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nano takes EX3 to new level

nano takes EX3 to new level
A Creative Cow Feature Story

Michael Palmer: nano takes EX3 to new level
Michael Palmer Michael Palmer
Lakewood, California, USA

©2009 Michael Palmer and All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
In today's High Definition video production world, digital acquisition is now the mainstream workflow for a wide spectrum of production levels. In this article, CreativeCOW leader Michael Palmer takes a look at Convergent Design's new nanoFlash SDI/HDMI digital recorder.

In today's High Definition video production world, digital acquisition is now the mainstream workflow for a wide spectrum of production levels. Even though Panasonic, JVC and Sony all have tapeless HD solutions you're going to want to consider Convergent Design's new nanoFlash SDI/HDMI digital recorder.

The nanoFlash is a small standalone High Definition and Standard Definition digital recorder, allowing the user to choose higher bit rates beyond most cameras capabilities, recording to affordable compact flash media cards.

I've been lucky enough to have received the first nanoFlash unit just a few months back, and I must say it has been an extremely easy unit to operate. I don't even need to push the record button, as it can be triggered from the record button on the camera. I also can't get over the size: while the nano has the most powerful feature-set of any digital video recorder on the market, it is by far the smallest. I own the Sony XD Cam PMW-EX3 camera and I conveniently placed the nano on the back cold shoe using a small tripod Manfrotto ball mount. I can power both the EX3 and nano using the Anton Bauer (QR-EX3 Gold Mount) adapter using the D-Tap to 4 pin Hirose cable. The nano is extremely power-friendly using only 6 watts of power during recording and 0.2 watts in standby mode.


Ok, so it's the smallest digital recorder on the market with the most features of any digital recorder on the market and it's power-friendly. So what is the big deal? Well, the nano allows you to take full advantage of your camera's front end capabilities, while bypassing the native compress level of your current tapeless or tape based system's back end, creating solid digital video files up to 5 times the quality of your current camera's capabilities. Yeah, that's beyond HD Cam levels and the closest yet to uncompressed levels. Oh, and you can even choose how the files are wrapped, either as MXF or Quicktime .mov, creating edit-ready files for any NLE. This is a huge time saver, as there is no time spent rewrapping the files. In fact, you can actually start editing directly from the CF card.

The Sony PMW- EX3 is limited to 35Mbps 4:2:0 VBR, but it does have Sony's new EXMOR 3- CMOS (true 1920x1080) progressive sensors that delivers an outstanding HD image, and you can access this 10bit uncompressed signal from the SDI port. The nano supports several bit rate levels and allows you to record digital (Master Quality) video files to qualified compact flash media cards up to 220 Mbps. By simply choosing the 50 Mbps (or higher) level you will now create files with full-raster, 4:2:2 color space.

The nano uses the latest Sony "Torino" MPEG-2 encoder, yes the very same encoder found inside the Sony PDW-F800, and while many people believe it can only encode as inter-frame (Long GOP), it can also encode as intra-frame (all I-frame). The I-frame feature choice begins at 100 Mbps. However, Convergent Design believes you will see a superior image using the Long GOP option at the100 Mbps bit rate, and they recommend using the I-frame at the 220 Mbps level for best results.

As broadcast standards are being set it seems more and more networks are now requiring 50 Mbps 4:2:2 as the minimum HD levels and in some cases require a second redundant copy during acquisition. For my workflow I record to both the native SxS cards and to the nano to be completely redundant. I mainly use my nano at the 100 Mbps level with affordable 32 gig CF cards yielding 40 minutes record time to each card. The down load speeds can vary depending on the CF adapter you use and the drive connection, but typically I can download a 32 gig card in about 10 minutes using a express 34 CF adapter on my MBP to an external firewire 800 drive.

Here is a single frame capture example of the 35Mbps 4:2:0 vs 100 Mbps 4:2:2 nano recording. This is an extreme shot as the camera was simultaneously panned and rotated, to create a real CODEC torture test.  The differences are quite dramatic and clearly demonstrate the advantages of higher bit-rate and 4:2:2 color. This comparison clearly dispels the notion that Long-GOP cannot handle high-motion, especially at the 100 Mbps level.

MPEG-2 compression has long been criticized and made to believe (by the P2 camp) it used more computing (CPU) power to edit inter-frame compression. This is simply not true; MPEG-2 is a CODEC that decodes extremely fast, making it very easy for non-destructive NLE's to work with. Even conforming MPEG-2 with software is no longer an issue with today's computing power standards, and if you work with Final Cut Pro 6.0.4 or newer, you can set your sequence compressor to render (Sony XD Cam) to Apple's new Pro Res codec for final out put.

Convergent Design has just added support to allow you to create MPEG files specifically for DVD and Blue Ray. You will simply play back your rendered sequence directly from your timeline recording to the Nano. This is just another way to use this powerful hardware encoder in your post production, saving you the time and aggravation that comes from working with your current compression software.

So now you want to know about all those features stuffed inside this little box. Here is a list of the current features:

  1. Supports a wide range of bit rates, DVD & Blue Ray; 18Mbps Proxy up to 220Mbps I-frame Master Quality
  2. 3:2 Pull-down removal
  3. 7-Second Record Cache
  4. Records / Plays back both SDI or HDMI signal
  5. Time-Lapse Interval recording
  6. Choice of Quicktime, MXF, or MPEG wrapped files
  7. Full-Raster 4:2:2 Color Space (50/100/140/160/220/280 Mbps)
  8. Intra Frame recording (100/140/160/220/280 Mbps)

Convergent Design is also working on several new features that will be available in the next few firmware updates.

  1. Under and over cranking support.
  2. Hot Swappable CF cards
  3. Redundant Recording to both cards
  4. GPS Metadata Support
  5. Loop Recording for surveillance/weather monitoring
  6. Metadata support


The nanoFlash is in my opinion a long-term investment, as I plan to use it through several generations of cameras. I can hardly wait for a DSLR camera that outputs a clean full raster HD signal from the HDMI output, as the nanoFlash will become the perfect recorder these new cameras. So if you want to take full advantage of your current camera the nanoFlash is the perfect solution. For me, the nano has taken my EX3 to a whole new level.

Michael Palmer
Los Angeles, California

Michael Palmer has been a film production professional since 1981, started as a Gaffer mastering the art of lighting for features, episodic TV and commercials shot on film. Michael has embraced the HD digital cinematography and now enjoys work as a DP,


Re: nano takes EX3 to new level
by Kamal Goel
HI Michael kamal this site I am used a HD Nano footage on Final Cut Pro But i am faced a so many problum
I am used a Nano On fcp My machine is crash so many time
But one problum is that I am buy a new Final Cut Pro So why my machine is crash so many time pls help me ya you mail me a Final cut Pro castigation FCp pls My mail ID
Kamal goel
Re: nano takes EX3 to new level
by Valeriu Campan
I intend to use the nanoflash with a Sony 350 camera. How does one choses the codec recorded on the card? The camera will be to shoot 1080p @ 25fps.
Hi, i have a question, because
by George Mueller
i have a question, because i do not realy understand some Information.

Did the EX3 have I-Frames at the SDI Output, so that it can record to the nanoflash?

Sorry for my bad english,
Hi Phill, You asked me why
by Rafael Amador
Hi Phill,
You asked me why I chose the EX-1.
The captor size is key.
About the codec, just to say that MPEG-2 over 100Mbps is virtually Uncompress.
In fact the "Sheer" 8b Unc files (100% lossless) are smaller than the higher data rate NANO files.
Soon we will have more flexible processors that will let us to change whatever parameter we want. My ideal codec would be 10b Luma and 8b Chroma.
Rafael, It is hard to understand
by Phil Yunker
It is hard to understand these folks. I would think that the bottom line / money is the big decider here for them...this is an understatement I know. Also, I think that within the camera division of either Sony or Panasonic there are divisions or families of camera products or lines (i.e. with Sony the EX 1, EX 3 and the EX1R for example) and this division can only offer cameras with certain features, recording MbS, lens's etc... because once they start offering cameras with larger imagers and recording MbS then the division that is in control of the larger cameras (i.e Sony 700 and 800 XDCAM's) would get p*ssed and no one would be buying the larger cameras. my 2 cents, if that makes sense??
With Sony release the PMW-350 with 3 2/3 exmor cmos sensors this could be the bomb especially with a Nano Flash.
Hi Phil, It took my long
by Rafael Amador
Hi Phil,
It took my long time to decide my self for the EX-1 (GOPS and that).
I'm really happy of my election .

I don't understand the manufactures: PANASONIC crunch what I think is a very good acquisition 10b codec in only 100Mbps an put a 1/3'CCD in front.
That codec at just 150Mbps (the NANO records 280Mbps) would rocks forever.
Like recording Prores in card.

SONY is no much different: The EX-1/3 family could do what the NANO does, just with a Firmware update.
And what you tell me about the XDCAM HD family (30K cameras) recording just at 50Mbps.
There are many customers of the big SONYs buying the NANO. The NANO with a 2/3" captor in front .
What is clear is that selling these expensive cameras is getting more difficult.
thanks rafael
by Phil Yunker
Thanks Rafael. I see you are a Sony owner, what was your decision to buy over the other brands especially Panasonic.
Hi Phil, I bet that Michael
by Rafael Amador
Hi Phil,
I bet that Michael will say something about 1/2" vs 1/3" captors.
mounting the Nano
by Phil Yunker
Great article, thanks for taking the time to write this. I have a couple of questions, beside for the picture a the top of the article do you have any other pictures of how you mount the nano or how are you mounting it to the EX-3. My second question is more on the EX-3 and your decision to buy a EX-3 (not that I disagree with your choice) with all the options out there why the EX-3? I'm on the fence right now, hpx-300 EX-3 or used HPX-500. I would like to hear you thoughts on why you went with the EX-3. Also, I went to your website and nothing is clicking / loading, I wanted to look at your work.

I thought that was probably the
by Tom Daigon
I thought that was probably the case.
Parallel Recording
by Michael Schell
The two sparkler images were recorded simultaneously. The 4:2:0 35 Mbps was recorded on the internal SxS card and the 4:2:2 100 Mbps was recorded on the the nanoFlash via the HD-SDI output from the EX3. Both streams are taken from a single camera.

In an static pictures probably you
by Rafael Amador
In an static pictures probably you won't appreciate much difference at bare eye when the picture have been record on the NANO or in the SxS card.
Take a closer look and zoom a little bit. You will really start to see that difference, and when you bring your picture to Color and make a HSL key in the a Secondary Room, then you say: "My God..this is a different world."
If all these contest of "The best device of the year.." are true, the NANO have to pick all the prices and mentions for the 2.009 and probably for the 2.010.
The only thing that beats this product is the Convergent-Design's support. I've never saw something like that. A model for any other company. From here my best wishes to Dan, Mike, Tommy and the rest of the team.
Climbing back up
by Vince Becquiot
That certainely bring the camera back on top of the HPX 300, especially given the larger CCD size.

I wonder if that extra weight in the back fixes the awkward balancing :-)
My apologies to Mike, as well...
by Jay Gladwell
My apologies to Mike, as well...
Tom, my apologies... I re-read your
by Jay Gladwell
Tom, my apologies...

I re-read your last comment. I misunderstood your explanation.

If what you say is true, that might explain it. However, that information was not provided.
If the camera is simultaneously recording
by Tom Daigon
If the camera is simultaneously recording to the CF card from the HD-SDI output of the camera AND to the SXS card with the MPG2 output of the camera then yes...they CAN be exactly the same shot and moment in time.
No, that's not it. They are
by Jay Gladwell
No, that's not it. They are the exact same image. If what you say were true, there would be a slight variation in the placement of the sparks, as in stereoscopic images. That's what creates the 3D effect. That is absent in the above images.
Maybe one is from the Nano
by Tom Daigon
Maybe one is from the Nano recorded to the CF card and the other is from the SXS card getting the regular EX3 output.
Mike, how did you get the
by Jay Gladwell
Mike, how did you get the sparks to fly in the exact same pattern from the EX1 shot to the Nano shot?

It looks like the same frame with some kind of simulation effect added to one or the other. Those cannot be two different shots taken at two different times.
by Tom Daigon
What workflow do you use to archive the potentially massive amounts of information acquired with the Nano?
The CF cards arent quite cheep enough to treat them like we did videotape are they? Do you feel that MPEG 2 is truly competitive with the Prores codecs?

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