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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.


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Old September 13th, 2008, 12:26 PM   #1
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PHU-60K Problems - Update

Dear All,

Per users requests I am updating my saga on the PHU-60K Hard Drive for the EX3. I returned 2 non-working units and exchanged 1. I just got my replacement from B&H (they were out of stock, took me 2 weeks to get a replacement. I have had the EX3 for over a month now and have been unable to use professionally, but that's another story). Upon receiving the unit I immediately tested it on my EX3. I recorded out the whole drive twice in 1080P with no Problems. I had a smaller shoot today so feeling pretty confident I received bad drives the last time, I decided to take the EX3 + hard drive. As luck would have it after recording about 5 minutes or so, I got the same 'Media Needs to be Restored' message. Luckily this time around when I restored the media it did not erase the clips I already had recorded. I switched the camera to 720P mode as I thought maybe it was the the 1080P that was overloading the hard drive. This seemed (again I have no clue if it was this or what) but I was able to record for another 100 minutes or so. Near the end of recording I got one more 'Restore Media' pop-up. I transferred the media to my laptop with no problems and restored media. Again it restored the hard drive without erasing the clips, something the last hard drive did not do. Upon completion all of my clips were there with no problems. Also as a side note I was able to overcrank at 60fps on the hard drive, (shot in 720P mode did not try 1080P) something it is not supposed to be able to do. The overcranking did not cause the 'Restore Media' prompt and all media seems to be present with no problems.

I am at a loss. I have had my EX3 for almost a month now and have been unable to use it. I desperately would like this hard drive thing to work as it is much cheaper than buying the equivalent SxS cards (the main reason in buying this unit). Is anyone else having these problems with this drive on the EX3. Am I doing something wrong? I would love to keep this unit, but the restore media prompts are scaring the PHU-60K out of me...

I am posting this as an update to DVI users as requested. I have a big job tomorrow that I will try the setup one last time (obviously I will have my main camera as backup) and post my results. Any advice / other stories about this unit are greatly appreciated. Thanks for listening.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 01:41 PM   #2
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Sony Technology Blunder

Must say that I am not surprised to hear of your disappointing, if not sad ordeal.

USB 2.0 is just not up to "real world" task in this application. To put a USB port on the end of ExpressCard bus is just bad engineering. Other manufacturers are using eSATA I or II ports and NOT a USB port to to achieve ExpressCard bus throughputs.

To reinforce this, all of the SSD storage devices are designed with SATAII NOT USB.

There is also the issue of pushing a 2.5 inch hard drive to get the desired reliability and throughput to support the data rates coming off the camera. It simply was not designed to handle overcranking because of this very issue. To compensate they had to engineer extra error correction, data buffers and shock detection in an attempt to manage.

IMHO a SATAII port and SSD are industry standards, proven and more than capable for handling the EX1/3 data rates with over/under cranking.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 04:10 PM   #3
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Wikipedia's Take on USB

"USB was designed for simplicity and low cost, while FireWire was designed for high performance, particularly in time-sensitive applications such as audio and video. Although similar in theoretical maximum transfer rate, in real-world use, especially for high-bandwidth use such as external hard-drives, FireWire 400 generally, has a significantly higher throughput than USB 2.0 Hi-Speed. The newer FireWire 800 standard is twice as fast as FireWire 400 and outperforms USB 2.0 Hi-Speed both theoretically and practically. The chipset and drivers used to implement USB has a crucial impact on how much of bandwidth prescribed by the specification is achieved in the real world, along with compatibility with peripherals. Audio peripherals in particular are affected by the USB driver implementation."


Hence the reason why high-end/pro audio peripherals stay away from USB. It follows that video and in-particular with over/under cranking is all the more critically time-sensitive with much higher data rates that audio. So even if Sony has done a "stellar effort" in implementing USB drivers, it still boils down to a flawed engineering choice in this case for off loading video to external harddrives.
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Old September 13th, 2008, 04:31 PM   #4
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It seems an especially flawed choice given the fact that there's a Firewire port sitting right next to the handle.
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Old September 14th, 2008, 01:27 AM   #5
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I have also had the "Media need to be restored" issue with the PHU-60k in conjunction with my EX-1. I was shooting an event where a some kids jostled me and the camera and I thought the anti-shock mechanism had caused the issue. Since I'd shot the whole night on the drive, I was immediately terror stricken that I had lost everything. But one thing with this new technology that I've learned is never "Restore media" until you've at least tried to dump the media first.

This concerns me greatly as I was looking forward to this drive's arrival and simplification of the workflow- but it seems to have made things more difficult and nervewracking. Will that newfangled CF device be the answer?
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Old September 14th, 2008, 09:54 AM   #6
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I agree with the thoughts here on USB 2.0.

I'm still scratching my head on why Sony went this route. Sure it's more comsumer friendly, but like others, I'm concerned it just may not be fast enough for sustained performance.

USB 2.0 claims 480Mbps data rate. It sure seems that it may be good enough for our application, but I question its real world perfomance.


I'm also wondering if Sony did not engineer a decent enough high speed buffer and file cache system in the camera that may contribute to the cause of memory errors which lead to "Media needs to be restored".

I'm sure some have seen my FAST SDHC Memory thread.
I'm currently trying to work out the fastest Expresscard to SDHC memory card combo.
I've been running various tests. I'm getting these same "Media needs to be restored" memory errors as I test to find the best SDHC / Expresscard adapter.
In my case, I believe the bulk of the problem, if not all of it, is not the sustained write speed, but the random access write time of these devices.

Having said that, It appears Sony did not implement a decent enough buffer/file cache that could help maintain the data rate under non sequential memory address writes. Granted I have not found the "magic" combo of fast SDHC and expresscard adaptor, yet, But, this might explain what I'm seeing while I'm testing these border line working SDHC memory cards.

Some of these cards have the number for read/write data speed to work in the EX1. Some are hitting at 20MB/s read/write and sustaining this rate.
The random write is where these numbers "can" drop considerably, hitting below 2MB/s. I've noticed, If I format an SDHC card and record a continuous
file, it records with no issue. Now if I start and stop recording several times, I end up with the memory error "Media needs to be restored".

If you've read my Memory thread, look at my SxS tests and you will see that the random file write access is two to three time faster for the SxS over the SDHC cards I've tested. I'm not sure how the PHU-60K stacks up on random write speed, but I imagine it is less than the SxS numbers I posted.
I have the new SanDisk Extreme III 16GB Special Edition 30MB/s on order ($120). I'm hoping the random file access write speed is at least 2 times faster.
If it is, It just may work well with the EX1 AFT PROExpress-7 ExpressCard adaptor combo!

If someone who owns the PHU-60K would not mind running the Drive Speed Test software I wrote about in my "FAST SDHC Memory for the EX1" thread.

I would be interested in these numbers. Since each tests runs five times, you need to write down the numbers as it runs. This way we can see the min-max data rate range.

Last edited by Steven Thomas; September 14th, 2008 at 10:43 AM.
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Old September 14th, 2008, 12:16 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven Thomas View Post
Having said that, It appears Sony did not implement a decent enough buffer/file cache that could help maintain the data rate under non sequential memory address writes.
Yeah they most likely did... in the SxS card itself. Do you think that maybe there is a similar structure to the P2 cards whereby 8Gb is actually 4 SD chips running in a RAID configuration with the controller built into the card with zero defect memory spec which commands a premium price from the chip supplier?

Just a thought to ponder.

-gb-
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Old September 14th, 2008, 03:26 PM   #8
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Interesting thought Greg.

I'm not sure if this design is already implemented is some memory arrangement form.
If not, I wonder if it could be implemented in a manner that would improve data rate write speed.
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Old September 15th, 2008, 01:10 AM   #9
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I only used my PHU-60 on an EX3 two times with around 70 minutes recording - no problems. No restore-messages, just working fine in 1080i. I am not able to say more due to the pit stop of the cam in Sony but I will keep an eye on it. The Firewire-Slot is - in my opinion - no alternative. It's so small, so weak for daily use. I had the experience with the 6pin-Firewire on my JVC HD 100 and Sony's way with the SxS-adaptor looks much better.

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Old September 15th, 2008, 03:13 AM   #10
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I don't have a PHU-60K to test, but my computer experience suggests to me it's not the USB2 standard itself that's the problem, but more likely either Sony's poor implementation of USB2 or the hard drive itself.
I'd tend toward the drive. Seek times on these small, slower drives can be quite high. Something like 20 times or more higher than the seek times on SxS media. That this may be the problem is backed up by continuous write on empty drives usually being fine, but shorter bursts causing problems.
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Old September 15th, 2008, 04:28 PM   #11
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First of all thanks everyone for the technical info on this drive. VERY helpful...

-OK an update on my PHU-60. I took the drive out again the other day. I was shooting 720 30P to see if it was the 1080 overloading the drive. I was able to record about 100 minutes on the hard drive with no problems, then BAM!!! The dreaded 'Restore Media' message. I've pretty much had it with this drive. I imported the footage onto my computer with no problems. After backing up, I restored the drive. No problems. Whereas the other drives I returned, this one does not seem seem to delete the files after Restore....YET! This message is not helping my assurance in its reliability...

I pretty much had it with this drive. I have returned 2 other units and am having problems with a third. A couple of questions before I send this one back for good.

1. Is anyone else having these problems? It seems everyone else who has these units have no problems. I have an EX3 with the latest firmware and have 3 bad units so far... Is
Sony just sending me the riff-raff?

2. Brings me back to Number 1. Is this a problem with my camera as no one else seems to be having these problems?

3. I read another article here about the Restore message is typical (it also says this in the manual). I have yet to have this message pop up with my SxS cards (except once when I forgot to eject off my MBP). Is this message just something that happens? IE should I not be worried about this message? So far every time I restored the drive all of my footage was there with no problems.

I've had my EX3 for over a month now and have not been able to use it for anything but a test drive. My fingers are itching at the nails....

Any help is greatly appreciated. I'm about to trade this thing in for extremely overpriced SxS cards...Being my Bear Stearns and Lehman stocks aren't doing so well these days, I would love to hold onto this drive as it gives me 3+ hours of recording time for a 'reasonable' price (60GB HD 2008) Death by SxS... HELP!!!
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Old September 15th, 2008, 04:34 PM   #12
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I just spoke to Sony and it seems as if they are willing to exchange my PHU-60k for a 32gB card. To me, that seems reasonable. I'll sacrifice the record time, for peace of mind. I think the drive is a great idea, that seems a little nimble and not entirely confidence inspiring. I wish it were better- but it's not yet.

My recommendation? Scrap it and see if they'll do an exchange for a card or two cards...
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Old September 15th, 2008, 04:45 PM   #13
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Sorry to hear about this Matt.

If someone else has this drive, please let us know if your are having issues.

IMO, based on all the testing I've done with an expresscard and adapter using SDHC memory with the EX1, the "Restore Media" error happens due to the memory device is to slow.

I've been running memory speed tests on other media and comparing it against the SxS card.

You may want to download the Drive Speed test software I mentioned in my SDHC Memory thread. As it runs, write down each of the five results from each test.

This way you can compare the min-max values against the SxS specs I wrote in my message.
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Old September 15th, 2008, 05:00 PM   #14
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Hey Steven,

Thanks for the reply...Your work on finding the perfect card is to be applauded. You are helping us at least checkmate the dark side for now.....

I'd love to run these tests and be a part of the cause, but I only have a Mac. It looks like the speed software is only for the PC. Is there a MAC version?

Death by SxS - Matty S
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Old September 15th, 2008, 05:11 PM   #15
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Matt, that's a good question. I have not looked hard enough at their web site for a mac version.
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