How to Work with Phantom Cine Files on Mac OS X

How to Use a Phantom Miro CineFlash Drive with Mac OS X

You have two options if you want to use a Miro with a Mac: either pay for some plugins or use this free method I'm going to show you today. If you want to pay, stop reading and go here. But if you think free sounds pretty nice, keep on reading

Vision Research’s Phantom cameras have almost no competition in the ultra high-speed digital cinema realm. And their newest line of cameras — the Miro M-Series – continue that dominance.

Unfortunately, shooting Phantom means dealing with a clunky workflow. Specifically, a PC-based workflow because Vision Research doesn’t provide Phantom support to Macs. That’s not a problem for some, but it can be for those used to pushing their footage through a Mac pipeline.

So you have two options if you want to use a Miro with a Mac: either pay for some plugins or use this free method I’m going to show you today. If you want to pay, stop reading and go here.

But if you think free sounds pretty nice, keep on reading and I’ll show you how to read, write, transfer, and re-format the CineFlash hard drives used with the Miro on your Max OS X system.

Problems with Phantom Miro Workflow and OS X

Before we get into the nitty gritty of file systems and command lines, it’s important to take a look at the production workflow of the Phantom Miro.

The Miro shoots exclusively to a proprietary SSD created by Vision Research called the CineFlash. It’s available in sizes of 60 GB, 120 GB and 240 GB. Though it sits inside the camera body, it is removable and works a lot like a memory card.

The way the camera is able to shoot such high-speed footage is by saving recorded clips — called Cine’s — to its internal RAM first before transferring the Cine’s to the CineFlash. When triggered to record again, the internal RAM of the Miro is wiped while saved Cine’s rest safely on the CineFlash.

To get your Cine files started in the post-production workflow, you have to get them from the CineFlash onto a computer.

In a PC environment, this is fairly simple. You can connect the camera directly over ethernet to transfer, review, and delete Cine files using included Phantom software. You also have the option of using the CineFlash dock — a standalone dock with eSata out.

With a Mac, you’re limited to the dock — Phantom doesn’t make software for OS X.

Should be simple then, right? Just plug in the CineFlash dock and open Finder…

Well, it’d be nice if it were that simple, but the CineFlash is formatted in a Linux standard EXT2 file system which is not natively supported by OS X. (To be fair, it’s not natively supported by Windows either, but adding support is easier.)

So the trick is to get your Mac to recognize EXT2 drives and thus work with the CineFlash.

It’s fairly straightforward, but it does involve installing some freeware and messing with system files via command-line code. Don’t worry though — I’m going to provide step-by-step instructions and nothing you’ll be doing is destructive to your system.

Let’s begin…

Installing the Right Software to Access the CineFlash

When Googling for solutions to mount EXT2 formatted drives on OS X, I found this article that has you install two things: OSXFUSE and a compatible plugin for itBoth are free, safe, and work with multiple versions of OS X from Snow Leopard (10.6) to Lion (10.7) and Mountain Lion (10.8).

Go ahead and install them on your computer.

Once installed, you can plug in the dock and the CineFlash will show up in Finder. You’ll be able to read the drive and copy files, but you won’t be able to write to it.

To enable write access, follow these instructions below:

  1. Open Finder
  2. Go to Macintosh HD > System > Library > Filesystems
  3. Right click on “fuse-ext2.fs” and select “Show Package Contents”
  4. In the new window, right click on “fuse-ext2.util” and choose “Get Info”
  5. At the bottom under “Sharing & Permissions,” make all the privilege’s Read & Write
  6. Now open the “Terminal” app found in Applications > Utilities
  7. Type “vi /system/library/filesystems/fuse-ext2.fs/fuse-ext2.util”
  8. Type “207G”  – Note: capitalization matters here!
  9. Change OPTIONS=”auto_xattr,defer_permissions” into OPTIONS=”auto_xattr,defer_permissions,rw+” by navigating your cursor with the arrow keys and typing.
  10. Once done, press the escape key
  11. Type “:wq!” and press enter

If you already have the drive mounted when you do this, you’ll have to eject it and remount. I also recommend you restart your computer. You should now be able to read and write to the CineFlash.

Now, we’re almost done…

I just want to warn you of an issue that cropped up for me — deleting files off the CineFlash.

Reformatting CineFlash Drives on OS X

Having never worked with a Phantom before, I’m used to formatting hard drives within cameras. The camera reformats the media and ensures the correct filesystem is in place. Sometimes they’re picky — if you reformat a drive or card outside of the camera, it may not be compatible.

As far as I know, there is no way to reformat a CineFlash on the Miro. And I found no information about reformatting a CineFlash to shoot with the Miro except what filesystem it uses.

This wasn’t an issue until I noticed CineFlash files placed in my Mac’s trash weren’t being deleted.

When I went to continue shooting, the Miro told me the CineFlash was full even though Finder showed no files after emptying the trash. I plugged the dock into a Windows 7 PC and, again, nothing was there. I tried enabling hidden files on both systems and I still found nothing.

But despite the non-existence of these files, both computers and the camera reported the disk as full.

Eventually, Disk Utility revealed there were 17 files… somewhere. With a full disk and no way to delete the files that were (but weren’t) there, I had no choice but to reformat the CineFlash.

I was terrified. I was worried reformatting would make the drive irreversibly incompatible.

I held my breath, hit the button and…. it worked!

So, here’s how to do it…

  1. Open “Disk Utility” from your Applications > Utilities folder
  2. On the left sidebar, highlight the CineFlash disk
  3. On the top, choose the “Erase” tab
  4. Select “fuse-ext2″ under Format and input your desired name for the drive
  5. Click “Erase…”

This will safely re-format the drive with the Ext2 filesystem compatible with the Phantom Miro. It’s also more reliable for erasing files than dragging them into the Trash.

Shooting Phantom to Edit on Mac

Once you have set up your Mac to be compatible with EXT2 drives, you’ll be able to read, write, and reformat CineFlash drives on several versions of OS X from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion.

But what if you’re a bit uncomfortable taking the steps I outlined above? You can still buy this plugin from Paragon for $40 that enables the same capabilities.

Also, if you’re working with a stock Mac, you won’t have an eSata port to connect to the CineFlash dock. In that case, purchase either an eSata to USB 3.0 cable or eSata to Thunderbolt adapter.

Vision Research doesn’t make it easy to shoot Phantom and edit Mac — and from what I’ve heard, have no plans to ease the pain — so if you want to continue the Phantom workflow on a Mac, you’re going to have to shell out $800 for GlueTools’ Phantom Cine toolkit.

That price is steep for some, but at least you’ll be able to backup your Cine files while you scrounge up the money it takes to edit your Phantom footage on a Mac.

  • alex

    Hey Evan, which do you see more often– a PC or a Mac workflow? (In general, not for Phantom specifically). And what factors have you noticed dictate the choice?

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      I more often see a Mac workflow in my limited brushes with post-production. There are numerous factors that dictate the choice, but the main ones are Final Cut Pro, OS X is generally seen as a more stable system, and creative professionals just like the Mac environment/design/Apple products.

      As evidence, my web stats show that 51% of visitors to this site are on a Mac whereas only 29% are on Windows.

  • Michael Locke

    I’m so proud of you. This post from the guy that wasn’t sure about trying Magic Lantern on his camera. Hope you don’t have to spend too much time in a dark room with more than one monitor: cutting. But I’ve learned so much about what I need to shoot from seeing what I don’t have to cut to. Thanks for this, and feel free to pass on any Alexa or Red experience you have, footage-wise. Production and post work closer and closer these days via metadata, DITs, and 3D/compositors on set. Today’s camera department needs to know “target media” more than ever before, and your insight keeps me coming back here. We’ll all keep growing with you…

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Haha well I’m not that inept with technology Michael! With both reformatting the drive and Magic Lantern, my concern is factors out of my control compromising the hardware.

      Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying the site and I think you’re right — post production is incher closer to what I do and, as a result, I’ll probably post about it more and more

  • http://www.facebook.com/it.is.me.rick Rick Robinson

    A couple of comments. The reason you might have had a full CineFlash, but saw no files is because you need to be sure to “empty the trash” after deleting files from the CineFlash. Moving files to the trash on a Mac doesn’t actually delete them until the trash is emptied. Second, I’ve had good luck using the supplied PCC software installed under Windows XP using Bootcamp or Parallels. I know you are still in a windows environment, but at least running on the Mac. This is a good way to quickly use PCC to format the CineFlash, for example.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hey Rick — I did empty the trash multiple times. I also plugged the CineFlash into a Windows PC and emptied the recycle bin. This also explained why when we first got the CineFlash it had 44GB full, but no clips on it. We just assumed the 44GB was locked off for formatting or whatever.

      But great idea on using Bootcamp or Parallels. It’s a bit of an expensive solution, but for those who want something more reliable or permanent, it’s a good idea!

  • Stephen

    Shot with the Miro 320 and was a complete pain in the ***. The camera kept crashing and ended up losing so much time. Canned most of the slowmoshots. This was before we even tried to back up the material. The poor tech who came with it was tearing his hair out. Looks cool but would not touch.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hm sounds like you had a bad experience with a bad camera. The only glitch I’ve encountered is a few errors that were fixed by just turning the camera off/on

  • Stephen

    The Docking Station fo download the cards wouldn’t work either – what’s the point if the system doesn’t work out of the box?

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Hey Stephen – What problem were you having? I agree it’s frustrating, but you have to consider the fact that Vision Research doesn’t explicitly make cameras for entertainment purposes. From what I’ve heard, most of their money comes from the manufacturing sector

  • Michael Alex Campbell

    When installing OSXFuse make sure to click the MACFuse Compatibility box.. http://techiezone.rottigni.net/2012/01/ext2ext3-support-on-mac-os-x-lion/comment-page-1/#comment-5407

  • Adri Tezzi

    Hi, thank you, for me the formatting in ext2 with this method was not recognized by the camera… I don’t know why… I wrote to the industrial and I received the instructions to format the camera SSD drive using Windows (sad I know but still it is a (short term) solution) :
    CineFlash Formatting
    Instructions to format the CineFlash device via a TCP connection
    Procedure:

    Connect the Phantom camera to the control PC via the ethernet connection
    Power on the camera and wait for the camera to completely boot.
    Power on the control PC and wait for Window’s to completely boot.
    Install the CineFlash device into the camera.
    Open the Windows command prompt.

    *For Windows 95, 2000, and XP:
    From the Window’s Start Menu, select ‘Run’ (usually this located on the bottom right side)
    In the Run program locate the field labelled ‘Open’ and type: cmd
    Click the ‘OK’ button

    * For Windows Vista and 7:
    From the Windows Start Menu, select Control Panel
    Select ‘Programs and Features’
    Select ‘Turn Windows features on or off’
    Check the ‘Telnet Client’ box
    Press ‘OK’ button
    From the Windows Start Menu, type “cmd” in the search bar
    Click the ‘cmd.exe’ link from the Programs list of the search results

    In the Windows command line interface, type: telnet 7115
    must be replaced with the camera’s IP address. This information can be found on the IP decal on the bottom panel of the camera.
    Example: if the camera’s IP address is: 100.100.95.114, one would type:
    telnet 100.100.95.114 7115
    Example: if the camera’s IP address is: 100.100.95.118, one would type:
    telnet 100.100.95.118 7115

    Press the ‘Enter’ button (You should see a blank screen with a flashing cursor)

    Press the ‘Enter’ button again (You should see a question mark)

    Format the CineFlash device by typing the following: cfformat (Press the ‘ENTER’ button)

    Notes:
    This command returns ‘OK’ after the format is complete.
    Please expect at least one minute for the format to complete.