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Datavideo DN-xx Series Recorders
Formerly known as nNovia QuickCapture QC A2D2 other nNovia products.

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Old October 22nd, 2006, 08:54 PM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2005
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NNovia QC deck (quick review)

NNovia have just released their QC deck and I had the chance to play around with an eval unit. I would like to add a disclaimer here that the unit supplied is an early firmware version and some of the problems I experienced with the deck will no doubt be addressed very soon. All my tests were run in PAL 25FPS. I also didn't set out to do a formal review so my tests are by no means exhaustive - just observations of about 1 hours recording at most.

The QC deck differs from it's predecessor with the inclusion of a removable hard drive, that (with the proper cable) will work as a standalone hard drive with your PC. The front panel of the deck flips up and the hard drive "mediapac" is easy to remove. These cartridges are significantly less expensive than the unit. The 120GB is listed at around $US500 on B&H. The 100GB looks better value at $US400. The deck itself retails with a 100GB cartridge at about $US2,200.

The removable cartridge and the addition of .mxf support were the primary attractions of this drive for my company. The removable cartridge because I required a system that would allow me to swap at the end of the working day and hand off for editing. MXF file support was attractive because it was supposed to offer timecode support for NLE's like the Avid. More on that in a bit.

The unit itself appears rugged and really well built, but if you are going to use the supplied battery pack it is quite heavy and you couldn't really mount it to a camcorder in this configuration without unbalancing everything (its designed to be used as a belt pack, but you risk ending up with your pants around your knees!). On it's own it is still heavier than a Firestore, but should mount quite well with the optional AB or V mount adapter. Unfortunately the eval unit arrived without a manual and without the custom cable that connects the mediapac to a PC so I was unable to test this functionality, but can pretty safely assume it works.

The menu itself is easy enough to navigate - with the main options being selection of input Analogue or Digital (this was the A2D model); file format (.mov; .avi; .mxf); audio (48KHz or 32KHz); sync to tape (read external or internal timecode); timelapse functions: pre-trigger set up; etc. Without a manual it took us quite a while to work out how to get this unit out of deck mode and into HDD mode - you have to hold down the function button when powering on.

All my tests were in standard DV as I did not want to install the HDV firmware upgrade on an eval unit and my initial application is standard DV. I tested this with a JVC-GYHD101E so first let's get through the .mov test. The unit itself is quiet and there is no fan (a problem I believe with some Firestores) - so score one to NNovia. I couldn't get the JVC to output timecode in tapeless mode so the only option was to use internal timecode on the deck. This worked well. With a tape in the JVC and Sync to tape turned on the unit appeared to correctly mirror the timecode from the camera. So far so good. Unfortunately with most NLE's (including Avid) timecode embedded in a .mov file is not preserved on import.

Importing a .mov into the Avid was as simple as dragging and dropping the file into a bin. It fast imported as well (Avid terminology) - about 5:1 real time on my test system (a dual 2.4 Xeon). Essentially it just had to copy the files across and wrap them in an OMF. This was really suprising as the .mov file use a raw .dv stream and not the Avid DV codec, but I can assure you it worked and worked well. Overall, I'd say if timecode is not an issue and you are shooting in standard DV this is a great solution. I also tested a composite feed from the camera to the analogue section of the camera. This was very acceptable quality (while not being as pristine as digital) - NNovia have stuck a decent converter in this unit. Unfortunately they only supply S-Video and composite but the immediate use that sprung to mind with the JVC was the ability to record HDV to tape and downconverted analogue composite to disk at the same time.

MXF was unfortunately a complete wipeout for me. The files I created imported into the Avid and were recognised as hi-res XDCam files (which makes sense because they use .mxf OP1 which i believe is Sony's format) - the hi-res does not refer to hi-def, merely to the fact that XDCam also supports proxy lo-res media for quick preview. Unfortunately these files had no timecode attached (and I didn't even know that was possible on the Avid) - these are the first files I've ever seen in the Avid that have no timecode. The audio was incorrectly labelled as 32KHz (I doublechecked - the unit was set to 48KHz) and played slow and lagged behind vision. Import was not as fast as .mov but not too bad.

The biggest problem I had during the tests was the firewire connection on the JVC - its always been a particuarly loose 6 pin connection and it is very easy to pull out. If this happens - the unit will have the red light on for record but will not record as it is not receiving a signal. You have to look at the LCD display.

I'm hoping the guys over at NNovia will solve these problems (I'm also really hoping it wasn't operator error!). I'm sorry I couldn't get into HDV at this stage as the unit reportedly supports it, but unfortunately my NLE doesn't!

I haven't tested the DR-HD100 which is built specifically for this camera, but I feel the important stuff like viewfinder feedback and .OMF support probably make the DR-HD100 a better option for the JVC - especially if you don't need multiple units.
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Old October 22nd, 2006, 09:37 PM   #2
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Some things I forgot to mention:

In tapeless mode recording is manual only - the deck does not seem to recognise the trigger down the firewire, although the JVC was set to send it and displayed "trigger sent to firewire".

In Sync to Tape mode the timecode was correct with .mov but NOT with .mxf. In .mxf mode the unit seemed to display weird timecode values and looked corrupt.

Another small gotcha - in sync to tape mode the camera will only record external timecode derived from the FW stream if the unit is set to display timecode and not frames. Weirdly all setting it to frame mode seemed to do was set it to internal code. The timecode display itself in .mov mode was always timecode no matter which way this option was set.

Other features: 232 control using Sony protocol or GPI trigger.
NTFS or FAT32 file system so no 2Gig file limit with NTFS although I did not test this.
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Old October 22nd, 2006, 09:42 PM   #3
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NNovia review in tapeless forum

I did a quick review of NNovia's QC deck in the tapeless recording forum using the JVC 101E and Avid.


I only tested standard DV as HDV for the JVC required a firmware update and Avid doesn't support 25P HDV yet.
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 06:37 AM   #4
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Thanks John -- moved from HD100 forum to Direct-to-Disk (Tapeless) Recording Solutions.

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