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Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field

COW Library : Field Production : Helmut Kobler : Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
CreativeCOW presents Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field -- Field Production Review


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PORTABLE CARD BACKUP DEVICES
The Nexto Video Storage Pro & Panasonic AG-MSU10


There are plenty of advantages to shooting video on solid-state cards, but cards have one particular headache of their own. That's when you have to offload your cards to a backup hard drive while working in the field. Maybe you have to free up card space so you can continue shooting, or maybe you have to hand your footage to a client who didn't bring their own cards. Either way, doing an in-the-field offload usually means bringing a laptop, a card reader, external hard drives and lots of cabling to your location, then finding a secure place to set it all up, and then waiting around as each card slowly copies to the drives.

No one looks forward to this. It certainly never appealed to me; in fact, I bit the bullet a couple of years ago and bought more cards than I might have otherwise, just to avoid doing an offload on set.

But there is another way. Instead of hauling around an entire computer ecosystem, or busting the bank on excess cardage, you can invest in a portable card backup device, which includes a built-in hard drive or SSD (solid-state drive), is small enough to hold in your hand, runs on battery power, and makes copying cards quick and foolproof.





This review takes a look at two of these products that I've worked with for the last few weeks.
  • First, is the Nexto Video Storage Pro 2500, which can offload just about any solid-state card format -- Sony SxS, CompactFlash, P2, SDHC, Memory Sticks, and others -- to its internal drive. Being fluent in so many tongues means you can bring the Nexto to most sets, and then backup and take home your footage no matter what camera shot it. That's very impressive, but if the Nexto has a limitation, it's workflow. While it's possible to remove the Nexto's internal drive by taking the unit apart with a screwdriver, most people won't want to do that. Realistically, when the Nexto fills up, you'll want to get it back to your office before offloading it to an editing system or archival drives/tape. But if you're out in the field for long, or shooting a lot of material in short order, that might not be so easy. One more hitch: you can't remove the Nexto's internal battery, and it peters out fairly quickly.

  • Then there's Panasonic's brand-new AG-MSU10. It only works with P2 cards -- that's its limitation -- but it does have a removable, swappable drive tray and that gives it great flexibility. With the MSU10 you can buy multiple trays from Panasonic ($150 each), install a hard drive or SSD in them, and then quickly slide them in and out as they fill up. Each tray has its own bus-powered eSATA and USB 2 connectors, as well, so you can send the tray to a client or mail it back to the home office for easy offload. In the meantime, you can keep the MSU10 working in the field, as long as you've got a spare tray. Finally, the MSU's battery lasts a long while, and you can always swap in a fresh one. In other words, the MSU10 is perfect for people who spend a lot of time in the field, or shoot through a lot of footage.
So we have two back-up devices with very different approaches. Read on for more impressions...



Comments

Re: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Bob Fleck
Thanks Helmut. Very interesting. I used to use Panasonic (an A100)and loved it. When the new camera came it felt like a cement block in my hands and so I went to Sony. I also had doubts about how long the P2 card (very expensive) would be around, so went to Sony. I've had 3 cameras from them, now the EX1R which I love, as I do the Z7, so naturally that meant the Sony box. It's not unlike Canon and Nikon, back and forth, forth and back. Frankly, I'm old fashioned, I still like seeing that tape sitting on the shelf but never mind, time for me to come out of the darkness. Thanks again.
Bob
Re: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Bob Fleck
And then there's the Sony PXUMS240 Mobile storage unit, perfect for backing up SxS cards on removable 240GB fully enclosed hard drives. There also is a device which you can plug back into the camera to access and watch anything stored on the drive. I intend to have 2 of the 240GB drives, on a cross country project, back up to both and keep the drives in two separate places. I think it's an excellent system. Add it to your list.
Bob Fleck
@Bob Fleck
by Helmut Kobler
Hi Bob,
I actually wasn't aware of the Sony when I did the round-up, but then came across it in December. I definitely would have included it had I known.

The first thing I can say is that it's very surprising how similar the Panasonic and Sony units are....size, removable trays, buttons on the top, etc. It's almost as if both products come from the same OEM, but I doubt that's the case.

I think the Sony beats the Panasonic on price, as it's about $800 cheaper! I would be much more inclined to buy one of these devices at Sony's price point rather than Panasonic's.

I think the Panasonic beats the Sony on flexibility/features. 1) The Panasonic's drive "sleds" don't need an AC adapter to run, while the Sony's cartridges do need wall power when you want to attach them to a computer. 2) The Panasonic sleds also feature eSATA connectors as well as USB, so you can download footage from the sled much faster than Sony's USB-only cartridges. 3) You can install your own drives into Panasonic's sleds, while I believe the Sony cartridges are sealed and only come in 240GB capacities (and no SSD option). 4) The Panasonic can display thumbnails of clips, and play them back at 1/4 frame rate, on its screen, whereas the Sony needs to be plugged into a camera to display any clip visuals. On the other hand, the Sony main unit can act as a card reader when you plug it into a computer (and the main unit does have an eSATA port)....

Anyway, I would have said all that in the review, so I'm glad to have the chance to say it now!

-------------------
Documentary Camera
http://www.varicaminla.com
Re: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Timothy Sorel
Having been to Afghanistan and Cambodia shooting P2, I have to respectively disagree with this review. If a shooter has $2500 to invest, the money is better spent on a small laptop, external firewire and single P2 reader. Yes, it more in the backpack but I also have an editing station, email, Skype etc. at my disposal.

Better yet, climb on to EBAY on track down a 13" PowerBook G4 which takes the cards natively. With 2 GiG of RAM it will run FCP 6.0.6. Not sure about FCP 7.

If money is no object and a shooter is traveling great distances by foot, canoe, ATV and extra devices are simply to much to carry around than one of these portable drives is a nice luxury to have.... but it is a luxury.

Tim Sorel
Gainesville Florida
HPX370, HPX170, HVX200, PowerbookG4, Lacie Rugged Drives

Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Mark Roberts
Just for what it's worth, I have a USB duplicator at work that would also do the same thing. Use a USB to SD "reader" like the ones you get with Transcend cards SD cards and you're good to go. The duplicator cost about $700 bucks and does 7 at a time. Still expensive but not quite 2 grand. You may be able to find a cheaper USB duplicator.
Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Michael Sacci
Mark - what are you using and is it good for the field, battery powered.
Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Mark Roberts
I can't recall the brand...I'd have to look at it. I've got it in my office and use it for work related stuff occasionaly. It's not very portable and not battery powered but if you're dragging a pile of gear somewhere, it's not that much extra being slightly bigger than a loaf of bread. I have a 750watt inverter and a deep cycle battery that goes with me so that I always have some 110.

If I ever get around to shooting some shorts or something, I'll use it and blow the files onto two flash drives ASAP. Some times you don't get a chance to reshoot something.

Clearly those portable duplicators are great...I was just thinking how I could get the same thing done with what I have. I only have a netbook, it doesn't have much disk space(20gbSSD) so the last few trips, I was using it as a passthrough from the SD card to USB flash drive. Very slow.
Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by John Frey
Also found this. Sure there other other options.

http://www.produplicator.com/sd-card-duplicator-1-to-3.html

John D. Frey
25 Year owner/operator of two California-based production studios.

Digital West Video Productions of San Luis Obispo and Inland Images of Lake Elsinore
Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Michael Sacci
I don't see lunging anything that big around. I would just use my laptop, copying the SD to another SD doesn't make much sense to me. if I had the other card I would get use it in the camera. I also want to be able to test the footage. Just my two cent.
Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by John Frey
I also backup to laptop. Just posting another alternative.

John D. Frey
25 Year owner/operator of two California-based production studios.

Digital West Video Productions of San Luis Obispo and Inland Images of Lake Elsinore
Re: Article: Backing Up Solid-State Cards In The Field
by Les Wilson
Mark, John, Michael:
The point of the two reviewed devices is to provide a backup capability in the field (battery power) without a computer. Plan a trip to Haiti or similar energy scarce country and the value prop of computer-less battery only card wrangling is obvious.

There's a third device that is less expensive but, like everything, has it's compromises.

The MxM Express recorder is an inexpensive enclosure that houses an SSD or an up to 500GB hard drive (albeit only ones that meet specific specs). This device has a tether that plugs into the SxS slot of the camera. You can then use the camera to copy the contents of a card in the available slot to the MxM. Multiple cards end up in a single BPAV folder but the meta data is retained so you can sort out things back at the ranch when you have the luxury of a computer. This consolidates power requirements to camera batteries.


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