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Old May 17th, 2008, 11:05 AM   #1
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Various Announcements from Convergent Design

Recommended Compact Flash Cards

After considerable research, we can now recommend the following Compact Flash (CF) cards for Flash XDR:

Transcend 32GB 133X - Data-rates up to 100 Mbps
Transcend 16GB 300X - Data-rates > 100 Mbps

The 32GB card is widely available for around US $150 to $165, while the 16GB card is just starting to hit the retail market at US $240. On a GB basis, the 32GB card is 1/10 the price of other professional solid-state media.

CF speed ratings are based on the old audio CD rate of 1X = 150 KBytes/sec, so 133X = 20 MBytes/sec (or 160Mbps) and 300X = 45 Mbytes/sec (or 360 Mbps). But be aware that this number often refers to the read speed and not the write speed (which is normally lower).

The Transcend 133X 32GB card is a real performer, with read speeds of 41 Mbytes/sec (275X) and write speeds of 16.6 Mbytes/sec (110X). The 300X 16GB, on the other hand, is an absolute screamer with read and write speeds of almost 50 Mbytes/sec (333X).

Both cards employ UDMA (Ultra DMA) read and write transfer protocol. The 32GB card uses UDMA-4, while the 16GB card uses the newer UDMA-5. UDMA enables long burst transfers of up to 128 KBytes without host intervention. On our Flash XDR, all video and audio transfers to and from the CF cards are handled in hardware, for the absolute fastest possible performance. (No dropped frames).

As data is written (or read) to the CF card, a 16-bit CRC (cyclic redundancy check) is generated over every 512 bytes by both the controller (Flash XDR) and the CF card. These CRCs are continuously compared to ensure reliable data transfers. Any errors are reported to the user on the LCD screen (in flashing text!)

The 32 GB card uses multi-level cell (MLC) technology, which stacks 2-bits of memory in a single cell site. The higher-performance 16 GB card employs a single-level cell (SLC) design with 1-bit per cell site. Clearly the MLC approach allows designers to cram more bits into a given area of silicon at the cost of lower access speeds (the write times are 2x to 3x that of the SLC design). Naturally, the MLC NAND Flash is about 1/2 the cost of SLC.

The NAND Flash memory found in Compact Flash cards is exactly the same memory found in iPods, iPhones, Cell Phones, P2 / SxS cards, and Solid-State Hard Drives. The only difference is the controller interface (CF and P2 cards uses a parallel interface, while SxS uses a serial interface). Over the the last 4-5 years, Flash memory prices have been declining at the rate of 40 to 50% per year. There is every indication that this trend will continue into the foreseeable future.

Compact Flash offers relatively low-cost, very low power consumption (compared to hard-drives or tape drives), no moving parts, very long-life, small size and fast read and write access. They can be hot-swapped for endless record times. And to keep the costs low, CF cards are widely available from multiple vendors.

Unlike hard-drives, which exhibit slower read and write access as they become full, Compact Flash offers very uniform performance no matter has much data is on the card. CF also offers faster than real-time read performance. Using the 32G card and recording at 50Mbps, you can transfer the data via a Firewire-800 reader at rates up to 41 Mbytes/sec or more than 6X real-time. So you can easily edit directly from the CF card, although it's best to use a hard-drive to store your project.

I think one of the most exciting features of the CF interface design on Flash XDR is the ability to record to two cards simultaneously (RAID-1). Using Compact Flash it's now economically feasible to record the same video to multiple cards. So after a shoot, you can instantly hand off one card to the editor and another card to the director/producer. Or you can lock up one card as a backup and send the second card to post. (Try doing that with a tape deck!)

I'll have another post shortly on recommended CF card readers.

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Old July 9th, 2008, 11:22 AM   #2
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Top Ten Reasons to Go (Solid State) Tapeless

Here's our list of the Top Ten Reasons to Go (Solid-State) Tapeless, as compiled by our staff and with suggestions from Dan Keaton. We would be interested if anyone has additonal thoughts or comments.

1) No Digitization/Capture
a. No need to digitize (convert from analog to digital) your analog video tape or to perform a laborious 1X capture of your material (no more batch captures).
b. Edit instantly from the solid-state media (card).
c. Transfers to other media (hard-drives) are performed at speeds much greater than real-time (typically 3x to 6x)
d. Random access to any frame in any clip, no need to fast-forward / rewind tape.
e. No drop-outs or time-code breaks!

2) No Deck Required
a. Significant initial (purchase) cost savings as well as long-term maintenance (head/drum replacement) cost savings.
b. Solid-state memory card readers are very low in cost (US $60), very reliable, and do not require maintenance.

3) Lower weight, size, noise, vibration and power
a. Much lower weight (3 lbs vs. 5 ~ 50 lbs)
b. Much smaller (1/4 to 1/10 the overall volume)
c. Zero noise (no fans)
d. No vibration (no moving parts inside)
e. Very low power consumption (12W vs 40 ~ 100W)

4) Performance increases as size decreases
a. Hard-drive performance decreases with smaller physical size drives (due to slower rotational speeds). For example, 1.8” drives don’t have insufficient I/O performance for data-rates much above 35 to 40 Mbps. Hard drive performance also drops off as the volume reaches capacity.
b. Solid-state performance, on the other hand, improves with decreasing chip size and the performance is uniform across the entire volume.
c. Tape storage capacity is directly related to the physical size of the tape for a given technology. If you want more capacity on your tape, you have to buy a physically larger cartridge. Solid State media capacity continues to double every 12-18 months, while the physical size of the media remains constant.

5) Superior Reliability
a. No mechanical parts to fail / tape to jam.
b. Much better reliability in harsh conditions.
c. Will work in extreme conditions, where a tape-drive will likely fail, such as in very high humidity.

6) Instant Replay
a. Instant review of just recorded footage can revolutionize shooting on the set. Catching problems while on the set, before striking the set, can be priceless. The director can ensure that he or she has the desired footage without any worries about rewinding tape or time-code breaks.
b. Even during a playback session, recording starts immediately, as appropriate, without a delay to reposition the tape.
c. The system is ready to record instantly, even during a playback session. All recording is done after the last recorded file, no need to position the tape. No danger of recording over valuable footage, one of the main reasons that rewinding and playback of tape is discouraged on the set.

7) Redundant Recording
a. Identical video can be written to multiple cards simultaneously, an impossible option with tape and difficult to achieve with portable hard-drives.
b. In the unlikely case of a media error, the other original will be unaffected.
c. Individual masters can be transported via independent means for safety.
d. One card can be handed-off to an editor, while a second card is given to the producer/director for review on a PC/MAC.

8) MetaData Support
a. The ability to document and record extra data about each take is very useful in post and while reviewing footage.
b. User specified metadata can be very useful for a production (director, cameraman, take, event, location, camera number, etc.)
c. Custom notes about a take can be recorded with the audio and video.
d. Takes can be easily marked as Bad, Good, or “Best”.

9) Wider Operating Environment
a. Solid-state media works at extreme hot and cold temperatures.
b. Hard disk drives cannot be used at high altitudes or in very cold conditions.
c. Few problems from condensation when going from one environment to another.
d. Operates in high G-Force conditions (airplanes, helicopters, race-cars), where tape or hard-drives would fail.

10) Ever decreasing costs
a. Tape costs have bottomed out and show no signs of further cost reductions.
b. Solid state media has a significant track record of providing higher capacity and lower cost each year.
c. Solid state media is already used in many professional environments (such as digital cameras).
d. Our industry can benefit from the widespread use, wide availability, high volume, and low cost of solid-state media (such as CompactFlash).
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Last edited by Mike Schell; July 9th, 2008 at 04:23 PM. Reason: Typo Error
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Old July 9th, 2008, 11:25 AM   #3
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Changed to Top Ten

Last edited by Mike Schell; July 9th, 2008 at 04:30 PM. Reason: Corrected in original post
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Old September 12th, 2008, 09:29 PM   #4
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I will be quiet for a while.

Mike Schell is currently at IBC.

I will be out of touch for quite a while so I will not be able to respond promptly to any posts.

I will attempt to answer any questions as soon as I can obtain access to the internet.

I am certain that Mike will answer your questions as time permits. It gets very hectic at the major trade shows.

I would be nice for anyone who has seen the HD footage, as recorded by an "Alpha" unit, and shown at IBC to post their comments.
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Old September 17th, 2008, 11:15 AM   #5
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XDR Firmware Updates

Does installing the latest firmware update include ALL the other firmware updates?

or do you have to install each individual firmware update to obtain all the advances in funtionality?

Thanks - hope IBC is going well for you all.
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Old September 18th, 2008, 03:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Richard View Post
Does installing the latest firmware update include ALL the other firmware updates?

or do you have to install each individual firmware update to obtain all the advances in funtionality?

Thanks - hope IBC is going well for you all.
Hi John-
You just need to install the latest firmware as it includes all the previous updates.

IBC went extremely well, lots of traffic and great comments. We played some gorgeous airplane footage from OnBoard Images with smoke, water and lots of high-motion content. We saw no dropped frames or artifacts whatsoever.
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Old September 22nd, 2008, 10:02 PM   #7
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QuickTime almost ready

We are almost ready to release the firmware for Quicktime support. Our engineers had playback working this afternoon. About 95% of the image is correct, but we still see some macroblocks and random hits in the video. So, we clearly have a few bits or bytes to correct.

But, I am extremely optimistic that we can release a firmware update soon for Quicktime support. The CF cards will have .mov files which can be played in FCP directly.

MXF should follow in October.
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Old September 24th, 2008, 08:21 AM   #8
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Impressive. We are looking foreward to the Nano for our next big thing
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Old October 9th, 2008, 10:10 AM   #9
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Flash XDR Saves The Day!

Check out this story posted by Jeff Silverman of Inertia Unlimited:

Inertia Unlimited, Ltd. - Welcome
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Old October 14th, 2008, 10:39 PM   #10
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Latest Flash XDR / nanoFlash Newsletter

In case you are not on the mailing list, here's the latest newsletter:

Flash XDR now Shipping
Limited quantities of Flash XDR are now shipping. We have increased our production by 50% for October and November in hopes of reducing our backlog. We are trying our best to keep up with the phone calls and e-mails. We can help with technical questions, but would ask everyone to contact your local dealer for purchase inquiries. Please support your local dealers who will then be motivated to support you!

Flash XDR wins Best of Show Award at IBC
Flash XDR won its’ third prestigious award at IBC last month in Amsterdam. In addition to the Viddy (Videography magazine) and Pick Hit (Broadcast Engineering magazine) awards from NAB, Flash XDR was awarded the Best of Show from TVB-Europe magazine. Flash XDR was featured in the popular “What caught my eye”, presented during IBC.

QuickTime Alpha (Version 0.0.117) Available for Download
An alpha version of the Flash XDR firmware with QuickTime file support is available for download (Convergent Design, experts in HDMI, SD, HD, and HDV ) . This firmware supports the 4:2:2 MPEG2 CODEC (XDCAM HD), which is available on Final Cut Pro Vr 6.04. Using a Firewire-800 Compact Flash Reader (such as the Lexar) you can play files directly off the CF card, without re-wrap or transcode. Just pop the CF card out of the Flash XDR, drop it into the reader and double click on the file for playback!

The current QT firmware supports 1080i59.94/50 and 1080p29.97/25/23.98, but not 720p or 1080psf formats. The 720p format will require additional work to align the audio to the 12-frame GOP, while the psf format requires an interlacing of the video. We expect the psf support to follow in the next few days and 720p support early next month.

Special note: to the best of our knowledge, all Sony cameras use the psf format for all progressive formats. The psf format transmits a progressive frame as two interlaced fields. So, 1080psf29.97 will appear as 1080i59.94 to the Flash XDR. We are adding a simple menu selection to force the interlacing of the fields (to produce a true progressive frame) inside of XDR.

Final Cut Pro allows a mixed CODEC mode in which the timeline is set for the MPEG2 playback, but effects are rendered in ProRes. This can be a powerful and time efficient mode of editing. Native MPEG2 frames can simply be played back out of the timeline, while effects are rendered using the high-quality ProRes CODEC. This mixed mode is much faster than using a pure MPEG2 timeline, as effect rendering would take considerably longer.

Special note: Please use firmware version 0.0.115 for all serious production work and this QuickTime Alpha for development of your workflow and evaluation of the video and audio quality.

QuickTime Playback on the PC!
Calibrated software offers a low-cost application for playback of our 4:2:2 MPEG2 files on the PC. More info on this very useful program can be found at: Calibrated{Q} XD Decode They also offer a MAC version for users who do not have FCP.

NLE Support Expands: First Final Cut Pro and now Avid and Vegas Support
Avid (Media Composer, Symphony and Newscutter), Sony Vegas and Final Cut Pro now support the 4:2:2 MPEG2 CODEC used in Flash XDR and nanoFlash. QuickTime file support will enable seamless operation with Final Cut Pro, while MXF will be the choice for Avid and Vegas. (We expect to release MXF support in November).

We can also confirm, that our Quicktime files can also be converted to the high-quality Cineform CODEC, further expanding your editing options.

Transcend 133X 32GB Compact Flash cards drop below US $85, 64 and 100 GB cards Announced
The Transcend 133X 32GB CF card, which we have certified for data-rates up to 100 Mbps, is now available for under US $85. The price of this card has dropped from $230 to $85 in the last 15 months! (Check Portable Storage, Media Viewers, CompactFlash, Secure Digital, SDHC, SD Cards, and SSD! or Newegg.com - Computer Parts, PC Components, Laptop Computers, Digital Cameras and more!)

Microdia has announced a high-speed 64GB card, while Pretec has trumped everyone with a 64GB and 100 GB CF card; both due before the end of 2008. The price and density of CF cards should continue to drop and increase respectively for the foreseeable future. At this rate, CF cards will drop below the price of professional HD tape sometime in the next 6 months.

Sonnetech announced a new dual CF card to Express 34 adapter Sonnet - News: IBC 2008 New Product Announcemenets with blazingly fast performance. Although we still recommend the Lexar Firewire-800 reader for most applications, since you can daisy chain up to four readers on a single Firewire bus.

Bebob, Anton-Bauer and Dolgin Introduce Sony EX3 batteries with D-Tap
Bebob, Anton-Bauer and Dolgin have all announced large batteries that can be mounted to the back of the popular Sony EX3 camera. These batteries also feature a D-Tap power outlet, which will enable the XDR / nanoFlash to be powered off the same battery. We are working on various mounting options and hope to have detailed drawings soon.

nanoFlash Update
We continue to make solid progress on the nanoFlash, which is unfortunately behind schedule due to resources being allocated to Flash XDR. We hope to demonstrate a prototype next month at the InterBee show in Tokyo and begin production shortly thereafter. There will be a significant announcement about nanoFlash in the near future.

Feature Rollout Plan
Here’s a rough schedule of our Feature Rollout through 2008

October 2008:
QuickTime Support
1080psf support
ASI Encode and Decode
Basic Menus

November 2008
MXF Support
24p Pulldown removal
720p in QT and MXF
Expanded Menu Control
Uncompressed Support

December
Standard-Def Support
RAID1 (Mirroring)


As always, we appreciate your continued suggestions, recommendations and patience!
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Old October 23rd, 2008, 05:35 PM   #11
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evaluation support for psf released for Flash XDR, version 0.0.124

Version 0.0.124 is now posted on the Convergent Design website, evaluation version for 1080 progressive segmented frame 24, 25, and 30 in Quicktime file format. PSF is common with Sony cameras in particular.

Convergent Design, experts in HDMI, SD, HD, and HDV

This release is primarily to evaluate the video quality of the various psf frame rates recorded as progressive video.

To record psf video in progressive format, on the menu of the Flash XDR choose Video->PSF->In (checked). If you do not check the box, psf video will be recorded as interlaced (except for psf 24 frame, which always records as progressive). See the menu status line to determine exactly how we are interpreting the video.

We do not have playback working quite yet with Quicktime, only record at this time.

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Old October 24th, 2008, 05:51 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tommy Schell View Post
We do not have playback working quite yet with Quicktime, only record at this time. Tommy Schell
Just to be clear: Quicktime files recorded by the Flash XDR, onto the CompactFlash cards, can be played back or used as input to FCP or other appropriate Non-Linear Editors.

Just take the CompactFlash card out of the Flash XDR and insert it into a CompactFlash card reader attached to your computer.

Current releases of Final Cut Pro, releases 6.0.2 and above are capable of processing the 4:2:2 Quicktime files that we create.

As I understand it, at this time, the Quicktime Player does not handle 4:2:2 Quicktime files.

Currently, within the Flash XDR itself, we can record Quicktime files to the CompactFlash cards, but not play them back.

To enable both Record and Playback from within the Flash XDR, select the "CDV" as opposed to "QT" on the menu.

We are expecting full Quicktime record and playback, from within the Flash XDR, in the next release, which is expected next week.
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Old November 7th, 2008, 06:08 PM   #13
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Flash XDR version 0.0.138 posted

Flash XDR users:

beta version 0.0.138 has been posted to our website:

Convergent Design, experts in HDMI, SD, HD, and HDV

This version features improved record reliability in the Quicktime format,
and Quicktime playback is repaired.
"Play All" and "Play Last Clip" are available.

Tommy Schell
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Old November 14th, 2008, 04:28 PM   #14
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New XDR 58 Page Manual

For those who may have missed it,

there is a 58 page manual for the XDR now posted on the C-D website under the XDR product page.

http://convergent-design.com/Updates_FlashXDR.htm

Last edited by John Richard; November 14th, 2008 at 05:01 PM. Reason: added link to manual
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Old December 4th, 2008, 10:17 AM   #15
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Flash XDR at BandPro (Burbank, CA) on 11-Dec

Convergent Design will be demonstrating the Flash XDR at the BandPro Open House next Thursday, Dec 11th from 1:00PM to 8:00PM. BandPro is located at 3403 West Pacific Ave in Burbank, CA.

If you would like to attend, please send an e-mail to sales@convergent-design.com before end of day 5-Dec-08. I will forward the registration details.

Thanks-
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