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Old February 1st, 2009, 10:57 PM   #1
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XDR isn't ready for Prime Time.

I used the XDR on a b-roll type shoot this last Thursday and I am less than thrilled with its performance.

It lost sync for an unknown reason and wouldn't record again until I powered down and back up. The unit doesn't hold all the settings so when you do have an issue, you have to go thru and make sure all your settings are where you want them. This is especially a problem when the record with time code doesn't come back on. You'll loose shots unless you check because it's not going to fire when you pull the trigger.

I wish there was a safety lock so that all settings would be remembered under any circumstances. When you start shooting, you don't always have time to keep checking the settings.

Luckily I was recording to tape so I can go back thru and rerecord to the XDR in my office to make sure I get all the clips. This of course defeats the purpose of having the XDR on my camera while I'm shooting.

I also found that waiting for the XDR to finish after you stop recording is a pain. When you run and gun, you often stop and start. This is a problem for the XDR.

Finally, I did install the latest version .233 and found it unstable during some quick tests. I backed up to .193 for this shoot.

My advice is not to trust the XDR with anything important yet and shoot to tape while you're testing the unit.

I didn't use it on my weekend shoot. We went with another format.

Scott
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 04:05 AM   #2
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Dear Scott,

Good morning.

We are sorry that you had problems with our Flash XDR. We will work hard to correct all of the issues you reported.

1. If we lose the HD-SDI signal while recording, due to a cable being unplugged, or the camera being shut off, or any other reason, we hang up and the system must be powered down to recover. We are working to resolve this issue.

We have attempted to warn our uses by including the following warning in our Important Points docuement:

Do not turn off your camera, nor disconnect the HD-SDI cable while recording.

2. We currently remember all of the settings, except for the Timecode Trigger on Incrementing Timecode.

This setting was not rememberd, on purpose. One of our highest priorities is to change this so that we do remember the setting.

Our original thinking was that a user might have this option set from a previous shoot, then connect it up to another camera and it would immediately start recording, if the timecode was incremening, such as it would if the camera was set to 24-Hour timecode.

Then we realized the potential for missing a shot, if the power on the Flash XDR is cycled during a shoot.

So, we included the following warning in our documentation and Important Points document:

Caution: The Video>Trig>TC (Timecode Trigger) option will be turned off whenever the Flash XDR is powered down or power is lost.

If you are using incrementing timecode to trigger the Flash XDR to record, you must re-enable this option after each time you power on the Flash XDR.

If you fail to re-enable this option, then the Flash XDR will not start recording automatically whenever your camera starts to record.


So, on our firmware development list, this is number one.

We wanted this to be in firmware release 0.0.233, but due to complications, it was not included.

It is relatively easy for us to save this setting, as we do all others, in special memory that we have in the Flash XDR for this purpose.

The complication arises when we are recording due to Incrementing Timecode, then the user presses "Stop" on the Flash XDR. We should stop, of course, since we should honor the latest command from the user.

However, in this case, the timecode is still incrementing, and we would start recording again. We have figured out what to do. We do expect this to be in our next release.

3. We do plan on a "Key Lock" to prevent any accidental changes to menu items. This is further down on our develpement list.

4. We currently require the user to hold the Stop key down for three seconds to stop a recording. This will change to 1 second.

But more importantly, we intend to speed up the steps that we perform when we stop a recording. This is the "Stopping" time that you are seeing, which is approximately 10 seconds currently. This is in our plans.

5. What problems did you have with our 0.0.233 release? You reported that it was unstable. We will attempt to promptly fix any problems that you can report to us.
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Last edited by Dan Keaton; February 2nd, 2009 at 03:31 PM.
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 12:45 PM   #3
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Hi Scott-

I a nutshell, you need the Flash XDR to retain all the various user settings through a power cycle, especially the time-code trigger and automatically re-lock if the HD-SDI input signal glitches or we unlock for some unknown reason. I have assigned our hardware and software engineers to work on both of these issues today.

We are also running reliability tests all this week on vr 0.0.233 and will work on any problems we discover.

Thanks for the feedback, I apologize for the problems.

Best Regards-
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Old February 3rd, 2009, 07:44 AM   #4
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XDR Update

Hi Scott-
We will be testing new firmware today that retains the time code trigger setting and adds auto-restart on the HD-SDI input. We found some conditions when the XDR was not properly locking to the incoming HD-SDI signal, especially in very cold conditions.

Otherwise, we have tested the 0.0.233 code quite extensively and find it to be very reliable, once the HD-SDI input has locked.

Best-
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Old February 3rd, 2009, 10:34 AM   #5
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This is good news Mike, as I have had some of the same issues.
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Old February 3rd, 2009, 06:41 PM   #6
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With the .233 release, I have found that if I have the XDR turned on before the camera is on or if I change recording formats like going from 720p to 1080p I get a half frame recorded for the entire length of a clip.

This could be a total disaster for a shoot.

So it seems that any change or absence of SDI signal throws the XDR off track.

Putting an error message on LCD when this happens would be/is crucial so one does not shoot thinking everything is fine. Especially due to many of us not having SDI monitoring.

This is with MXF format.
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Old February 3rd, 2009, 08:40 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Polster View Post
With the .233 release, I have found that if I have the XDR turned on before the camera is on or if I change recording formats like going from 720p to 1080p I get a half frame recorded for the entire length of a clip.

This could be a total disaster for a shoot.

So it seems that any change or absence of SDI signal throws the XDR off track.

Putting an error message on LCD when this happens would be/is crucial so one does not shoot thinking everything is fine. Especially due to many of us not having SDI monitoring.

This is with MXF format.
Hi Tim-
Thanks for the feedback. John, our hardware engineer, has already implemented an HD-SDI reset whenever the incoming signal is removed or changed. We feel confident this will resolve the problem.

We also added the code to save the time code trigger setting.

After more tests tomorrow, we should be ready to post a firmware update. You will receive an e-mail when the code is available for download.

Best-
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Old February 8th, 2009, 12:37 PM   #8
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So I talked my client into shoot 720 60p instead of 30p so I could use the XDR. I told him I could give him a file along with the tapes. He could use the file without digitizing and have the tapes as a backup.

Well, I'll be eating crow next week for dinner when all they get are the tapes.

I upgraded to .245. Here are some of the problems I encountered and I'm glad the tapes are there since I have no files to send my client.

The unit stopped recording for unknown reasons during the shoot. Every once in a while, I'd check to make sure it was stopping when it was suppose to. It hung up and had to be shut down and restarted. You know what that means; you loose the last clip and you don't know how long it was stuck because you don't have any viewfinder options. My sound guy would check to see if it was recording every once in a while, but he has a job to do and can't babysit the recorder.

Further, after you restart the unit and you try to reply the last clip, the unit sees no last clip and has nothing to play. So, you don't know what the unit recorded last and you don't know what you have lost without playing all the clips. I have no time for this on a shoot.

The battery went down at one point on the XDR, but there's no battery indicator on the XDR or in the viewfinder so you really don't get a warning. I lost a shot or 2. Who knows when it went down.

So I get back to my edit suite to search for missing footage and I figure I'll find the missing time code and dupe it from the tape. What do I learn? The time code does not match the field tape even though it's set for embedded. So finding missing footage would be very time consuming and the client would be asking why the time code doesn't match.

It's after 2 pm on Saturday and Fed Ex last call is 3:30 pm. They are going to start editing on Monday morning and need the footage. Since I don't want to drive the tapes a 100 miles to them on Monday, I end up dropping hopes of sending them files and ship the tapes. I'll have to call them on Monday and deliver the bad news.

The other thing I found out on this shoot was the XDR really should have a small LCD to view the footage. When you're shooting documentary style, you don't have a monitor available and you really need to see what the XDR is recording. I have so much stuff hanging on my camera now that putting a LCD somewhere is going to be a real pain.

When C-D does their test recordings, I advise that instead of recording in a lab for hours to make sure it records correctly to multiple cards, try putting a camera on your shoulder and running around the parking lot interviewing everyone getting out a car, stop and start the unit and have someone say, "shoot that; now go over there and get that; drop what you're doing and get me that." Then you'll get a sense of what a real world shooting environment is like.

Is anyone shooting TV magazine, Reality TV, news or documentaries and happily getting the footage they need using the XDR?

I restate that the XDR is not ready for Prime Time and those wanting to use it should not rely on it to be user friendly or trust worthy. Do not build your shoot around the unit. Plan on shooting on tape or P cards and record to the XDR as a test only or you'll have a lot of explaining to do with a client.

If I haven't made myself clear enough that I'm not happy with the XDR unit at this point, drop me a note and I'll do some more ranting for you.


Scott
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Old February 8th, 2009, 03:42 PM   #9
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Hi Scott-
OK, we will test the XDR in exactly the same manner as you described tomorrow. We did run overnight recording tests on multiple boxes using the Flash XDR. We recorded across all 4 cards and checked every file on multiple boxes. We never encountered a problem. So we will do a run and gun shoot and try to duplicate the problems. We'll also look at the time-code mismatch issue you described.

We should have new firmware in about a week to allow you to pick any clip for playback, so the limitation of playing only the last clip or playing all clips will be eliminated.

Since we support a very wide range of battery voltages (7 to 20V), we cannot add a battery life indicator in the Flash XDR. However, many batteries have built-in gas gauges. I am sorry your battery went dead, but...

Yes, Flash XDR is being used in Reality TV programs, news programs, documentaries and commercials. Yes, we do need to continue working on the reliability, but first we need to duplicate the problems you saw in the this last shoot, as our lab tests looked solid.

I'll set up a unit on Monday and personally run it though the paces, trying to make it fail.

I apologize for the problems.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 03:47 PM   #10
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My camera allows me to pick what battery I'm using and gives the correct gauge.

Scott
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Old February 8th, 2009, 04:08 PM   #11
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Hi Scott-

Understand, but does your camera allow 7.4V, 12V, 14.4V, or 16V Li-Ion, Li-Poly and Nickel Metal Hydride batteries? Most cameras are restricted to a single voltage input range, so building a gas gauge is much easier.

I would be most impressed if your camera can support all these voltages and battery chemistry.

Best-
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Old February 8th, 2009, 08:35 PM   #12
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Battery Gas Gauge

Hi Scott-

FYI, I am studying possible ways to monitor the battery life on the Flash XDR. We will need to restrict the types and voltages of the battery, but I know there are some very good Li-Ion choices at 7.4V and 14.4V.

I should have time to devote to the battery issue this month as the nanoFlash board and cabinet design are within a few days of completion.

Best-
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Old February 8th, 2009, 10:00 PM   #13
 
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Mike...

Would it not be possible to simply display battery voltage? It would then be incumbent on the user to know the voltage rating of the battery being used.
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Old February 8th, 2009, 10:07 PM   #14
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The HDX900 uses lots of battery types in it's menu and gauge. Lithium, NiCad, etc. and from a list of manufactures.

Scott
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Old February 8th, 2009, 10:38 PM   #15
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I think Bill has the right approach.

In camera, there is often a voltage number and I know that when I get below 10.5v the end is near.

Should be easy to show this no matter what battery is connected.
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