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Sony Active Interface Shoe

The Active Interface Shoe (AIS) is a 16-pin proprietary electro-mechanical interface that replaces the standard hot shoe on Sony's latest Handycams. The abundant number of pins on this proprietary shoe would provide the power for accessories and allows a variety of specialized functions to be designed into new and innovative accessories. Accessories that utilize the Active Interface shoe won't be usable on camcorders without this interface. As of spring 2005, only the Sony DCR-HC42 and DCR-HC90 MiniDV Handycams have the Active Interface Shoe, while many more AIS supported Handycams are in the making.

To attach the accessory to the Active Interface Shoe, push the accessory down on the shoe and push it forward till it locks. This method of attachment is slightly different from the standard camera hot shoe, where the accessory simply slides on. An AIS Locking knob keeps the accessory securely attached. However, the lock is a pair of friction pads, so with enough force you can still detach the accessory.

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It is hard to grasp the capabilities of the Sony AIS without looking at real examples. The following are accessories in Sony's AIS line-up:

3-Watt Video Light HVL-HL1

The 3-watt Video light is pretty much like any other video light on the market. The only minor difference is that the AIS Supplies power to it. Thus. it would be more convenient for you to manage one battery for both camcorder and light rather than two independent batteries.

This convenience comes at the cost of draining more power. But think of it in a different way. With independent batteries, you would have a battery for the camcorder and a battery for the light. Most likely, the two batteries are not interchangeable. With this AIS light, you can buy two batteries for your Camcorder to extend the life of the combo. When you are not using the light, the spare battery will extend the life of your camcorder.

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Combination Video and Infrared Light HVL-HIRL

This video and infrared light is not much different than what Sony has already provided in the past. AIS simply provides power from the camcorder to the lights (See 3-Watt Video Light HVL-HL1).

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Flash/Video Light HVL-HFL1

This accessory is an electronic flash and video light combo. For the first time, you can use external flashes when shooting still photography with your Handycams. The AIS Synchronizes the flash with the shutter. When you are ready to shoot video, this accessory automatically switch over to the video light mode.

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Gun Zoom Microphone ELM-HGZ1

Much like other direction microphones, the ELM-HGZ1 can pick up sounds in any direction you choose. The difference that AIS makes in this case is that it can sync the directional distance pick-up based on the zoom setting of the camcorder.

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Surround Sound Microphone ECM-HQP1

Having the ability to record 4 channel surround sound, wide stereo, and stereo, the ECM-HQP1 Surround Sound Microphone is the kind of accessory that AIS is designed for. In 4-channel surround sound mode, the microphone records front left, front right, rear left, and rear right. The surround sound can be encoded into Dolby 5.1 using the Sony software included with your Handycam. In wide stereo mode, the microphone records sound with extra depth. These ECM-HPQ1 capabilities would not be possible without AIS.

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Copyright © 2005 by Chieh Cheng. All Rights Reserved.