VASST's Inside the Sony HVR-V1U and HDR-FX7 ($79) features noted industry expert, musician, video producer, and HDV advocate Douglas Spotted Eagle as he gives us a run-down of the features of these latest-generation Sony HDV camcorders. The camera used in the video is the HVR-V1U, from Sony's Professional HDV lineup, but Spot also points out the areas where the less-expensive FX7 differs from its cousin.
The disc starts out with a tour of the camera's external controls, beginning at the left front of the unit and working methodically around to the back and the right side. There are quite a few interesting points here, such as the ergonomics of the most frequently used controls. Controls that are new or improved over previous Sony HDV models are highlighted. Spotted Eagle also provides some tips on how to use the camera efficiently, and tells us about some of his favorite camera settings and button assignments.
Next, the video delves deeper into the camera's menu settings. This is where the real power of the camera lies, and is the most interesting section of the DVD. All of the menu settings are explored, including Cinegamma, Black Stretch/Compress, and Skin Detail. There's also a detailed illustration of how to set up and use the Shot Transition feature (I never understood how to use this until Spoted Eagle's explanation). In most cases where settings affect the recorded image, VASST has included shots from the camcorder to illustrate the changes. However, I found that in some of these—the small picture-in-picture, and/or the decrease in quality inherent in going from HDV to a standard definition DVD—made subtle differences in the image that were hard to make out.
One of the best parts of this video isn't about the V1U/FX7 at all, at least not directly. It's an "extra added feature" in which Spotted Eagle gives viewers a rapid-fire lecture on the HDV format itself, including its advantages and its weaknesses. He discusses in some detail how to shoot with HDV for the best results, and how to capture and edit with it. He also debunks a lot of what he calls "HDV Myths" that you'll find floating around the web and elsewhere. There is so much information in this section that it seemed to be a video version of Spot's excellent VASST-published book, HDV—What You NEED to Know, The Complete Guide (see Stephen F. Nathans's review).
You won't find any camera comparisons between the V1U and HDV camcorders from other manufacturers on this video, nor does it have any kind of detailed test results, such as, for example, low-light performance data or resolution charts. The video is best suited for those who are just getting into HDV and need a lot of general information about the format, as well as some specifics about these new Sony camcorders they may be considering or have already purchased. It's a great way to "get your hands on" these camcorders if you don't happen to have a local dealer who has one for you to try. It's also a highly effective tool for training a shooter in the use of these cameras, much more quickly and thoroughly than having them read the factory users' manual.
For more information, or to order Inside the Sony HVR-V1U and HDR-FX7 from the VASST store, click here.