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MEDIA FORMAT and MEDIA EMPTY operations with the HXR-NX5

April 12, 2010

Hi All

You need to reformat the NX5’s media in order to reuse it — this, in effect, erases previously recorded data (footage) so you can record over it.

There are two ways of reformatting (‘erasing’) media in the NX5:

1) MEDIA FORMAT, which, as I understand it, does not actually erase most of the data on the media, just the little bits of data that mark where actual image/audio data is situated on the media. This means that the camera or other device (such as a computer) cannot ‘see’ where the image/audio data is, so it is as if it does not exist, and can be recorded over with new data. (This is why one can actually often recover information on discs or memory cards that have been ‘erased’, because all that has been erased is the ‘in’ and ‘out’ points of files, not the actual files themselves.)

2) MEDIA EMPTY. This operation overwrites all the existing data on the media with a stream of randomly-generated ‘nonsense’ data, in other words it obliterates not only the information indicating where image/audio data is stored, but all the image/audio data itself, too. Once one has performed a MEDIA EMPTY operation on media, no footage can be recovered.

A MEDIA FORMAT operation is far quicker than a MEDIA EMPTY operation, because the former requires much less work — typically, on the NX5, a minute or two versus half an hour to an hour for a big SD card.

So, if a MEDIA FORMAT takes much less time than a MEDIA EMPTY operation, and achieves effectively the same results in terms of ‘erasing’ my media for re-use, why ever perform a MEDIA EMPTY operation? A couple of reasons come to mind:

i) You might want to irrecoverably obliterate all trace of certain footage.

ii) You might want to obliterate all corrupt data (perhaps the result of unplanned camera shutdowns during shooting, for example when the power gets cut in the middle of shooting a clip) that can potentially cause read/write problems or even camera malfunction. (One of the theories to explain the dreaded ‘buffer overflow’ problem with the NX5 is that it is caused by corruptions in the recording media). Therefore performing regular MEDIA EMPTY operations on one’s media can be seen as part of good media maintenance — especially after you have experienced unplanned shutdowns.

How to perform a MEDIA EMPTY operation (see page 65 & 66 of the camera manual):

1) Attach the camera to a mains power supply and turn it on.
2) Press one of the MODE buttons.
3) Choose MANAGE MEDIA > MEDIA FORMAT via the touchscreen or buttons/thumbwheel.
4) Choose the media to be formatted (card A or B or the FMU, if attached).
5) Press and hold the STOP button on the top control panel for at least 3 seconds – this will cause the MEDIA EMPTY screen to appear.
6) Follow the prompts YES > YES > OK.
7) The MEDIA EMPTY operation will then commence. This can take a long time (over an hour) with a full FMU128.

NOTE: You have to attach the camera to a mains power supply when performing a MEDIA EMPTY operation – the camera will simply not give you the option to do it when running on battery power. This is presumably because MEDIA EMPTY operations can take a long time, and if the power is cut during this time, the camera has to start the operation over at the beginning again, it can’t just pick up where it left off. Sony presumably thinks that users will often not have enough battery power to complete the operation, but for people like me who work a lot in Africa a fully charged battery can be a much more reliable power supply than the mains in many countries with poor infrastructure. I think this should be addressed in a firmware update — we don’t need to be prevented from doing MEDIA EMPTY operations on battery power, we just need a warning to use a fully charged battery.

I’ve noticed that MEDIA EMPTY operations on the Sony 16GB MemoryStick PRO HG Duo that I use go a lot faster than on similar-sized SDHC cards, even very fast SDHC cards. I’m not sure why this is, as they go so quickly that it seems impossible that all the data on the card is actually being overwritten, but I have been unable to recover any data from the MemoryStick after running a MEDIA EMPTY operation with SanDISK Recovery Pro so it seems that large chunks at least have been eliminated. (SanDISK Recovery Pro is a very useful piece of free software that comes with SanDISK SDHC cards and which will usually recover all files from a card that has been ‘erased’ with a MEDIA FORMAT operation.)

Cheers

Adam

Very short low battery warning on Sony HXR-NX5U with NP-F970 and NP-F770 batteries

March 21, 2010

Hi All

I usually don’t let batteries run completely flat on the camera while shooting, but a few days ago I noticed a low battery warning on my NXCAM.

I assumed that I would get perhaps fifteen more minutes shooting and another warning before the battery actually died, but within about a minute of getting the warning, in the middle of a clip, I had a complete unplanned shutdown. The battery was a 6 week-old Sony NP-F970 InfoLITHIUM battery that had been fully charged on a Sony charger the evening before.

When I fitted a full battery and restarted the camera, the normal clip recovery screens appeared, with the option to recover the interrupted clip first to the SD card, and then to the FMU (I was shooting 1080/25p FX footage to both simultaneously).

However, the clip was NOT recovered to either storage medium.

This is the first and only time I have run a battery flat in the camera, but it worries me that

a) the warning time given is so short

and

b) the clip interrupted by a battery running flat was NOT recovered.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: In order to see if the short battery warning I obtained once when shooting with the NP-F970 was an anomaly, I inserted the (fully charged) NP-F770 battery that came bundled with my NX5U with the aim of shooting until it went flat to monitor performance.

I removed the FMU128 unit and shot 1080/25p FX footage on to a blank 16GB SanDisk Extreme Class 10 card. At the beginning of shooting the camera’s LCD told me I had 95 minutes of battery power remaining at that rate of use (the blank card had space for 85 minutes worth of footage). After about an hour of almost continuous random shooting (two long clips and three short ones) the card showed that it had 24 minutes of footage remaining, and the battery 25 — the battery meter had thus over-estimated remaining battery power by about 9 minutes at the start of shooting.

However, a low battery warning suddenly appeared at that point and the camera shut down within about 5 SECONDS of it appearing — in other words, it went from showing 25 minutes of battery power remaining to turning itself off in a matter of seconds.

This time, unlike with the NP-F970, the clip that was interrupted by the battery going flat was present on the camera media when I started up.

This is pretty worrying — Sony’s InfoLITHIUM batteries are meant to give extremely accurate information on remaining capacity to the camera. Maybe the NX5U is not properly calibrated to use this information properly?

I would appreciate comments from other NXCAM users who have run a battery flat while shooting.

Cheers

Adam

Sound monitoring on a budget for the NXCAM

March 7, 2010

Hi All

the NXCAM does not come with any headphones to monitor audio while you’re shooting. It does have a stereo minijack output near the back of the camera, and because audio is in some ways more important than the pictures you’re making, you want to monitor while you shoot!

If you’re on a budget, like I am, I recommend checking out Sennheiser HD 202 headphones. They’re tough, cheap (about $20 in the US) and have pretty good insulation against surrounding noise. The actual ‘cans’ can pop off the headband and be popped back on again if you have to jam them into a small space for transport.

The only downside of the 202s are that they’re designed for DJs and so have crazy long cabling attached. Get it shortened and get a strong right-angled stereo minijack male plug put on — this is less likely to break than a straight plug. (You can do this yourself if you’re handy with basic wiring stuff and have access to parts.)

Cheers

Adam

fluffy / furry windshield for Sony ECM-XM1 mic

March 3, 2010

Hi All

the HXR-NX5 cam comes with a Sony ECM-XM1 short directional microphone.

It’s actually not a bad mic, but its only windshielding is a foam cover doodad. I wanted a furry cover to cut back more on wind noise, but it seems that Sony does not make one.

All is not lost, however. On the lower floor of B&H I discovered the WindTech Mic-Muff Microphone Windshield model MM-5 which, with a bit of fiddling, slides over the Sony’s foam windshield to add a breeze-busting layer of (synthetic) fur. The MM-5 was designed for the kit mic that came with an earlier generation of small Sony cams, but it fits OK on the ECM-XM1 once you get the velcro bits lined up and just up out of the way of the rubber collar at the base of the mic.

You should, however, trim some of the fur on the downward side near the tip of the mic or you will see it in the top right of your frame when the lens is zoomed out to its widest setting.

Cheers

Adam

LCD screen / monitor hood for HXR-NX5

March 3, 2010

Hi All

So, anyone who’s ever tried to film outdoors using the flip-out screen on a camcorder learns pretty fast that a hood to shade it is a must-have when it’s bright and sunny.

The screen on the NX5 is the same as the screen on the HVR-Z5 series (and a few other cams besides) and I found a few places on the web recommending the Hoodman H-400 hood for these models. I tried one out and, well, sadly it was no good. The H-400 is actually too large for the NX5 and kept slipping off.

The only realistic option that I found was the Sony SHL-32W LCD Hood which was designed exactly for the flip-out screen used on the NX5. It’s more expensive than the Hoodman (ridiculously expensive, actually) and a little flimsy, but it works. It fits without falling off, shades the screen OK and can even stay on the camera when you pack it away with the hood folded back and the LCD screen clicked into the ‘closed’ position but with the screen facing up, not down as one would normally do when putting the cam away.

So, don’t bother with the Hoodman H-400 for this cam. Until someone else comes along with a better hood, stump up for the Sony one.

Cheers

Adam

useful overview document on HXR-NX5

February 27, 2010

Hi All

found this PDF for Sony specialist dealers this morning.

http://www.wtsbroadcast.com/shopfiles/product/prod19348/hxr-nx5elaunchpresentationv1.pdf

It gives a very useful overview of the camera plus comparisons with similar cams and also quite a bit of useful info on the editing end of things.

Worth a look-over if you’re thinking of buying an NXCAM.

Cheers

Adam

quick notes on NX5 onboard mics and supplied ECM-XM1 mic / audio

February 25, 2010

Hi All

The built-in stereo mics on the front of the NX5 are manually controllable and actually very useful for recording ambient sound, especially for b-roll/cutaway footage. They are, however, very sensitive to handling and camera noise. In very quiet situations they (annoyingly) pick up subtle grinding/crackling sounds from the image stabiliser, so you’re going to want to turn that off when shooting in very quiet places and using these mics (MENU > CAMERA SET > STEADYSHOT > OFF).

They are sadly very vulnerable to wind noise, and I’ve yet to find a good commercial windshield for them (they are virtually identical to the onboard mics of the Sony HVR-Z5-series, so if anyone has found a solution for that camera, let’s hear it! Leave a comment on this post). There is a wind noise reduction option under MENU > AUDIO SET > INT MIC SET > INT MIC WIND but I’ve not used it yet as I’m generally very suspicious of the quality of these types of solutions.

They built in mics also (more strongly) pick up whining noises from the lens zoom motor, which is impossible to avoid unless you don’t zoom during a scene as the motor shifts the lens even when using the manual zoom ring on the lens barrel. The faster you zoom, the louder the whine.

This zoom motor whine is also picked up by the supplied ECM-XM1 short directional mic when clamped normally in the microphone holder (the ECM-XM1 does not, however, seem to pick up image stabiliser noises, even in very quiet situations).

Sony has thoughtfully provided a zoom speed limiter that governs the zoom rocker switch to keep this sound down. You’ll find an option to override this limiter under MENU > CAMERA SET > SPEED ZOOM; by setting SPEED ZOOM to YES you’ll increase the zoom speed when using the zoom rocker control, but the motor noise is notably higher. Zooming very fast with the manual lens ring can also cause relatively loud motor whine and the rocker speed limiter does not seem to control this — if you practice turning the manual zoom ring at moderate speed you’ll achieve more control and less whine.

Of course, if you mount the ECM-XM1 or other directional mic on a well-damped shockmount fixed into one of the coldshoes on the camera’s top surface you’ll cut down the zoom motor whine and handling noise relative to having it clamped int the microphone holder. This can get unwieldy, but it’s often worth it for great sound. I’ll write more about my solutions in another post.

Cheers

Adam