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Get the Picture with P2

The new Panasonic HVX200 is revolutionary By Douglas Spotted Eagle

The new Panasonic HVX200 is a revolutionary camcorder, in that it is an affordable HD camcorder whose main unique feature is the storage of HD data at a variety of frame rates and resolutions on a solid-state media card known as "P2." In other words, it's tapeless for HD recording. These cards may be placed in the camcorder in a group of two, allowing for a variety of recording times  varying from four to sixteen minutes dependent on user-selected frame rate and resolution.

The price point of the camcorder brings it into the realm of affordable HD/low-cost HD, being in the same cost category as the Sony HVR Z1U and the JVC HD100. Adding a couple of P2 cards puts the HVX 200 in the same cost category as the Canon XLH1. Given the price and features of the HVX 200 camcorder, it's easy to assume that a number of Vegas users will want to work with this product.

When our HVX arrived, we shot as much video as we could in the 16 minute allotment of time the P2 cards allowed us in 720p, 24 frame native mode (there are lots of modes for this camera, but maximum recording time is found when using the native modes). Once the cards were full, we were ready to transfer the video from the P2 card to the computer hard drive.
We'd already loaded the drivers included on the disc that comes with the camera, but for some reason we could not read the P2 cards when placed into the PCMCIA slot on my Sony VAIO. We decided that we'd try loading the media on my Apple Powerbook, and suffered the same fate. It was a rather disappointing start. (explained below)

~Simple Is as Simple Does....

OK, it's almost embarrassing to explain the problem. On the P2 card is a record protection switch. We knew the record protection was definitely off, as we could see video in the thumbnails displayed on the camcorder and the camcorder would play files back with no problems. Yet for some inexplicable reason, this protection was preventing the laptop from seeing the card. Merely moving the protective tab to the left and back to the right again, made it so the card could be read. Go figure. Once that was done, the card was completely readable by both Mac and PC laptops, and try as we might, we could not reproduce the problem.

Had we been smarter, we might have tried recording and reading both cards instead of just one.
We never could get USB 2.0 to work on our PC, nor could we get Firewire to work with our Powerbook. A phone call to our local Panasonic dealer (from whom we got the camcorder) told us that very few users are successful in USB 2.0 transfers, and that they've had a lot of calls about Firewire to the Powerbook. On pages 77 and 82 Panasonic's manual states that USB2.0 transfers are guaranteed on the PC, and Firewire transfers are guaranteed on the Apple platform, but that Firewire isn't guaranteed on the PC, nor is USB2.0 guaranteed on the Apple platform. Regardless of the mode the camcorder was in, we could not achieve transfer to either the Powerbook or the Sony VAIO. Either way, after a couple hours finagling drivers, switches, and frustration, we were set to go.

~Dropping into Vegas

Sony Vegas does not have native support for the DVCPro HD format that the HVX records to P2 cards (most NLE's don't). So how do you get this footage into Vegas? Here's the workflow, which is what this article is supposed to really be about.

1. Record to P2 with the HVX.

2. Place the filled P2 card into the laptop PCMCIA/Cardbus slot or into a P2 reader (or use USB or Firewire if you can get it working. Panasonic Tech support confirmed today that this is often problematic).

The P2 viewer allows you to create voice or text notes, read metadata, input quite a bit of information about the shoot or media, and view the media on the P2 card with both audio and video playback.

The P2 viewer allows you to create voice or text notes, read metadata, input quite a bit of information about the shoot or media, and view the media on the P2 card with both audio and video playback. 

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