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Old February 18th, 2005, 06:04 PM   #1
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Citidisk / Quickstream vs FS-4 flather

First off I want to say that there has been a long stretch of time since my first attempts at getting a mobile D2D solution to work. That means that the Quickstream and the Citidisk have certainly changed since then - meaning probably been improved. But since no one seems to be giving any input on how their recent experiences with either of these products has been, this will have to remain speculative comparison for the most part.

I was an inadvertent beta tester for the MCE Quickstream way back when it first came out. MCE, like Focus got people interested in their new product before they could deliver it. I waited a long time from the date MCE said they could ship the Quickstream to the date of its actual delivery, I mean like months. But I was patient. The real problem was that the unit I finally got did not work. I offered MCE my help in trying to locate the source of Quickstream's problem to no avail. At least they refunded me my money. I then found a company here in Germany that had the Citidisk in stock. To my surprise, the Citidisk turned out to be a Quickstream, but from another company. The Citidisk, which I was allowed to try out before buying, didn't work either (for different reasons).

However...If the Quickstream and CitiDisk had worked as advertised, I would draw the following conclusions:

The Quickstream and CitiDisk are basically one button devices. (I know they have two buttons) but the philosophy is that with combinations of button pushes and push timeings, a device can have a relatively large number of functions assigned to a minimum number of buttons. Although this saves physical space on the device you lose on clarity and speed of operation. There is also a higher risk of operational mistakes, because the indicators are not graphic.

This may just be me, but I forget if two simultaneously blinking lights means DV RAW or Quicktime format, or if a solid red light is good or bad while recording. I guess with practice, one gets used to these types of codes.

I don't want to bash the Quickstream or the Citidisk though. If they had worked for me at the time, I think that I would have been quite happy with either one of them. All I really wanted, or needed was a simple device that recorded a DV Pal stream to a HDD with a Quicktime wrapper so that I could start editing with the captured media immediately with Finalcut Pro.

But consequently, I was forced to wait for a viable alternative to the Quickstream/Citidisk. The Nnovia didn't appeal to me, because of its physical configuration - it's cat of nine tails connector cable and it's blockiness. I needed something portable and mountable to my XL-1, since I do a lot of handheld work. All other products at the time, were too expensive for me to consider.

Then Matt McEwen pre-announced the coming of the FS-4. So, this seemed to be another good reason to wait. And wait I did ... and wait... and wait.

I think that this waiting has cost Focus a fair number of potential buyers of the FS-4. I have no idea what governs the decisions as to when to announce the coming of a new product.

On the one hand, I too have been frustrated by the constant pushing back of the release date for the FS-4, which makes me want to say "why not announce something first, when you can say for sure when it is going to be available?". If I had known that it was going to take this long for the FS-4 to be released, I think that I would have looked for an alternative a while ago.

On the other hand, from what I have seen since testing the beta FS-4, I am glad that I didn't.

I don't want to condone the odious practice of manufacturers wetting consumers appetites by promising a product in advance, in order to see what the market potential for it is, before they even make the decision to go into production, if such a practice exists (that's what it feels like). Which, by the way, I don't think is the case here, with the FS-4. But, I think that Focus has done itself a disservice and a disservice to a lot of buyers and potential buyers by taking so long to get the FS-4 onto the market. And this after having started early advertising for its pending release.

However, I now feel, based solely on the basic functionality of the beta FS-4, that the long wait was worth while. In addition, there are features I have encountered in using the beta FS-4 that have surprised me in their usefulness. Making the wait, in retrospect, even more tolerable.

At the risk of getting flack from Focus for mentioning specific functions of the beta FS-4, here are the two features that most impressed me about the unit. And which distinctly separates it from the Quickstream/Citidisk:

(other than the basic function, of capturing DV Pal from all the cameras I tested - old XL-1 with defective tape system, new XL-1s, old Sony DCR-TRV900E, and a Panasonic AG-DVX100 shooting 25p, which the beta FS-4 did flawlessly):

I underestimated the usefulness of playback through the camera's Viewfinder. I found it possible to backtrack to any of the captured clips on the beta FS-4's HDD. This is a major improvement over reviewing on tape for (now) obvious reasons:speed, and no risk of accidental over recording or TC gaps. The beta FS-4 has two designated buttons to skip back and forward to the next or previous clip, in addition there are two more designated buttons which activate fast/slow forward or fast/slow backward, as well as the possibility to pause on a freeze frame. After using this feature in the field, I would not want to do without it. I would recommend anyone looking into buying a D2D solution, that they make sure that this feature be present in whatever device they choose.

And the backlit LCD. As far as I am concerned, not being able to read what is going on inside a device of this nature is not acceptable. The information displayed on the main LCD page of the beta FS-4 is essential and thorough. It includes record status, battery level indicator, time remaining on HDD, current clip number, and a cycle-able counter/Time code display. This display banishes any doubts about wether the unit is running when you push the record button. It also makes it possible to access and adjust a multitude of other functions and features, for some of which I honestly have not yet found a real use.

Two other things worth mentioning, are the removable Lithium Ion battery, for which I personally do not have a need at the moment. And the units software upgradability, which in the process of the beta testing has worked really well.

Just as a personal disclaimer to help prevent myself from getting booted from the beta testing program: all of my comments are based on my personal experiences with a BETA FS-4 unit. This means that there are no binding promises, implied or otherwise, that the features or attributes that I have mentioned above will be in the final product. All of my comments were made without express permission or in agreement with Focus Enhancements, the makers of the FS-4, and therefor are only my opinions or observations and not those of Focus Enhancements.
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Old February 18th, 2005, 07:56 PM   #2
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Wow. You have obviously put a lot of thought into this post, Daniel, and for that I thank you.
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Old February 19th, 2005, 09:27 AM   #3
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Thanks Chris,

And sorry to everyone for being so long winded. If I had put more thought into it, it would have been more concise.
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Old February 19th, 2005, 09:55 AM   #4
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Believe me, around here, longer is better!
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Old March 2nd, 2005, 12:38 PM   #5
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Re: Citidisk / Quickstream vs FS-4 flather

<<<-- Originally posted by Daniel Kohl : I don't want to condone the odious practice of manufacturers wetting consumers appetites by promising a product in advance, in order to see what the market potential for it is, before they even make the decision to go into production, if such a practice exists (that's what it feels like). -->>>

The usual intent of such practices and I am not saying this was Focus' intent is more sinister: to discourage potential customers from buying a readily-available solution from a competing company by dangling the promise of a superior product to come.

That aside, your post was very interesting. Having been using the Citidisk myself (see my review here), the one thing this technology plainly needs is an easily readable interface, and it sounds like Focus finally provided it. Kudos to them.
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Old March 6th, 2005, 03:14 PM   #6
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Re: Re: Citidisk / Quickstream vs FS-4 flather

<<<-- Originally posted by Dan Wiencek : The usual intent of such practices and I am not saying this was Focus' intent is more sinister: to discourage potential customers from buying a readily-available solution from a competing company by dangling the promise of a superior product to come. -->>>

I have to disagree with you. I think that this intent (luring people away from competing products) is justifiable, if, and only if, the manufacturers are able to deliver what they promise in the end. Not being forthright about timetables hearts the manufactures credibility, but I think that announcing a pending product release, helps people to avoid making premature decisions.

If you need a product for a definite date, then you are stuck one way or the other, you have to buy what is available. But if one, like myself, doesn't want to wait, but can, then hearing about a future product release is of great use. If I had not heard about the coming FS-4 way back when... then I would surely be the owner of a Citidisk, and very unhappy about not having waited.
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Old March 10th, 2005, 02:36 AM   #7
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"I don't want to bash the Quickstream or the Citidisk though. If they had worked for me at the time, I think that I would have been quite happy with either one of them. All I really wanted, or needed was a simple device that recorded a DV Pal stream to a HDD with a Quicktime wrapper so that I could start editing with the captured media immediately with Finalcut Pro."


Now that is one serious pill for me to swallow all at once. Sorry but I am pretty new to all of this digital stuff. Been doing something else for the last 7 years.

Does it actually have to go through all that? And I know this may sound stupid but can you give me a more simplified detail of everything the video goes through to get into FCP?
And can you set a frame record rate that the camera does not support. i.e. the Canon XL2 will only let you get a .5. 1.0, 1.5 or 2.0 second shot every 30 seconds, 1 minute, 1.5 or 2 minutes. What if you wanted to do a time laps at say, 1 frame per sec or 2 secs?

By the way. Are you still in Frankfurt? I used to direct the News on AFN Frankfurt. Great Beer over there.
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Old March 10th, 2005, 03:40 AM   #8
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Okay, I'll try making a simplified diagram of what happens after you turn your DV camera on, without being too technical.

The camera takes the light information which hits the CCD (chip(s)), and turns it into digital information. That means basically that for each point on the CCD there is a numerical value that reflects the color and brightness of that point. In order to manage all the numbers involved, the camera uses complex mathematical algorithms to compile all the numbers into a form which can be easily decoded and doesn't take up to much space in the way of data. This compiled data can be considered a data stream, a stream of numbers which flows as long as the camera is on. This is analogous to a video signal, but it is not really a signal, it is a flow of numbers. These numbers can be stored, usually onto tape. But it is important to understand that the information on the tape is not a video signal it is data. For this reason it is also possible to store this data on other mediums like a HDD, given the medium can write the information fast enough to keep up with the data flow coming from the camera.

What maybe hard to visualize is the reason for this "wrapper" stuff. But I think that that is easily explained.

By the way if anyone reading this want's to correct me, I beg you, please do. I am not a tech. I'm just explaining it as I understand it.

Since there are a lot of different products and makers of products out there, there are a lot of different DV wrappers. At least all the camera makers were able to agree on one basic RAW DV form (no wrapper), and all the wrappers seem to be built on that. The wrappers seem to make the RAW DV more palatable to specific programs, and the wrappers contain meta data like date and time. When you capture DV from tape into FCP, FCP captures it in a quicktime wrapper. You can use just about any wrapper with FCP, but it will have to render all of them before you can edit. All, except for the quicktime wrapper. The same goes for other NLEs (non linear editing programs) I'm sure.

As for your question about time-lapse, this has nothing to do with the DV stream or it's wrapper itself. The capture device (including the camera) determines or limits the interval of capture. You can capture to a laptop with a time-lapse software like B-TV for mac which offers very flexible interval and duration settings, or you can use the FS-3 or FS-4 pro to program time-lapse intervals with flexible interval settings. The camera is limited by the mechanics of its tape mechanism when doing time-lapse, that is why it can't do one frame tape captures.

I hope this clears things up a bit, and ja I'm still living happily here in Frankfurt Nordend. Just by chance I heard the very last minutes of AFN Frankfurt as they signed off to switch over to Wiesbaden. What was the last "phrase of the day"? I have to say I do miss Chicken Man. is he still around? Probably wasn't your department. And of course the beer is still great.

Take care,
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Old March 10th, 2005, 06:00 AM   #9
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"Chickeeeeen maaaaaaaaan He's everywhere, he's everywhere" was still there when I left but he was a rerun from the 80s by then. I left in late 97. I went back and visited 2 years ago and they were still in Frankfurt. Knew about the move but that was planned for 8 years ago origianally.

My next question is, can you use this same equipment and programs to pick apart some of the digitally layared images from say a DVD or a quicktime that you see on the net?

Very funny about the light hitting the chips. But the wrapper still perplexes me a little. I thought you would want uncompressed video right into FCP. Unless you are just using it to make an EDL of the quick time and use the uncompressed video later? I am probably way off but I am learning. Thats why I am here. This is an awesome resource.
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Old March 10th, 2005, 01:12 PM   #10
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Let me put it this way; it is possible to capture anything to DV. It may mean however, filming the things from the screen. There are also other ways to get .movs and DVDs into the DV format, which are a bit less drastic.

Like I said before, you can import a lot of movie formats into FCP, you will just have to render them, and some won't import with their audio, like .mpgs. But I know that there are de-mux programs out there that can solve this problem as well.

These are problems, though that have nothing to do with hardware capabilities.

You can de-mux DVDs as well, with the right software, my experience with this is that it is very time consuming. A quick way to get DVDs onto DV is to use an Analog / Digital converter and record the analog signal from a DVD player. The quality is not good, but it will only get better if you can do this with S-video or even better with a component signal. But component analog / digital converters are expensive.

And I hate to break this to you, but DV is not uncompressed. I know, you hate me for saying this, and I have shot you back to square one. But DV NTSC, or as I use DV PAL, is a form of digital video compression. If you want uncompressed, you can have it, but you won't be able to edit it with FCP. And I don't know how you would be able to look at it. But you can find more about that topic elsewhere in this forum.

Use the force Luke - I know, it's a lot to take in. Good luck.
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Old March 11th, 2005, 06:10 PM   #11
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OK so if I shoot in 24p with a Canon XL2, what happens?

I am told that the best camera setting for the pulldown is 2,3:3,2. I am thinking that this means that the camera actually puts it on the tape expanded out to 30fps. If I am wrong please correct me. And does that mean that once it is compressed as a quicktime that it goes into FCP at 24p? Thanks for your help.

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Old March 11th, 2005, 08:39 PM   #12
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Cleveland,

Your questions are a bit off topic in this thread. I'm only telling you this because, you are not getting the broad spectrum of expertise you could be if you posted a question in a thread with a title like "what the H is pulldown 2,3:3,2?". Because, I don't know!

24p just means that your Canon is going to shoot progressive scan "p" and not interlaced "i". And I am glad that I sort of understand what is going on with PAL frame rates which are multiples of 25, so I can't give you any reliable info about what is going on with NTSC. Sorry man.

But this I can tell you; the quicktime wrapper does not effect the compression of the video.

And just for your information digital video formats like Digi Beta, DVC pro, and even HDV are all compressed. Each of them uses a different codec for their compression and have different degrees of compression, but they are all compressed.
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Old March 11th, 2005, 11:46 PM   #13
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Sorry I didn't mean to get too off the topic and I forgot, momentarily where you are so the pulldown would not really mean much to you when using PAL. Either way, you origianal post did succeed in doing one thing for sure. It made me want to try that FS-4. So now all I have to do is find a way to afford it along with all the other toys I need.

You mentioned that you test the products. How do you get into that?
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Old March 12th, 2005, 08:08 AM   #14
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Not to be nit picky - but I don't test the products. I just beta tested the FS-4.

I drew attention to myself on this forum by commenting on the FS-3, which I used on a series of jobs two years ago. Matt McEwen informed us (we the DV info net community) that he would have a prototype FS-4 at the IBC in Amsterdam last year. So I went, for the day, and met Matt and saw the prototype. I guess, Matt figured I looked respectable enough and he told me that he would put me "at the top of his list" of potential beta testers for the PAL version. Matt seems like a nice guy, even in person, but I didn't really expect anything would come of his promise. But in fact, I was at the top of some list, and I think I actually may have received the first PAL FS-4 in Europe, to test. Woe! I think I'm going to have to make myself a little medal out of hot glue or something, or maybe a sew-on patch for the jeans jacket I don't own.

Anyway, I am not a professional beta tester. I've never officially beta tested anything before. I'm an end user, and lover of "toys", probably like yourself. The testing was a lot of fun, and actually a lot of work though, at least it eat a lot of my time with writing reports and trying things out and all. My main motivation was in the hope that I could have an influence on how the final product will be. I hope that they will ask me to beta test the Pro version as well.

Strangely enough, I don't even know how I can order a FS-4 here in Germany. All I have at the moment, is a beta unit that works, but is not practically usable because of it's loud cooling fan, which Focus has told me has been fixed in the release version. I had the feeling that the people at Focus have been under a lot of pressure to get the things out finally, and as they should be, so a lot of my contact with them has been one way. I'm going to wait until the FS-4s are ramped up as far as them getting distributed, before I contact Focus to ask when and how I can order mine.
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