As part of my AV role within the EEC, I shoot and edit quite a bit of video. Currently most of the video we shoot is covering meetings between customers and product groups. We'll shoot using two cameras and the meeting will last about an hour. After the meeting, I need to load the video onto the computer for editing. Two cameras with an hour of tape each translates into two hours of uploading video.
Even worse is when the meetings go over an hour. Now I have more than two hours of tape and each tape has a gap of about 60 seconds, the length of time it took to change the tape.
A new product from MCE Technologies brings some relief to both of these problems. The QuickStreamDV is basically a small battery powered firewire hard drive with some electronics to handle taking the video stream and writing it. Charge it up, plug it into the firewire port of the camera and you can record simultaneously to tape and the hard drive. Finish recording, unplug from camera and plug into hour of video now takes about 10 minutes to move over. The unit that we bought initially for the EEC is a 3.5 hour one, so if a meeting goes over, there will be a gap on the tape but not on the QuickStreamDV drive.
On to the review…
We ordered the unit several weeks ago. At the time the web site indicated that the item was on back order and we should expect it in 10-15 days. It took a bit longer than that and we had a few interesting phone calls checking on its status. Yesterday the unit arrived. No time to play with it yesterday, but today I ran it through a quick few tests.
From a standpoint of “does it solve the need I bought it for?” the QuickStreamDV passes. Once you charge it up and set the file format, it’s basically plug and play. It recorded the video with no problems and moving the resulting AVI’s to the computer took about 12-13 seconds for 380MB worth of footage.
The drive comes with both a 6-pin to 6-pin (drive to computer) and a 6-pin to 4-pin (drive to camera) firewire cable, so I didn’t have to go looking for cables. The 6-6 cable could be a bit longer, but the 6-4 is the perfect length for using with the camera.
On the down side…
The unit needs a bit of polish. The included hot shoe adapter is of marginal quality and the shoe portion is too thick to use on my Canon XL1s (the camera that they show in their marketing shots). I suspect a bit of time on the grinder will fix that, if not, the drive has a standard 1/4-20 socket, so I should be able to pick up a replacement for cheap.
The manual is poor. It looks like it was written by a developer. Anyone that was using a computer 12-15 years ago knows what I mean. It is basically a dump of instructions with no index and little order. The manual looks like it has been printed on an ink-jet and written by one of the engineers. Hopefully, as the product matures, so will the manual. While the rest of the world may never read these things, photographers (and most videographers started with photography) have learned to read and re-read manuals to get the most out of their equipment.
I haven’t found an indication on its support of the second stereo channel (12-bit audio recording for the Mini-DV folks out there). The EEC AV team uses this extensively to capture the sound from the two wireless microphones we use, so while not critical, it’s important for us. It may very well do this (haven’t done the test yet), but with the lack of a good manual, it’s something I will just have to test to find out.
The bottom line…
QuickStreamDV is the first product of its type that is priced such that “regular folks” can consider purchasing it. There have been other entries in this space for years, but the starting prices were triple or more the cost of the QuickStreamDV. It will definitely save me time (back of the envelope numbers indicate that it will pay for itself after about 20 hours worth of footage loaded, and that doesn’t consider that it will boost quality by “fixing” tape changes).
So, while I wouldn’t recommend it for someone that is technically challenged, it’s probably not a bad choice for someone who already knows his way around a Mini-DV camera.