CF, P2, S x S, SD, SDHC, xD, MMC, MD, MS—so many different cards for recording HD video these days. All have storage capacity limits and are pricey enough to preclude their use as an archiving medium in most applications. Storage devices dependable and flexible enough for downloading these various digital cards in the field have been few and far between, and also too limited, unreliable or expensive for broad application. As a result, many of us continue lugging laptops (and external drives) along for backing up and/or downloading their memory cards. At last, one company—Nexto—seems to have an alternative to the laptop/external drive system, their Video Storage Pro.
The Video Storage Pro uses 2.5-inch SATA hard drives that have a maximum capacity of 2 TB. However, 500 GB is plenty for eight to nine hours of 100 Mbps HD. The unit’s H/W verify function provides fast and accurate data verification of up to 16 GB in 80 seconds, and there’s also a “bad sector check function” to help ensure that no data is accidentally lost.
Nexto’s Storage Pro is designed to withstand modest abuse and is encased in a rugged housing with tough rubber bumpers, which absorb shock and provide a slip-resistant base. The unit is also equipped with a free fall sensor and internal shock absorbers.
It’s designed to work with a broad range of media, interfaces and formats, and accommodates at least 10 different kinds of memory cards via several interfaces including USB 2.0, FireWire (400) 1394, eSATA and RST. Memory cards supported include compact flash (CF), MMC, xD, MD, MS (Sony) SxS , SD, SDHC, as well as P2 with an adapter.
The Storage Pro backs up a wide variety of video formats including many flavors recorded by Sony XDCAM camcorders in SD/HD and in both PAL and NTSC standards. These can be copied several times faster than to a laptop—at an average of 80 Mbps. It also backs up various flavors of HDV and DV recorded with the Sony HVR series and similar camcorders.
In the Panasonic arena, it supports DVCPRO HD, DVCPRO 50 and 25, and more recently, AVC Intra. It also previews the MPEG-2 files recorded on Ikegami’s GF PAC. Nexto recently added support for JVC’s HD 700 camcorder which natively records .MOV files (QuickTime)
It can also back up Long GOP MPEG-2 files recorded with Convergent Design’s Flash XDR and Nano Flash. However, it will only preview those with MXF wrappers (but currently not the .MOV and MPEG types). The plan is to increase support for QuickTime-based formats, and others as well. In its present form, it can back up, but not preview RED raw files.
Video can also be backed up directly from a flash-based or hard drive-based camcorder or DSLR via FireWire or USB 2.0 at full speed. Nexto Pro also claims to be the only mobile backup device to do so and is compatible with USB 3.0 specs. And it has a multiple backup function. If used with an external hard drive connected to it via USB, the Nexto can back up to its internal hard drive from a data card and also to the external hard drive.
The menu can be navigated with a small four-way jog stick, which provides single-handed menu navigation, plus the power switch. The latter offers limited menu functionality: a choice of two options depending on how long you depress it. Options include alternate languages, a short or long diagnostic test, firmware update and more. One option conspicuous by its absence is the ability to override the default automatic shutoff of the Video Storage Pro after 30 seconds of inactivity. Inability to do this forces one to continually reboot.
The 2.4-inch LCD screen is quite adequate for reading menu options and previewing video thumbnails. It is also backlit for graphically displaying key info such as battery level, remaining capacity, format type and file sizes.
There are several options for powering the Nexto Pro, including an internal 3.7 V lithium battery. There’s also an external AA Cell battery pack. The Storage Pro is also supplied with several cables and a P2 adapter.
The Nexto Pro is quite easy to use. Cards loaded in their respective slots are quickly identified as new and ready for backup, or as already downloaded and ready for verification and removal. The onboard card slots are labeled and obvious, as are the cable connections.
After booting up, the message “X Copy Ready” indicates that it’s ready to start backing up. When I inserted a partially recorded CF card, it instantly detected it and calculated that it contained 7.9 GB of video, and asked if I wanted to back it up. The entire backup took barely five minutes, and verification took less than a minute.
The only thing keeping me from reformatting the CF card and reusing it was not being able to visually verify the backup on the Nexto Pro monitor. I’d gotten an error message that the .MOV format used on my CF card (recorded with Convergent Design’s new Nano Flash in Long GOP mode) was “not supported yet.” However, I was able to view all of the clips stored in the Pro by connecting it to a PC (via USB) where it was regarded as just another drive. There I could examine its contents and copy them to the C drive where I could play them in QuickTime.
Fast Facts Application
Portable content storage for professional video cameras
Fast and reliable portable storage, and reads directly from Sony SxS and Panasonic P2 cards.
International Supplies | www.nextodiusa.com | 800-994-1984 I had a similar experience with clips recorded on the Nano (also in Long GOP in the MPEG format at 100 Mbps). While the Pro successfully backed them up and verified the backup, it could not preview the clips, even in icon form. Once again, I was able to view and transfer them to a PC via USB and play them in Media Player.
The third try was a charm, when I loaded a CF card with Long GOP wrapped in MXF. Thumbnails were displayed and were playable when selected. The only glitch was with the default playback speed. It was in slow-mo. Nexto developers explained to me that the Pro is not a digital playback deck and that playback speed is often a function of compression. Some formats play at normal speed, while others go out at variable speeds. I found that three times and seven times normal playback were also available.
Nexto sources indicate that other formats are being tested and that new firmware upgrades are underway. Many formats supported with the latest firmware—version 1.05—were not supported in the version (1.01) installed on the unit received for evaluation. Updating the firmware involved downloading to portable media via a computer from the Nexto Web site.
The Nexto Pro is an innovative, yet straightforward, portable field backup device which basically delivers what it promises, and performs a useful and surprisingly unique function: fast, reliable digital backup and storage in the field, with content directly downloadable from multiple media. It may be the first truly portable field data backup device to offer onboard viewing (and visual verification). With the current 500 GB capacity, it can back up more than eight hours of high end video much more economically than memory cards. According to Nexto, support for RED.RAW, .MOV, MPEG, and DSLR still images should soon be available. The Storage Pro may just be the reliable and high capacity field backup/storage device that many shooters have been hankering for.
Carl Mrozek operates Eagle Eye Media, which specializes in wildlife and outdoor subjects. He may be contacted email@example.com.