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nanoFlash Questions and Answers


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#1 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 05:33 PM

My name is Dan Keaton and I just joined your forum.

I noticed that there have been questions about the Flash XDR and the nanoFlash.

My goal is to be here to answer any questions that you may have concerning our CompactFlash based video recorders, the Flash XDR and nanoFlash.

I am the Director of Sales and Marketing for Convergent-Design and we are the manufacturers of these devices.

Please feel free to ask question on this forum, or email me if you wish.

I hope I can be of assistance.
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#2 Bryan Fowler

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 08:17 PM

Welcome Dan

I'm sure you'll get some questions about the recorders.
Thanks for being available.

Bryan
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#3 Charles Papert

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Posted 17 December 2009 - 10:49 PM

Hi Dan:

I've been hoping to play with the Nanoflash for a while but haven't had time to seek it out.

Do I understand correctly that when it is in the mode to accept an external trigger for rec/pause, the front keypad is locked out? Is there any kind of external wired remote that provides transport controls in this instance, or any other (i.e. what protocol is used for remote operation if any, what wired remotes will work with the system).

What are the steps required between record mode and playback (and vice versa)? For instance, when stopping a recording, can you hit play to playback that clip (and simply cycle backwards through the list for previous clips)?

Is there any intention to offer the ability to record from and playback to an SD composite signal in a future upgrade, firmware or otherwise?

Finally, for the benefit of having the information in one place, can you quote the dimensions and weight of the unit?

thanks!
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#4 Steve Fracol SOC

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 12:04 AM

Sorry for the long post but this is worth sharing...

I managed to get a demo nanoFlash drive last month on a movie I did with the F23 in Baton Rouge. I found it to be a great asset for the most part for instant HD playback. Most excellent for double checking focus if we thought there was an issue and easy playback of rehearsals, etc. It does fall short in a few areas but not many. I decided to email them and let them know about my issues for our applications and I was so happy to get such a great response from Tommy one of their staff. He answered all of my questions immediately and also said they were already in the process of a firmware upgrade that fixed most of what I was not happy about.

I am happy to report that I ordered my nanoFlash this past Monday from Abel Cine and it arrived yesterday to my set while on location in the midwest. So far all is pretty good. There are still some minor issues that I am dealing with but I truly believe that you MUST have the recommended cards for their system and I believe that makes all the difference. Since it arrived on location I did not have time to get the exact cards specified (New cards are on order). Because of that I am having a few little hiccups from time to time but nothing major at all.

Here is the skinny of what I have been experiencing:

First of all you must realize that this device does not work in standard def. It is for HD use only. It will not take an NTSC composite feed (major bummer) which is what most of us are used to. So if your working with film it will only work if you have one of the new Panavision or Arri HD video assist systems (which I have not seen yet-but sounds cool). So obviously you must have an HDSDI monitor on your sled to use with it. I typically use my Tiffen-HDSDI/SD monitor in composite mode because I prefer to use my on screen level and frame-lines all the time. I hate not having my on screen level and I loose that when I am in HDSDI mode. But...having the ability to have instant playback in HD to check focus is very nice. My monitor actually has hot buttons so I can do the scene in NTSC composite with my on screen level and frame-lines then switch one button to HDSDI and look at playback instantly. It works pretty well. I have been impressed with the system although a bit much to digest at first. Once I got the hang of everything it was pretty easy.

As for the nanoFlash drive "good and bad" ... here is my opinion:

It is a simple single button record and single button playback for the last take you shot. It is fairly small and fits directly on my monitor rods in front of my monitor. (I will try to post a photo) It is fairly easy (but confusing at first) to scroll through the previous takes and once at the take you want you simply highlight it and hit the play button. Originally they did not have fast forward and pause but all that is good now with the latest firmware upgrade. It will take any HD signal it sees and you can record them as QT files which is really, really cool. Very simple indeed. Easy to move files from the cards to a hard drive, etc. The menu is quite easy to scroll through and navigate. Many, many options exist (way more than we need for our application) however I have already had some DIT's wanting to rent it for backup recordings... so I believe it will find a way to pay itself off eventually. One of the coolest things about this little device is that it has a hot trigger which means when time code is in record run and your assistant hits the record button on the Preston/Scorpio/Bartech, it instantly starts and stops this device. HOW FREAKING COOL IS THAT!!! I am truly bummed that it will not do that with time of day record which is what most of my HD work is all about...but I intend to speak with them about that as well. I am betting that one will not be resolved because of how TC works. Regardless, it is still a really cool feature to build into the system. I have heard that it locks out the panel as well but have not had time to test that yet. If it does that will be very unfortunate thus making that feature pointless to us for the most part as we need instant playback of course. That is the whole point of using this product. If sound is attached to the camera then the sound also makes it through the HDSDI to the cards. Pretty cool but not really necessary for our application. This unit cost just under 3 grand with a couple of Dtap to Hirose cables for power. I intend to also keep a tape based recorder around and an Archos 604 for NTSC film jobs. Good backup stuff as well.

The nanoFlash does have some issues as well...hopefully they will fix or address them for us.

First of all they shipped it to me with a note that said the on/off button was disabled. I am not sure why so the only way to power it off is to unplug it. Of course it is not a huge issue but I forget to unplug it when I am not working and during lunch so the unit ends up being on all day. It has a very low power draw...but I am sure that is just adding hours to it for no reason and that can't be good. I will be emailing them to find out what is up with that this week. One thing to be careful about is that you can't push to many buttons to fast, it freaks this thing out. They explain in the manual that it needs a few seconds (up to 5) to buffer or complete its record, etc. So I have found that if I am slow and patient the machine works very well. If I get in a hurry then I have to power down and re-start which takes a few seconds anyway. So it is best to just take a few seconds and push stop....then play. I still find this unit to be faster and better than a tape based system and way better than the Archos (especially for speed-although the Archos is pretty cool). The other issue is it would be really, really nice to have the ability to delete any highlighted take (file) as you go along. As of now the only way to delete files is to format the cards which removes everything. This is a ton of info going to the cards and for our application I don't need to keep any of the rehearsals, etc. I would rather just keep the buys and dump the rest of the takes, etc. But because that is not an option (yet anyway) you can fill your cards up pretty fast and that is a bunch of storage for no reason (for our application anyway). I typically managed to get a full day of shooting on 2-32 gig cards and 2-8 gig cards as backup. On this Sprint job I am currently on I have been able to get through both days only on 2-8 gig cards. Were not doing the typical volume of Steadicam that I am used to. The other bonehead thing that they did (not sure why yet) (sorry to call it a bonehead thing but at first glance that is what it seems like) was they decided to not use standard power pin config for the 4 pin hirose. They combine the wires and make a 2 wire connector out of the 4 wire but they did not use the traditional + and - pins, etc. A really bad idea I think. I am sure they will give me a good reason and I will feel like and idiot soon for saying this... Soooo - Sorry in advance...! They did make a big point of letting you know with the literature so that you don't damage this device or any other...but it is really easy for an assistant to plug the wrong hirose into this thing and blow it up or use this power cable for something else. That I think is unfortunate because some of us have many accessories that use the 4 pin hirose.

I was on the verge of buying a different brand standard def flashcard based recorder last year that cost 2,600. So far I am glad I waited for this thing to come out. This unit is about 2,850 + cables and I feel it is well worth it (down side is no ability to record composite video). You will spend another 500-700 on cards and probably another 300 or so on G-Raid drives or whatever your flavor of drive is (if you choose to store ftg) so it does add up quick.

Sorry for the long post (and any typos and spelling issues) but I really like this thing for the most part and I felt it was info worth sharing.

Best,

Fracol

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#5 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 03:13 AM

Do I understand correctly that when it is in the mode to accept an external trigger for rec/pause, the front keypad is locked out? Is there any kind of external wired remote that provides transport controls in this instance, or any other (i.e. what protocol is used for remote operation if any, what wired remotes will work with the system).

Currently, when using a remote control (external trigger), the record button is locked out. We do this so that if the unit is in a backpack, then any bumps will not cause inappropriate operations.

I will be happy to add a feature which the remote control can be used, and the front panel keys are still available. We can discuss this.

Please note that the remote control is designed to work well with a simple momentary push button, or camera remote controls.

If using a manual push buton, with tally light, one press to record, additional presses are for dividing long continuous shooting into logical takes, and one holds the button down for 1 second to stop recording.

For interfacing with a camera remote control or other devices, a simple, contact closure to record, no closure to stop recording, option is available.

Our nanoFlash has the ability to communicate RS-232 and RS-485. With simple adapters, RS-422 can be supported.

We are working on the protocol for working with various remote control devices.

Without resorting to using RS-232 and RS-485, we may be able to work out some remote controls for record, playback, and clip selection. We are currently working on a small wireless remote control which may meet your needs. This wireless remote control does not need light of sight to operate.

Our Remote Control connector also has the ability to use a Contact Closure for Recording, and has Tally Light signal which can directly drive an LED.

What are the steps required between record mode and playback (and vice versa)? For instance, when stopping a recording, can you hit play to playback that clip (and simply cycle backwards through the list for previous clips)?

After recording, one can hit the play key to immediately play back the last clip.

Then one can use the play key for play/pause, and fast forward.

While playing back, one can use the Left or Right Arrows to immediately jump to and immediately start playing other clips.

Is there any intention to offer the ability to record from and playback to an SD composite signal in a future upgrade, firmware or otherwise?

We are a customer driven company. We do our best to respond to our customer's requests and we have a proven track record of doing so.

While this is not in our current plans in seems obvious that we need to add this as soon as possible. We have discussed this internally and fully see the need for us to do this quickly.

Finally, for the benefit of having the information in one place, can you quote the dimensions and weight of the unit?


Size 4 7/8" high, 3 3/4" wide, 1 3/8" thick, weight 0.85 pounds, accepts 6.5 to 19.5 Volts DC.
If desired, a very thin, very flexible coax cable may be used so that the unit may be mounted remotely.

Charles, thank you for posting.
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#6 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 03:15 AM

Dear Fracol,

As it is very late, I hope you do not mind me answering you post, in detail, in the morning.
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#7 Steve Fracol SOC

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 07:56 AM

Dear Fracol,

As it is very late, I hope you do not mind me answering you post, in detail, in the morning.

No worries Dan. I just want to congratulate you for working for such a great company. Not vary many companies respond to our wishes the way yours has and in such a timely manner. I am very impressed and look forward to many years of using your products and hopefully improving them all along the way with input from many of the great operators on this forum! Keep up the good work and thanks for listening.

Steve
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#8 Charles Papert

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 10:39 AM

Dan, thank you for the information and fast reply.
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#9 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 18 December 2009 - 02:20 PM

Dear Steve,

I am embedding my answers in your original post.

There are still some minor issues that I am dealing with but I truly believe that you MUST have the recommended cards for their system and I believe that makes all the difference.


You make a great point. It is absolutely imperative to use one of our qualified CompactFlash cards.

We test and qualify lots of CompactFlash cards. One can not rely on the manufactuers stated speeds.
But, more importantly, each card has a certain personality. For example, we have to adjust our code to work differently when we use SanDisk cards, they work differently than some other cards.

To make this easy, we maintain a list of qualified cards on our website, www.Convergent-Design.com.

Yes, in some cases a non-qualified card will work.

First of all you must realize that this device does not work in standard def. It is for HD use only. It will not take an NTSC composite feed (major bummer) which is what most of us are used to.


The nanoFlash will record from, and playback to HD-SDI, SD-SDI and HDMI (HDMI must be HD, not SD at this time).

But, it does not have a Composite SD input, nor will it take a Component Input (HD or SD).
This may change in the future. We are considering an add-on module to accept these inputs.
And we see the need for SD output.

Please note that there are multiple ways to use the nanoFlash.

While Video Assist is one, the nanoFlash is actually capable of so much more.

The nanoFlash is currently being used as the primary recorder for a Sony F35, Steadicam mounted, to eliminate the weight of the SR recorder. This is for a high end television series. We understand production loves it.

It is capable of recording very high quality, or lower quality modes, if desired.

So, if you have an HD feed, then the nanoFlash can handle it and produce excellent quality images.
A $70,000,000 feature is using the nanoFlash, going filmout, and it intercuts well with the primary 35mm Panavision, according to the director of this film.

The nanoFlash is being used, and has been used for other feature films.

I am truly bummed that it will not do that with time of day record which is what most of my HD work is all about...but I intend to speak with them about that as well. I am betting that one will not be resolved because of how TC works.


We have a "Trigger on Incrementing Timecode" mode. Thus, when the camera rolls timecode, we record.
But, by the very nature of this, 24 Hour or continuous running timecode, is not appropriate.

Some cameras have a "Record Flag" built into the HD-SDI stream. As soon as we get the details of were this is located, we will be adding this Trigger Mode.

We are also working on a device to allow us to record when a tally light is lit.

Our simple, single button Remote Control, wired, with tally light, works well for some.

Currently, when one enables the Remote Control, we lock out the Record and Stop buttons. But the Play button is still active.
Locking out the Record and Stop buttons when using the remote control allows the unit to be placed in a backpack.

I have heard that it locks out the panel as well but have not had time to test that yet. If it does that will be very unfortunate thus making that feature pointless to us for the most part as we need instant playback of course.

The Play button is still active.

First of all they shipped it to me with a note that said the on/off button was disabled. I am not sure why so the only way to power it off is to unplug it.


This was done for reliablity reasons. We were having a small percentage of the power switches fail over time.
But even more importantly, this prevents a problem where an operator changes a battery, then fails to turn the nanoFlash back on.
This was our overridding reason for making the change. The possiblity of not recording, since the unit was powered off, while the operator thought it was on, is just too dangerous.

The nanoFlash has a Power Save feature. When enabled, the unit goes into a very low power mode when the HD-SDI signal is missing.
Thus, one can power off the camera, then the nanoFlash power's down, but powers back up when the HD-SDI signal returns. Even the smallest of batteries will power the unit for days in low-power mode.

One thing to be careful about is that you can't push to many buttons to fast, it freaks this thing out. They explain in the manual that it needs a few seconds (up to 5) to buffer or complete its record, etc. So I have found that if I am slow and patient the machine works very well.

True

The other issue is it would be really, really nice to have the ability to delete any highlighted take (file) as you go along.

This is planned for early 2010.

The other bonehead thing that they did (not sure why yet) (sorry to call it a bonehead thing but at first glance that is what it seems like) was they decided to not use standard power pin config for the 4 pin hirose.


Toshbia makes POV cameras, and uses the same connector, and the same power supply. They use this pin-out.
We felt that it would be possible for users to make a mistake and use our power supply on their camera, which may harm it, so we followed their pin-out.

Our unit is protected from reverse polarity. Note that our Power Input, on the nanoFlash is a male connector, not a female one. As such, it would be unlikely, but not inconceivable, for one to use our power supply, or cables incorrectly.

I hope this helps.
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#10 Steve Fracol SOC

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 01:55 AM

Thanks for all your answers Mr. Keaton. Again I am impressed with your answers. I look forward to your advances with the nanoFlash as you progress. The most important to me are the tally light record trigger and the ability to delete not wanted individual files while in the middle of shooting.

Her are some questions..., are you researching a new on/off button as a replacement or are all the new units going out without one? Should I assume that pulling the hirose on and off the unit 20 times a day will not do any damage to the unit other than the overuse of the connector or should I just leave it powered up in that low power mode and let it cook at the lower temp all day? I guess I could install a switch in-line on the power cord going to the unit. That would probably be best for now. Your thoughts?

Thanks again.

Steve Fracol
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#11 Markus Rave

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:29 AM

Dan,

I have been looking on your website but could not find detailed info about the audio embedded feature the nano flash offers. Could you please tell me how many channels of audio can be embedded and so recorded onto the card. Thank you.

Markus
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#12 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 02:23 PM

First of all they shipped it to me with a note that said the on/off button was disabled. I am not sure why so the only way to power it off is to unplug it.


This was done for reliablity reasons. We were having a small percentage of the power switches fail over time.
But even more importantly, this prevents a problem where an operator changes a battery, then fails to turn the nanoFlash back on.
This was our overridding reason for making the change. The possiblity of not recording, since the unit was powered off, while the operator thought it was on, is just too dangerous.

Can you make the unit default to on but still allow the button to turn the unit off and on? That seems like the best of both worlds because if you really want to turn it off you can but otherwise it will always be on.

~Jess
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#13 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:06 PM

Her are some questions..., are you researching a new on/off button as a replacement or are all the new units going out without one?

We have not found a more reliable power switch that fits. This is a special, very low profile switch. This prevents someone from accidently powering the unit off.

Should I assume that pulling the hirose on and off the unit 20 times a day will not do any damage to the unit other than the overuse of the connector or should I just leave it powered up in that low power mode and let it cook at the lower temp all day?

No, we do not want you to plug the power plug that often. The low power mode is 0.2 watts. It does not cook anything. Nor does it drain your battery. The battery drain, in low power mode, is .004 times the battery drain in normal mode. In general, this is almost insignificant.

I guess I could install a switch in-line on the power cord going to the unit. That would probably be best for now.

We are attempting to find an in-line slide switch that is reliable so we can build a short cable with a switch.

Please feel free to call me Dan.
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#14 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:17 PM

Dan,

I have been looking on your website but could not find detailed info about the audio embedded feature the nano flash offers. Could you please tell me how many channels of audio can be embedded and so recorded onto the card. Thank you.

Markus


Dear Markus,

At this point in time, we record a maximum of two channels of audio. This can be audio embedded in the HD-SDI or HDMI data streams, or via our external audio input, a single 3.5mm mini-jack.

External audio can be 1 channel balanced, mic or consumer line level, or
Two channels of unbalanced, mic or consumer line level.

Tape Out from a mixer goes nicely into our external audio input. And a mixer can provide multiple channels of balanced audio.

We are currently working on 8 channel audio. We may have this ready in January.

We are also working on the ability to add the two external audio inputs to the embedded audio.

We do not support phantom power, but a mixer can easily provide that.

All audio is recorded at 24-Bit/48K, including the analog audio inputs. This is good, clean audio.
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#15 Dan M. Keaton

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:33 PM

Can you make the unit default to on but still allow the button to turn the unit off and on? That seems like the best of both worlds because if you really want to turn it off you can but otherwise it will always be on.

~Jess

Yes, we can do this, but this requires a redesign of the nanoFlash's power supplies.

When we redesign it, we want to be able to have a menu based power options and a switch to power it on and off. Our current design requires a pulse (momentary switch closure) to turn it on or off.

We did not make this change lightly. Leaving it powered on as long as a battery or AC power is connected, is not causing a problem in the field.

My personal tests have shown that our smallest battery, a small 2-cell Lithium-Ion battery that powers the nanoFlash for over 3 hours, will power the unit, in low power mode, for days. I tested it and gave up after 4 days, there was still lots of power in the battery.

A Dionic 90 will power the nanoFlash, in low power mode, for 450 hours or so, or over 18 days.


Note: we can build the nanoFlashes with the power switch or without on a custom basis. We recommend automatic power on.
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