Experiment: iPod Video Capture?

Experiment: iPod Video Capture? 1

Experiment: iPod Video Capture? 2 Experiment: iPod Video Capture? 3

Besides software to play 1000 (or 2000) MP3 tracks, and hold vCard format text too, the iPod is a versatile pocket-sized Toshiba 5GB (or 10GB) FireWire Hard disk.

Just what’s needed for editing iMovies, or for use with Final Cut Pro …to edit video unaffected by, say, a PowerBook’s constant background ‘house-keeping’ reads-&-writes. A suitable external video-capture FireWire disk will generally run more smoothly than the necessarily task-sharing internal Mac hard disk.

I tried using my iPod as a capture disk (after temporarily wiping all music tracks from my iPod) I was greatly underwhelmed: it does NOT do the job!

FireWire’s a fast file-transfer facility – but its speed can be drastically reduced by slow devices attached to it.

Many CD rewriters – the early portable Freecoms, for instance – won’t perform faster with a FireWire interface instead of the slower USB connection. That’s due to the slow CD-RW writing speed knocking down overall performance.

Disks for use with Digital Video must write at a minimum of 3.6MB per second for sustained transfer of video between a camcorder and storage disk. That equates to roughly 1GB storage for every 5 minutes of video. The FireWire interface (theoretical speed up to 50MB per second) easily handles 3.6MB of data transfer, but not all hard disks can receive and store data at that rate.

Capturing DV onto my G3 500MHz FireWire PowerBook’s internal Toshiba 20GB hard disk has never been a problem (nor capturing video onto my external ‘backup’ 20GB LaCie hard drive). But, my iPod captures about 7 seconds of video, then there’s a glitch and the PowerBook screen goes black for a couple of seconds, and then capture resumes. But two seconds of video is lost.

I ran the latest Norton SystemWorks 2.0 “System Info” disk-speed check on my internal hard drive, on my 5GB iPod, on the external 7200 rpm LaCie drive, and on an external Western Digital 5400 rpm 20GB drive.

“And the winner is!” …my internal hard drive!  The iPod’s transfer rate is w-a-y too slow for video editing and the other two disks never matched the speed of my internal drive! (though I had just defragmented the spare space on the internal disk, so that influenced things a tad!).

The internal PowerBook Toshiba hard disc – according to Norton – writes a 1k file at 2594k/sec (just under the DV speed of 3.6mb/sec), does a 4k sequential write at 8133k/sec (that’s 8mb/sec), and a 16k sequential write at 15248k/sec (that’s 15mb per second, far more than fast enough) –  whereas my iPod writes a 1k file at 505k/sec (far too slow), 4k at 1971k/sec (still too slow), and 16k at 5520k/sec (that’s 5.5mb/sec which is OK).

The iPod writes at anywhere from a fifth the speed to about one third the speed of my internal hard disk. But it keeps up, above that crucial 3.6MB/sec speed only for short bursts of file-writing, and doesn’t reliably capture more than about 7 seconds before it’s overloaded.

Norton rates the overall performance of my G3 PowerBook internal hard disk above that of a PowerMac G4 500MHz (..surprising, but this old black 256MB FireWire PowerBook always seems speedier than any new white G4 PowerBook I’ve tried!) – but the iPod’s disk is rated scarcely faster than the old PowerBook 3400.

Interface isn’t everything. The iPod is s-l-o-w when it comes to handling video. In iLounge Publisher, Dennis Lloyd’s words: “It’s most likely because of the Toshiba drive in the iPod is made for short bursts of read access. Prolonged read access may damage the drive… continuously spinning the disk may cause heat damage to the disk’s platter.”

Fabulous for MP3, handy for Contacts, but a portable disk for video editing? Forget it!

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  1. I was searching the iPod Lounge for information on how to use an iPod for storing digital images by plugging in a firewire card reader and found your article: interesting! So for video it’s too slow! Have you or has anybody else tried to store images on it?
    Could a SD card reader be connected to the iPod? Do I need additional software?
    And can two iPod be linked?

  2. I came to this site asking the same question as Micheal. Does anyone know the answer? I have looked on this site but haven’t found any posts that address the question. My idea is to use an iPod, a dual female firewire adapter, and a firewire CF card reader to provide a storage solution for when I am out shooting with my digital camera. Will this work? Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks.

  3. P.S. For a very portable DV capturing system check out MCE’s Quickstream DV [url=http://www.powerbook1.com/quickstreamdv.html]http://www.powerbook1.com/quickstreamdv.html[/url]

  4. I too was getting sick of juggling a dozen CF cards and booting up the laptop in dubious terrain to empty them while worrying about remaining battery was getting old fast.

    I tried using the ArchosAV 340 – the 4″ screen is good and the video out quality is acceptable, but it was a little bulky and at $600 was a little spendy for me.

    I ebay’d it and got a Lyra instead. $400, screen not so good, but video out quality seems better. Longer battery life, same Compact Flash slot, and the unit is a lot more compact. I swapped out the 20GB drive for an 80GB drive. Has no problem accepting CF cards from my Canon, or recording from a direct Composite video feed from my Sony.



  5. Hey was looking for similar information to Eris “idea is to use an iPod, a dual female firewire adapter” but to a video camera I know that VidGuy sugested the alternative option but its a little too expensive for me.
    About the speed of the drive I tested it with a 3G on iMovie and it ran pretty smooth exept for the lag when making changes.

  6. for you to be able to upload/edit video properly, you need either a huge internal drive or a external with an Oxford 9.11 accelerator. If you want to show video, buy a cheap hard drive and an encasement at CDW for $50. you can get USB and/or firewire encasements. Its a little cheaper than buying a 120 gig external. but either works.

  7. I have a LaCie Pocket Firewire 60gb drive and I can capture full res DV to my laptop using a 12v Orange Micro hub providing the 5v firewire power.
    If I replaced the laptop with an IPod do you reckon it would work?

  8. I need a 40 gb hard disk for my ipod because the one I have is damaged, anybody knows where can I get it, and how much is ti suppose to cost

  9. i want to connect my PDA (dell axim ) to my ipod as an external drive using the cf slot. thisvwould be great!
    anyone think this is possible.?

  10. thanks for publishing this experiment – i was planning to use an ipod 40gig as a spare hard drive for mobile mixing in LOGIC….. probably not a good idea if it is going to cook the drive.



  11. although this may not be totally related to the topic, i read somewhere that there is a limit on how big 1 single file can be on the ipod, and i think that is something like 4gbs. ive hear dof people using the ipod to transfer large files, like kids moving around large video files for editing at other places. but, surely 7 seconds of video would not take up 4 gbs…i dont know.

  12. What model of iPod were you using? I read an article in Millimeter magazine about some who put DV footage on his iPod and played it looping for 24 hrs with no glitches.

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