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Seiko S351 Multimedia Producer Timing Device

Unique stopwatch for directors and producers adds and subtracts in base 60 By Charlie White

Seiko S351 Multimedia Producer Timing Device If youre a television director or producer who always needs to know how much time is left in your broadcast or segment (and who doesnt?), youve probably been looking for the perfect stopwatch. Seiko may have the answer for you, with its S351 Multimedia Producer Timing Device ($195 street). Its expensive, but its beautifully made and can add and subtract times, countdown and count up, and even tell you the time of day to make sure youre still on schedule. We took the Multimedia Producer stopwatch into a real-world television broadcast situation, wondering if it was really worth its hefty price tag.

Okay, picture this scenario. Youre directing a seven-minute talk show segment and youre three minutes and 22 seconds into it. Your host flubs a line and wants to do a pickup from exactly that point. Quick?how much time until the end? Cant quickly do that in your head? How about during a broadcast taping, when that electronic beast is breathing down your neck? Add to that a client or two or perhaps a pesky producer sitting behind you, and youll need some hardware assistance to do that kind of base 60 math. Its not so easy to do time calculations in your head quickly, especially under pressure. Now, if you were an ancient Babylonian, working in base 60 would be easy for you, because that was what they used for all their math. But were a base 10 civilization, and we just dont think like that. So, its nice to have some handy hardware that can do that calculation for you. By the way, the answer was 3:38.

That time calculation that we just did is what makes the Multimedia Producer (which is labeled ?Soundproducer on its face) worth its weight in gold. Well, maybe not quite, because the stopwatch weighs 4.2 ounces, and at $195 its already way too expensive. Although 4.2 ounces doesnt sound like much, when you wear it around your neck with the attached lanyard, it feels a bit heavier than most stopwatches. But dont let that scare you off?the Multimedia Producers solid construction is one of its many appealing features.

Not only is it well-built, its quiet, so that when you push the start-stop button or the reset button it doesnt make a sound at all?no beeps, chirps, or even hardly a click when you push them. This is crucial if youre a floor manager in a broadcast studio. Nobody wants to hear your bleeping stopwatch announcing when it started and stopped.

The Seiko Multimedia Producer, which comes with its own handsome leather-like carrying case, is quite a versatile piece of equipment. You can select between a variety of modes, using the selector on its front left. That control allows you to use it as either a calculator, a sophisticated timer, a simple clock (a 12- or 24-hour clock which can be turned off in any mode if its distracting you), or a stopwatch that can also give you split times.

The most useful feature is the timer, which lets you quickly punch in the minutes and seconds required in your segment and then begin timing by pushing the start/stop button. The best part is, when the countdown reaches zero, not only does it refrain from announcing itself with an irritating and noisy alarm, it dutifully begins counting up automatically. This way, you know how many seconds long your segment has run. Thats useful.

The timer also has a convenient way of remembering the time that was last entered, so if you have to deal with, say, a host who needs to start a segment over multiple times, you can immediately reset the stopwatch and have that same segment time ready for your next take. Another neat trick is the time elapsed button, which you can push during a countdown timing to see how much time has elapsed since the beginning. Another convenience is at the end of the segment when youve stopped the timer, you can push the time elapsed button and it shows the total time of your segment, even if it ran long.

Another great feature for producers is the calculating function. Switch the mode selector to ?calc and then you can enter the minutes and seconds that you would like to calculate. You can enter up to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. You can enter just two numbers, subtracting one from the other, or add a successive list of times and get the total of those, just like any other calculator except using minutes and seconds instead of base 10 numbers. Once youve done your calculations, flip the mode switch to timer or stopwatch and then push the Call button, and the result of your calculations will be placed into the window and ready for either up-timing or countdown timing. Im sure you can see how this would be useful.

Now that Ive mentioned all of the great features of the Multimedia Producer, let me tell you what it cant do. It cant add and subtract everyday base 10 numbers. Its also not able to count frames or add/subtract frames, a function that would be valuable to editors. But come to think of it, that function is easily duplicated in nonlinear editing software, so I guess thats not a deal breaker. However, an inexplicable omission is its inability to count in higher resolutions than one second. Thats right, this is a stopwatch that cant count even tenths of a second, much less hundredths. I would have appreciated the ability to subdivide each second into not only tenths, but even 30 or 24, --or, dare I say it, 29.97 -- frames. But I suppose that kind of resolution isnt necessarily important when youre timing a television or radio show on the set. Those kind of split-second timings are probably more important in the edit suite than the sound stage. But still, how hard would it have been to put split-second resolution into a $195 stopwatch? I dont understand it. One other feature that I wish the stopwatch had would be the ability to memorize, say, 20 specific timings. Then, before a newscast, for example, the total running time of each taped package could be entered, and during the live newscast a simple button push would advance to the next segment time, ready to begin back timing each segment on the fly. Well, they didnt ask me before they designed this, but if the above features had been included, the Multimedia Producer timing device would actually be worth $195.

Summing up, the Seiko S351 Multimedia Producer Timing Device is a unique piece of equipment thats especially made for those of us who deal in base 60 every day. The Multimedia Producer can think that through for you, freeing up your mind for other more important things. Ive used it on the set for a few video sessions, and Ive found it to be an excellent tool to keep track of the one thing of which none of us have enough?time. That said, there are a few features that could have made this unit so much better. So, is it worth its steep street price? Well, I think $195 is about double its actual value. However, what the Multimedia Producer is able to do, it does very well. If you have lots of extra cash lying around, or if you can get somebody else, such as your boss, to buy it for you, Id say go for it. Lucky you. Recommended. 8 stars out of 10.

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