A firmware bug has been identified with the Sony AXS-AR1 AXS and SXS card reader that can result in the corruption of the data on a card when performing concurrent data reads. To ensure this does not happen you should update the firmware of your AXS-AR1 immediately.
For more information please see the post linked below on the the official Sony Cine website where you will find instructions on how to perform the update and where to download the necessary update files.
It has come to my attention that there was a bug in Windows 10 a couple of years ago that could cause some very big problems. The bug was patched by Microsoft so provided the computer is up to date this should not be a problem. But there are other things that can cause a card to become corrupted or un-readable before you have had a chance to make a copy of your files.
With the problem release of Windows 10, when you connected removable media to the computer that contained audio files the computer would attempt to encrypt the card. When you try to browse to the files instead of being able to open the files they will show up as files with a size of 0 Bytes and you won’t be able to do anything with them on any computer. But, as I said this issue was fixed some time ago. So provided the computer has been kept up to date this should no longer be an issue. So make sure your computer is up to date!
But it is also worth noting that Windows 10 includes an encryption app called BitLocker. If this is a accidentally used on any of your removable media it will make that media impossible to read on any other device and the files will appear to be 0 Bytes long until the media is unlocked.
In addition there have been problems with the drivers for some card readers that have led to the corruption of SD cards. So make sure your drivers are up to date and do some test transfers before plugging in a card with anything important on it.
Use the write protect tab on SxS and SD cards.
If you are using SxS cards or SD cards, the cards have a write protect tab. If you lock the card before connecting it to the computer it will prevent the computer from writing to the card and this will protect your media from corruption. You should always do this if you can and then verify your copies, preferably including clip playback as one of your copy checks. Ideally you should use dedicated backup software such as Hedge or Shot Put Pro to do verified copies and transfers. Sony’s Catalyst Prepare can also copy clips with checksum verification.
Following a series of recent discussions about whether or not it was possible to recover files from XQD cards that have been formatted by mistake I have obtained some clarification from Sony of what can or can’t be done.
This information is specifically for XQD cards and the PXW-FS7 but probably applies to most Sony cameras and also SxS media. I’m not sure about SD cards.
The bottom line is that if you format the card in the camera you will not be able to recover any previously shot material. An in-camera format completely erases everything on the card. This is done to ensure that material shot on the cards cannot be recovered by another production company in the case of card or camera rentals. So there is no point in attempting any form of data recovery on a card formatted in the camera as there is nothing recoverable left on the card.
Formatted by a computer:
When you format a card with a computer it is possible that the material will still be on the card. However different operating systems handle the formatting of the cards differently, so there is no guarantee that the data will be recoverable and often it won’t be recoverable. For very important material it may be worth attempting to recover the card. Sony may be able to assist with this in some cases.
Clips deleted from a card can typically be recovered provided they have not be recorded over by a later recording. Again Sony may be able to assist with this.
Delete or Format?
Based on this new information from Sony I may be adjusting my workflow. My own workflow has always been to off-load material from a card. Then to do a parity check to compare the original files on the card and what is now on the hard drives. This checks not just the file size but also the general structure of the files so should pick up most problems with any copies. My last check is then to skim through the files with Catalyst Browse or my edit application to make sure the clips are there and playable. Only then do I format a card. In light of this new information I may use my computer to delete the clips from a card rather than format it. Of course this will only ever offer some benefit if the card is not recorded on again causing the previous files to be over written, but it might add an extra chance of data recovery should the backups get lost or some other disaster occur. From time to time I would format the cards in camera as this helps keep the cards in the best possible condition.
Any of the Sony cameras that use SxS or XQD cards include a media check and media restore function that is designed to detect any problems with your recording media or the files stored on that media.
However the media check is only normally performed when you insert a card into the camera, it is not done when you eject a card as the camera never knows when you are about to do that.
So my advice is: When you want to remove the card to offload your footage ensure you have a green light next to the card, this means it should be safe to remove. Pop the card out as you would do normally but then re-insert the card and wait for the light to go from red, back to green. Check the LCD/VF for any messages, if there are no messages, take the card out and do your offload as normal.
Why? Every time you put an XQD or SxS card into the camera the card and files stored on it are checked for any signs of any issues. If there is a problem the camera will give you a “Restore Media” warning. If you see this warning always select OK and allow the camera to repair whatever the problem is. If you don’t restore the media and you then make a copy from the card, any copy you make will also be corrupt and the files may be inaccessible.
Once the files have been copied from the card it is no longer possible to restore the media. If there is a problem with the files on the card, the restore can only be done by the camera, before offload. So this simple check that takes just a few seconds can save a whole world of hurt. I wish there was a media check button you could press to force the check, but there isn’t. However this method works.
It’s also worth knowing that Catalyst Browse and the old Media Browser software performs a data integrity check if you directly attach an SxS card or XQD card to the computer and access the card from the software. If a problem is found you will get a message telling you to return the media to the camera and perform a media restore. But if this is some time after the shoot and you don’t have the camera to hand, this can be impossible. Which is why I like to check my media in the camera by re-inserting it back into the camera so that it gets checked for problems before the end of the shoot.
If you use Sony’s SXS cards or USB Hard Drives, Sony have a utility that allows you to check the status of your media and correctly format the media. This is particularly useful for reading the number of cycles your SXS card has reached.
The utility can also copy SXS cards to multiple destinations for simultaneous backups of your content. You can download the utility for free via the link below.
UPDATE – IT IS NOW CONFIRMED THAT THE NEW 440MB/s CARDS WILL NOT WORK UNDER V7 OR EARLIER FIRMWARE. A FIX WILL BE INCLUDED IN VERSION 8.
There have been some comments on an older thread about problems with the very latest slightly faster Sony G series 128GB XQD cards with Sony’s F5 and F55 cameras (thanks Justin and Richard).
Many people, including myself use XQD cards with the Sony QDA-EX1 adapter in the PMW-F5 and PMW-F55 as well as other SxS cameras. Up to now I’ve never heard of any real problems, basically they work pretty much the same as SxS cards.
Very recently Sony released a new very slightly faster XQD cards. The old cards have a maximum write speed of 350MB/s while the new cards have a max write speed of 440MB/s. You can see in the image above of one of the new cards that both the read and write speeds are shown on the front of the card. The old (good) cards only show a single speed (400MB/s).
From what I have been able to gather so far the old 128GB G series cards work just fine, but a few people are reporting that the new faster 128GB ones do not. Problems include being unable to format the cards in the camera or unable to write anything to the cards.
If you have any experience of this issue, good or bad, with the new 64GB or 128GB 440MB/s cards please let me know by adding a comment.
It’s been possible to create XAVC files from Abobe Premiere for a little while but until today I have never managed to create a file that will actually play back in a Sony camera. Today however I finally have it working.
So what do you need to do to make it work? First of all make sure you have the correct versions of the software. You will need Adobe Premiere CC version 7.2.1 and Adobe Media Encoder CC version 126.96.36.199 or later. In addition you will want Sony Content Browser version 2.2 or later.
Complete you edit as normal in Premiere, then go to “Export” “Media” to open the export dialog. Under “Format” choose “MXF-OP1a”.
Make sure the “Export Audio” check box is ticked.
Under the “Video” tab for the encoding properties use the “video codec” selector to choose the type of XAVC you want. Currently you can select between HD, 2K, 3840×2160 and 4096×2160 (remember an F5 can only play back HD or 2K). Then select the frame rate you desire.
Now go to the Audio tab. The audio codec should be “uncompressed”. Under the “Basic Audio Settings” you need to select the following:
Channels: 8 Channel
Sample Size: 24 bit
At this point it is probably a good idea to save your settings to create a preset for XAVC to save time next time you want to export an XAVC file.
Now either use the direct export button to render your XAVC mxf file or use the queue button to add it to the render queue in Media Encoder. I find Media Encoder faster, so normally use the queue function.
Once the clip has rendered, you are done with Premiere and Media Encoder. Now you need to open Sony’s Content Browser.
Format an SxS card in the camera and either insert it in your card reader or connect the camera to the computer via USB. From within Content Browser select the root folder of your SxS card (the card itself, not any of the folders on the card). Then either right click on the card or go “File” – “Import”. Now navigate to the folder where you saved your freshly rendered XAVC file and click “Start”. The clip will be copied to your SxS card and the appropriate XML files and other data added. Once done, eject the SxS card and put the card in the camera or disconnect the USB cable from the camera (use the proper “Eject” function first) and you should then be able to play back the clips in camera (make sure the camera frame rate matches that of the clips).
I have had this little box for a couple of months now, but until the recent release of SxS drivers by Sonnet you couldn’t use it as an SxS card reader. There are two versions of the EchoExpress, the standard one, which is the one I have and a “Pro” version that offers higher speed transfers when using PCIe 2.0 adapters. When Apple removed the express card slot from their MacBook Pro laptops, they severely restricted the ability to connect high speed external hard drives. I have a Convergent Design Gemini which records on to SSD’s and the fastest way to offload these on location (for me at least) was to plug an eSATA PCI Express card into the slot on may older MacPro and then connect the Gemini Docking station to one port and then an external eSATA drive to the other. However, the processing power on my older MacBook was falling somewhat behind the modern machines and when trying to transcode from the uncompressed Gemini DPX files to ProRes or DNxHD was taking ages. So I decided to upgrade to a new MacBook Pro, but this then meant the loss of the Express Card slot. This is where the Sonnet EchoExpress became a “must have” add on, as it provides an external ExpressCard slot connected to the computer using Thunderbolt.
By using the EchoExpress box along with a Sonnet eSATA express card adapter I can connect eSATA devices to my MacBook Pro. The transfer speeds with my original version EchoExpress are not as fast as when I had a built in ExpressCard slot, but it’s still a massive improvement over USB, about 4 times faster. Initially SxS cards didn’t work with the EchoExpress, but Sonnet recently released a dedicated SxS driver that allows the EchoExpress to work as a SxS card reader.
So how fast is it? One thing to consider is that when using the EchoExpress as a card reader, on a MacBook Pro or 21″ iMac you only have a single Thunderbolt port, so there is no way to connect a second EchoExpress to add an eSATA port. That restricts you to using either the computers internal drive or an external Firewire 800 drive. For my tests I made copies of a full 16Gb Blue SxS card to both the internal drive as well as an external Seagate GoFlex FreeAgent drive fitted with a Firewire 800 interface. There was very little difference between the transfer speeds to the laptops internal drive and the Firewire drive, so I suspect that the transfer speed is limited to that of the Sonnet EchoExpress.
Copying 16Gb from the SxS card via the EchoExpress took just a shade over 4 minutes. That’s pretty good performance and only marginally slower than when I had an express card slot built in to the computer. Typically with a built in slot it would take about 3 1/2 minutes. Compare that to copying the exact same data from the camera using USB which took 11 minutes! So, as an SxS card reader the Sonnet EchoExpress works really well offering transfers around 3 times faster than USB which is a big time saver. Imagine you have been shooting all day and have 5 hours of footage. With USB it would take you at least an hour to transfer your data, with the EchoExpress just 20 minutes.
I give the Sonnet EchoExpress a big thumbs up. Now all I need is a Thunderbolt hub.
I recently reviewed the rather excellent Sonnet QIO I/O device that allows you to very quickly ingest material from SxS cards, P2 cards as well as SD cards to your computer. Along with the QIO I was sent a Sonnet SDHC to SxS card adapter to take a look at. Now I’m going to lay my cards on the table here and say that I strongly believe that if your going to shoot with an XDCAM EX camera you should be using SxS cards in order to get the best possible reliability. However as we all know SxS cards are expensive, although a lot cheaper now than they used to be, I remember paying £600 for an 8Gb card only 4 years ago!
So ever since the launch of the XDCAM EX cameras, users including me have been trying to find alternative recording solutions. I found that it was possible to use an off-the-shelf SD card to express card adapter (the original Kensington Adapter) to record standard frame rates on class 6 SD cards in the EX cameras. However the SDHC cards stick out of the end of the generic adapters so you can’t close the doors that cover the card slots in the cameras. Following that initial discovery various companies have brought out flush fitting adapters that allow the use of SDHC cards. Then about two years ago Sony openly admitted it was possible to use an adapter in the cameras and released their own adapters (MEAD-SD01 and MEAD-MS01) as well as making some firmware changes that made using adapters more reliable. The key point to consider when using an SxS adapter and SD cards is that the media, the SD cards, are consumer media. They are produced in vast quantities and the quality can be quite variable. They are not made to the same standards as SxS cards. So I choose to shoot on SxS whenever possible and I’ve never had a single failure or unexplained footage loss. BUT I do carry a couple of adapters and some SD cards in my camera kit for emergencies. You never know when you might run out of media or find yourself in a situation where you have to hand over you media to a third party at the end of a shoot. SDHC cards are cheap and readily available. You can buy an SDHC card just about anywhere. I’d rather switch to SDHC cards than try to do a panic off-load to a backup device mid-shoot, that’s a recipe for disaster!
Anyway… on to the Sonnet SDHC to SxS adapter. It feels as well built as any other adapter on the market. It is mostly metal with plastic end pieces that are made from a nice high quality plastic. I have other adapters that use a very brittle plastic and these can break quite easily, but this one appears to be well made. The SDHC card slots into a sprung loaded slot in the end of the adapter making a reassuringly positive sounding click when it’s latched in place. Once inserted the SDHC card is slightly recessed into the adapter. This is good as it helps prevent the SDHC card from being released from the adapter as you put the adapter into the camera. It means that as you push the adapter into the camera you are pushing on the end of the adapter and not on the SDHC card like some other adapters I have used. To remove the SDHC card you simply push it quite firmly, further into the adapter until you hear another click and it then pops out far enough to be pulled out. This is certainly one of the better made adapters that I have come across.
To test the adapter I used some Transcend class 6 SDHC cards as well as some Integral Ultima Pro class 10 SDHC cards. I used the adapter in my PMW-F3 with firmware version 1.10 as some user have reported problems with other adapters and this firmware revision. I was able to completely fill the cards shooting using S&Q motion at 50fps or 60fps using long and short clips with lots of motion. This is I believe the toughest test for these adapters as the recording bit rate is close to 70Mb/s. I had no issues at all with either type of SDHC card and there was very little delay between finishing a recording and being able to start the next, a good indicator of the cards high performance. I also tested recording very long clips to ensure that there would be no issues when the camera breaks the recording into 4Gb chunks. Again, no problem.
So if you are going to use SDHC cards and an SxS adapter I would suggest you consider the Sonnet SxS adapter. It’s certainly cheaper than the Sony adapter. Sonnet are a large business with a wide range of products and a global distributor and dealer network, so you should have no problem finding a local supplier.
I had heard about the QIO some time ago, so I approached Sonnet to see if I could borrow a unit to review. I was given the loan of a Sonnet QIO at NAB. I have been playing with it since then and you know what, it’s a great device. So what exactly is it? Well it is an extension box that allows you to connect a range of peripherals and flash memory cards to your computer via the PCI bus. The reason I wanted to borrow one was because the QIO is one of the few devices (the only device?) that allows you to connect SxS, Compact Flash and P2 cards to a computer using the high speed PCI bus with hot-swappable functionality. Hot Swap means you can eject and remove cards without having to re-boot the computer or do anything else, something that some of the other adapters on the market force you to do.
Installation was very straight forward. On my Mac Pro workstation I had to plug in a small PCI-X card into one of the vacant slots inside the rear of the machine. This is easy to do and should not put anyone off buying the device, it took me all of 5 minutes to plug the card in and install the drivers. Then a short cable runs from the back of the Mac Pro to the QIO and a separate power supply is plugged into the QIO for power.
On my Mac Book Pro I simply slotted the Sonnet express card PCI bus expansion adapter into the express card slot and then connected this to the main QIO unit via the extension cable and installed the drivers, again a 5 minute job, very simple.
If you do want to use it with a Mac Book Pro, you will need a model that has the express card slot. At the time of writing the device only works with Mac’s, but Windows support should be coming very soon. When buying a QIO there are two versions. The desktop version supplied with the desktop adapter or the laptop version with the express card slot adapter. The functionality is the same for both, it’s just a case of which adapter you need. You can buy the alternate adapter should you want both as an accessory.
So, I have it installed, how is it to use?
It’s really extremely straight forward. You simply pop your media into the slot and away you go. When your done with that card you eject it as you would with any other removable media and stick in the next card. On the workstation this was so much better than plugging in my XDCAM camcorder via USB.
Of course convenience is one thing, but how about performance? The QIO is fast, very fast. I was able to offload a full 16Gb SxS card in about 150 seconds, less than 3 minutes to the internal drive on the Mac Pro. That equates to an hours worth of XDCAM EX material in around 3 minutes or 20x real time. The performance for compact flash cards doesn’t disappoint either at around 15 seconds per Gb so clearly the transfer speed is limited by the speed of the CF card and not the connection as would be the case with USB or firewire. If you want to use the QIO for SD cards then you can use the supplied adapter. Again the performance is very good, but not as good as SxS and CF due mainly to the lower speeds of the SD cards.
Laptop Performance and Expansion.
One of the issues with Laptops is how do you expand them? It’s all very well being able to put an SxS card into the express card slot for fast off load, but where do you then put the material? On a Mac Book Pro you do have firewire 800 but this is still nowhere near as fast as the SxS card. As the SxS card is in the express card slot you can’t use it to add an eSATA drive, so your a little stuck. But not with the QIO. You see the QIO has a built in eSATA controller and 4 eSATA connectors on it’s rear. This means that you can plug in one or more eSATA drives to the QIO and transfer directly from the SxS card to an eSATA drive or drives. So now even on my Mac Book I can make multiple eSATA copies of my media at speeds of up to 200MB/s (total). So once again the speed is usually limited by the card and not the interface.
For a real torture test I put two full 16Gb SxS cards into the QIO and offloaded both cards at the same time to the Mac Pro’s raid drive. Where one card had taken a little under 3 minutes, two cards took abut 190 seconds, just a little over 3 minutes. Transferred this way, two cards at a time you could offload 2 hours of XDCAM EX material in around 4 mins, that’s an incredible 30x real time. I tried the same test with CF cards and again there was little difference in transfer speed between one card and two cards.
This is one fast device. If you have lots of media to off-load and backup it’s going to save you a lot of time. If you are a production company that works with large volumes of solid state media it will pay for itself very quickly in saved man-hours. If your working in the field with a Mac Book Pro the ability to connect both the media and eSATA devices at the same time makes the QIO a very interesting proposition. It is well constructed, simple to install and use, what more could you ask for.
Value for money?
That’s a little harder to answer. It depends on how much material you work with. It’s a fairly pricey device at around $800US or £700GBP for a card reader, but the time savings are substantial, especially if you are asking people to back up material at the end of a days shoot. The faster it can be done, the more likely it is that it will be done straight away, rather than put off until later. It’s also a lot more than just a card reader, the eSATA ports make it so much more useful for connecting drives or even a raid array to a laptop. Overall I think it is actually well worth the investment for the time savings alone. 8/10 (it would have been 9/10 if it didn’t require the power adapter). Great product.
I approached Sonnet and requested a loan QIO for this review, which Sonnet provided. I was not paid to write this and the views expressed are entirely my own. Speed tests were conducted using my own SxS (blue) cards with the QIO attached to a 1.1 first generation Mac Pro with an internal 4 drive raid array, or with a 15″ Mac Book Pro.
Camera setup, reviews, tutorials and information for pro camcorder users from Alister Chapman.