Professional Media Card Readers


Greg LaPorte TV-Bay Magazine
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by Greg Laporte
Issue 94 - October 2014

You're on location and you're done shooting for the day and you have a sizeable stack of fully recorded memory cards. It's a complex shoot, perhaps with multiple cameras from different vendors recording on different memory card formats. Now, how do you get the raw video files from all of those cameras into your production systems as quickly as possible to create dailies or kick off the editing workflow?

Ingest, or the process of reading the data from recording media and converting it into a format that can be used in production and post-production, is a key part of video acquisition. But it can be a thorny challenge for any film, video, or broadcast project thanks to the wide array of camcorders from various manufacturers. Depending on the camcorder brand, the video and audio is recorded in a variety of specific formats organized within specific directory structures. A few media format examples are SxS, P2, CF, SDHC, SDXC, and CompactFlash.

High-speed ingest of media cards for a wide variety of Mac or PC workflows is a critical requirement for production and post-production pros. With the growth and increasing sophistication of digital cameras and file-based workflows, professional-grade media card readers play an important role in ingest by reading the video files from the camera media and writing them to the computer. It's easy to find a high-performance, single-slot card reader that is specific to a certain media format, but what happens if you have many different readers and a limited number of computer ports to plug them into? Also, the process of mounting and ejecting one card after another can be time-consuming, and having to keep track of multiple card readers is one more equipment burden for a location shoot.

The industry's response to these challenges has been the introduction of multi-slot card readers, but not all solutions are equal. It goes without saying that the card reader should offer maximum transfer speed by ingesting all the cards simultaneously and at full card speed, but flexibility is also important - the reader should support the broadest range of formats possible and should enable the user to move freely from computer to computer as required.

Known for its comprehensive line of Thunderbolt PCIe expansion solutions, pro media readers, and pro storage systems, Sonnet Technologies has focused significant effort on designing pro media card readers that address the complex requirements of today's broadcast and film productions. The company's Qio family is the first range of card readers to support all major HD video memory card formats in a single compact, high-performance device. The Qio and Qio MR each feature the capability to simultaneously ingest multiple SxS, P2, CF, SDHC, and SDXC cards through a high-speed, multi-slot interface.

These devices can read files from any combination of cards with an aggregate bandwidth up to 200 MB/sec, much faster than FireWire or USB adapters. Sonnet also offers the Qio CF4 and Qio E3 dedicated multi-slot readers for CompactFlash and SxS media, respectively, with the ability to ingest multiple cards with an aggregate bandwidth of up to 400 MB/sec. All Qio models are available with a choice of interface (PCIe or ExpressCard) card, or a Thunderbolt interface kit option that provides a connection from Qio media readers to any iMac, Mac mini, Mac Pro, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro computer equipped with a Thunderbolt port.

Speaking of Thunderbolt, Sonnet's Echo ExpressCard Pro Thunderbolt adapter is the fastest, least-expensive single-slot SxS media reader available that also doubles as an ExpressCard/34 adapter enabling the use of a wide variety of ExpressCard/34 cards to add a range of interfaces and capabilities to the workflow.

The latest addition to Sonnet Technologies' pro media card reader family is the Thunderbolt Pro P2 Card Reader, a new single-slot P2 memory card reader with a Thunderbolt interface. The Thunderbolt Pro is a rugged, pocket-size device for videographers using Panasonic P2 HD and P2 VariCam camcorders. With its ability to ingest footage from individual P2 memory cards at up to 70 MB/sec, the Thunderbolt Pro P2 Card Reader is the fastest and most cost-effective device of its kind.

Sonnet designed the Thunderbolt P2 Card Reader for customers who need a simple, convenient, and fast alternative to other much slower solutions. While other P2 card readers require a power supply or multiple connections to the computer, and in some cases a computer interface card, the Thunderbolt Pro P2 Card Reader connects to the computer through a single Thunderbolt cable or at the end of a Thunderbolt device chain. The device is powered over the same connection (bus powered) and reads P2 cards at their maximum speed. Measuring a compact 3.6 inches wide by 1 inch high by 4.5 inches deep, the Thunderbolt Pro is the smallest P2 reader available, making it ideal for use on location or anywhere space is tight. The reader's shell is made from extruded aluminum, making it lightweight and yet rugged enough to be transported in an equipment bag without fear of cracking the case.

The Thunderbolt Pro P2 Card Reader supports all P2 memory cards and frame rates at maximum speed, and also reads microP2 cards with an optional adapter.

More information on Sonnet Technologies' complete line of professional media card readers is available at: www.sonnettech.com


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Contributing Author Greg LaPorte

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