I’m testing some lesser-known P2 gear for the next couple of weeks, and will be writing up reviews a bit after that.
One unit I’m checking out is Panasonic’s relatively new Rapid Writer ($9,995 list), which Panasonic initially developed for broadcasters covering 2008’s Beijing Olympics.
The Rapid Writer lets you load in up to 5 P2 cards, and automatically transfer their contents to not one but two removable hard drives. This gives you an instant backup, in case one drive goes down or you need to send the footage to two different locations. You can also connect the Rapid Writer directly to a Gigabit Ethernet network, so an entire workgroup has access to the footage.
The removable drive enclosures are very rugged, and, when removed, act like standard external drives—ie, they have an external power connector, and include an eSATA port so you can attach them to an editing station to copy footage. You can also open up the enclosure yourself (with a small screw-driver) and put in any raw 3.5” hard drive you want, which means you can buy drives at market rates instead of paying an outrageous markup.
But why do you need the Rapid Writer when you can already buy a much cheaper Panasonic 5 card reader (like the PCD20 or PCD35), attach it to your desktop or laptop computer and copy footage to a couple of your own hard drives?
The answer is ease-of-use.
The Rapid Writer has all the necessary hardware built into one very portable unit, so you don’t have to cobble together multiple pieces of hardware, connected by multiple interface cables and juiced by multiple power supplies. If you’re working in the field, it’s a lot easier to move and manage this single unit, instead of a hodge-podge of equipment. The fact that you can power the whole thing off of an Anton Bauer or IDX battery is pretty impressive (though you’ll want a big battery).
The Rapid Writer is also very very simple to use—just turn it on, and then use its touch-screen interface to quickly preview your footage, and copy it to the dual hard drives. Really, it would take 5 minutes to teach a PA to reliably offload your P2 cards and format them.
I’ll be exploring the Rapid Writer a little more closely in the next few weeks….