Test Bench: Shining Technology CitiDISK FW1256B-40 External Hard Disk

Capturing video to a hard disk is everyone’s least favorite editing task: it’s time consuming, boring and, in the old days, was the most problematic aspect of video editing. The CitiDISK DV will capture DV straight to disk from your camcorder. Anyone who edits on a laptop in the field will find this external hard disk a useful production tool.

Is That a PDA?

The CitiDISK DV is basically a FireWire controller board, Lithium Ion rechargeable battery and a 2.5-inch laptop hard drive enclosed in a slick plastic case that’s about the size of a thick PDA. There are a couple of buttons (that also serve as indicator lights) up top and a 6-pin FireWire port. The unit slides into a faux-leather carrying case that straps onto your belt.

The drive itself is a simple 5,400 rpm laptop drive that theoretically has a 12 Mbyte/second sustained data rate, which is more than enough for 3.6 Mbyte/second (25 Mbps) DV video. Our unit was the FW1256B-40, which is a 40GB drive that pragmatically holds close to 3 hours of DV footage.

In the Field: Shooting

We charged up the battery, strapped the drive on and hooked it up to our camcorder. After turning the unit on, all we had to do to capture DV video to the disk was push the record button on the top of the drive. Not difficult, but also not very convenient, since we had to look down at the drive to find the button. This may not seem like a big deal, but when you record video, you need to look into the eyepiece. The other problem is that the clips do not have time code.

The camcorder can trigger the CitiDISK, which immediately became our preferred method of using the drive. In this mode, when we thumbed the Record button on the camcorder, the CitiDISK also began recording to the disk (with time code). We say "also" because your camcorder’s Record button won’t do anything without a tape inserted. Recording to tape and disk at the same time seems to defeat the whole purpose of recording straight to hard disk. It also seems to be redundant.

And it is: but this is a good thing. With the CitiDISK you have an ultra-reliable and redundant recording system. After a shoot, you have a full hard disk, with ready to edit clips and an archive tape, ready for permanent storage. Another option is to just keep recording over the same tape, but that’s up to you.

In the Field: Editing

After we shot for a few hours, we filled up the drive and were ready to edit. The battery was still strong, so we simply connected the drive to our laptop via FireWire, ran our editing software and then we were editing. That’s it. The drive can be configured to store your DV footage in a number of formats, including Windows AVI, Canopus AVI and Apple QT.

Fast Enough

We didn’t have any failures and the drive did not drop frames, but this is not the fastest drive around. Still, we transferred an hour of DV footage to our main (7,200 rpm) video hard disk in a little over 12 minutes. The drive is ideal if you need to edit on your laptop in the field.

TECH SPECS

Platform: PC or Mac

Operating System: Win 98SE/2000/XP, Mac OS 9.2/X or Linux

Default Format: FAT32

Interface: FireWire

Sustained Data Rate: 12 Mbytes/sec

Dimensions (mm): 77 x 135 x 24

Weight: 8.7 oz

Drive Specs

Capacity: 40GB

Speed: 5,400 rpm

STRENGTHS

  • Ultra portable
  • Flexible connectivity
  • One-button easy

WEAKNESSES

  • Must also record to tape

SUMMARY

  • A tiny, light, straight-to-disk DV capture solution, ideal for editing in the field.

$699

Shining Technology, Inc.

10533 Progress Way #C

Cypress, CA 90630

(714) 761-9598

www.shining.com

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