Tough Enough?

One problem with tapeless field acquisition is that of data management. Currently, Flash memory (SDHC, P2, SxS) is still too expensive to be used like videotape, so that video has to go somewhere else so the camera can keep rolling. By far the best deal per gigabyte is found on hard drives, but hard drives are fragile, mechanical devices that are designed to be shielded from the elements. Maxell hopes to change your perception about just how much a hard drive can be abused, by introducing the iVDR-Xtreme hard drive system.

iVDR (Information Versatile Disk for Removable usage) is a standard you may not be too familiar with (it’s mostly been adopted in Japan), but it has some major consumer electronics companies on board. Hitachi, Canon, Pioneer, Sharp, Seagate and JVC are all members. iVDR is essentially a hard-drive-in-a-cartridge format that can be moved between video devices interchangeably. It’s mostly focused on consumer video – such as, recording a favorite TV show on your PVR. You could take your iVDR cartridge to your friend’s house and plug it in to the iVDR slot on his TV to watch it.

Maxell took this idea one step further. What if we took the iVDR cartridge, ruggedized it, upped the specs and sold it to video pros as a low-cost and reliable way to store all the data coming off of those Flash memory cards? They have engineered a hard drive for the field.

Maxell iVDR-X Field Tough Media

(Note: This review is based on a pre-production evaluation sample. By the time you read this, it should be for sale.) The hard drive specs themselves are similar to what you would find in a normal 2.5-inch portable hard drive. The capacity of the iVDR-X cartridge is 250GB, it has a spindle speed of 5400 rpm and an 8MB cache, but that’s where the similarity really ends.

The key to the iVDR system is the dock and cartridge format. The docking station is a compact sled that contains the iVDR cartridge slot on the inside, and has USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 connectors on the outside for interfacing with computers and camcorders. The device is bus-powered over FireWire, so you can simply connect it to your battery-powered laptop and be up and running without needing to plug into a wall socket, unless you want to use the USB 2.0 connection – then you’ll need to use the supplied AC adaptor.)

Each iVDR-X cartridge consists solely of the hard drive and the iVDR connector. The case is only five inches long, three inches wide and 1.5 inches thick. The whole cartridge weighs only 6.1 oz., making it easy to keep in your shirt pocket or gear bag. Each cartridge comes with a hard plastic case.

The iVDR-X is designed to be field storage for offloading clips shot on Flash-based camcorders. We tested it with a Panasonic P2 card recorded with the AG-HPX170 and an Apple PowerBook G4. The optimal setup for this workflow is to insert the P2 card directly into the laptop, connect the iVDR-X to the computer and offload the data from the P2 onto the iVDR-X cartridge. The transfer results for a full 16GB P2 card to the iVDR are below:

  • FireWire 400 – 11:49
  • FireWire 800 – 11:21
  • USB 2.0 – 27:31

From the above tests, you can see that the P2 to iVDR system offloads video significantly faster via FireWire than USB 2.0. The capacity of each cartridge is 250GB, and, at about 1GB/minute at the highest quality in DVCPRO HD, each disk can hold over four hours of video.

The HPX170 has a FireWire host mode that lets you connect the camcorder directly to the iVDR and offload the P2 card without a computer. However, since the HPX170 doesn’t deliver bus power, you will need to connect the iVDR to a wall outlet, limiting its use in the field. (On the demo iVDR-X unit we had, this functionality wasn’t enabled, but Maxell ensured it would be in production units.)

Ruggedization

The real story with the iVDR-X, though, is not that it’s another bus-powered hard drive, but a bus-powered hard drive that can handle some abuse. The package came with an enticing set of military specs that the drive conformed to, such as being drop-resistant to 4.6 feet onto plywood on top of concrete. But rather than just report that, I actually did it – I dropped the drive, full of data, from about chest height onto a piece of plywood over concrete, as suggested. I brought it back in, fired it up and edited away without a hiccup.

I then turned my attention to the temperature specs: 0 degrees to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t have time to bake it, but I put the iVDR-X in the freezer for about two hours. I then connected it to my laptop via FireWire while it was still in the freezer and dumped the contents of a full 16GB P2 card onto it. Again, it popped right up and performed without a hitch.

There are other specs you can try yourself, such as a 95% humidity limit, an altitude limit of 10,000 ft. and specs for operating in free fall and other common field conditions you could conceivably find yourself in.

Maxell’s iVDR-X system fills a much-needed niche in today’s digital acquisition workflow: high-speed, high-capacity and affordable storage that you can take out in the field. You still want to finally transfer your footage to a redundant storage solution like a RAID 1 or RAID 5, but the extensive ruggedization that Maxell has put into the iVDR-X system should help you worry a little less about transferring your video from place to place.

TECH SPECS

Capacity: 250GB

Interface: FireWire 800, USB 2.0

Spindle Speed: 5400 rpm

Cache: 8MB

Dimensions: 5″ x 3″ x 1.5″

Weight: 6.1 oz.

Power: Bus Powered (FireWire 800), 5v DC

Strengths

  • Rugged
  • Fast
  • High Capacity

Weaknesses

  • Optional battery power would be nice.

SUMMARY

Maxell’s iVDR-X field hard drive system emphasizes the physical protection of your digital assets.

John Burkhart is Videomaker‘s Editor in Chief.

Maxell Corporation of America

22-08 State Rt. 208

Fair Lawn, NJ 07410

www.maxell-usa.com

Price: $349

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