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Convergent Design Odyssey
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Old September 18th, 2010, 05:01 PM   #1
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nanoFlash Product Comparisons

Just returning from a successful IBC show. We had very good booth traffic throughout the show, with lots of inquiries for both the nanoFlash and the new nano3D. 3D was the clearly the hot topic at the show, with camera rigs everywhere and half of the IBC seminars covered some aspect of 3D production. Yes, you still say that 3D is an experiment, but it sure looks more and more like it's going to "stick" this time.

Yes, we saw the new product announcements from AJA (mini) and the Atomos (Ninja). We expected a number of prognosticators to proclaim the imminent death of the nanoFlash. Not to sound jaded, but we have heard these predictions more than once.

We are not denying that, in general a 10-bit CODEC can be superior to the 8-bit CODEC used in the nanoFlash and Flash XDR. But there are so many factors to consider in making any final judgment. The first, and possibly one of the most important question to ask is whether your video source outputs 10-bit quality video. The new (hot) Panasonic 35mm camera (AG-AF101) is only 8-bit, as is the new Canon XF series cameras, as well as the older XL-H1 and G1 cameras. I am fairly certain that all the Panasonic cameras that use the DVCProHD CODEC (either tape or P2 based) only output 8-bit over HD-SDI. Yes, the Sony EX1/EX3 output 10-bit as do the Panasonic cameras based on the new AVC-I CODEC. But there are many cameras that are limited to 8-bit (effective) HD-SDI output.

Capturing 8-bit video into a 10-bit will, in general, provide no improvement in video quality. There may be other work-flow considerations, but you can't improve the video quality by capturing into a higher bit-depth CODEC.

In our internal tests the ProRes and XDCAM CODEC perform almost identically under identical conditions: I-Frame, 220Mbps, 4:2:2, 8-bit. Both CODECs are clearly a significant improvement over the built-in native CODEC found in the camera. Yes 10-bit would give you a slight improvement, but the most significant improvement comes from going to 4:2:2 color space and more importantly increasing the bit-rate. That trend is true for all CODECs - bit rate is the number one factor determining quality.

Beyond the CODEC question, there are lots of other issues to consider in choosing a portable recorder. How do you mount the recorder to the camera? With nanoFlash it's a simple hot-shoe ball mount for many applications. The competition often requires an (extra cost) exoskeleton or other such fixturing.

How do you power the recorder? With the nanoFlash low 6 Watts you can steal power from the camera's battery via a simple D-Tap cable (SWIT battery). The competition's reported 15-16W (during 220 Mbps recording) will likely eliminate this option. So, you may be forced to attach a separate battery and charger, which adds weight and cost.

How about file management? The nanoFlash records seamlessly across the two Compact Flash cards, opening and closing files as needed. The competition records one long file and then stops. When the card fills up you have to stop the record session. This limits their record time to about 34 minutes, using a 64GB card, at 220 Mbps. If you fill up the card to say 80% and then want to start another record session, you will likely have to swap out the card as it may fill up before the shoot is finished. The nanoFlash, on the other hand will simply swap over to the next card without missing a beat.

Additionally, the nanoFlash automatically closes the files at 4GB boundaries, minimizing the potential loss of video. Writing one long file is inherently more risky, as a power failure, for example, may cause the loss of the entire record session.

What about media management and media costs? With the nanoFlash, you can use a low-cost Nexto device to back up the CF cards in the field. The Nexto won't work with the "mini", forcing the shooter to either purchase more CF cards or bring a laptop, neither is particularly desirable. Convergent spent a considerable amount of engineering time to optimize the CF card performance, so you can use a low-cost 400X card to record 200Mbps. Initial reports indicate that the competition will require 600X cards to achieve the same level of performance. That can be a big cost issue.

For example, if you want to record 2 hours of video at 220 Mbps without backing up to your laptop, you may be forced to purchase four SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro cards at over $500 each ($2,000 total). With the nanoFlash, you could get by with four 400X cards ($200 each or $800 total). If you are planning a longer shoot, say fours hours, then the difference becomes enormous, as you can use a 500GB Nexto ($350) for backup on nano, but must purchase more CF cards for the competitors product (again assuming you don't want to drag along a laptop).

Let's talk briefly about features. The nanoFlash has been in a constant state of development for the past 18 months, with 6 major firmware releases. The nano is, safe to say, considerably ahead of the competition, offering time-lapse, variable frame rate (over-under crank), pre-record buffer, 3:2 pulldown removal, MXF, MOV and MPG formats, 8-channel audio, XDCAM Optical compatibility, Long-GOP and I-Frame CODEC operating from 18 to 280 Mbps, optional ASI, upgrade-ability to 3D recording, and excellent NLE support. I don't think we have any real competition with regard to the feature set.

I could go on to discuss an even wider range of considerations (such as wide operating environments, the completely silent operation (no fans), or the installed base of over 2200), but needless to say, many factors much be considered. It's not just the CODEC and the cost of the initial product. The features, workflow, media (which can easily cost more than the recorder), mounting, and power are also very important.

Mike Schell
Convergent Design
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Old September 18th, 2010, 05:27 PM   #2
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One other Important Consideration

I forgot to mention one other, very important factor, in considering a portable recorder: after sales support.

While I cannot comment on the competition, I do think that Convergent Design offers excellent customer support. We're not perfect by any means, but Dan Keaton and Tommy Schell, in particular, do respond in a very timely manner and do their very best to find a solution so you can continue your shoot / edit.

I think we also listen to your requests for product improvements and enhancements. Many of the features found in the nanoFlash were first suggested (requested) on this forum.

These are factors not found in a spec sheet or magazine advertisement, but are nonetheless critical for your work.

Mike Schell

Last edited by Mike Schell; September 18th, 2010 at 05:30 PM. Reason: typo
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Old September 18th, 2010, 06:47 PM   #3
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Bravo Mike

Hi Mike - great summary. Agree with everything you have said. Nanoflash will feature on all my next few productions and I think I have my head around what an amazing piece of kit that it is.


Just one small request to make this product the best of the bunch by a mile IMHO ( and I love it's portability above all else ) ........can we play nice with Cineform sometime soon pretty please? How can I easily make a conversion because at this stage it is not possible and which ever forum I ask about it it is the 'other guys' who can fix it. Perhaps a utility to help us along?
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Old September 18th, 2010, 06:55 PM   #4
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NanoFlash ...

Thanks for the post Mike ... support for the Nano has been excellent and that counts for a lot. The unit I bought ... and I bought any early one ... has worked flawlessly. My work mostly consists of corporate videos (work) and my short films (fun.) I'm sure there will be many more portable recorders coming in the future but you guys have provided, for me anyway, just the right kind of unit to make my EX3 recordings capable of a larger latitude in production ... for that I thank you! If I were going to shoot a feature for theatrical release I would shoot it on a Red or comparable camera and use the highest workflow possible to get the best results for that market. Sadly, at this point in time that is not happening but whatever the future holds for any of us, in this most precarious of businesses, the NanoFlash has provided an uplift where none existed before at a reasonable price and has spurred other makers to do the same! My 2 cents.
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Old September 18th, 2010, 07:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Henry Olonga View Post
Hi Mike - great summary. Agree with everything you have said. Nanoflash will feature on all my next few productions and I think I have my head around what an amazing piece of kit that it is.


Just one small request to make this product the best of the bunch by a mile IMHO ( and I love it's portability above all else ) ........can we play nice with Cineform sometime soon pretty please? How can I easily make a conversion because at this stage it is not possible and which ever forum I ask about it it is the 'other guys' who can fix it. Perhaps a utility to help us along?
Hi Henry-
Thanks for words of encouragement! We shipped a nanoFlash to Cineform about 2 months ago and I am told they are diligently working on a translator. I'll send an e-mail to the "David's" and check on the status. We definitely want Cineform support for the nano and XDR.

Best-
Mike
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Old September 18th, 2010, 08:08 PM   #6
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Mike -

This would be a MAJOR advance for your products.

For 3D work...would help solve untold storage capacity issues.

Cineform is the top dog for efficient post work, IMHO.

I'm sure a number of us are eager for progress.

Thanks.
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Old September 18th, 2010, 10:31 PM   #7
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Hi Michael,
Completely agree with you.
Better a solid 8b recording than a weak 10b one.
Both, MPEG-2 and Prores are solid codecs when properly processed.
And sure I agree that there is no point recording a 8b stream with 10b depth.
You give me a bad new about the 8b SDI of the PANA AG-AF101 (I had that camera in mind).
All those cameras process at 12 or even 14b. 10 Unc output is native.
Crunching the output to 8b just shows the mean mind of the manufacturers.
Something I see very positive about the existence of the NANO and other portable recorders is that this can help arise new cameras manufacturers. They won't need to care about compression or formats, just about picture quality and a 10b Unc out of the BNC (no HDMI to work on the field, please).
Best,
rafael
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Old September 19th, 2010, 07:44 AM   #8
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Mike, any plans to release other similar products, for example a thin NF with battery mounts on both sides which pass power through? That would be GREAT!
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Old September 19th, 2010, 11:37 AM   #9
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Thanks Mike. Well said.

Mike.
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Old September 19th, 2010, 02:03 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mike Marriage View Post
Mike, any plans to release other similar products, for example a thin NF with battery mounts on both sides which pass power through? That would be GREAT!
Hi Mike-
Good suggestion! I can't really say too much about future product plans, but we will put your recommendation on the feature list for serious consideration.

Best-
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Old September 20th, 2010, 03:59 AM   #11
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Great Stuff

Mike - A Cineform conversion utility would be great so thanks for getting onto this. Much appreciated.H
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Old September 20th, 2010, 06:44 AM   #12
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Hey Mike:

-Zero failures on my end
-Excellent picture quality
-Easy post workflow (yes, even I can do it)
-Fantastic customer support

Great product,worth every dime.

Cannot wait to see what you come up with next.
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Old September 21st, 2010, 10:08 AM   #13
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nanoFlash and Panasonic AG-AF101

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rafael Amador View Post
Hi Michael,
You give me a bad new about the 8b SDI of the PANA AG-AF101 (I had that camera in mind).
All those cameras process at 12 or even 14b. 10 Unc output is native.
Crunching the output to 8b just shows the mean mind of the manufacturers.
Something I see very positive about the existence of the NANO and other portable recorders is that this can help arise new cameras manufacturers. They won't need to care about compression or formats, just about picture quality and a 10b Unc out of the BNC (no HDMI to work on the field, please).
Best,
rafael
Hi Rafael-
I suspect that Panasonic will give us a 10-bit output on a higher end version of this camera (AVC-I CODEC + P2). They probably just matched the HD-SDI output to the capabilities of the AVCHD CODEC, which, as we know is 8-bit, 4:2:0, 24Mbps.

Nevertheless, this camera could be a real ground breaker.
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Old September 21st, 2010, 02:11 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Daniel Symmes View Post
Mike -

This would be a MAJOR advance for your products.

For 3D work...would help solve untold storage capacity issues.

Cineform is the top dog for efficient post work, IMHO.

I'm sure a number of us are eager for progress.

Thanks.
Hi Daniel-
Just got an e-mail Cineform. I am happy to report they are making good progress and have the video conversion working. They are now focused on the audio conversion. It sounds like we'll have a tool very soon.
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Old September 21st, 2010, 02:52 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Mike Schell View Post
Hi Daniel-
Just got an e-mail Cineform. I am happy to report they are making good progress and have the video conversion working. They are now focused on the audio conversion. It sounds like we'll have a tool very soon.
Hi Mike,

Would you happen to know if this will eliminate the green frames at the beginning of the long GOP recording when pulled into Vegas Pro?

Thanks for all the work on a great product.

-Garrett
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