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Grant Peacock
CF (Compact Flash) card reader issues
on May 17, 2015 at 3:46:31 pm

After a scary experience this past week in Cuba (failure of CF card reader, nothing available for sale in the country), I'm prompted to go deeper into this part of the workflow with the EOS C300.

I ended up feeding out via HD-SDI, via a news bureau's Matrox box with video and audio being recorded to a hard drive - as it turned out, at different speeds (I calculated that the video was running 8% faster on playback). It made for a very difficult edit, and a night without sleep.

My experience : CF card readers are devices that seem inherently fragile, and prone to the vagaries of firmware, OS updates, etc. The particular computer platform may also be an issue.(?)

Does anyone have thoughts on how to gain deeper knowledge on these devices, and choose the best one for a particular workflow? I currently have 3 models on my desk, and when I study them carefully, they are all different. Some allow for lateral movement during driving the card into the slot that will cause misalignment. One now has a bent pin from regular, careful use. My immediate take away is that the minimum number of card readers to take on the road is 2. Lesson learned, under difficult circumstances!

I would like to see a high-end card reader that is known to stand up to repeated use, and whose firmware, etc status is well documented an easy to take care of. All of the units I have tried have failed on one or more of these specs.

It would also be smart to determine an alternate method of moving the clips out of the camera without having to remove the CF cards, but absent a USB port, I don't think there's a file-based method of doing this. Am I correct?

Grant.

Grant Peacock
Grant Peacock Images
Washington DC
http://www.gpi.tv


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Ryan Holmes
Re: CF (Compact Flash) card reader issues
on May 18, 2015 at 12:55:08 am

[Grant Peacock] "Some allow for lateral movement during driving the card into the slot that will cause misalignment. One now has a bent pin from regular, careful use. My immediate take away is that the minimum number of card readers to take on the road is 2. Lesson learned, under difficult circumstances!"

This is the inherent nature of CF cards. Since it is a pin based design you'll always, always, always have the potential for bent pins. There's no way around it, no matter how careful (even a possibility in the C300!). Best advice, carry multiple readers and always have a credit card on hand. Credit cards are about the perfect size to slide in an attempt to rebend the crushed pin...and if not, you can buy another reader!

Another option is to purchase an external recorder (Atomos, Convergent Design, Sound Devices, etc) and record externally. These devices typically use some form of SSD and are more robust in dealing with the constant in/out nature of recordable media. You may also look at the BlackMagic Video Assist which was just shown at NAB. $500 with a screen and records all versions of ProRes and DNxHD to SD card (I think it ships sometime this summer).

Ryan Holmes
http://www.ryanholmes.me
@CutColorPost


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Al Bergstein
Re: CF (Compact Flash) card reader issues
on May 18, 2015 at 6:03:19 pm

Another issue I've found is that not even internal based readers always work. My newest high performance SD cards 64MB, are not always able to be read on my iMac, while my newer Macbook is fine with them. I agree, buy and carry two that are tested before you head into the field. And get the ones with the slots that allow them to be properly fed to the pins.

Al


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Grant Peacock
Re: CF (Compact Flash) card reader issues
on May 18, 2015 at 6:40:14 pm

Ryan and Al,

Thank you both. It's clear to me now that CF cards are simply not there for repeated, professional use. In the adaptive process from past digital formats (P2 coming to mind in the first instance), I have had to arrive at this conclusion organically, as it were.

I will investigate an on-board recorder asap. In this scenario, the CF card can be left undisturbed in the camera as an emergency backup. Perhaps, as soon as the outboard recordings have been laid off, we simply reformat the CF cards in their 2 slots.

I've also learned that if the outboard recorder is chosen and set up properly, it will allow for a less compressed version of the material to be captured.

All the best,

Grant.

Grant Peacock
Grant Peacock Images
Washington DC
http://www.gpi.tv


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Al Bergstein
Re: CF (Compact Flash) card reader issues
on May 18, 2015 at 8:11:15 pm

I've used the CF cards for years with no bent pins or other problems. In fact I've found them more reliable than my SD cards. Of course the need for readers of CF are an issue. Still easier than an outbound monitor. But if you can operate with an outbound recorder like the Atomos, then that's likely a good way to go. Not sure the footage will be better looking than the C300 native, but it will go directly to an SSD in an editable format like Apple's or Avid. You still have the issue of battery life to monitor, recharge and maintain. The Atomos does have interchangeable batteries with Canon, Panasonic and others with the right adapters. They seem to be a great company. But their are competitors.Anyway, best of luck and let us know how you find field shooting with it! You seem to be in some difficult locales.

Al


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Ryan Holmes
Re: CF (Compact Flash) card reader issues
on May 18, 2015 at 8:55:28 pm

[Grant Peacock] "I've also learned that if the outboard recorder is chosen and set up properly, it will allow for a less compressed version of the material to be captured. "

[Al Bergstein] "Not sure the footage will be better looking than the C300 native, but it will go directly to an SSD in an editable format like Apple's or Avid. "

The footage internally in the camera is compressed to a 50Mbps, 4:2:2, 8-bit XF-Codec using a MXF wrapper. If you attach an outboard recorded the SDI or HDMI ports will give you uncompressed, 4:2:2, 8-bit video. So you're bypassing the internal camera compression. If you record to a Blackmagic, Atomos, Convergent Design, etc recorder you're essentially getting that uncompressed signal and then compressing that into a DNxHD or ProRes codec. Both of those codecs run higher data rates and are more forgiving with editing, color grading, and vfx.

I run C100/C300 and only use the internal cards as a backup recording. All recordings get run to either a Sound Devices PIX240 or a Convergent Design Odysey7. The Convergent Design screens are absolutely gorgeous. Works for focus checking, framing, color matching, and recording. Some of the new Sound Devices recorders look good too like the PIX-E5 and PIX-E7.

Ryan Holmes
http://www.ryanholmes.me
@CutColorPost


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