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Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?

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bohus blahut
Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:02:49 pm

I just posted about my poor XL-H1 camera having a messed up tape drive. Very sad, but I'd been intending to upgrade to a solid state or a hard drive recorder. Does anyone have experience in this area?

The two I know of are the Firestore hard drive, and the BlackMagic Hyperdeck. I'm more interested in the Hyperdeck since I can use that with a lot of my cameras, but I need long run times. It's cool that it does uncompressed, and a couple of codecs, but I need to know that it can do a compressed format I can easily ingest into Premiere on the PC. It would also be nice if the start/stop button on my camera could start and stop recording on the Hyperdeck.

The Firestore is something I've seen in action, but I've heard of people having issues. Also, it seems a lot to pay in this solid state era of ours. I do have other FW cameras here that I could use it with potentially, so it seems like an okay investment, but still... solid state would be nicer.

There are likely other options out there, but I don't know too much about them. As usual, I've got shoots next week, so I'm hoping to figure something out pretty soon. For the last 2 years I've mostly been shooting with the Sony EX3, making it hard for me to want to go back to tape. ;)

Thanks for any help!

--
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Bohus Blahut
(BOH-hoosh BLAH-hoot)

modern filmmaker


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Todd Terry
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 25, 2012 at 9:20:11 pm

I won't recommend any particular one, Bohus... but of the ones that you mentioned (and another I will add) I'll give you some things to think about.

The Firestore recorders (unless they have newer/different/better ones than the last time I looked at them) record the HDV signal via Firewire. That might be fine and all you need... unless you're wanting to bypass the HDV compression and use an external recorder to record the "real" HD signal... which is entirely possible. Sony also makes a recorder which is very similar to the Firestore.

The Blackmagic Hyberdeck will do that pre-compression recording, via the camera's HD-SDI output before it is compressed into HDV. Pristine image. But here's the monkey wrench... part of it depends on which exact XLH1 model you have. The earliest first batches of the H1 do not embed the camera's audio in the HD-SDI signal. I don't know why Canon chose to do it that way, but they did. Later versions of the H1 do embed the audio, so it's important to know what your camera will do. If your camera is one of the earlier ones that don't embed the audio, then if you use a separate recorder you have to get video from the HD-SDI port and analog audio via the analog jacks. The problem is, the Hyperdeck does not have analog audio inputs, it only takes in embedded audio via HD-SDI. So... with that device you won't get any camera audio. That might be fine if you only shoot MOS (silent) footage, but for most of us, that's not how we work.

I was about to suggest as a problem solver the Nano Flash recorder from Convergent Design... but I just looked at it and I don't readily see where the recorder will take analog audio in... although I swear in the past it did. It'd be worth checking with them. If so, though, the downside to them is that they are a lot more expensive than the other devices.

Although... you might have one of the H1 cameras that do embed audio, and then it's not such a big deal... any of the devices will work.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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bohus blahut
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 25, 2012 at 10:04:42 pm

So is there a Todd Terry fan club I should be joining? :)

You bring up some excellent points. Basically I'm trying to weigh the costs of keeping the XL-H1 going versus getting a new cam (which I really don't want to do right now). In poking around some more (don't know how I missed it) Canon offers a Firestore of their own that has CF on it rather than a hard disk. That looks okay provided I've got audio output on SDI as you point out. I had forgotten that peculiarity, but fortunately I do have a way to test it here before I do anything.

it looks like I can migrate this Firestore thing to other devices around here, which is nice. What I especially like is that it has a built in monitor so I can check footage in the field, and not be dealt the crushing blow again of having all of my footage pooched.

Secondary is to break out of HDV if possible, perhaps to squeeze some extra visual quality out of my shoots. Sounds like this baby can do it. Thanks for taking the time to pen such a thorough run-down. I've to some homework to do before I pull out my checkbook.

Again, thanks.

--
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Bohus Blahut
(BOH-hoosh BLAH-hoot)

modern filmmaker


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Todd Terry
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 26, 2012 at 5:18:26 am

[bohus blahut] " fan club I should be joining?"

Yes, yes there is. But so far my mom is the only member, and she's way late with her dues. Rarely comes to meetings.

Glad to give meager advice, such that I have. There's is always a mental juggling act when deciding whether to pour money into an aging camera system. This is exactly the same quandary we've had recently with our H1 as well. In fact, we used to do exactly what you did as well, which is use an HV20 as a capture deck... and our HV20 crapped out at exactly the same time as we were having the troubles with the H1. When it rains it pours.

Between the two different repair shops and the expensive cross-country overnight shipping, it was indeed a bit mentally painful to pour about a thousand bucks into the camera... especially since we are anticipating moving to the Canon C300PL as our primary camera shortly. In our case the C300 is a good replacement for the type of shooting I do, since we really only use the H1 body (with a P+S Technik converter and 35mm cine primes). BUT... we'd still want a decent camera to use in "video mode" on occasion with a video zoom lens, so we need to keep it for that use so I was ok with pouring a few bucks into it.

All said, the H1 as been my favorite camera that I've ever used or owned. Since I started using it (with the lens converter) I haven't even cracked the cases on my 35mm cameras... and I used to shoot tons of film. It's just a great camera, great images, and very intuitive to use.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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bohus blahut
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 27, 2012 at 12:22:51 am

Hello again. I had a look at your website BTW and it looks like you've got an outstanding spot there. The stage is especially nice. I mostly do location work myself, though for the last year I was working for Tribune Broadcasting to help launch a national TV show (I was one of the hosts too, for no good reason!). We didn't have a spot nearly as cool as yours to make our show... though I did have an oil projector in my office like the one in your edit suite photo.

So this has become an interesting challenge. My camera is indeed one of the ones that only outputs video on the SDI jack, not audio. Of course there's no HDMI either, so it's as you said, firewire output is my best bet, and that means sticking with HDV material. Not the end of the world, by far.

Canon's own Firestore seems like a good bet since it supports the many flavors of Canon video. I can get one for a bit more than having the tape drive fixed. Plus I need the camera working faster than sending the beastie out to a service center.

I may look around at other firewire based recorders tonight, but I'm concerned that none of those will integrate smoothly with the Canon. As much as I like the idea of getting into a system that would let me bypass the HDV compression of the camera, seems like there's no other choice but to double-system for audio (yeah, I was a film guy too!) and for the jobs I do most of the time, it's not in the cards.

Couldn't have done this without your help! Let me know if there's something nice I can do for you sometime! You've got it covered as far as production, but if you ever need VO or a host-type guy in Chicago, I'm your lad...







Again, thanks!

--
--
Bohus Blahut
(BOH-hoosh BLAH-hoot)

modern filmmaker


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Todd Terry
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 27, 2012 at 3:29:01 am

Ha... no thanks necessary, Bohus... hope some of that rambling was helpful.

Actually, I shoot almost everything (or at least the vast majority) on location. I probably only shoot in studio maybe, oh, once every couple of weeks. Our soundstage isn't nearly as impressive as you might think. It's actually way too small... put, say, a vehicle in it for a shoot and it suddenly gets very crowded, although for most small setups with a couple of people it's more than fine.

Let us all know if/what recorder you choose, I'd be interested to hear how it all works out.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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bohus blahut
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 27, 2012 at 4:09:30 am

The frustrating thing is that I seem to have the perfect storm of incompatibility. No HDMI on the camera cuts me off from the affordable recorders out there that I've found so far (the Ninja does look quite wonderful and versatile).

The Canon/Focus is just as costly as the other gear out there, but I don't get any resolution boost for my trouble. Especially galling is the extra playback functionality in the Pro unit. So much more money to be able to play back clips on the unit itself... you know that's just a difference of firmware. If a client wants playback, I can't stop everything to pull the CF card to load it onto a computer. Blech. Also from what I've read, there seem to be varying opinions on the actual quality of the thing.

I think that I'm okay for my current gig using a stew of the gear I have here. These guys are high profile enough that I can't just march in with my HV-20, but I think I can get by for a little while. It really looks like the solution for me will either be to invest in the Canon/Focus recorder (though I really don't want to), buy a DSLR setup for about the same money (I was planning to wait until the T4i came out), or pick up the XA10 camera. Lots of nice features packed into that little camera.

As for your studio, it looks outstanding to me. I rent space when I need it, and I've been very happy with what I get. But to have more consistent access makes me think I'd go for more of those kinds of gigs... or do some of my own stuff I've been putting off for years. ;)

--
--
Bohus Blahut
(BOH-hoosh BLAH-hoot)

modern filmmaker


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Todd Terry
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Apr 27, 2012 at 2:44:56 pm

[bohus blahut] "I seem to have the perfect storm of incompatibility."

You got it. We're in the same boat here.

I'm not sure what I would do if I were in your shoes. Except probably change back to my own shoes.

If you were planning on retiring the H1 before too long it would be a tough decision to spend a lot of money on a recorder. Yep there are cheap recorders, but yes they are incompatible connection and in-and-out-wise.

If it is a short-term thing, you might consider just renting a camera on an as-needed basis. There should be a place or two in Chicago that would have what you need. Also, last time I checked you can get a pretty low-mileage H1 on eBay for about two grand, if you want to stick with tape for a while. I looked recently because I was briefly thinking that after we move to the C300PL that I might just sell our H1 so I was checking to see what it was worth... and was saddened to see it had lost 80% of its value, I was thinking it wouldn't be quite that much.

By the way, you're a funny guy.

T2

__________________________________
Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
fantasticplastic.com



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Manuel Prazeres Pais
Re: Adding hard drive or solid state to my XL-H1 camera?
on Jul 16, 2012 at 11:06:56 pm

Look at ATOMOS Samurai:

http://atomos.com/samurai/

MPPais


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