I just got back from training at Panasonic in NJ (I am a Panasonic consultant…nothing to hide here) and learned quite a bit. So I will be posting a lot of blog posts about the various things I have learned. The first one I will post is something I learned on the last day…in the last meeting…after an exhausting week of training meetings.

Panasonic makes a product called the P2 Gear (actual product name/code is AG-HPG10). This little unit, although priced at $4000, has many features that make it worth the higher price tag. Even though I knew about this unit and can explain how to use it to people on the convention floor and on the forums, I never really mentioned it in this blog because, well, I didn’t feel the price met the features it provided. Now I do.

So, here’s a quick rundown on what this great little box can do:

1) It has two P2 card slots and an LCD screen. This allows for easy review of the footage by the producer/director so that they can determine if a shot is good, or if they need to shoot more…whatever reasons are needed for reviewing footage.

2) Add metadata comments to the clips, such as location and camera operator, which camera was used, longitute and latitude, user clip name…whathaveyou. Now it is best to set the camera up with this metadata first via SD card upload to the camera (something I’ll show you at a later date), but if you needed to add anything, this allows you to do that.

3) Connect it to a laptop via firewire and use it as a card reader to offload cards onto hard drives.

4) Connect directly to a bus powered USB drive for offloading WITHOUT a computer. And the battery life on the Gear, even with a drive attached, is long. Between 6-8 hours, depending on how heavily it is used. For field work this is great. No need for a laptop, just the camera, the Gear, and a couple hard drives. And the offload is a VERIFIED offload. Meaning that it checks the clips to ensure the transfer was good. And you can do it twice, to two separate drives, for added backup and piece of mind. This way you can keep a drive and send the other back to the office and have a backup in case either drive is lost or damaged.

You can connect it to a firewire drive for offload too, only it cannot power the drive via the FW bus. The firewire drive will need it’s own power.

5) You can connect it to a Panasonic camera via firewire and add additional cards to the chain for longer recording times.

6) The Gear has HD SDI out, so you can connect it to a production monitor and review your footage there.

7) Now…on that note, we have a great feature that just makes this box a sweet sweet deal. You can connect the Gear to your NLE via firewire….be it Avid, FCP, Premiere…and send a signal to the box, which in turn can connect to an HD production monitor via HD SDI or Component…and BOOM, you have broadcast quality monitoring. Basically an HD capture card only use for playout only to a monitor. Now, there are a couple restrictions. Like you might not be able to use this to output your final show to tape on the Avid side…not with sequence timecode accuracy. But it will allow you to “crash record” (press record on deck, then press play on timeline) to a deck. I don’t know if this restriction is limited to Avid or also affects FCP…this I will need to test. I hope to receive a test unit to dig further into this capability.

This feature does allow you to record your finished sequence back to a P2 card. Then play from the Gear out to a monitor or deck…a huge deal for people in the news business and on location. I did hear that Avid might have an issue with play back of 720p 23.98 footage…but I didn’t get as many details as I would have liked, so when I get the test unit, I’ll test that feature. Since I have both Avid and FCP, I can test both platforms.

So the fact that you can use this device for field backup of footage, review of shot footage, as an additional P2 recording device AND as a way to view your timeline on a broadcast monitor makes this box a pretty good deal. I’ll post more details when I finish my testing.