Canon XL-H1 HD camera & the FS-4 Pro HD (40gb model) at DVinfo.net

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Focus Enhancements FireStore
Specifically for the FireStore DV Direct-To-Edit Disk Recording Solutions.


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Old January 21st, 2006, 12:05 AM   #1
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Canon XL-H1 HD camera & the FS-4 Pro HD (40gb model)

Today I received my Focus Enhancements FS-4 Pro HD Direct To Edit Recorder. It's a dandy little thing, and it basically eliminates the need to record to MiniDV tape if I want. This model holds 3 hours 21 minutes of High Definition Footage, and so far works excellently with the new Canon XL-H1 HDV camcorder.

It seems that I am the first person to report this combination, and I know allot of people would like to have some questions answered before they plunk down cash to go the D.T.E. route. So, I am here to be your charlie tester. If you have any questions about the functionality of this unit with the XL-H1, please reply here and I'll see what I can do to test that for you.

SO FAR.....

1. Everything works great. It's big but gee wiz it is light. When I picked it up I almost slingshot it across the room because I expected it to have some weight to it, but it doesn't. I think I am going to mount it to the rear bracket of my XL-H1. Thats a good spot for it.
2. Battery life seems decent, but this is from just flipping through menus. I do not know how long it will run if constantly being recorded to.
3. I tested the unit WITH NO minidv tape in the camera. All I had to do was put the camera in "DV CONTROL" mode located in the SYSTEM section of the setup menu. After doing this, it started and stopped the FS-4 each time I pressed the cameras record button (even with no tape in it)
4. YES, the 24F mode works just fine in HDV & DV. In HDV, it records 24p footage to the unit just like it was recording it to the minidv tape.
5. When conneted to my computer, the unit shows up as a hard drive and the automatically named .M2T files show up and are read & played directly from the unit.
6. When I look at the files in Sony Vegas editing software, they are read as 1440x1080x32bit 23.976fps progressive MPEG2 HD files. That is a WONDERFUL thing! *smile* They playback nice and speedy via the firewire connection.
7. HDV footage WILL NOT playback in the cameras viewfinder. All versions of the DV footage will, but the HDV will not. I don't know why, I thought it should. Maybe I am doing something wrong. My firmware is 1.0.2. I will look into it.
8. There's a fan in the unit, but it is surprisingly quiet. I have read early reports of how loud the fan is, but apparently they re-engineered it because the fans are VERY quiet.
9. With the "PRO" version, you can organize your clips in 9 preset folders that you can rename to whatever you want using your computer (10 charachters max). This is very helpful if you have various scenes and you want to keep things easy for post production.
10. It also has that Retro Cache/Disk feature that allows you to pre-buffer record up to 10 seconds in case you need to capture something but were a tad bit late to hit the record button. Great for those 1 in a lifetime wedding moments or the day-dreaming Camera Operator who is worn out after 2nd Lunch. *smile*
11. It also has EXT. TC, REC-RUN & FREE-RUN timecode. I haven't checked this out yet. I hope it records the exact same timecode as what is being recorded on the tape. I tend to use FREE RUN timecode on my cameras quite often and I need the clips to match. Hopefully they will.
12. The backlight glows a pretty blue, so it matches those blue lights on your XL-H1....makes your rig look modern & cool. *smile*

In Conclusion, I like it allot and I think I will use it everytime I employ my camera for any project. This eliminates using my XL-H1 as a playback deck and if I have an editor that needs the footage, I can just bring this to his place of business and make a transfer.

No longer do I need to "capture" footage from my tapes. My minidv tapes have now become instant backups. After a full day of shooting, I just put em away for safe keeping and transfer my clips from the FS-4 Pro HD to my computer. It's kinda like having a 3-hour P2 Card for an XL-H1. *smile*

Oh yea....not that I ever had any before....but in case you were worried.....Dropouts are eliminated!

If you have anything you would like to know, lay it on me.....

- ShannonRawls.com
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Old January 21st, 2006, 01:39 AM   #2
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Shannon,
Can you record tape at the same time? Can I connect it up to my Sony XBR960 HDTV to view footage? I have a firewire input on the front. May have more questions later. Thank's, Ray
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Old January 21st, 2006, 02:34 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shannon Rawls
It's kinda like having a 3-hour P2 Card for an XL-H1. *smile*

Oh yea....not that I ever had any before....but in case you were worried.....Dropouts are eliminated!

If you have anything you would like to know, lay it on me...
Congratulations for the purchase!

How much did you pay for it?

No more dropouts? A tape problem? Isn't it a HDV MPEG-2 codec problem too? I thought so...

And the same finest HD quality of the video signal? And about the audio?
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Old January 21st, 2006, 08:19 AM   #4
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Thanks very much Shannon.

I have (2) FS-4's, both with the HDV upgrade. They've been great on DV (JVC DV500/DV550 & Sony PD150) - I can say they're 'pretty good' on HDV, but a bit finicky, and perhaps buggy. I've used them with my Z1 and my HD100.

With my Z1, I can record straight to the FS4 with no problems, when not recording to tape. The files seem to be fine, although there is a small audio 'gap' between the file sections on longer recordings (when it splits the content into multiple files because of FAT32).

However, when I record to tape (synchro slave and not), some of my FS4 footage has a tendency to become corrupted, and barely plays on my Edius timeline (won't even load in Vegas). I think it's a bug... not sure though.

So - I'd love to know what you find using the FS4 with the H1 when you also record to tape (starting and stopping the tape ad hoc when the FS4 is rolling continuously, and in sychro slave mode (where the FS4 records when you hit the record button on the H1). Also - if you can let it roll for about 15 minutes, and see if there are any gaps in the audio between the segments as they are placed together on the timeline, it'd be great. I've noticed a small 1/4-1/2 second audio dropout on the longer HDV captured footage on the FS4 - never been an issue with SD DV. Anything you can report (60i/24F modes and the tape recording combinations).

Thanks very much Shannon - this is one more major question answered for me. I'm soooo close to getting it - have the invoice quote and everything.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 08:22 AM   #5
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BTW, my firmware is also 1.0.2, like you listed.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 09:59 AM   #6
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Shannon: How convenient is it to set up each time you use it? Someone told me once that you have to reset the menu options every time you power it up - (this info is over a year old though, so maybe it has been improved).

Also, is it possible to power it from an external 12v source, like the tap on an Anton Bauer battery? It would be nice to not have to depend on the built in battery, which I understand is impossible to exchange and difficult to charge... Steve Rosen
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Old January 21st, 2006, 11:27 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shawn Alyasiri
The files seem to be fine, although there is a small audio 'gap' between the file sections on longer recordings (when it splits the content into multiple files because of FAT32).
so there is video with no audio in it?? i don't see how that could be possible.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 11:51 AM   #8
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No - to clarify, the my z1 files are a muxed .m2t (audio and video), but on longer recordings the firestore creates multiple files (back to back). You place them one after the other on the timeline, and you're set.

In my DV recordings, it is seamless. However, for some reason my HDV clips have a small audio dropout/gap when you get to the end of one clip and start the other 1/4-1/2 second). I'm guessing it's a bug, or a GOP/recording thing. I've got the newest version of Edius - Focus says it's not supposed to happen, but it does.

Also - I've had corrupt files recorded (on both of my FS4's) when I was using synchro slave or ad hoc tape use with the Z1. It's been fine when not recording to tape. Would like to know other people's experiences with it, most certainly with the H1.

Thanks.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 03:03 PM   #9
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RAY: Yes, I have tested this morning, and yes I can record tape at the same time. All you have to do is push the record button on the camera and the FS-4 will start and stop by itself. As for connecting it to your TV....you should be able to. The FS-4 has a "AV/C" mode that make it look like a video camera to computer programs. This is good if you want to use your standard capture program to capture footage. I would imagine you can put it in this mode, and your HDTV will see it like a camera when connected via firewire. Good Job Focus Enhancement.

LEUNAME: Thanks. I paid $1220 for it, but I think I got gipped! *smile* You can get it cheaper at VIDEOGUYS.COM. And yes, no chance of dropouts when recording to a harddrive.

SHAWN: I am now experiening the problems you have too. Vegas will read some of the .M2T files, but not all of them. I get "UNKNOWN" in Vegas 6. VLC player plays every one of the .M2T files, but Vegas 6 is playing only half of them. It's not random either. The same bad files are giving the error in Vegas and the same good files that open up in Vegas, so it's obviously a bug in the FS-4 Pro HD. It's weird. I am going to track it down. I think it has something to do with timecode. I am going to pinpoint it. I am upgrading to Vegas 6 right now just to make sure. As for the audio gaps. Remember, HDV gives you 6 additional frames of video after you hit the stop button. I have no idea why, but it does. Maye it's a saftey buffer. However I can see how this can be a problem when you have a hardware unit that splits the files. I don't know what to say to that.

STEVE: It's easy to setup...actually, just turn it on and go. Nothing else. It retains every setting I had before. It does not go back to DEFAULT or anything like that. As a matter of fact, it has a "RESTORE SYSTEM" option in it if you want to start over. Mine, stays in HD RECORER with all my options after I turn it off AND after I take the battery off and on. Yes, you can power the unit with any 12v source, including an Anton Bauer batter that has the D-Tap on it. Also, I don't know who said it's hard to change & charge the battery...it comes off just as easy as a cell phone battery, and to charge it....just plug it up like you would any ole' thing. *smile*


THINGS I HAVE DISCOVERED THIS MORNING: "TIMECODE"

The timecode on the tape is not the same as whats recorded on the FS-4 when in HDV "AND" DV mode when using Vegas. This is the same problem I had with DV Rack. This sucks BIG time! Each and every clip seems to start with 00:00:00;00 in Sony Vegas 6.0c. Regardless of what position I'm at on the tape or what the camera timecode is being displayed on the camera.

In HD RECORDING MODE ONLY, on the display counter when you toggle to see what the cameras time code is being read as, it will read the same timecode that the camera has (as long as you are in RECRUN on the camera) but it doesn't seem to record it that way. Additionally, if the camera is in PS.RECRUN it will show the same timecode as on the camera for the MINUTES & SECONDS & FRAMES only. the HOURS will always be "00" even if you have preset the camera to something else (eg. 17). In FREERUN mode, the FS-4 Pro will NOT roll with the camera timecode at all. It seems to have some sort of freerun timecode of its own! LOL. As soon as you plug it up to the XL-H1 it begins at 00:00:00;00 and just begins on its own from there, freerunning.

IN DV RECORDING MODE ONLY, everyting is in synch. The display on the camera is identical to the display on the FS-4. If the XL-H1 camera is in RECRUN, PS.RECRUN or FREERUN the FS-4 Pro HD unit still seems to jamsync itslef properly and display the correct timecode on the FS-4 screen.....

PROBLEM IS....whether in HD or DV RECORDING modes on the FS-4....it doesn't matter what frame setting or recording format i have set on the camera...the actual video clip in Sony Vegas 6.0c will always begin at 00:00:00;00 (both .m2t and .avi files alike)

I tried this with my Sony Z1U as well, and the results are idential.
The tape has the timecode recorded no problem. I checked it by presetting the timecode on the Z1U to 22:12:34;56 and recorded a few seconds to minidv tape. I then put that same tape in the XL-H1 and the Canon read 22:12:34;56 from the minidv tape no problemo. *smile*

So now, I dont know who to point the finger at. Sony Vegas or the FS-4. *sigh*

Without proper timecode being recorded on the FS-4 as the same as the tape in the camera, then this is NOT good for any kind of exhaustive editing in Vegas...and it makes it impossible to recapture anything automatically (offline/online editing).

And get this.....The Built-In FREERUN timecode option that comes with the FS-4 Pro HD does NOT work in HD RECORDING mode. *sigh* It only works in DV mode. And even still.....the clips start at zero in Vegas.

*IMPORTANT NOTICE*
Do not use the "AVI TYPE2 24P" format in the FS-4 when recording standard DV 24p footage with 2-3 pulldown from your XL-H1 or XL2 or DVX100a. Be sure to use the regular "AVI TYPE2" setting. If you use the one with 24p on the end, then you will get some weird 19.181 frame rate if you do. However if you use the regualr "AVI TYPE2" setting, your clips will be 23.976 progressive (removing 2-3 pulldown) like they should be. I havent tested this with the camera on 2-3-3-2 setting yet.

- ShannonRawls.com
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Old January 21st, 2006, 06:38 PM   #10
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Shannon,

Thanks for the update. Don't knock yourself out too much - I truly think it's an FS4 HDV problem/bug. Doesn't seem to be an issue when you're only recording to the FS4 (no tape), but when you get the tape recording in there, I think it goofs.

We need to get in touch with Focus to confirm things. Canopus SP will load all files - even the ones that are presumably 'corrupt', where Vegas won't load bad ones.

I might be totally off here, but I don't think so. If you're experiencing this with another camera, it points to the FS4 in my opinion.

I use/trust the FS4's (all year, many events) for DV. I won't use them for HDV yet. I think they need a firmware update.

Additionally, please try to shoot a longer clip (say 20-30 minutes) on the FS4 (point it at a TV channel and come back later), and place the clips on your timeline. I'd like to know if you experience any gaps, specifically in the audio as you get to the end of one clip and start the other - it's another anomaly I encountered.

Please share anything else you find - we can compare and try to get some answers.

Thanks again very much,
Shawn
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Old January 21st, 2006, 08:45 PM   #11
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shannon, if you have the fs-4 hooked up to your computer via it's computer i/o port, it will show up as just another hard drive... i'm sure you already knew that, but what i'm getting at is that there is a text file on the fs-4 that records all of the clip info... including the time code.

it might be interesting to take a look at that.
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