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Ferrick's VX-1000 Tips
by John Ferrick


These are a collection of tips warnings and solutions that I have found useful:

Timecode
Audio
Some more tips



TIMECODE

One of the more frustrating things about the VX-1000 is that unless you are very careful to have a frame overlap when you restart shooting, you will find that the TC is reset.  I suggest the following:

Always record Color bars on the first minute of the tape using the hold down the Photo record and the normal record button while switching from lock to unlock.  You then need to get a dummy 3.5mm stereo plug and plug it into the external mic jack, leave the cover on the lens and record the whole tape to black.  This gives you a continuous time code, and the VX1000 (and the rest of the DV units) when they see existing control track time code do not replace it on the tape.

This seems to have the added benefit that it relieves any binding in the tape, etc.  I have found that this seems to reduce the dropout artifacts, and would guess that it is for the same reasons that this was recommended with Hi-8, tape cassette tension and any excess loose oxide.  I have also seen that a number of the artifacts, especially where the audio seems to surge appeared to have been caused by the binding of the tape in the cassette causing a pulling on the tape tension.


AUDIO

IMO the build in mic, is of limited usefulness but does do a reasonable job as a guide track. Granted there are exceptions, but IMO it is exceedingly rare where the placement of the camera for the best shooting position matches the best mic location.

My suggestions have been the following:

You need to be aware that the external mic jack as 2.4 volts available to power a mic, with some mic/installations this can be a problem. The simplest solution, but ONE I DO NOT RECOMMEND is to simply get a cable that converts XLR to 3.5mm stereo jack. This is due to a few factors, firstly pro mics usually are spec'd to produce +4 Dbm while consumer is spec'd for -10 Dbm. In addition converting a Balanced signal to an unbalanced signal USUALLY increases the signal level. SO if you do use this method you need a PAD to be put in the line. Shure makes several usually 15 to 20 DB. To explain further, in most audio preamp designs the gain control comes after the input stage, This is why on pro mix decks you will have the gain control but also a input level pad.  Much of the poor audio in DV is due to the overdriving of the input stage.

With Digital Audio, you need a different type of thinking than traditional analog. In Analog, in many instances you want to oversaturate the tape as this gives a pleasing compressed sound, In digital when you reach the ceiling, you go instantly to a nonfunctional situation.  This is why the units all have limiters or Automatic gain controls.  Panasonic uses a AGC, and this will drive you crazy IF you use one channel for a shotgun and the other for a Lavalier mic, as they are tied together for the AGC and when the level of one increases of decreases it will affect the other. Currently there is no way to turn this off with PANASONIC, but I have just found a system that disconnects this feature on the AJD200 (I will follow up later and report).  On the VX1000 you have a limiter, and the ability to turn it off and go to manual audio, BUT there is an error here that SONY refuses to correct.

If you go to manual mode on audio, and then you select any other manual function Exposure etc, since they share the same control, INSTEAD OF LEAVING THE AUDIO IN MANUAL THE SYSTEM WILL AUTOMATICALLY CONVERT IT TO AUTO MODE.  Again this can drive you crazy, BUT if you are careful and make sure that you set the input level that it never gets to the limit level you can work with it.  This area is a big plus for VX1000 vs. Panasonic (all Panasonic DV units seem to be affected).

Next step up the line is the Beach video converter box.  While the box is an improvement, you need to be aware of a few things.  Firstly the unit MUST be properly grounded to the body of the VX1000.  There are instances where the mounting plate for the tripod that it connects is held on with screws that are painted and will not give a good ground.  In fact I recommend that you remove the screws, make sure that you can get metal to metal contact, and re-attach. Since the implementation is passive you need to be also be aware that the impedance that the mic sees does vary with level, and this will affect the frequency response of the mic. I've seen the VU adapter that they sell, and so far am not very impressed. Other than being able to add all this on to the camera, IMO by the time you buy the two boxes, you would be better buying a small mixer (Samson, Folio, Mackie).  BUT you MUST pad down the output with a 50Db pad (Shure) to have it work. A lot of the problems folks had here was due to the lack of padding, SIMPLY REDUCING THE LEVEL ON THE VX1000 WILL NOT WORK, for the reasons mentioned above.

The best method that I find are to use a separate audio recorder. I've been converting the LANC TC to LTC or Midi Time code, I then use either an ADAT or a Tascam DA-88.

There are a few issues to remember here. Most of the time I have uses a DA-88, there is a sync board option and it will chase LTC and does an excellent job, and you now have 8 tracks of digital quality audio, and in most post houses the DA-88 is king. The ADAT is far cheaper, and more common but as far as I can see, in NTSC you can record at 48/16 as the transport runs at 29.97 frame rate (it is an S-VHS deck) but in PAL, when you switch to 25 fps, I have never been able to get anything other than 44.1KHz. You can also use TC DAT, but IMO they cost more than a DA-88 so why bother.  I have not had the chance to try, but supposedly the DA-38 will chase Midi time code.  If all else fails, you can just record the LTC on one track.

I have also played with the various MD units and they being based on a disk system tend not to drift so it is possible especially if you are going to use NLE for the audio. I've done a trick where I start two units with the same Remote, and have had surprisingly good results with the 4 tracks of audio that I could get. Again being disk based vs. tape based, you get minimal drift.

Lastly I have used the Roland VS-880. This is a Studio in a box, will record 4 in at a time in non-compressed mode, and will play back 6 at a time in non-compressed mode. It contains all the digital mixing, effects, can record to a removable Jaz or SyQuest. and usually sells for about $2000. I've been able to get it to chase my TC converted and also get it to control the VX1000 via midi. Roland has been very excited about the DV/video market and it appears are delivering there own converted box for DV/LANC/TC to Midi.

Personally I think that for the money the VS-880 is a great deal and combined with the VX-1000 gives you an all digital solution. BTW it is possible with the VS-880 on its SCSI interface to have a PC read the files (uncompressed) directly you would use Sound forge etc with it.


Some more tips

Despite all the interest in RM-95 for DV, RM-95 does allow you to access all the alignment values in the VX-1000 (and the rest of the family).  In my experience, all the NTSC units I have seen are incorrectly set up, and on a vector scope they are set for Japanese IRE 0 vs. the correct IRE 7.5 for the US.  I have posted in the past to DV Central some of the procedures to alter these values.  In the mean time, most Sony repair centers do have an RM-95 as this is the repair tool for most of the units built in the last few years.  I suggest that to get the best out of your unit you put it on a bench with a vector scope, and get the values set to how you want them.  The viewfinder, zebra and color values are all correctable.  I know that there are a few Sony folks that visit this list, and IMO we should be able to get this done properly and openly by Sony.

There is (in most cases) no need to even open up the unit.  You attach the RM-95, there is an alignment jig that plugs in to the little connector in the battery compartment for the camera break out of the signals, and the same jig plugs into the bottom of the Viewfinder to correct its values.

I'll put together more tips from my notes on "getting the film look".

John

December 1, 1997


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