Grande Vitesse Systems

GVS9000 2U VTR Rugged Film Recorder Takes in the City of San Francisco in Uncompressed HD

The GVS9000 VTR was first adopted for the studio environment in 1998. In recent years, the GVS9000 2U version has become the standard recording unit for sonar equipment in U.S. submarines. Over the last decade a lot of engineering has gone into the 9000VTR to make it even more feature rich, yet it has remained highly affordable. With today’s high demand for disk based recording in studio, where green shoots are popular, where it is necessary that temperature, movement, and vibration have no effect, the 9000VTR is ideal. With so much potential, we decided to take it out of the studio and into the mobile environment to see how far we could push this product.


GVS SF Facility
GVS SF Facility

Golden Gate brig
Golden Gate Bridge

Downtown San Francisco
Downtown San Francisco

Nob Hill
Nob Hill

Near Golden Gate Bridge
Near Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

Parasailing Under Bridge
Parasailing Under Bridge

our objectives:

a. To record UNCOMPRESSED 4:2:2 raw footage directly from the camera to disk while in full motion.

b. To find out what the limitations of a disk based recorder in full motion are, if any. The GVS9000 2U-VTR is a rugged, low profile rack mountable system occupying less than 19" deep rack space. It's an innovative, completely ruggedized field recorder, designed with open architecture and extreme low power consumption, providing you the ability to record HD while in transit.

c. To see if the 9000VTR could perform on the road to its in-studio standards, without a single glitch in recording or any technical issues during this extended filming time. (Not having any DP’s on staff with the eye for lighting and all the details that go into making a documentary or motion picture, our goal wasn’t to acquire the best possible footage in any artistic way, but to show the GVS9000 VTR as a simple tool, designed to help capture your best creativity and make it easy to acquire UNCOMPRESSED HD content, without worrying about the challenges brought on by massive data acquisition using a portable solution.)

our challenges:

a. To use a “shoe-string” budget and a beat up, old car running the entire gear from the 12V DC car battery without a UPS or additional power.

b. To record continuously from an HD SDI Camera direct to disk for a very long time on a hot day without any air conditioning in the car to cool the equipment.

c. To record uncompressed HD SDI source directly to the Nomadic SATA based drive at a rate of above 1,280Mbit/sec., while in full motion over different road types, in a car with over 280,000 miles on it and no shocks to speak of to lessen the impact on the equipment. (The GVS9000 2U VTR is designed with internal mechanisms that can stand over 3G Force. It is designed to operate without any moving parts, and with non-rotating, solid state Nomadic drives the 2U VTR provides the ideal recorder for extreme environments such as a high speed chase, inside a race car, or on a plane where high G force (greater than 3G) is required.)

Using only three GVS staff people; Zorik Avanessian as the driver, Ratu Mataitini as the camera man and Jano Avanessian as the camera assistant, we embarked on our adventure. First we geared up an old 1990 Acura with extended AC cables directly from the car’s battery, into the front seat through both the door and the hood. We carefully ran direct wires to a 600W power converter. Since the car had not been running for some time, we had to jump start it and leave it running for a few hours until the battery was charged. In addition to charging the car battery, we had to fix the fuse box so we could open the sunroof to set up the Ikegami D-40 digital studio camera with HD SDI interface on a tripod sticking out. Although there are many inexpensive camera mounting solutions, we chose this manner to showcase the real capabilities of the equipment under the most primitive conditions.

The following equipment listed below were placed behind the driver’s seat with exception of the camera and tripod:

- GVS9000 2U VTR w/ HD SDI interface storage, 3xNomadic 500GB SATA Drive data storage striped as 1.5TB volume + DVD/RW Drive + One Nomadic Blank Drive Bay + VTR configuration hardware running on a independent solid state drive
- LTC to RS422 interface
- Time code Generator MTPAVUSB
- 600W power converter 12V DC to 3x110W
- Philips 17” LCD display for preview control
- 9000VTR capture software
- RS422 9 pin male to female cable
- GVS9000 4U Flycase
- Keyboard and mouse
- Power Strip
- HD SDI and Audio I/O
- Ikegami D40 Camera
- Fujitsu HD Lense HA17x7.8BERM-M28B
- AC Power converter box
- Tripod - 10ft SDI cable
- VGA Video cable

Having never tested the power converter box before, and using a new GVS9000 2U VTR unit, we began plugging in each item one at a time, hoping that we had done our math correctly and that we would not set the whole thing on fire. One by one we plugged each 110AC power cord to the power strips, and turned on the power to each device. Then we powered on the VTR, and were very excited to see the GVS logo on the LCD display. Finally, not sure if the setup for the HD camera and Uncompressed format that were selected in the office earlier were correct, we checked the setup to make sure it was set for uncompressed 4:2:2, 23.98 interlace. (In hindsight, for optimum quality, we should have shot all the footage in 1080p, but unfortunately the HD SDI camera that was provided only supported 1080i.) But knowing we would have a chance to cut the footage later, our goal was to just see how much actual uncompressed footage we could squeeze onto the disk in one afternoon while driving.

Everything looked good, so we headed out of the GVS parking lot at 390 Fremont Street in San Francisco shortly after 2:00 p.m., into the horrendous afternoon traffic, made a quick stop at the 76 gas station and I started the record button. During the whole trip we stop and started the recorder continues, and Previewing the footage on 17” LCD display as if it was HD SDI display in real time.

The above map indicates the driving route we took in San Francisco recording uncompressed HD SDI footage

South Beach Marina
South Beach Marina

Golden Gate

2U VTR Running DC Power

Ikegami D40 Camera

Bay Bridge View from Boat

We headed north along the Embarcadero, continuing through Fisherman’s wharf, up the hill behind the cable cars, and down to Lombard Street (Point 2), at which point we stopped on the hill side and shot continuous footage. From Lombard Street we headed out to Fort Mason (Point 3) and shot some great footage of para-sailers in the bay. Next we crossed the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge on our way to Marin County (Point 4) and filmed the view of the entire San Francisco bay and the Golden Gate. We then drove a winding road over the hill to the Marin Headlands (Point 5), and shot clips of a cargo container transporting large containers out of San Francisco. We returned back across the Golden Gate bridge and headed back through the city, making a few additional stops to shoot more footage before crossing the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. We took several shots from the Bay Bridge and returned back to San Francisco.

Throughout the trip we constantly checked to make sure there were no frames dropped during the UNCOMPRESSED recording. We did not use any codecs or compression, just direct from D-40 HD SDI interface to disk. Since we have the ability to edit in Final Cut Pro we saved the footage as a raw uncompressed Quick time files, but there are other options i.e. DPX. Over all, we did 3+ hours of uncompressed footage in one afternoon, with over 300 clips. (Most of the clips are being streamed on line via the GVS9000 1U Streaming server. The on-line clips are in H.264 files format with different sizes and streaming rates available for preview.1 Keep in mind this footage has not been edited or altered in any way.)

We performed a similar exercise using the same 2U VTR, but this time using a disk that was almost full, to insure that we could get the same performance when the disk capacity is over 80%. We setup on board a 34 foot sailboat which was kindly provided by Captain and veteran sailor Tony Lagorio. We left the San Francisco South Beach Marina in the afternoon, and sailed under the Bay Bridge with one camera set up on a tripod. Because of the low power requirements of the GVS Fly Pack with VTR we were once again able to use the DC connection as the main power source, the 17” LCD display was exchanged with a Panoramic 1U LCD with dual input and VGA for control and HD SDI preview and began shooting shot uncompressed footage of the San Francisco waterfront directly from Ikegami D40 HD camera to disk. As before, the results were outstanding. We achieved the goal of shooting HD uncompressed directly to disk, without losing any footage, even while moving quite a bit on the open Bay. As you can see from the following link, it was an incredible afternoon in the San Francisco Bay.

Disk vs. Tape in Video Products

From our exercise we determined that it would have been impossible to continue recording uncompressed HD for 3 hrs at rate of over 1.2Gbit/sec content with any tape based recorder, and after a quick search, we found no tape device that even offers full uncompressed HD recording at a price point under $25,000. So speaking from a financial standpoint alone, even if your budget allows for renting a high-end tape device, you will spend more money on just raw video tape media than on disk based storage. (Today’s price for a 500GB SATA disk is under $95.00) This creates a ideal opportunity for Digital Dailies and Video Assist to offer new service to there clients.

The following are the advantages of a GVS9000 2U VTR HDSDI disk based recorder:

1. Play back uncompressed content during and right after recording has stopped. Removing the media from the camera for review can cost an entire day that could otherwise be spent shooting more footage. With the GVS9000 2U VTR and your favorite camera, you have the ability to double, triple, and even quadruple your ingest in a single day.
2. Preview the content in real time, and play back, even in slow motion, without rewind or the need for conversion. Option of selecting single frame or short clips and let them run in a loop to make it easy to insure the perfect shot.
3. Review entire event footage at a glance and access any specific areas for editing. Search media, to find specific footage among 100’s or 1000’s hours in just seconds. Option of imbedding the time code in the footage for later editing with edit or audio over lay for the footage.
4. Record to disk and start editing in Final Cut Pro 5 sec. after 2U VTR capture started capturing.
5. Multiple 9000VTRs can record on same disk at the same time, or play back at the same time.
6. Generate a number different copies for preview, available on line with matching time codes. This provides the ability for easy and secure remote proofing, immediately after a shot, or even during shoot.
7. Disk speed is far superior in disk based recorders
8. All the 9000 VTR media (disks) are interchangeable within the same docking bay, from 20GB-1,000GB. Anytime a high media type comes into the market such as D5 (XLR 1) you don’t need to purchase a new expensive recorder, all the 9000 VTRs share the same disk type and format.
9. Since 9000 VTRs are disk based, there is no tape head failure, cleaning or maintenance required.
10. Very simple industry interface that is adopted world wide, to communicate with disk, all this been acquired by clients.
11. Media can sit on the shelf for a long period of time, and still be accessed in real time as needed. It can also be reduplicated without quality sacrifice on as many occasions and format as necessary.
12. Even in extreme climates, including heat, data can be retrieved from 9000 VTR disk.
13. Allows for simple transportation of large amounts of uncompressed data.
14. Duplicate recording options where data uncompressed has been recorded on multiple disks on 9000VTR, and when shipping drive to post house for edit the original disk remains with the record at the site, to insure proper delivery of the content.
15. You can chase footage that are playback form one 9000VTR and sink play back of HD uncompressed content to 2nd or 3rd units.
16. For the last 25 years the disk interface has remained the same and every generation has been backwards compatible. Any drive, from any manufacturer, comes with one of 4 interface options. The SCSI disk interface is widely used today in new hardware and is compatible with older generation equipment. ATA lower cost drives, which have a very large install base, recently changed its interface to provide a smaller foot print, from big, 25-pin cables to a 8-pin cable SATA interface. And last but not least, good old fashioned fibre interface. The ability to interchange your content from one interface to the other with a device such as the Nomadic Router provides the option of having route Fiber Channel, SCSI, ATA and SATA simultaneously in the same environment.
17. And lastly, for those of you who still just can’t believe that a disk is as reliable as tape, and need the reassurance for the bonding company that there is the ability to go back to some form of digital tape, then you can use the Nomadic Router to interconnect with the disk and send out tape command to disk with your existing tape control command.


contact a gvs associate for orginal uncompressed RAW footage or product inquie

Grande Vitesse Systems