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Old February 28th, 2004, 06:36 AM   #1
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Hi ,

I just want to check with the crew before I start this. I have a little trepidation starting a thread that deals with developing a "FrankensteinĒ alternative to the FS3, mostly because of this topic sections title " Focus Enhancements FireStore D.T.E. RecordersĒ, and the fact that Matt McEwen (hi!) is running the show. Iíve noticed that in the P+S topic, things have gone off in other directions.

I hope that this is o.k., but, I just want to check.

I work with the FS3 professionally and I like what it does and what it can do. I want Matt and Focus to know that I think that what Focus has done and is doing in this area is cutting edge and, although over due, ahead of its time. I would hate to deprive Focus of any business and thus incentive to continue the development of the FS series, with anything that I post.

Having said all that Ė

There are a few things that I feel need to be improved on the FS3.

1. The menu structure. Functions like retro cache, need to be easier and more quickly accessible. I would like to use the retro functions (retro cache, retro disc), but at the moment I wouldnít want to risk switching modes while in action, for fear of missing something while Iím fumbling with the menu. I know that I could remedy this through practice and routine, but since the retro functions are new to how I shoot Iím finding it difficult to justify implementing them. I know that I would get used to them very quickly if I could switch from normal record to retro and back again rapidly.
2. I also find the record status indicators for FS3 unintuitive, both on the FS3 itself and especially the letter codes in the GY-DV5000. Some letters have multiple meanings. Blinking and non-blinking LEDs or letters is not sufficient to let me know whatís going on, especially when things get hairy. I know that I could eventually train myself to recognize the individual meanings of all the letters and blinks, but I would rather not. Symbols like the torn film stripe in the GY-DV5000 is a move in the right direction Ė but is not very reassuring. I always hope that it means that the FS3 is booting and not that it is having a problem booting.

I started looking into putting a FS3 package together for my XL1.

I think that the price of the FS3 itself is justifiable because it is built well, well thought out, functional, compact, and for reasons of making a professional impression when shooting. I have learned that too quirky looking equipment can shy clients away (or in same cases awake their interest).

Unfortunately, I donít already own the necessary battery systems one needs to power the FS3. I could set myself up with a battery belt and build my own support system (I would do that anyway) and save a bit of money. But anything less than the Focus suggested battery systems, and especially an IPX battery rig, would be a compromise. Such a battery system is not financially justifiable for me at the moment.

So I am looking for alternatives to the FS3 system, because edit what I shoot and am already hooked on having my files ready when Iím done shooting Ė starting now - tape is for archiving. Okay starting tomorrow ... I mean soon.

Anyway I have some ideas ...

Does anyone want to hear them, and give me some input?

Does anyone want to put this thread under a different theme heading?

... Am I being too polite?
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Old March 1st, 2004, 11:36 AM   #2
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Let's hear them!
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Old March 1st, 2004, 03:12 PM   #3
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Okay,

I tried getting information about the ADS Pyro DV Drive (API-820) because I thought that that would be the simplest and least expensive alternative to the FS3, around $700 for 30 gigs.

All the wholesalers or retailers that distribute for ADS who I asked could not tell me anything about this drive system. And a technician from the ADSís web page took four days to send me an email stating that he believed that API-820 "shouldĒ work with PAL cameras. In the API-820 PDF handbook, there is no mention of any video standard NTSC or otherwise. So I have given up on that alternative for the moment.

If anyone has any experience with the API-820 (ADS Pyro DV Drive) and PAL camera, I sure would like to know about it. I should probably put that question in itís own thread.

Some of the disadvantages to a Pyro DV Drive vs. the FS3 is the lack of functions like Retro cache, Retro disc, time-lapse, no triggering via the record button from the camera, no TC slave, and no 4 channel Audio. Most of things would be nice to experiment with but I can live without them. For me at the moment the most important things, other than compatibility with my system, are easy triggering of the record function, mobility, and reliability. If the API-820 was compatible with DV PAL, it could be mounted directly on the XL1 making it easy to trigger it and to see that it is running.

My Frankenstein solution is a bit more complicated, and although I know that it will work, as far as DVPAL is concerned, Iím not sure how well it will work practically.

For about the half of what a FS3 would cost me here in Germany, including the mounting rig and Battery system, I can purchase a 12Ē i book G4 800 Mhz from Apple with a 60 GB internal HDD and an extra LiIon Battery (that Apple says will hold 6 hours (hah)). But even if one battery holds 2 hours, that would do. The i book is small enough that I could mount it to my chest. Using a modified USB game pad as record trigger, and the LCD / Video adapter connected to a LCD monitor mounted on the XL1 as a viewfinder/ record indicator. I would use the B-TV software created by Ben Bird (shareware) http://www.bensoftware.com/
to capture to disc. This software has a more sophisticated time-lapse capability than the FS3 offers. And since I do a bit of time-lapse that is another reason for me to try and build this system. B-TV is also good for triggering animation, and pixelation.

Iím not really looking forward to having a laptop strapped to my chest when shooting , partially because , having people asking me "Excuse me, but what have you got strapped to your chest?Ē all the time can be quite disturbing after a while. On the other hand it will be good to have the weight off the XL1 since I do a lot of hand camera work with it.

I will miss not being able to record 4 channel audio.

Thatís it.

What does anyone think?
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Old March 2nd, 2004, 03:13 AM   #4
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I'd put the laptop on my back, not on the chest if you decide to
go down that road. This is of no use to you now, but I do hope
future camera's will just be able to record directly to a firewire
harddisk if they detect one.
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Old March 2nd, 2004, 03:46 AM   #5
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I expect that it wonít be long before a whole pallet of HDDs for video cameras will be available. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I canít wait. Not having a camera at my fingertips makes me uncomfortable. Most of my jobs at the moment come on short notice.

As far as putting the laptop on my back ĖI expect , unfortunately, that I will have to access the laptop periodically while shooting. In general, I donít like to put my camera down when Iím working. That doesnít mean that Iím some kind of nut who canít stop shooting once Iíve started. If you put your camera on the floor to change something, or on a table, especially in the heat of things, or when everyone is concentrating on what ever theyíre doing on set, there is a big chance that your camera is either going to get stepped on or knocked over. That is one advantage to having everything on one unit Ė the camera never leaves your hands, even when you are checking things. If I have the recorder on my back Ė I will basically have to get undressed to do anything to or with it.
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Old March 2nd, 2004, 04:16 AM   #6
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That's true. I was assuming you would go for a single external
start/stop record perhaps with a sound letting you know that it
has stopped or started recording (use different sound for both).

It was just a thought...
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Old March 2nd, 2004, 05:34 AM   #7
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Iíll have to see how the set-up feels in action. Maybe putting the laptop in a hanging type shoulder bag will be best (although I canít imagine it would) I am always surprised what works best with such rigged arrangements. Iíve ordered the 12Ē i book and I will put the set up together as soon as the i book has arrived.

Iím planning to start and stop recording with an USB programmable game pad or mouse. It would be great if there was such a thing as a programmable one button USB devise that I could use as a record trigger. I need something that is small enough that when I attach it to the camera it wonít be in the way. Something like the USB on/off (I-cue) switch for the mac extended keyboards. But it has to be programmable so that I can give it the keyboard command, which starts B-TV recording.

I wonít need a record indicator, ( a start stop sound is also a good idea) because I will see the computer screen on the LCD monitor which is also affixed to the camera. B-TV shows a second count while recording.

Thanks a lot for your thoughts.
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Old March 5th, 2004, 08:55 AM   #8
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Here's a link for a company that does the button you want.

This company makes buttons you can program to make any keyboard command you want through USB.

Hope this helps!

http://www.xkeys.com/
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Old March 5th, 2004, 09:35 AM   #9
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Thanks Kevin,

Very cool link!
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Old March 9th, 2004, 08:27 AM   #10
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Does anyone know if this would work?
A handheld computer with a firewire port (iPod or similar) connected to a 2.5" external 4,200rpm drive with 2 firewire ports, one of which then goes to the camcorder. The handheld would have a capture app installed.
I doubt whether this solution would be cheaper than a dedicated dv drive, but it would possibly be more flexible. On the other hand it may be just a nightmare!
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Old March 9th, 2004, 09:59 AM   #11
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I donít know of any Hand held computers with capture software. Is there such a thing? Or is there such software? Ė Is there a Palm Pilot like hand held with Firewire?

I know that the Laptop variation will work ... I also know that it will be a nightmare, for active jobs. Thatís why I have also ordered a MCE Quickstream as well. I would have just gone with the Quickstream, but my timing has been bad. I may try and sell the i-book I ordered. If I donít, I plan to build the setup I am suggesting, to prove that it will work. It will be an ideal setup for remote Time-lapse and studio work. I just have to get a few more jobs of that type to justify the investment.

But it would be nice to know if anyone has heard of a Hand held with Firewire. I wouldnít use an i-Pod because of itís primitive display. But maybe there is something else out there.
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Old March 9th, 2004, 02:46 PM   #12
 
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FWIW...

I'm using an ADS API-820 with an NTSC Canon XL1s. I have the unit mounted to the MA-100 Canon XLR bracket. Fundamentally, it's very convenient because I can set the HD to "record" by pressing the button, and the disc begins capturing from the 1394 port as long as the camera is turned on. The disadvantage is that sometimes the HD takes a long time to initialize, otherwise, I'm happy with this solution. Since the stream is captured directly from the 1394 bus, and the drive allows selection of any number of formats, e.g. AVI, QT, I don't see whether it should care if it's PAL or NTSC.
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Old March 10th, 2004, 10:53 AM   #13
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I was unsure about the PAL / NTSC computability of the API-820 because the people at Focus told me that the FS3 comes in a PAL and a NTSC version. They couldnít tell me why. I suspect itís a marketing thing.

Anyway I didnít like the fact that ADS didnít state clearly that their API-820 is PAL compatible. Thatís why I have ordered a MCE Quickstream Ė It is clearly stated that the Quickstream is PAL compatible, in their product description.

ADS should take steps to change that on their web site if they want to attract European customers.
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Old March 11th, 2004, 07:20 AM   #14
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Where did you order your MCE from Daniel? The suppliers in the UK have told me the QuickStream has not arrived yet.
If the ADS was a lot cheaper than the MCE then I would go with that, but there is not enough difference in price and the MCE offers a lot more.
I agree that ADS are not making their drive very attractive, and there is a distinct lack of distribution in this country. Maybe if it was better the price would come down.
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Old March 11th, 2004, 10:06 AM   #15
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Hi Neil,

I ordered the Quickstream over the MCE web site directly. Iím having it shipped to an address in the US, Iím going to be visiting in two weeks. I couldnít find any distributors of ADS products here in Germany that wanted to help me order the Pyro DV Drive. So Iím assuming that the technology is too new and that MCE would have the same problem. Since Iím going to be in the States anyway, and I need a solution sooner rather than later, Iíve decided to solve the problem this way. I donít like the fact that if I have any problems with the MCE Quickstrem, Iíll be kind of stuck. I hope for the best.

I canít imagen that ADSís strategy is to keep the price up by making it hard to get their products Ė theyíre not selling gold, or heroin. But then again, Iím not a financial strategist. I think it has to do with bad planning and organization on the part of ADS.

Cheers,
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