by James Careless
Once upon a time, government video producers were at the mercy of whatever recording media their vendor of choice was wedded to. Sometimes the media was proprietary, such as Sony’s XDCAM HD optical disks or Panasonic’s P2 solidstate memory cards. Other times, the media was shared between vendors, such as DVCAM and-wait for it-good old 3/4-inch videotape.
In all cases, one fact was constant: All of the media used was professional grade. This meant it was better quality, higher performing and more durable than anything consumers could buy. That’s why professional grade media cost so much more than consumer media.
Panasonic SDHC But is this price difference still worth paying, given how much consumer grade CompactFlash, SD (Secure Digital) and SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) have improved in capacity, performance and durability in recent years? On this very important, very expensive point, camera vendors disagree.
Even in today’s world of solid-state memory, professional-specific formats still exist. For instance, Panasonic’s HD camcorders record to its proprietary P2 memory cards.
Panasonic P2 They are encased in ruggedized casings meant to stand up to extreme weather conditions, which CompactFlash and SD/SDHC cards are not.
But that’s not all: “P2 cards are high-speed and offer high-quality video recording and optimum flexibility, reliable performance, instant access to content and compatibility with all P2 camcorders, P2 recorders and workflow tools and all major nonlinear editors and servers,” said Joe Facchini, Panasonic Broadcast’s director of product marketing. “P2 cards store content in the complete range of P2-supported frame rates and formats, from high-definition to standard-definition and from DVCPRO to AVCIntra 100.”
Ikegami/Toshiba’s GFCam (HDSV10) tapeless ENG camcorder records to the company’s GFPak solid state flash RAM. A full HDTV (720p/1080i) camcorder that can also shoot in PAL/NTSC SDTV, the GFCam can record up to four hours of HD video onto a single removable GFPak. Simple connection of the GFPak to an NLE or server is done via a standard USB 2.0 cable for instant access to the user’s nonlinear editing system.
Ikegami HDS-V10 GFCAM “GFPaks are far tougher, have far more read/write cycles, and faster file transfers than consumer media,” says Bob Molczan, Ikegami’s engineering specialist for tapeless products. “It even comes with an onboard LCD graphical display that tells you how much room your have left on the media-even even when it’s unpowered and removed from the camcorder.”
Although Panasonic does use its proprietary P2 format for HD video recording, the company is quite comfortable using consumer grade SDHC cards on its lower-end cameras.
The term “lower end” isn’t quite accurate, because models such as the 3-CCD AG-HMC150 camcorder capture and compress 1080/720p video using the AVCHD recording format.
“SD memory cards offer the benefit of solid-state recording of compressed video formats like AVCHD for even longer periods of time,” said Facchini. “SD memory cards are very convenient because they are widely available, small and used in many consumer applications.”
Toshiba GFPak JVC is also using consumer media for its mid-range HD camcorders.
“At NAB 2009, we introduced our GY-HM series cameras; two models that feature recording to economical SDHC media cards,” said Dave Walton, JVC Professional Products’ assistant vice president of marketing. “The GY-HM700 is a compact shoulder camera featuring three 1/3-inch CCDs,and the GY-HM100 is a compact handheld camera that utilizes 1/4-inch CCDs. Each camera has two memory card slots.”
In the past, JVC’s models were all tape-based with the option of recording to hard disk.
“Our customers told us that they wanted cameras that record on solid state memory but that existing media solutions were far too expensive,” Walton said. “However, the industry trend pointed towards better, faster and less expensive memory cards. We looked at several options for solid-state recording. Both P2 and SxS offer excellent recording and transfer speed, but with a very high operating cost. SDHC memory has been improving to the extent that video encoded at 35 Mbps can be easily recorded and played with inexpensive cards. Major-brand Class 10 SDHC cards are now capable of sustained recording speeds of over 200 Mbps.”
Walton contests the notion that SD and SDHC are consumer grade products since SDHC, Compact Flash, SxS and others are designed and marketed for a variety of applications, both consumer and professional. SanDisk, which manufactures the those three types, markets Flash memory as “Business Solutions” as do other manufacturers, he noted.
For its part, Sony uses ruggedized SanDisk ExpressCard (SxS) solid-state memory for use in its PMWEX1 XDCAM EX compact full-HD camcorder. The reason is quality.
“Compared to CompactFlash, SxS solid state cards offer faster read/write times, file transfers at speeds up to 2.5 Gbps and at least 10 times more read/write cycles,” said Wayne Desmond, Sony Electronic’s national training manager. “This last point is particularly important, because a CompactFlash card is only rated to last 1,000 cycles; even if you are just recording one short video per shoot.”
As for Grass Valley? Its 3-CCD Infinity DMC1000 is a top-end multi-format (720p 50/60, 1080i 50/60, and 1080p 24/25/30) HDTV camcorder that is definitely meant for premium broadcast work. Yet this camcorder records to REV PRO removable hard drives and CompactFlash consumer media.
“We started out with REV PRO when we first designed the Infinity, because Compact-Flash media had not achieved the capacity nor cost per gigabit to be a mainstream media,” said Ray Baldock, Grass Valley’s vice president of marketing and technology. “But this technology has increased in performance and capacity. Increasingly we see broadcasters choosing CompactFlash as an affordable high quality recording media. … We see no reason why broadcasters can’t record to it-as long as they buy high-quality CompactFlash.”
THE BIG QUESTION
Can you get away with using consumer-grade media? Most government videographers working today started in the days of professional grade videotape, be it 3/4-inch analog, BetaSP or mini-DV. As well, they were accustomed to looking down on consumer-grade media, simply because it just wasn’t up to the rigors and quality demands of professional production.
So have things changed so much? Yes and no: Thomson Grass Valley does employ CompactFlash for use in its Infinity DMC1000. Meanwhile, JVC uses SxS cards in its top-end GY-HD200UB ProHD 3-CCD camcorder. Still, “Proprietary media is still required for recording formats that use higher bit-rates (100 Mbps and above),” said Walton.
Still, cost is definitely on consumer media’s side. “With SDHC, recording can be accomplished for about the same cost as recording to a professional tape format,” Walton of JVC said. “A 16 Gigabyte SDHC card can be purchased for under $30. It holds up to 50 minutes of HD video recorded at 35 Mbps. You have the economy and workflow benefits of tape in a file based media. Producers can take hundreds of hours of blank media on a shoot if needed and not have to shuttle data from memory cards to storage drives on location.”
Some caveats remain: Without the inherent quality assurance that professional grade media offers, you will need to carefully research which consumer brands can be trusted for your previous video. As well, the lower read/write cycles of consumer media can be a real concern in busy video operations. So is the level of ruggedness compared to professional media that consumer media provides—with the exception of SxS. If your shoots take place outdoors in sometimes wet or extreme conditions, you will want to choose which consumer grade media you use very carefully.
Military Using ‘Bulletproof’ Evertz MVP
MVP in a transportation application For mission-critical multi-image display processors for high-end applications, the MVP from Evertz boasts flexibility, advanced features and the kind of security needed for the nation’s most important control rooms.
The MVP architecture is revolutionary in its approach to NOT use a PC platform at the core of its operation, making it “bulletproof” and suited for 24/7 needs, the company said.
It boasts the ability to display high-resolution images (up to 1920×1200), a resilient architecture and advanced monitoring and management through Evertz’s VistaLINK PRO software (a SNMPbased system). It has been designed for demands of mission critical applications.
MVP is a member of the Evertz family of complete multi-viewer solutions. The family of products allow for the monitoring and display of signal type that vary from analog to 3Gbps. The product family also offers scalable solutions from eight to 1,152 inputs and output to over 200 displays.
Installations of the MVP solution can be found facilities such as the Pentagon, where the Joint Chiefs of Staff rely upon it, as well as at the 480th Intelligence Wing of the U.S. Air Force, and in other military applications across the nation and world. www.evertz.com
Harris Brings Control to 6800+
Display from the Harris 6800+ The Harris QVM6800+ quad-split cards bring full multi-image processing functionality to the popular Harris 6800+ modular core processing platform. Providing comprehensive control and monitoring at a low cost, the QVM6800+ cards offer a small-footprint multiviewer solution that is ideal for outside broadcast/mobile production vehicles, studio production facilities and existing 6800+ users.
QVM6800+ is available in two versions-a standalone Quad card for standard four-inputs-to-one-display applications, and the QVM6800+C flexible cascading model, which allows multiple cards to be linked together to build larger systems. The cascading functionality allows the user to build and reconfigure a multiviewer architecture to suit varied applications.
The QVM6800+ cards are designed for use in the 2 RU, 20-slot 6800+ frame. As each card occupies only three 6800+ slots, up to six quads can be populated in a single frame. www.broadcast.harris.com
Barco Adds ‘Sense6’ To LED Walls
Barco OL series Barco’s new OL series of video walls come with “Sense6,” the company’s sensor technology, which coordinates across multiple rear-projection modules to provide brightness and color stability across the entire wall-requiring no maintenance or manual adjustments.
The new walls, aimed at 24/7 control room applications, also have a liquid cooling system for longer LED life and quieter operation.
It also has a space-saving cube design (only 450 mm on a side) and a front access option, and is designed for fast setup and configuration. www.barco.com