P2 multicam downloads/midrange storage/questions from the shadetree videographer
New guy here, if you don't want to know the specifics/evolution of my question skip ahead three paragraphs.
So I've got three P2 cameras that I've accumulated over the last 4 or 5 years and I'm using them for multicam shoots of non-profit events. Invariably, these events take place in the evening and cameras must be ready by the following day for further activities and events. Some of you are already seeing my dilemma because you've picked up on the clues, mainly "non-profit". We can't afford to just buy more cards. What we need is an inexpensive way to expedite downloading the ones we have. Perhaps this is the holy grail of all P2 operators.
What I've discovered in this endeavor to come up with an effective solution is that there's a serious lack of information available to mid-level users. This goes for editing as well. You've either got the guy who has one camera and shoots an amount that's pretty easily managed, or broadcast/production entities that have a budget to purchase the gear to process volumes of stuff.
My conclusion is that there has to be a huge "market" for people like us and I've either failed to find the people in it, or they have a very small voice. At any rate it seems there should be some people out there with similar experience and it would be great if we could help each other out rather than just making things up as we go and failing to share what we learn. I'm guessing that whole sharing part is why many of you are here. It certainly is the reason I am.
So here's what I'd like to try for solving part of my problem. (downloading three cameras at the end of the night in less than 6 hours so I can shoot the next day)Did I mention all this has to be mobile?:
Qnap has a NAS enclosure https://www.qnap.com/i/en/product/model.php?II=155 that can be connected to multiple laptops via LAN using a GigE switch. Cameras can then be connected to individual laptops and downloaded simultaneously to centralized storage, which makes things easier back home.
It seems like it should be that simple, but I know things aren't often as easy as they seem. So am I sabotaging myself here?
The other question is; what happens if you try to download both cards from one camera at the same time going in to separate folders? That is, create two separate folders in "my computer" and transfer the contents of each card into those folders. Panasonic says it can't be done and I'm scared of what may happen to the camera's P2 reader if I try it. I'm not the guy who just starts pushing buttons to see what happens.
You'd need at least a USB-3 PCD-30 to be able to simultaneously download P2 cards to multiple destination. Trying to do simultaneous copy on the PCD-2 (USB2) will be a disappointment. Most of the times it'll choke on you. I think Panasonic is moving toward the SDHC Micro P2 media that I'm not at all thrilled with. Too small to get lost and can't mix and match Micro & P2 cards. It's a mess and Panasonic is not at all offering dual P2 slots anymore on their newer cam models <$10K. No thanks. I rather use the P2 media that it's not easy to get lost in the field.
A 3rd party offloading app is highly recommended over the OS's free copy. I do not like to plug the vendor here but it works OK. They're a small company and don't have the resources to fulfill simple request such as the ability to properly reformat P2 correctly. Sadly it has not been addressed after 5 versions! NAS is too cumbersome and bulky. You have to bring cables, switches and even battery backup UPS. I don't see how portable it's vs a singe laptop 2.5" SATA hdds. A bit risky if any of those hdds in the NAS are damaged or experienced high shock.
We have these shoots for a non-profit organization about four times a year that usually have us driving 2 days, setting up and shooting the day after arrival and shooting for about three days, then driving 2 days to get back to the edit bay. Most of the shooting goes on in the evening, but some happens during the day as well. We have three cameras that run during the evening events and usually need two by the next morning/mid day. All this would be fine if we didn't have to sleep at some point. We're a very small operation. (my wife, daughter, and I)
The PCD30 looks great, but we just don't have 2K to drop on it. What I do have are a few laptops, a couple of drives, and a boatload of Bohemian stubbornness. Blazing speed isn't the goal and I'm sure this is something we'll outgrow, but for a stopgap fix that will get us a decent night's sleep on a shoestring budget I'm willing to take some monetary chances... some.
So here's what I've come up with and I think it will work, not nearly as fast as the PCD30, but it should get the job done:
Netgear 5 port Gigabit Ethernet switch
Qnap 2 bay NAS enclosure
3 Each - USB to Gigabit Ethernet adapters (My netbooks all have 10/100 LAN cards) http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1016568-REG/startech_usb31000s_usb_3_...
3 Each - outdated laptops that still work for transfering from the cameras... but not much else.
Everything can be had for about $250 which is a much easier pill to swallow, perhaps even choke on.
I'd love to know if anyone out there is doing anything similar. Theoretically this seems pretty sound, but theoretically you can make a brick fly like a fighter jet if you put big enough engines on it.
By the way, you're right on all counts regarding cables, switch, risk of damaging the NAS drives, and the UPS. We're already hauling a full sized truck full of stuff though and transporting drives with it, so we're willing to throw a little more on and accept the risks.
Just in case anyone is actually paying attention I caught a serious error in my order. I listed a 10/100 ethernet switch thinking it was a Gigabit ethernet switch. The actual part I'm trying is:
I'm shooting for the modest goal of being able to get 6 cards dumped to a central storage drive on location in 2.5 hours. If all this works I'll repost the complete list and any special "hoops" encountered.
For a 64 Gb P2 card, it takes about 45 min via USB2 on a PCD-2 single slot USB2 card reader. It can certainly offload to 2 locations but will double the time. This is with no verfication.
I'm concerned about using USB2-3 to Ethernet adapter. Those generally may choke or freeze up on you if it is used heavily.
Panasonic stated not to copy to multiple locations is quite plausible because I attempted to do the same thing on the AG-MSU10 mobile offload device. It froze and choked on me as soon as multiple hdd destinations are specified. If single, no problem. But the PCD-2 single slot reader has no problem for 2 simultaneous hdds. Have not done this with the camcorder but I suspect it will choke on you when doing 2 simultaneous hdds. That's why they make dedicated P2 drives and readers to get the file off much more efficiently than using the camcorder.
A while back I had no choice but to use the camcorders to offload P2 media because of airline travel luggage restrictions. On the HPX-250s I was able to offload 6 P2 cards on the 3 hpx-250 to 3 separate AG-MBX10 2.5" hdds at bedtime. The MBX10 enclosure for the MSU-10 is nice because it has separate power bus to ensure reliable power over the single USB bus. Nice thing about the HPX-250 is that I can specify to copy all 2 P2 slots. It is like having a 2-slot P2 reader. This is something to consider if doing it directly from the P2 camcorder -> laptop -> NAS is not working out in the field.
The PCD2 is doing slightly better than what I get directly from the USB port on the camera in Device mode, but I'm not far from that.
I agree about the concerns surrounding the USB GigE adapter. They're made to surf the internet/network, not necessarily for 60 gig file transfers. We'll see.
I may have misled you in my first post. I'm not trying to copy everything to multiple drives. I want to get multiple cards to one storage device. The intent is to mimic the function of the PCD30 without the speed and at a fraction of the cost. If I were doing this every weekend I could justify the expense, but I'm not therefore I can't.
You also brought up something I wanted to know about regarding the camera end of the operation. You indicated you could dump both cards at the same time directly from the HPX 250. I called Panasonic and asked if this was possible with P2 cameras in general, but not the 250 specifically. They said no and promptly referred me to the PCD30 and PCD35. I understand that not all cameras download the same way, but the rigs I'm running are HVX-200A, HPX-370, and HPX-250. Again, I know I'd be taking a huge hit on speed per card, but if I could start all six cards downloading at bedtime and get up in the morning to have them done that would be nothing short of a Godsend.
The parts will be here on Friday and I have full cards from the last multicam shoot so I should be able to put this to the test this weekend if I can find the time.
With the HPX-250, you can certainly offload the two P2 slots but in a sequential linear manner. This means once the first card is completed, it will go to the 2nd card. Can't do it simultaneously. It is simply specifying "ALL SLOTS" when you're in the copy function instead of SLOT 1 or SLOT 2. It only accepts Type S formatted hdd. No FAT32 (that is only on the MSU-10). It will not warn you if there's a duplicate upload (the MSU-10 will do that but costs almost the same as the PCD-30). But it will allow verification. If you have the luxury of constant AC power, then any 2 Tb or less hdd USB 2 will work. No need for the expensive MBX-10 enclosure. I use the HPX-250 once in a blue moon when I couldn't bring a laptop or MSU-10 in the field. It works great during bedtime and also serve as a spare 2-slot P2 USB2 card reader.
Using the HPX-250 and offloading it directly to a laptop as a P2 drive is another subject matter that I have not fully tested in the real world.
I've been using USB device mode since I got my first P2 camera. I'm guessing the copy function you mention is available using host mode and goes straight in to a drive connected directly to the camera.
It's partially a habit that evolved out of necessity but now the reason I use device mode is because I thought it was the only way to prebuild and name a folder to help keep my footage straight. I've never even really looked at Host mode. I guess it's time to pull out the manual... again.
SUCCESS! Once anyway... Now let's see if it can be duplicated repeatedly in the field. I'm not sure how it happened or why, but I started all three cards within seconds of each other and the first one finished in under 45 minutes. I can't say exactly because it finished before I went back to check. The other two weren't far behind. I had originally planned on connecting two laptops to the switch and the third to the second LAN port on the NAS but ended up running all three through the switch. I honestly expected the whole process to take well over two hours.
Once it finished I opened a project in Media Composer and reviewed a good bit of the footage directly from the NAS. It actually ran fine which was something else I didn't necessarilly expect.
All told this looks like a solid solution so far. We'll see for sure at our next multicam shoot on the road. It's not scheduled until August, but I wanted to allow plenty of time to get this wrung out.
I still need to figure out the best way to get everything from the NAS to the edit machine, but I think it should be as simple as a LAN connection and mapping the drive.