Beta Test

Back in 1995, we needed to rent a Sony PVW 2800 Betacam-SP deck for the weekend to digitize a 60 minute Bass Fishing video for a first time client's CD-ROM product. Upon unpacking the video deck I see that its XLR output cabling will not connect to my computer's input RCA plugs! Time to head over to Radio Shack.

At the store I spend over half an hour looking for the right combination of plugs to make the hook up. From what's available, it will take 2 adapters. One connection from the deck straight into the computer would be too easy, wouldn't it?

Before making the buy, I ask the busy store manager if I can make a local call back to the office. I check with Bert back at the office and ask him to look at the Beta deck's audio output connections.

"Are they male or female, you know, do I have to plug something into them... that would be female... or are they male with prongs coming out?"

Bert was engrossed in upgrading a Mac to the current OS release, 7.5.3. "It seems to make the machine more user friendly, after you spend the entire night with it," he related.

"They're female... you have to plug the cables into it," continued Bert.

Good thing I checked - I had the reverse arrangement, a female connecting into a male output. I rehang the parts nearby their original stock shelf positions and seek out the alternate sex parts.

Back at the studio I find out we're in trouble. Bert was fooled by the recessed, feminine orifice that housed male prongs.

Radio Shack, Part 2.

After making the sex change at Radio Shack and hooking up the deck to the computer, we roll tape with excited anticipation. Video source on the computer monitor looks great, but wait! Audio level is hot, Hot, HOT!! Even when we drag the computer's audio control slider bar all the way down, the meter's still rockin' out fully in the red zone.

Maybe our desktop computer equipment is no match for this super professional high end video deck? Maybe we need to run out and rent a professional sound mixing board with professional male and female plugs, amps, and controls? Maybe we'll have to digitize the audio from a lousy consumer grade VHS tape and mix and sync up the audio manually in Premiere? Maybe we've blown $370 on renting the wrong deck?! Oh woe is a me bop, what are we gonna do?

Calm down. Call a friend at a local video post house, a small place, you figure where someone will be stuck on a Saturday afternoon, just like us. The friendly video engineer on the phone tells us, "Pull out the audio output knobs. Then you'll be able to adjust the audio gain."

It works. Hmm... how simple, yet professionally veiled. Beta test over.


The Bass Fishing video digitization and subsequent Cinepak compression rendered far better Quicktime image quality results than we had ever seen when using VHS, S-VHS or 3/4" videotape decks. Unfortunately, even with the great video clips, the CD-ROM was never produced. Bert went on to a highly successful career in web site design.

- Story and illustration by Hank Grebe

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