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Ahead of me was an 8 ½ hour journey from New York to Canada, a three camera shoot in a studio I had never seen and no time to learn new equipment. I wanted to integrate a tapeless system to save time and have the project cut before I returned to Manhattan. The time involved getting to the location would allow me to test the Datavideo DN-300 and the trip back would allow me time to edit. The goal was to leave on a Friday, complete everything on the road and be back by Monday. The Datavideo DN-300 helped make that happen.
The Datavideo DN-300 is built for professionals wanting to maximize their time by eliminating the need to digitize tapes. This product is loaded with features, constructed from quality materials and has everything you need inside the box, including a 250GB hard drive. Purchasing a digital video recorder (DVR) allows you to free up your non-linear editing system (NLE) or possibly your camcorder from capturing tapes. Using your NLE to digitize is not the best use of your time or equipment. There are plenty of DVRs on the market but Datavideo holds up to the level of professionalism that B&H customers expect.
Quality and craftsmanship are the first things you will notice after opening the DN-300's package. I hesitated to start off a review with quality instead of general product specifications, except the aspect of quality was so prevalent. All connectors and screws are locked into place. Nothing is too tight or too loose. I have never rented or owned a DVR as solid as this one before.
This level of reliability and quality is important when using the DN-300 for 19 hours of continuous recording. Simply connect your video source, either standard definition or HDV, via the firewire (iLink, IEEE-1394) and record an output from HDV camcorders (.m2t) or DV. The DV sources can come from firewire or an analog video source. Most DVRs have a firewire input, but the DN-300 includes component, composite and s-video. This allows you to connect numerous sources to record and play back.
I connected a Targus APV12US Slim Line 150W Auto/Air Power Inverter to the Cigarette Lighter Plug of our rental car. This powered the DN-300 and the camcorder for the trip. I could let the DN-300 capture HDV through the firewire for our entire trip there and back without filling up the drive. This is an amazing advantage for videographer's needing to capture long shoots without stopping to change a tape.
Datavideo DN-300 Rear View
All necessary cables are provided in the box. It was a relief to know I did not need to pick up more cables on the road. I was surprised to see BNC, Firewire and phono plugs inside the packaging. Here is a list of included items.
1 x DN-300 HDV / DV Hard Disk Recorder
1 x File Converter Software CD
1 x 6 Pin to 6 Pin DV Cable 2m
1 x 6 Pin to 4 Pin DV Cable 2m
1 x YUV Component I/O Cable Sub D 15 Pin Socket to 7 x BNC Socket 30cm
2 x BNC to BNC Cable 1.2m
1 x 2 Phono Plug to 2 Phono Plug Audio Cable 1.2m
1 x S-Video Plug to Plug Cable 1.2m
1 x Mains Cable
1 x Power Supply (12V 4.2A)
1 x Instruction Manual
The Datavideo DN-300 allows you to capture faster than real time - 16 times faster. After recording your footage to the hard drive of the DN-300, simply connect the unit to your computer via firewire and transfer the files over. Full support for the original DV time code is encoded in every file. It's possible to record up to 99 tracks.
After I was done shooting, I switched the DN-300 to hard drive mode, transferred the files and began editing. The DN-300 will work on a Mac or PC NLE system. It records to a native file format of DV or M2T which is accepted by major NLEs. Datavideo also provides file conversion software to change the files from one format to another. My laptop drive had the footage so I cleared the DN-300 and it was ready for the 3 camcorder shoot.
Previewing the files with the DN-300 is straightforward. You can even play the video through firewire back to the camcorders viewfinder. Large buttons on the front of the DN-300 make it easy to use the VCR like controls to scroll through the menu. The buttons are illuminated and are located beside the two-line backlit LCD display. A user can play, rewind, fast forward, fast reverse, pause, frame advance, file selection, file delete and loop play from the controls. Other features include variable speed forward or reverse play, and frame by frame playback in forward and reverse.
I had some trailers and highlight reels from past shows on my laptop drive. I transferred them over to the DN-300 and played back the footage for the audience while we were setting up. This helped serve as a warm up act and to distract the audience from the crew moving at full speed to turn a basic stage into a television studio.
You can also connect the DN-300 to a monitor, television or video recorder from the unit's digital and analog outs. Each input has a convenient loop through for integration with existing equipment. This makes it convenient for instantly accessing files at a tradeshow or in-shop promotion.
The Datavideo DN-300 can be used as an external firewire drive from which files can be copied onto or from either a Mac or a pc. This would be used for presentation or the occasional transportation of a larger file.
The DN-300 has additional ports for professional equipment and control. There is a GPI socket that can be used for simple external control. It can accept pulse or level trigger inputs, which can trigger record, playback and pause commands.
The areas for improvement would be weight and battery capability. The DN-300 weighs 4.5lbs but I would not give up weight if it leads to cheaper quality construction. The DN-300 does not come with a battery. The ease of a battery source instead of wall power would be an excellent addition. The unit has a 110/220 12V DC power supply with 2.1mm connector.
The Datavideo DN-300 is an excellent digital video recorder (DVR). The key features are it's 19 hours of storage and analog inputs. The DN-300's professional quality enclosure is sturdy and reliable. It is easy to connect and use with a pc or Mac. The VCR like controls make it great for tradeshows or reviewing tape. The Datavideo DN-300 made my shoot a breeze; this is a wonderful product to add to your videography equipment arsenal.
Datavideo DN-400 front Datavideo DN-400 back
Datavideo recently announced the DN-400 and the DN-500 as an enhancement to their digital video recorder line. The DN-300 is remaining in the Datavideo line. The new DN-400 will mirror the DN-300's features and capabilities, but offer advancements in respect to a removable 2.5" 250GB hard drive, balanced stereo mini-XLR connectivity, and a black burst output. The DN-500 is the rackmount version of the DN-400.