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Shoot Review — Datavideo DV Bank

An affordable option for digital backup.

First there was tape, and in the beginning it was good. Then camecomputers and the day of the digital camera — even better. Todaynew digital decks using hard drives are offering new and differentfeatures at an attractive price. The DV Bank from Datavideo is thelatest offering and is uniquely different from the others.

The DV Bank comes in 60GB and 120GB versions, which record slightlyover four hours and nine hours, repsectively.

The DV Bank is available in two models, a 60GB version and a 120GBversion. It records video in the DV format just like a camera or deck,which has advantages and limitations. The 60GB version records a littleover four hours of video, while you can get about nine hours with120GB. The company indicated it may offer larger sizes in the nearfuture. With the DV Bank you just hook up any Firewire (IEEE-1394)camera and start recording. If you’ve ever used a VCR you’ll already beat home. Just think of it as a digital VCR that’s able to record on upto 99 different, instantly accessible tracks. You can even do assemblyedits on one track, as well as produce some outstanding specialeffects.

The main reason for a product like this or its nearest competitor,the Videonics FireStore, is that DV tape can have dropouts. I knowbecause a DV tape dropout recently happened to me, and it can ruin yourwhole day. Why does it seem like the one clip you need is always theone with the problem? This is especially true when you’re documenting aone-time only event like a wedding, concert, or the finish of a race.The DV Bank prevents just this sort of thing from happening bysimultaneously recording to a hard drive in the DV tape format. A casecould even be made for making this your primary video deck when oneconsiders the higher cost of today’s DV VCRs. At the very least itwould allow you to use your DV camera less often for playback, and thatalone may be enough, especially for the smaller studio.

Initial Deposit

While the manual, like most, is too simplistic, it’s no problem asthe DV Bank hooks up and operates like any standard video deck. If youhave any problems or questions I found Datavideo’s tech supportdepartment to be responsive — they answered on the second ring— and knowledgeable.

Right off the bat you’ll notice the nice VCR-like controls and thelarge LCD window. I really like that the extruding control buttons andLCD menu screen light up since I usually work in a semi-dark editingenvironment. Another nicety is that the DV Bank has two 1394 ports, onestandard four-pin in the front for camera hook-up and the largersix-pin plug for connection to your PC or Mac. I tested on eachplatform and it worked without problems on both. However, PC users havethe added bonus of free software that Datavideo has written. The EZ Cutsoftware, available for download at the company’s website, providesrudimentary batch capture abilities so you can select various tracksfrom the DV Bank and automatically capture them to your NLEcomputer.

Unfortunately, the application is not yet compatible with Windows XPor Mac OS X. I would encourage Datavideo to add some compatibility,stability, and polish to the application (I suppose you get what youpay for) and to embrace OMF and other standards to make EZ Cut easierto use and more compatible with editing applications like AdobePremiere and Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

I recorded some footage of my band playing at a local festival withmy Sony VX-1000 camera while the DV Bank simultaneously recorded to itshard drive. It worked fine, but the surprise came when I returned tothe studio.

No product is perfect, and unfortunately, the DV Bank is noexception. The inability to immediately use my recorded clips in myediting application is a hassle. Because it records in DV rather than acomputable file format like MPEG, AVI, or MOV, re-digitizing isrequired. Perhaps DV Bank’s other desirable features would offset thislimitation for some users; I’m not one of them. I hope, as rumored,that Datavideo will investigate the possibility of dual-formatcapturing, allowing both DV and/or a computer-based file format. Thenthere would be no need for the chore of re-digitizing video for use inyour NLE application. This would take a good, solid product and make ittruly outstanding.

One at a Time

They say that everything eventually balances out, and if you needvideo time-lapse features or the ability to record single frames for 3Danimation, the DV Bank is for you. With the optional IntervalometerTL-1 accessory ($499), I was able to record video frames one at a timeat various intervals and achieve some very cool looking effects similarto the kind you can buy in pricey pre-built background packages. WithNewTek’s Lightwave 6.0 I was able to create animated 3D titles,rendering them a frame at a time. The frame-accurate recording featureoffers a wealth of possibilities, and playback is always super smoothwith no jitter.

When one considers the lack of (and cost of) animation-capable VTRs,the DV Bank becomes attractive in a hurry. This is certainly the onlytime-lapse video device of its kind in this price range.

Out in the field I was able to record clouds flowing across the skyto use behind some titles for a training video (the client loved it!),as well as stuff like a flower blooming and closing and a rapid sunset.I was also able to record freeway traffic where the cars just look likelong streaks of red and white lights. The possibilities are endless,and while it may be specialized for general video work, it also hassignificant features for use in science (documenting projects over longperiods); sports (slow motion analysis of your golf swing — wedid it and found out why I slice the ball); and analyzing amanufacturing process. It could even be used in documenting highsecurity areas with one frame at a time over long periods.

If there were one or two things I’d like to see, other than beingable to skip the digitizing step for editing, it would be a small 5in.to 7in. LCD monitor that would somehow attach itself to the DV Bank, aswell as a customized field case for transport. But, as is, it fit in mygig bag and was easy to operate.

Another area where this product excels past its competitors is thearea of presentations. The DV Bank’s Automatic Looping feature makes itperfect for trade show or retail displays and Kiosk demos. Just hook upa monitor, loop playback, and your presentation video plays over andover. And with the optional DC converter ($199 MSRP) and voltagestabilizer you can use the DV Bank and Intervalometer far from theediting suite with any 9V to 14V power source. While the documentationdoes not say you should not use it via a car battery, experience hasshown that an auto power source is just too flaky to rely upon. (But itworked like a charm with my small Yamaha electricity generator until weran out of gas.) If I had to describe the DV Bank in one word, it wouldbe rugged, as it’s obviously engineered to take the knocks and jolts oflong-term use in the field.

All of Datavideo’s products seem to be well thought out, built forabuse, and focused on filling gaps in the video marketplace at priceseven semi-professionals can afford. While the DV Bank may not be thedeath of videotape, we are getting close. When one considers the priceof traditional DV tape decks (a Sony DV-900 goes for about two grand),this product becomes even more attractive. The DV Bank, despite notbeing able to use video clips immediately in your PC or Mac NLEsoftware, is still worthwhile for creating automatic backup of whateveryou’ve shot on tape. Additionally, the eye-popping special videoeffects you can achieve rival that of stuff done with film units thatare much more expensive. As a hard drive-based video deck, the DV Bankdeserves serious consideration, especially for those who needanimation, time-lapse, or presentation features.

Tom Patrick McAuliffe is journalist, entertainer and video creator.Reach him at reelcom1@comcast.net.

BOTTOM LINE

Company: Datavideo Corp. USA
Whittier, Calif., (562) 696-2324
www.datavideo-tek.com

Product: DV Bank with optional Intervalometer TL-1

Assets: Supports frame-by-frame animation, and Intervalometerenables time-lapse footage.

Caveats: Have to re-digitize DV footage for editing; freesoftware not compatible with Windows XP or Mac OS X.

Demographic: Professional, corporate, and educationalvideographers looking for affordable backup.

Price: $1,100 for 60GB; $1,180 for 120GB; $499 forIntervalometer

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