The snow had *almost* melted out here just before February ended with another fine batch of the
That's okay, we finished up the shots that were planned on "Seven Swords" before the snow hit and
the cast meetings up in the hills for "Atomites" have been postponed until the weather improves, so
there's plenty of time to get all warm and cozy in the heat of the dual-Xeon video editing stations.
I've done a *lot* of upgrading out here over the last couple of months, inspired in part by the frustrations
I had making an assortment of master tapes for various movies I'd sold to distributors around the world.
Most of the world--apart from the US and Japan--is using PAL for their standard-definition video and, while
I have a collection of PAL video equipment, it consists of devices like "professional" SVHS decks and monitors, not
true mastering gear.
Enter the Sony HVR-M25U: handles large and small DVCAM tapes, does NTSC and PAL plus Sony's
preferred flavor of HDV (HDV-2, for those of you who've been keeping track of these things), all for
less than 10% of the price of a used DigiBeta deck.
True, it's still 4:1:1 (NTSC) or 4:2:0 (PAL/HDV) video and limited to only two high-quality audio
tracks (which is a total pain-in-the-neck, but I know of no cost-effective option that doesn't
share this particular pain-in-the-relevant-anatomical-region), but it really does offer a lot
of great features, especially when you consider the $4,080 list price.
Not that it's entirely without a few "issues," but in keeping with most modern
hardware and software, the biggest and most annoying problems are
the ones that were deliberately engineered into it.
In marked contrast to the decks I've gotten before, the overarching
design philosophy is how to keep the unit from being used in any way
that could potentially involve copyrighted material in some manner. If some
of the unit's functions occasionally do work for editing, playback,
recording, etc., this should be viewed as a nice bonus or as a pleasant change
of pace, but should not be taken for granted or relied upon.
On the whole, the manual is not very helpful, but as someone who plans
to use it, I'm obviously not the intended audience. The bulk of the manual
is devoted to repeated descriptions of the various things you should not
try to do with the deck or that will cause it to disable its recording and output
functions because they could possibly involve copyrighted
material or fool the deck into detecting a possible future copyright violation
even when working with your own original footage. Functioning as
a video tape deck--or functioning reliably--was much, much,
much lower on the design team's list of goals and is largely glossed over in
If, however, you laid out your hard-earned cash for a highly
sophisticated high-definition recording deck primarily for the purpose of
*not* using it, then you're set and you should experience no difficulty
installing, connecting, and not using this device.
Some quotes from the manual:
- The unit may be damaged when the HDMI OUT jack on the unit is connected to
the HDMI OUT jack on the same unit.
(there's only one HDMI OUT jack; in fact, there's only one HDMI connection at all.
Connecting it to itself would take quite some talent or a large hammer)
- Contents of the recording cannot be compensated for if recording or
playback is not successful due to a malfunction of the unit, video tape, etc.
(I'm guessing this sort of thing is a kind of legal disclaimer, but it's
just stuck in the middle of explaining how to insert and eject a tape.)
- Press the x1/3 button on the Remote Commander to play the tape at
one-fifth of normal speed.
- When you playback a tape in DVCAM/DV format and press x1/5 button on
Remote Commander while pointing it toward the unit, the playback speed turns
to 1/3 of normal speed.
- The time code and user bits cannot be reset on the unit from with Remote
Commander equipped with a counter reset function.
(Why have a counter reset button on Remote Commander if you can't reset the counter from with Remote Commander?)
I shouldn't complain. It's nice that it did come with a remote control (most
professional video decks don't), but it doesn't seem to be a remote control designed for
this particular device.
A lot of functions require the use of one of those circular arrangements of arrows around
an "execute" button (like pretty much all DVD players have these days). There is a miniature
set of buttons like that on the face of the unit, but absolutely none of those controls appear
on the remote.
Here's the chapter on using it with a computer:
For details on the connecting method to the editing machine, refer to the
supplied instruction manual of your editing unit.
The editing functions you can use depend on the editing software. For
details on editing methods, refer to the instruction manual of your editing
(want to know how to use this device? we're just the manufacturer; go ask someone else)
And here are some of the highlights of the troubleshooting section:
- Symptom: Some menu item settings change accidentally.
- Cause: You have pulled out the power cord during a menu operation or LCD
monitor brightness adjustment.
(It's a standard computer power cord; it takes some effort to pull it out. Have you ever accidentally unpluged your computer by pressing a button on it?)
- Symptom: It takes time to eject the cassette.
- Cause: This is not a malfunction.
(Whew! That's a relief!)
And the care and maintenance section:
- Plastic is often used for the surface finishing of the unit. Do not spray
a volatile solvent such as an insecticide towards the cabinet.
(Good to know plastic is often used on the surface, but what is it made of the rest of the time? Bugs?)
- Do not use the unit in an area exposed to radiation. A malfunction may
(It'll turn into a giant green tape deck and run amok? I thought only Panasonic decks did that.)
*whew* Despite all of this, it did work, though you pretty much have to figure it out by
trial-and-error rather than relying on any insights gleaned from the documentation.
There's not a lot of radiation around here and I don't generally squirt bug-spray into
tape decks anyhow, so it was pretty easy for me to avoid the usual pitfalls they
apparently encountered when doing their initial tests, and start cranking out master
Overall, it gets a couple of thumbs-up; I'd toss in a few more appendages on top of that
if Sony had spent less time and effort worrying about all the ways they could make it
not work and had put some of that time and thought into making it friendlier for legitimate
users (coming up with a remote that was designed to work with this particular device
instead of one that appeared to have been stuck into the box by mistake, for starters).