The Sony DVCAM Field Editing System
 Review by Dirck Halstead

Sony, Canon, and Panasonic have provided wonderful new digital video cameras, opening up the world of broadcast journalism to would-be Platypi. 

Previously, in order to play in this game, it was necessary to invest somewhere in the area of $50,000 for a three-chip professional Betacam. But that was only the first step. Once you have shot the video, what do you do with it? It's not like still photography where you can actually get prints back in an hour from a lab, send them off, and wait for the money to come in. 

Unless you are shooting video "on assignment," in which case you handed the tape over to a producer to be cut for air, the next crucial steps in the process involved "editing." This was always a very expensive process. Beta edit suites went for hundreds of dollars a day, and for professional editors even more. Sure, you could patch together a couple of VHS tape decks, and do simple "assemble editing," but the result, more often than not, was a raggedy collage of glitches--nothing you could bring to a broadcast outlet and be taken seriously. 

Decent field editing was beyond the reach of a novice Platypus--until now. 

Sony has just announced their DSR-V10 professional video cassette recorder, which along with the new DSRM-E1 Edit Controller turns this first rough edit process into a simple and affordable solution. 

The DSR-V10 looks a lot like the old Sony Hi8 video Walkman. At Video News International we called those machines "clams," because of the way the LED screen popped up from the recorder. These simple recorders would play back or record a Hi8 tape, and we would plug our camcorders into them, and dub off original tapes for logging. They were also very useful as a simple field monitor. By using the same kind of battery the camcorder used, it was possible to connect the Walkman to the camera by a video cable. You were able to sit facing the subject of an interview, maintaining eye contact, while the camera shot the scene from a side angle. 

The V10 however, is a much more sophisticated piece of equipment. First,  it uses DVCam tape. Similar in size to a consumer mini DV, it moves at twice the speed. This increases the already excellent picture quality and exceeds the most demanding broadcast specs. It also provides audio dub capability, which is very important. The LED screen is bright and true in its tonal range. 

Now, what makes the V10 into a true professional field edit system is the accessory DSRM-E1 Edit Adapter. Smaller than a paperback novel, and as light, the Edit Controller is a compact version of a broadcast Beta Edit Controller. It connects to the V10 with a single DIN cable through the Edit Adapter which slides into place on the side of the recorder. The Controller than becomes powered by the V10, which in turn is either powered by AC or a standard Sony digital camcorder lithium battery. 

The V10 supports all-digital "firewire" transfer of video and audio between a digital camera and the record deck. A separate LANC cable connects the recorder and playback decks, for frame accurate timecode transfer. 

Once connected, all controls on the V10 are automatically transferred to the Edit Controller. 

The Controller features a "jog/shuttle" wheel that allows for high-speed forward and reverse movement of either a camcorder (any digital camcorder will do) or the V10. The selection is made on the Edit Controller by pushing either the "player" or "recorder" buttons. A green LED indicates which has been chosen. At the top left of the Edit Controller is the "menu." This allows the operator to choose the edit program, edit timing adjustments, and the setup functions, all of which can be chosen by using a central toggle button. To the right of the menu controls, above the jog/shuttle wheel, are buttons controlling "stop," "play," "pause," and "record," these control either the camcorder playback or the recorder. 

The crucial element that makes this a professional system, is the "mark in," "mark out," "preview," and "edit" buttons. 

To display the playback deck codes on the V10, you simply hit the "preview" button. From that point on, you will be looking at the timecode from the playback or camcorder, as you see the picture. When you have chosen a scene for edit, you simply hit "mark in" at the start of the scene you want edited, then hit "mark out" at the end of the scene. The 99 EDL (Edit Decision List) will remember the in and out timecodes. 

To take a look at what you have chosen, you hit "preview," and the camcorder will go back, find the scene and play it. The Edit Controller will pre-roll the playback tape approximately seven seconds prior to the start of the edit. During this time, a display will overview the picture. At the precise second the chosen edit begins, the overlay will disappear, and you will see the cut scene played back. If you are happy with the scene, you simply hit "edit." The camcorder will then go back, find the scene, start to play, while at the same time, the Controller will begin the V10 record function and lay down the scene on the DVCam tape. This process can be repeated up to 99 times, as you build the edit. However, the Controller will not recognize a change of tapes, therefore, a separate program must be created for other tapes you wish to edit. This will create "clean" edits for a rough assembly cut. 

The "audio dub" feature allows you to add audio to any edited segment for narration, voice-overs, or music. 

The one thing this combination will not do: support insert editing. This is a "cuts only" assembly editing solution. However, for preparing a first rough cut of a project it is terrific. 

It is also very valuable as a logging system. On the President's recent trip to Asia, I was able to log 14 hours of a documentary project, simply be setting up the system on my tray table, while flying aboard Air Force One. 

The V10 and the DSRM-E1 will be the edit system of choice for the 1999 Platypus Workshop. 

The DSR-V10, with cables, retails for $2690. 

The DSRM-E1, with edit adapter, retails for $846. 


Reviews of new equipment appearing in the Camera Corner of THE DIGITAL JOURNALIST are solely the opinion of the author. There is no compensation or pressure by the manufacturers considered in the evaluation of the products reviewed on these pages.

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