not too distant thoughts of New Year Resolutions start to materialise. My resolution for this column is to try and make it more practical...

The title of this piece is 'Working with Video' and the idea is to cover the more creative facets of video. In just one thousand words a month this tends to be rather a challenge and what I try to do is point you in the right direction and keep you informed of new developments and trends, hopefully before you see them elsewhere. Manufacturers' hype and vague mumblings about the video revolution are carefully excluded!

If you ask what we are trying to get out of this video hobby of ours it must be a bit of enjoyment and self-fulfillment. Otherwise why would we spend possibly hundreds of pounds which could instead buy a very creditable hi-fi system or an impressive library of books? The reason is because we want to do our own thing. To preserve the TV programmes or performances we think are too good to see only once, to use our own camera and be our own video producer. The former needs only a VCR and a TV aerial, the latter needs additional equipment, at least one camera and ideally a selection of lenses, some lights and an effects generator. It also needs a bit of skill and experience, which you can build up as time goes by; the cameras, etc. don't come quite so easy, but there are ways round this.

For instance do not be obsessed with colour to begin with. Colour cameras are expensive - the "cheap" £300 ones give very disappointing results, a low resolution (fuzzy) picture and need a kilowatt of lighting in most indoor situations. Black and white cameras on the other hand are cheap even at new prices, can be bought secondhand from £50 upwards and usually give far better resolution than colour ones. They are much more tolerant of low light levels, less complicated internally and still worth hanging onto if and when you upgrade to colour. You can even build your own from a kit. I will continue this theme next month but now I want to tell you about a new book which you still have time to put on your Christmas list.

It's an expensive one, in fact it costs £19.90 but it's worth every penny of its price. The title, not very original, is the 'Video Handbook' and it is written by Ruw van Wezel, published by Newnes Technical Books. It contains more information on practical video techniques than I have ever seen before and this is why I think it is worth the price. Its 396 pages have a photo or diagram on virtually every page and unlike other books it gives actual circuits, so that if you wish to copy them yourself you can. Build-it-yourself projects cover a black and white camera and a complete mixing, effects and control desk to enable you to make a home studio at a fraction of the cost of professional gear. Even if you do not have the skill or the inclination to build your own equipment you will find the comprehensive descriptions of how the apparatus works instructive. Subjects covered in great detail include monitors, processing amplifiers, sync pulse generators (including commercial integrated circuits) and effects circuits. Plugs and sockets in their infinite variety are covered as is the audio side. The author discusses cameras, monochrome and colour, and just as important he goes into the subject of lighting and optics, the various types of lenses and how they are used. Too many publications assume that if someone can afford a £750 colour camera they already know all there is to know about focal lengths, F stops and quartz-halogens; this is of course not necessarily true and to get the best out of your investment a book like this is cheap at the price.

Broadcast video is not neglected in the book either. Van Wezel explains how TV works, the various TV standards (with tables of data) and gives examples of test cards and how they are interpreted. All this is done, not in simplistic terms, but in language any enthusiast can follow and in a way that avoids boredom and technical details for their own sake. The book is international in outlook - it is written by a Dutchman and has already appeared in Dutch and German editions. Equipment described includes Sony (Japanese), Philips (Dutch), Grundig (German), Ferranti (UK) and Texas (USA), so there is no bias.

In a book as large as this there have to be a few shortcomings, but they are few. I spotted an error in one diagram (only one) and some of the technical expressions have been translated literally from the Dutch and make nonsense in English. In case you buy the book, you may care to correct the following:

"open net" - public network
"MF" - the author means Intermediate Frequency (IF) and not Medium frequency
"LF" - the author means Audio Frequency (AF), not Low Frequency
"Picture Sync" - Field or Vertical Sync
"Total Syncs" - Mixed or Combined Syncs

I would also question his use of BNC plugs for audio and his recommendation of Belling-Lee plugs for RF; in British practice DIN, phono or minijack plugs would be used for audio and his BNCs for the RF. But these are minor criticisms of a remarkably comprehensive book, which must have been a labour of love. In fact the author's enthusiasm shows through. This British edition has apparently been edited by Gordon J. King, though judging by the errors noted above and some more trivial ones I think he must have done it last thing on a Friday afternoon!

Joking apart, the book is highly recommended and despite its price is well worth having. If you can afford video as a hobby you can afford this book. For the price of two three-hour tapes you too can be a video expert! I make no apology for concentrating on this book this month - you can learn a lot from books and nobody is an expert on video just because he owns a video camera. Reading the monthly video mags is useful but for solid fact you can't beat a good book!

Next month we'll talk about getting hold of secondhand equipment and setting up your own studio.

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The New Tangerine Dream

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Electronics & Music Maker - Copyright: Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.


Electronics & Music Maker - Jan 1982

Feature by Andy Emmerson

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