CitiDISK DV video capturing hard drive – Review

CitiDISK DV video capturing hard drive
Company: Shining Technology

Price: $499 to $649

Digital video is inherently time-consuming. Planning the shots, taking the shots, getting the video into your computer, then editing the sound and video takes time. Lots of time.

If you shoot one hour of digital video, you’ll need another one full hour to get that video into your computer, as you have to play the video from the camera, and capture it with iMovie or the video editor of your choice.

If only there was a way to get the video into the computer faster, you could get started editing that much sooner…

There is a way!

Shining Technologies has developed a portable hard drive with special firmware called the CitiDISK DV that allows you to capture the same DV stream to the CitiDISK DV hard drive that is captured to video tape by your video camera.

You simply plug the battery-powered CitiDISK DV into the FireWire port on your video camera, and begin shooting. The CitiDISK DV will responds to the Record Start, Stop, and Pause signal from the camera, and will record to its internal hard drive the same video stream recorded onto the camera’s tape. When you are done shooting, power off the CitiDISK DV, then connect it to the FireWire port on your Mac, power it on, and transfer the video clips into your video editing application. Gone is the time required to play back your video clips to your Mac.

More about the CitiDISK DV.

This little unit is available in 20, 30, 40, or 60 gig sizes, and comes in a housing about the size of your palm. It runs on rechargeable internal batteries, or AC power (AC power adapter included). Appropriate FireWire cables are included. When you aren’t using it for DV transfer duties, you have a perfectly normal FireWire portable hard drive.

Things to be aware of!

I tested the CitiDISK DV extensively, over a 3 month period of time. I was exceptionally pleased at the responsiveness of the Shining Technology technical staff. As a result of my comments and feedback, they incorporated numerous improvements to the CitiDISK DV. But I have to say that they were not able to come up with fixes for some iMovie problems. More on that below.

The CitiDISK DV documentation, while very Windows-centric, adequately covers the Macintosh setup and installation. Be sure that you read it, as the unit comes formatted as a FAT32 (Windows-style) disk, not a Macintosh HFS+ disk. If you re-format the drive, you have to format it as FAT32, and install a special file from the installation CD to be able to capture video. If you don’t do it right, you can’t capture video (although the hard drive will work just fine). Make sure that you fully charge the internal battery before you head out in the field!

Problems: CitiDISK DV, iMovie, file types and creators.

Working with iMovie version 2 and 3 running OS X caused LOTS and LOTS of emails between the Shining Technology support folks and I. Note that I did NOT test the CitiDISK DV under OS 9. At one point, I contemplated not publishing a review of the CitiDISK DV, as it appeared to have some serious problems. However, almost all the issues have been resolved. Please read on to see if the CitiDISK DV is right for you. It very well may work perfectly!

With OS X, Apple has changed how it uses the traditional OS 9 “type and creator” information that tell the Mac OS which applications open which documents. The CitiDISK DV efficiently captures the raw DV stream to its hard drive, but it is not able to bestow any type and creator information on the newly-stored clips. The documentation says that the user needs to use a file editing utility such as File Buddy to change the type and creator of one clip just one time, and then the Mac OS will then be able to send the clips to the proper application.

Once the proper type and creator is set, iMovie will recognize the clip, and it can be imported and edited. Until the type and creator is set, however, you cannot use the File>Import command in iMovie 2 or 3 to import the DV clips on the CitiDISK DV hard drive; the clips will appear grayed-out, and not suitable for importing.

I spent many hours testing this, and was never able to make it work. I could change the creator of one clip, and import it, but subsequent clips would not be imported. I had to change the type and creator for ALL clips EVERY time.

This behavior stumped the technical staff at Shining, and we worked for quite a while to find out what was happening. Even Apple Developer support was consulted.

While the emails were flying, I discovered that iMovie 3 could work perfectly well with the CitiDISK DV, and avoid the whole type and creator hassle, simply by dragging the clips into the iMove 3 clip shelf, instead of using the File>Import command. This works because the iMovie 3 window is resizable, and you can arrange the window in such a way that you can easily drag the clips from the CitiDISK DV to the iMovie 3 clip shelf. They import perfectly each and every time.

Unfortunately, the older iMovie 2’s window always runs full-screen, and cannot be resized. This makes it impossible to drag the clips, as you can’t get to them with iMovie 2 hogging the full screen. So, unless you change the type and creator of every clip you record, you won’t be able to get your clips into iMovie 2.

So, if you use iMovie 3, the CitiDISK DV is a GREAT time-saver, and a handy portable hard drive as well.

If you use iMovie 2, you probably won’t want to use the CitiDISK DV unless you are willing to set clip type and creators with the utility of your choice.

Conclusion. This review was tough to write, as I appreciated the amount of time and effort Shining Technology put into working with me. They are knowledgeable and responsive, and it is apparent that they stand behind their product. It’s hard to write a less-than-glowing review of a product whose developers are so enthusiastic.

I can highly recommend the CitiDISK DV to users of iMovie 3.

But if you are one of the many who prefer iMovie 2 instead of 3, I can’t recommend the CitiDISK DV, due to its inability to get clips easily into iMovie 2.

MacMice Rating: 3 out of 5

David Weeks

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