Vision Unlimited/LA News

What size P2 cards?

by on Jun.29, 2009, under Opinion, Panasonic, Tech Notes

Sorry that i have been out of pocket for a couple of months. Things have been crazy here.

Recently, someone asked me what size P2 cards that he should get for his P2 camera. With the new, cheaper, larger cards coming out, the answer is not necessarily the same as it was in the past. Most people would have said, “As big as you can afford.” The answer may be more complicated now. (No, these days, answers seldom get simpler.) He also asked what type of devices were best for transferring P2 cards in the field.

I believe the decision of what size cards to buy should be driven by your expected workflow in the field, so i would deal with the last question first.

There are several approaches to transfer of data from cards, driven by how much you intend to spend for a system and by how many people you expect to have on a P2 shoot.

One way is to have a laptop with a CardBus slot available and have someone transfer cards to hard drives (preferably mirrored hard drives) while the shoot is progressing. CardBus slots are becoming rare so this would probably be a machine that you already have, or you might want to buy an external P2 Drive (PCD20) to handle multiple cards. The P2 Drive with transfer software allows someone to start a batch transfer with several cards and allow it to proceed unattended. The older PCD10 only has a USB2 port but the PCD20 has both IEEE1394 (Firewire) and USB2.

Another way is to use a dedicated machine like a P2 Gear (HPG10) or P2 Portable (HPG20) to transfer cards manually to a hard drive. This gives you a smaller profile in the field, and gives you a separate HD playback station for continuity or script to review takes on a real HD monitor before the cards are erased to recycle. It still allows you to mirror drives if you use a drive enclosure that handles mirroring outside the P2 hardware. This approach transfers one card at a time and does not allow the use of transfer software to optimize the transfer using metadata or add verification to the transfer process.

A variation of the second approach uses the more expensive P2 Mobile (HPM110), which has a larger LCD monitor, six P2 card slots and which can do other things, like support conversion of HDX900 or off-speed Varicam playback to editable clips by removing duplicate frames.

The final approach is to have enough cards to not transfer in the field but to do the transfers at the end of the day in a hotel room or back at the studio.

Once you make the workflow decision, then you should choose the size cards that support that approach. Several smaller cards will allow you to start transferring quicker in the field if that is your approach. Larger cards might end up being cheaper if you want to pile up clips and transfer all at the end of the day.

The new, E-series cards have an estimated 5-year life, based on normal usage, rather about a 10-year life for the older ones, but the new ones are cheaper. At the rate of chip advances, you may want to get new, even cheaper cards in five years, anyway.


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