Videonics FireStore Camera-to-Hard Disk Recorder Review

Once you’ve accomplished a perfect shoot, you’ll face many labor-intensive hours back at the editing suite logging and then digitizing the footage to your computer’s hard disk drive (HDD) before you can begin to edit your project. FireStore from Videonics, who recently merged with FOCUS Enhancements, allows you to copy DV video from the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) output of your DV camcorder or VCR to virtually any FireWire hard disk drive. All this can be done using familiar VCR-type transport controls and, most importantly, without a computer. The FireStore is, essentially, a DV hard disk recorder.

Aimed at anyone with a tight production schedule, the FireStore looks like a small VCR (6-inches-wide by 2.75-inches-high). It ships with two heavy-duty FireWire cables (one 4-pin to 4-pin and one 4-pin to 6-pin) to cover any connection needs. Videonics also offers a new FireStore Starter Kit ($349) that includes a pre-formatted LaCie PocketDrive FireWire hard drive. The FireStore has the ability to daisy chain multiple FireWire hard drives for even more storage.

Good to Go

Once at the computer, we simply hooked up the FireStore and the FireWire hard drives and were ready to go. When we were ready to edit our video clips, we could cable the FireWire disk drive directly to our computer or use the bypass mode, which allowed the hard drive to connect to the computer through FireStore. The controls, which we found to be very responsive, functioned much like those found on a VCR and included Play, Reverse Play, Stop, Fast Forward, Rewind, Single Frame Forward and Backward, Next Track or Previous Track. A Utility feature allowed us to delete a track, check a disk and even format a hard disk. A reasonably large LCD window displayed unit status, time code, etc. There was also a rock-solid still frame and a variable speed and direction playback.

FireStore requires that you format a FireWire hard drive as a FAT-32 device. But the FireWire hard drive included with the FireStore Starter Kit ($349) is pre-formatted, so you should be up and running in less than five minutes if you buy this option. FireStore creates 2GB files with commonly named and numbered files: (mus.01, mus.02, etc.). These individual files then seamlessly join, via a small index file. You view them in the editing environment as a single large file.

We were not able to hot-swap FireWire hard drives on and off of our Windows test machine, but we were able to do so on a Mac G4 system. We liked the HDD selection button for multiple attached FireWire disks, but we would have liked to see the on/off power switch on the front of the unit, instead of hidden away on the back. Power is supplied to the device via an AC/DC power converter and, unfortunately, there is no option to use batteries as a portable power source.

We tested footage laid down with FireStore to the LaCie FireWire hard disk drive with several editing software applications. They included Apple Final Cut Pro and iMovie, Adobe Premiere and Ulead Media Studio Pro, on PCs running Windows 98SE and Windows 2000 and a Mac running OS 9.1 (FireStore should also support OS X by the time you read this).

We had sporadic problems in which the Windows editing applications would not recognize the files on the drive. When this happened, it affected only the most recently created file. The solution was to hit Record again (just for a second) and create a new last file. We can only speculate on the cause of this, but only occasionally encountered this problem.

HDD Live!

It was great to be able to go directly from shoot to edit without having to go through the capturing hassle, but you can get even more streamlined and record straight to the hard drive while you shoot. We put the FireStore into a FireWire slave mode, which meant that every time we pressed Record on the camcorder, FireStore started recording to the hard drive. When we pressed Pause, it paused as well. When we started recording our next clip, it automatically created a new file on the disk. We made note of the takes we liked, and easily accessed these already digitized clips when we moved to the edit bay.

The revolutionary potential for this technology may be in almost-live field applications. With careful planning and some good, ready-to-fill templates in your editing environment, the turnaround from shoot to distribution could be significantly cut.


Good-Bye Capture

As the first product that allows direct camera-to-hard disk recording of edit-ready DV files without the use of a computer, FireStore works solidly as advertised. For anyone with a very tight production schedule, this product can save you a precious hour (at a minimum). If you want to keep your camera shooting, your computer free and need an instant digital back-up, FireStore acts as a cost-effective digital tape deck.

TECH SPECS

System Requirements

Platform: PC and Mac

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 98SE, 2000 or Mac OS 9.1

Hard Disk Required: IEEE 1394 hard disk drive

Ports: 1 x 4-pin IEEE 1394 (camera – FireStore)

2 x 6-pin IEEE 1394 (FireStore – Computer/ FireStore – HDD)

Dimensions: 6 (w) x 2.75 (h) x 8.5 (d) inches

Weight: 3.51 lbs.

STRENGTHS

  • Mini DV Camcorder to HDD without a computer
  • Real-time DV-to-HDD capture
  • Instant editing access to footage

WEAKNESSES

  • Only compatible with external FireWire HDDs
  • No battery operation

SUMMARY

The first real-time DV-to-hard-drive recorder/player provides instant editing access to acquired footage. It saves time and provides digital back-up on portable FireWire hard drives.

$995

FOCUS Enhancements Inc.

1370 Dell Avenue

Campbell, CA 95008

(800) 338-3348

www.focusinfo.com

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