I’ve been doing a lot of shooting lately where producers hand me their P2 cards at the beginning of the day, only to find that the cards are still filled with footage from their previous shoot. That’s not a huge problem because I can always format the cards in-camera, but it does slow things down a bit when you’re working on a tight schedule, and everyone’s ready to start shooting RIGHT NOW. It’s just one more step to go through before hitting the RECORD button.
So, did you know that after copying your P2 cards to your computer, that you can actually format them right there, instead of having the cameraman do it on set? Panasonic makes a small, simply utility to do just that. On the Mac side, it’s called “P2Formatter” (included in your P2 Driver software), and on Windows, it’s called “P2 Card Format Station”.
I haven’t used the Windows version, but the Mac version is about as straightforward as can be. Launch the little app, and it lists any P2 cards you’ve got mounted on your computer (I mount mine through a Panasonic 5-card reader, the PCD-35). P2Formatter tells me each card’s capacity, its serial number, and lets me give the card a custom volume name. I name my cards ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, and also write those numbers directly on my cards via a little Scotch Tape. Then, I stick the cards in the corresponding slots of my card reader and Varicam camera, which helps keep track of which card is which.
And, of course, you can format the cards by clicking P2Formatter’s FORMAT button, and waiting a few seconds for the format to finish. Viola: the next time you’re on set, your P2 cards will be ready to go immediately.
A few details:
- When giving your cards a custom volume name, that name will stick with the card even though you may format it again with the P2Formatter software. However, if you then format the card using a P2 camera, the custom names will be lost and the card will use the generic NONAME volume once again.
- Panasonic recommends that, every once in a while, you still format your cards in camera. Apparently, over the long haul, a card’s performance is maintained if it gets an in-camera formatting, so I do so every few months.
- If you’ve got Panasonic’s fast, cheap E-Series cards, P2Formatter will also tell you how much more “life” the E series card has left, via a helpful blue progress bar (remember, E series cards have a life expectancy, which is about 5 years if you fill the card on a daily basis. Since most cards aren’t used nearly that often, they’re expected to last far longer than 5 years).
- Every once in a while, I’ll format a card and P2Formatter will give me a dialog box telling me that card failed to format. If I quit P2Formatter and eject and remount the card, I can format it without a hitch.