Camera kits

Improve Phantom VEO 4K workflow by using 10Gbit network port

A trained DIT can set-up a network connection and remote-control software for the Phantom VEO 4K which makes workflow significantly faster for location commercials or studio applications.

The remarkable imaging qualities and 1000 fps 4K RAW capture of the Vision Research Phantom cameras are hard to beat (Phantom FLEX 4K and VEO 4K) but it is the data workflow after shooting to transfer your media to hard drive ready for edit which has always caused the most consternation.

This is an article about configuring and using the built-in 10Gbit ethernet interface of the Phantom VEO 4K to take advantage of the most efficient and fastest workflows from internal RAM to hard drive, which can be even more efficient than the workflow of the Phantom FLEX 4K.

Short bursts of filming create enormous file sizes and the capture process involves multiple stages – a workflow inherited from scientific image capture.

However, the introduction of 10Gbit ethernet (Phantom VEO 4K only) means that you now have a faster alternative to transferring to internal CFAST card with an appropriate PC/Mac* and makes the data workflow even more efficient than with the Phantom Flex 4K.

“Because of its legacy and because of the volume of data it’s recording, the Phantom is unconventional,” explains James Marsden, one of the UK’s leading Digital Intermediate Technicians and an expert in handling the Phantom’s workflow. “With most cameras, once you’ve shot a take, you can move on to another take or the next shot. With the Phantom you will typically trigger record after the action and then decide which part of the cached clip to keep.  Then you save the footage and that is the process that takes time.”

With most cameras, once you’ve shot a take, you can move on to another take or the next shot. With the Phantom you will typically trigger record after the action and then decide which part of the cached clip to keep.  Then you save the footage and that is the process that takes time

Both the original Phantom FLEX 4K and its more modern and compact brother Phantom VEO 4K are capable of recording 1000 fps in 4K using the same super-high speed internal memory. While the VEO’s reduced size and weight – and price - combined with its frugal power requirements make this a popular option for many productions, the data workflow post-capture, is different on both cameras.

The FLEX 4K uses a CineMag transfer, which docks to the camera and is very fast.  It takes around 20 seconds to offload a take of about 55GB of RAM. But having transferred it to CineMag you will need to transfer again to offload to a hard drive on location.  Also, CineMags are very expensive at around £10,000 each, so spares are rarely an option.

In contrast the Phantom VEO 4K offloads internally to removable CFast-2 cards.  These offer convenient large storage but the offload time is slower, so the regular route is to trim the clip in-camera and then transfer to the card, which might take 20-30 seconds for a short clip.  You are then free to transfer the CFast-2 cards to a laptop in the evening with little inconvenience once the shoot has wrapped.

Using the Internal CFast-2 transfer method works best on short, trimmed clips

Whilst this is a sensible workflow, sometimes the entirety of the shot is demanded in order to save decision making until post and since downloading an entire take from VEO 4K to CFast might take 10 mins, the VEO offers a super-fast network port to speed things up. 

The VEO has an advantage over the FLEX as it incorporates a lightning-fast 10Gbit LAN port (a chargeable option when purchased and included as standard on all VMI Phantom VEO 4K cameras). 

Tether the camera to a PC/MAC with a fast enough SSD and transfer over 10Gbit ethernet and the VEO is actually faster than using the Flex and also means that you only need to transfer your media once, not twice as well.

 

Detailed explanation

The large data file sizes required to capture 4K RAW files meant that until now, Gigabit ethernet (1Gb/s) was simply too slow to make direct transfer from the camera to hard drive practical but the availability of the VEO 4K to transfer 10Gb transfer speeds to an appropriate PC/Mac means that transferring media is now five times faster than using internal CFAST cards.

This workflow is actually faster than using the CineMag system of the FLEX, since the data transfer only needs to be transferred once, rather than twice with the FLEX 4K workflow (once from internal RAM to Cinemag and then again from Cinemag to hard drive).

Marsden has looked at ways of speeding the workflow up for studio-type applications and found an elegant solution specific to the Phantom VEO 4K that not only permits extremely fast data downloads using the 10Gbit connection but also provides a more user-friendly means of controlling the camera itself.

Marsden explains, “Offloading the entire unedited 72GB data cache from the VEO to the built-in CFast-2 card takes about 10 minutes. But if you use the 10GB ethernet connection and a suitably fast hard drive (RAID or SSD with at least 400 MB/s read/write rate) then you can transfer the footage in just two minutes.”

Note that if you are using a laptop, then you will need a Thunderbolt port with appropriate 10Gbit ethernet adapter. 
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It is really important that you find a compatible interface and check that it works with your hardware and the VEO 4K as well.

Marsden used a 2014 Macbook Pro Retina with AKiTiO Thunder2 10G Network Adapter supported by Phantom control software Seance 3 for Mac.  [Akitio also make Thunderbolt 3 10Gb adapter but Marsden has not tested this].

Phantom’s Windows Software is free to download and Marsden has used this with a Boot camp Windows 10 install of the same Mac Book Pro and with the same adaptor.

“In both cases you need to know how to manually set-up the network connection,” he advises. “It is not plug and play. With drives it is never the connection standard it is drive speed which is important so the minimum is a two drive RAID like the Sony’s Pro RAID HDD with capacity ranging from 4TB to 12TB (£379.74 - £589.85).

The read/write Sony Pro RAID is about 400MB/s whether USB or Thunderbolt 2 is connected. Marsden says USB 3 tops out at about 600MB/s and USB-C/3.1 at 1200MB/s.

“The latter would get you a 2-minute download as this is the speed of the SSD in the Mac Book Pro,” he says.

An experienced DIT will be able to configure the set-up and workstation with a 10GBit adapter, such as Thunderbolt, and at the same time give operators full control over the camera with the VEO’s remote control unit.

The optional Phantom camera remote control unit (called Cameo PCT2+) allows the operator to access and control all the VEO’s functions including triggering start and stop, change frame rate, playback, choosing start and end stops, deleting clips and transferring media.

“The camera’s remote software is fully featured and gives you a full screen window for adjustments and for quickly top and tailing clips in order to reduce the data, which is not as easy from the camera’s monitor or viewfinder,” says Marsden. “That’s even more the case when the camera is difficult to access, perhaps rigged in on a jib, in a hide or on a gimbal. Amazingly, it is even possible to playback, trim and offload clips to the CFast-2 storage all wirelessly with the PCE2, so that potentially all of this can be done while the camera is mounted on a drone or crane.”

The VEO 4K has the form factor of a location camera, suitable for field use and designed for field acquisition and location transfer to internal CFast-2 card, which are not ideal conditions for using a PC/Mac for higher transfer speeds. 

 

 

 

 

 

Phantom VEO 4K - Great transferring short trimmed clips to CFast-2 cards
...But not so practical for large file sizes

In this case, convenience will trump speed of transfer. “However, trying to operate the Phantom like a normal camera is not really possible,” Marsden continues. “But under suitable conditions if you want to work as quickly as possible then the best method is run a 10Gig connection to a download station for speedy transfer speeds direct to disk and use the PCT2+ remote interface for camera control.

However, trying to operate the Phantom like a normal camera is not really possible but under suitable conditions if you want to work as quickly as possible then the best method is run a 10Gig connection to a download station for speedy transfer speeds direct to disk and use the PCT2+ remote interface for camera control.

It is important to gauge the type of shoot, quantity of data to be transferred, speed of shooting required and suitability for location DIT operation and then choose the most appropriate camera and data transfer method.

Written with the assistance of: James Marsden, DIT, Camera, Data and Workflow consultant, 07958 580678, james_marsden@uk2.net

 

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