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firestore problems-- switch to p2?

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Rachel Lears
firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 9, 2008 at 8:54:29 pm

Hi,
A few months ago I bought an HVX-200A and a 160GB Firestore drive, and just spent the month of August shooting a documentary with them in South America. I had a host of problems with the Firestore and am considering selling my lightly used unit and buying P2s. The general consensus on the forum seems to be that P2 is much more reliable, but I wanted to raise the issue again to see if perhaps my issues are with my unit or something I'm doing wrong.

Issues:
1. CORRUPTED FILES. Every so often (like every 2-3 days, shooting every day) certain files would not copy to my external hard drive. These files would crash the Finder when I tried to play them in Quicktime with the Firestore connected to the computer. This happened without fail to several files if I did not have time to copy the footage at the end of one day and format the drive before shooting again the following day. After this happened a couple of times and I thought this was the issue, I made sure to format every day but the problem kept happening. No amount of repairing the files or the disk made a difference. The files would begin playing (either in camera or with the FS hooked to computer) then they would freeze at a certain point. Even opening the file in quicktime and cutting out the apparently problematic portion did not make it possible to save any part of the file. Huge pain in the neck, needless to say!

2. BATTERY. The FS100-160 advertises over 6 hrs of recording time in 720PN mode, but the battery only lasts about 3 hours if you're recording nearly continuously! I never ended up filling it up because on long days it just died in the field. Obviously if you're shooting in a studio you can keep it plugged in, but for documentary it seems like the long recording times are not an option. And there is no extra battery available to keep charged; not to mention, if you charge the battery and then dont use it for a day it loses a good deal of its charge.

3. DROPPED FRAMES. There is a lot of hoopla in the manual about no dropped frames (as well as people on the forum who claim never to have had any). I did quite a bit of continuous shooting and the FS automatically cut the long clips into segments of approximately 5 minutes/ 1.2 GB. This was a good thing, considering the corrupt file issue I was having-- wouldnt want that to happen to a 20 minute file. But when I put contiguous files in a sequence together in FCP, there are always 10-15 dropped frames. The transition looks and sounds smooth, but it annoys and worries me to know that it's not. Not sure yet if this will have any impact on the editing process.

4. OTHER STRANGE FILE ISSUES. Also, after importing all files into FCP and viewing some of them I discovered that a) some files contain major dropout-- in the middle of an interview, a split second of colorful digital static and noise. b) this same colorful static patter appears from time to time as a separate file in amongst the files of various shoots; it is always very short, and strangely enough it's DV NTSC 29.97 not 720p24. Its actually quite beautiful, but not in the middle of my movie, obviously. C) On importing files into FCP6, certain files were not recognized. This only happened a couple of times out of hundreds of files, and I haven't yet discerned any rhyme or reason to it, but it is also worrisome.

5. TIMECODE. Is there a way to get the HVX to register the timecode being recorded on the FS as it is recorded? I could not seem to get this to work. TC would advance ont he FS but remain static on the HVX until I viewed clips through the camera, at which point the camera would pick up on the TC from the FS. There must be a way to fix this, but I couldn't find it.

It seems like losing files this often to dropout and corruption should not be happening given how much I just invested in this setup. My understanding now is that I'd be better off buying some larger p2s, which are more stable. Unfortunately I don't really have the budget for it-- I was taken in by the Firestore advertising of price per GB. For documentary and freelance stuff, I need to be able to shoot several hours at a time before I'll have time to upload in the field. I am shooting two weddings in 2 weeks and am scared to death that some important moment will be one of the randomly corrupted files. Any thoughts would be appreciated!!!

Thanks so much.
Rachel


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Dave Neyman
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 10, 2008 at 5:13:35 am

You probably seen the thread from a few days ago. There are some people who love the firestore and have had no problems with it. I believe Christopher is one of them who has had great luck with it. You, unfortunately, are one of the ones who has had problems with it. I do believe the consensus is the people have fewer problems with the P2 cards. I have had not one problem with over a dozen cards that I have used for over a year now (I hope I'm not in for it now as I am shooting in the morning). My feeling is that regardless of the cost per GB, the P2 card is cheaper than a reshoot.



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D. Scott Dobbie
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 10, 2008 at 8:32:16 pm

Very well put, Dave.

Christopher Wright is the most vocal proponent of the Firestore I've read. For most others, we love our P2 cards - especially as the size increases.

Since you've already spent the money, Rachel, speak to Chris about the issues you're having. Perhaps he knows some solutions. If not, you're welcome to join us in P2 Card Land... ;-)

-Scott



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Christopher Wright
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 14, 2008 at 4:58:30 am

There are so many specifics to ask you I don't even know where to start, but I'll try.
For starters you need to make sure that the HVX and the Firestore always have the same settings. You can't mix shooting formats on a Firestore. You will indeed get corrupted files that way. If you are shooting in different formats you have to format the FS, and make sure you change the camera and FS settings, and only shoot in that format that day. Secondly, whoever is shooting (either you or your DP) needs to securely attach the firewire cable to the camera, ALWAYS. Also when you are recording, if you look in the HVX viewfinder, you will see the 1394 display and see a red dot when recording if all is well with your HVX/FS-100 connection. If you don't see that, you need to check the connection and start recording over again. That being said, whenever I have had that happen (lost the FW connection), I have never not been able to "chop out" the good portion of the Quicktime file in the Quicktime player later. If that is happening, you have other problems. Also it is the RECORD time that is 6 hours in 720Pn, NOT THE BATTERY life! If you got the standard FS battery, it is only good for a little over an hour of shooting. To get an all day battery you need a third party vendor, JAM products.
It is also not a good idea to check FS clips by playing them through your computer FW connection via the Firestore. You should always transfer them to your HD of choice before playing them. Then if you have a problem with some of the clips, you try to repair them in the Firestore. FWIW, you should ALWAYS transfer your clips to an external HD EVERY NIGHT, reformat the FS-100 before the next days shoot, charge all your batteries, and check your clips for any problems. A lot of what you are experiencing could just be bad FW connections, but you of course always have to be sure your external drives are also in good shape, that they have a good FW connection when transferring data (this goes for a P2 workflow as well) and can handle "rough road treatment" well. If I were shooting so far "out in the field," I would also have DC converters in my vehicle(s)to charge the batteries at all times while out in the field, and would never let a battery go a full day without a charge and expect it to perform well in the field?? I would also have LOTS of extra batteries for both the Camera and the FS. Also unless you got a very old Firestore with the oldest (first version) firmware, there is no dropout between clips on the FCP TL, unless you also have the wrong easy setup selected in FCP. I also always use the Quicktime setting and not the P2 setting in the FS, as you can drag those into FCP immediately versus having the extra "log and transfer" step in FCP. You also haven't stated if you are using a new laptop, what version of FCP, Leopard or Tiger, what version of QT etc. etc., and those all can be a factor in the "colorful noise" you are getting.
You set the TC you want on the FS, it will not readout on the HVX. After reading your post it seems this may be the first time you have shot with this HVX/FS set-up and maybe the first heavy duty outdoor project you have ever shot. I haven't shot in South America, but I have shot in some pretty desolate places in the SW, and you definitely need to keep your equipment dust free and insure tight connections every time you push the record button. Also outside the U.S., you really have to be careful of the electrical sources you are using when hooking up your hard drives and computers, as well as the actual voltage used when charging your batteries. It is so much more than just turning on your camera, plugging in the FS and pushing the record button! We have had crews that had corruption in P2 media clips that shot out in our "White Sands" desert, due to the DP not being meticulous about wiping the P2 contacts after every trip to the P2 store and back to the camera again. As I have stated, if you are doing a lot of "run and gun" shooting, the FS is probably not for you. As far as field documentary production, the FS does indeed have the advantage of very long record times. Due to the nature of the format, you can definitely lose your most interesting shot while you are swapping out P2 cards, reformatting them, or having to transfer media before you can use them again!

Dual 2.5 G5, IO, Kona LH, IO, Medea Raid, UL4D, NVidia 6800, 4Gig RAM
Octocore 8 GB Ram, Radeon card, MBP, MXO
Windows XP Adobe Studio CS3, Vegas 8.0, Lightwave 9.2, Sound Forge 9, Acid Pro 6, Continuum 5, Boris Red 4, Combustion 2008, Sapphire Effects


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Rachel Lears
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 14, 2008 at 8:55:37 pm

Hi Christopher,
Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my post in such detail. Obviously these conversations are tricky since each party puts up a lot of information before the other responds, but in the interest of dialogue for posterity on the forum, I'll respond again.

Of course its normal that you would start by asking me some very basic questions, but as it happens I was already aware of all the basic troubleshooting you mentioned because these things are either common sense or in the manual- keeping settings consistent, making sure the camera is recording, always transferring and formatting after a day of shooting, keeping track of voltage conversions, having extra batteries on hand, etc. I was not aware that there was third party vendor with an extra long battery for the FS- thanks for that. It seems probable that my issue was mainly due to firewire connections, even though I never noticed an indication from the camera that the connection in the camera had been broken while shooting. As for the transferring and Quicktime issues, naturally it is possible that there was something else going on with my drive or laptop or cables. Unfortunately, although Uruguay is relatively cosmopolitan (used to be known as "the switzerland of south america"), it was not easy for me to acquire backup Mac equipment there while traveling.

This was my first long-term shoot with the HVX, but not my first long term shoot or first overseas-- I've been working professionally as a videographer (mostly on a DVX100 till now) since finishing a graduate degree in doc production in 2005, and I shot the bulk of my documentary while living in Uruguay in 2006.

I've decided to purchase a 32G P2 and save up for a 64 or 128 in the future (after I sell my FS100). For a wedding I'm shooting in a few weeks I'll rent a second P2 and set up my equipment to transfer one while I'm shooting on the other. Thanks again for your input.

Best,
Rachel Lears

http://www.honeycombfilms.com
http://www.birdsofpassagefilm.com








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Christopher Wright
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 16, 2008 at 1:20:06 am

Good luck with that!
You better hope the "magic moment" doesn't come along while you are swapping out P2 cards and/or downloading data!

Dual 2.5 G5, IO, Kona LH, IO, Medea Raid, UL4D, NVidia 6800, 4Gig RAM
Octocore 8 GB Ram, Radeon card, MBP, MXO
Windows XP Adobe Studio CS3, Vegas 8.0, Lightwave 9.2, Sound Forge 9, Acid Pro 6, Continuum 5, Boris Red 4, Combustion 2008, Sapphire Effects


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Rachel Lears
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Sep 16, 2008 at 1:33:31 pm

I'm not worried- I will switch p2s during specific breaks in the schedule when no "magic moments" will be occurring because the wedding party has scheduled breaks for themselves and they do not wish these to be documented. For other shoots when such breaks might not be pre-scheduled, I see nothing too complicated in hiring an assistant or asking one of my interns to come along. Happy trails,
R



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Tim Ryan
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Feb 24, 2009 at 11:34:30 pm

Just completed a 2.5 hour hand-held shoot during 2009 Mardi Gras. I've used my Firestore FS-100 for long tripod-mounted shoots in the past without issue. However, today, after attempting to dump the footage to an external hard drive via my MBP, I got an error.

I then started going back reviewing the footage via the Firestore and my HPX170 (using Firewire) and realized that almost 1/2 of the 114 clips have issues! I'm now going through the painstaking process of reviewing all clips from start to finish to see if they have issues. When I find an issue, I have to wait for the clip to stop playing as it freezes and won't stop immediately (does some weird freeze frame thing with audio frozen and buzzing) and then go through the Firestore menu to get to Repair Clip. Then, only some of the clips actually seemed to be repaired. Others, I have to run "Repair Clip" several times to keep trying to fix different sections of the clip. Others appear to be unfixable. The other issue is that the repaired clips get placed at the END of the footage and out of sequential order. Not very fun for me or the editor.

I decided to go tapeless to be more efficient in post and not have to worry about tape drives/tape issues. However, using the Firestore doesn't appear to save any time if one has to triple check all clips to make sure they're not funcky. I'm also very concerned about other issues that I'll find later with the clips and that I cannot comfortably just hand over my footage (after transfered to a hard-drive) to an editor. EVER. I'm always going to have to go back and use the stupid Firestore "Repair Clip" feature. I'm so annoyed.

Here's the unknown and I'm sure the only explanation assuming Firestore's really don't suck this bad. I was shooting handheld. I'm a very steady shooter and well aware of the Firewire sensitivity. Nonetheless, my guess is that Firestore's just cannot be trusted if shooting handheld, as the firewire connections are just too sensitive. If others agree, I wish Firestore would make this VERY CLEAR TO ANYONE ABOUT TO DROP COIN ON THEIR PRODUCT.

This is something I've never experienced with my two 16-GB P2 cards. That said, I wish I had spent the $1800 or so that I spent on the Firestore FS-100 with 160 GB's for two additional 16GB cards. I'd rather have less storage capacity and continuous run time for something that has been more reliable. In fact, my P2 experience has been flawless (know on wood).

Any one want to buy an FS100-160? Make an offer. It's been used for a total of about 15 hours of shooting using an HPX170.




MacBook Pro
Mac OSX version 10.4.11
2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB DDr SDRAM
FCP 6.0
G-Raid 2 Tb external hard drive


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Tim Ryan
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on Mar 2, 2009 at 7:18:19 pm

I've tested out the Firestore with a differnt firewire cable with no issues. So, either I bumped the firewire cable while shooting or I had a faulty firewire cable. I also wonder if the Firestorea cannot handle variable frame rate shooting on the same reel?


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Tim Freccia
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on May 4, 2009 at 7:52:43 pm

FWIW, I have an HVX201AE with a FS100. I have just spent the last 6 months shooting in Eastern Congo with this rig, mostly handheld, in unreasonable conditions (dust, humidity, rough handling by mean rebels, etc., including a spectacular tumble with my gear down a hill last November- stunningly, the camera and FS didn't even hiccup). I've shot probably 100 hrs on this setup. Given the abuse I've put this rig through, I can honestly say it paid for itself in one day (some combat footage that ran on Jazeera for a week in late November). Ironically, I surfed over here because I'm backing up some drives and found a total of 7 clips with "dropouts". To reiterate, out of ~100 hrs. I probably have something like 30 sec of fucked footage. I'm not complaining. I'm actually amazed that despite the crappy build, ugly GUI and dodgy rep, the FS has performed valiantly. Where I think the problem lies in the infamous crappy FW connection on the HVX. A bump to it could indeed cause these problems. I've been able to cut out the offending frames as Christopher has mentioned; what I'm most interested in is finding a method for copying these clips without having to go through the process of cutting out the dropouts. Anyone with a solution? PS: Tim, yeah- I'd be interested in your FS. Send me a message if it's still available; I'll be in Malawi, Kenya and Congo again for the next month.


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Rachel Lears
Re: firestore problems-- switch to p2?
on May 4, 2009 at 11:48:42 pm

Hi Tim,
It's good to hear that someone has had a good experience with FS in those sorts of conditions. As it turns out, many months later I'm still on the fence about whether to sell my Firestore (have had it listed since september and no one has wanted to buy it) and get P2s, or maybe just get a new firewire cable and some good gaffer's tape and try to be extra-extra careful with the connections. (I borrowed some p2s for some shoots a few months ago and loved them- but selling my FS at B&H will only get me $700 and it is really painful to let a $1900 piece of equipment with only 25 hours of use on it go for that, especially when P2s are so expensive also.)

So, what, if anything, did you do to ensure the FW connection while shooting on the go?

Also, I'm wondering if shooting directly to quicktime (I was using 24PN) and transferring in Finder might be a problem- I think Christopher mentioned that the OS can cause file corruption. Have people had better experiences shooting to P2 format on the Firestore and converting through log and transfer? Or is there any way to deal with the quicktime that is less likely to cause problems? My main issue, again, was not so much a few frames of dropout as files that were partially corrupted-- they didn't play all the way through or copy successfully.

Thanks to all who have weighed in on this!
Best,
R


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