I recently finished a feature shooting on F23's. We were recording to the S2 system, and a given prototype on board flash recorder (OB-1) from S2 to test in a real world application. The OB-1 shows promise of being the answer to many of the on board recording woes we have faced on digital productions. The unit weighs 5 lbs., draws little power & records uncompressed 4:4:4 up to 30 minutes per flash mag at 24fps.
The unit we had was barely a beta test, we joked is was only at the alpha stage. The unit had no ability to record time code or audio, but these items will be part of the OB-1. Ours recorded picture only. Here are some general notes (good & bad) we found with the unit.
-Balance on the rig
-Low power consumption
-Recording time (30 min. @ 4:4:4)
-Image quality (4:4:4 uncompressed)
-Ability to go completely wireless (with Wevi or similar)
-VTR - like controls allow simple operation
-Integrates into S2 workflow
-Mounts for all popular digital cameras
-Dual link BNC input
-Too much wiggle in dovetails, both on camera mount & flash mag mount.
-No connection for remote stop/start via FIZ or other wireless unit
-The OB-1 needs a docking station for downloading mags. We had to use the unit itself. S2 is working on this.
-The only way we had to verify files (check the gate) was when we downloaded the scenes into the main S2 recorders. There needs to be a quick & reliable gate check on the OB-1.
-Dual link BNC connectors & cables are the weak link in possible recording issues. They had to go with this universal connection to work with various camera bodies, but it was the cause of the only problems we experienced.
-Frame rate options. The entire S2 system only records 24, 30 or 60. Variable frame rates & ramping would be a plus.
-No LUT's outputted from the OB-1. S2 D mags output LUTs on monitor output. OB-1 would require dedicated LUT box.
Overall, I loved flying the OB-1. Like many, I normally flew the F23 / Genesis split with a battery on the back for ballast. The OB-1 put the nodal point of the camera directly over my post when flying a DigiPrime, and slightly behind the post with a DigiZoom. I was able to loose the cable while recording full quality uncompressed 4:4:4. There is no comparison to flying a SRW-1 on board. The OB-1 would work for everyone, and that's just not the case with the SRW-1.
I have not flown the SSR-1, so no basis for comparison there. S2 tells me there is a significant difference between uncompressed dpx files vs. compressed HDCAM SR tape (even in 4:4:4 mode) when comparing film outs and compositing. I'm sure Sony would have a different spin on that, but the SRW-1 does compress the image, and the SSR-1's workflow is to dump the flash mags to the SRW-1 tape, so you are compressing the image either way you record.
I will report back when I hear from S2 when this unit will be widely available. It will require a leap into the tapeless world, which most producers would embrace. We worked in a hybrid mode, cabling the cameras to the S2 D Mag recorders for conventional mode & cranes, and using the OB-1 for Steadicam, handheld and some splinter unit work. We only had 1 unit, so we didn't have a choice, but I imagine the hybrid approach would still work well on a 2 camera show carrying 2 OB-1's. The OB-1 did give more work to our data capture engineer, but we discussed that workload going to the data wrangler in the future. He agreed, but just wanted to keep his eye on the OB-1 footage, being a prototype.