Cheating a Camcorder’s Codec
- Most “filmmaker” video camcorders
have a live HD
video output that is active when the unit is powered up. Those
camcorders’ video outputs are available in HD-SDI, HDMI or USB 3.0
manufacturers have produced a number of portable recording units
designed to capture the output from such connectors in various
higher-quality codecs than those built into those camcorders, and a
portable recorder may provide access to cheaper or larger-capacity
recording media than that for which the camera was designed.
KI PRO LINE
Ki Pro was one of the first portable recorders to go beyond supplying
larger recording times in the camcorder’s native codec. It supports
Apple ProRes 422 recording, making it attractive to Final Cut users.
Video Systems Ki Pro
the ubiquity of ProRes means current nonlinear editing systems can
access the captured video easily. AJA Video Systems makes that easier by
outfitting the Ki Pro with RS-422 and Firewire 800 machine control so
it can also function as the source deck in post-production.
Ki Pro has a complement of analog and digital video and audio
input/output connections and controls for recording, monitoring and
playback when powered by batteries in the field or an AC adapter in the
studio. As a bonus, AJA built in a number of up-, down- and aspect ratio
conversions for HD-to-SD or SD-to-HD situations. Rounding out the Ki
Pro features are a local area network connection control, time code I/O
and a built-in Web server to make the unit controllable using a standard
Web browser and LAN connection.
users who need something smaller than the Ki Pro, AJA offers the Ki Pro
Mini. While the Mini is smaller and lighter than its sibling, it
maintains most of the basic recording and play- back features without
the up-, down- and cross- conversion capability, the company says.
Mini does lose the RS-422 control and analog connectors—except for
XLR audio input—and it relies on HD-SDI and HDMI for digital I/O and
or LANC for control. It also trims size and weight by recording onto
two CF cards instead of hard- or solid-state drives. As a bonus for Avid
users, the Ki Pro Mini can record directly to Avid DNxHD.
of the newer low-cost 4K camcorders— such as the Canon EOS
image 4K, but not record it onto their on-board media. However, those
camcorders do output 4K live on dual-link 3G HD-SDI ports. The Ki Pro
Quad, a unit that looks like a fatter Mini, was designed by AJA in
collaboration with Canon for just that purpose. The Ki Pro Quad records
4K quad HD, 2K or HD to removable solid- state drives in ProRes 10-bit
4:4:4 or 4:2:2.
NINJA AND SAMURAI
2011, newly formed Atomos introduced two field recorders, the Ninja and
the Samurai. The recently updated Ninja-2 will record video and two
channels of embedded audio from the camcorder’s HDMI output to a
removable 2.5-inch hard disk drive or solid-state drive in 10-bit Apple
ProRes 422 or Avid DNxHD. One side of the unit presents a touch- screen
interface for transport controls and unit set- up that doubles as an
addition, a looped LANC connection is provided for integration with
LANC camera control accessories. It also provides two line-in audio
inputs and a headphone jack for audio monitoring. Rechargeable
batteries—supplied with the unit—power the Ninja, and while
it has two
battery bays, it runs on a single battery. The single battery power
system enables continuous operation during “hot-swap”
The Ninja ships with a “Master Caddy” into which the
HDD/SSD can be
inserted after recording for file-based media transfer to a non- linear
editing system by SATA, Firewire 800, or USB 2.0/3.0.
slightly larger Samurai will take 10-bit uncompressed video from an
HD/SD-SDI feed instead of HDMI and supports eight channels of embedded
audio. The Samurai’s touch screen has almost twice the resolution of
Ninja’s and it provides loop-through output via HD/SD-SDI. Both
products ship as kits that include a case, two batteries, charger, two
Master Caddies and cables. Add a compatible 2.5-inch HDD/SDD to either
of the units and they are ready to record.
Forward Video sideKick
Forward Video, one of the first production DVR developers, currently
provides Apple ProRes 422 recording in its sideKick HD recorder. FFV
plans to support other codecs via optional firmware upgrades, but the
sidekick currently features tra- ditional transport control buttons
below a 4.3-inch liquid crystal display screen that provides monitoring
capability and access to configuration menus.
sideKick comes with a 128 gigabyte remov- able 2.5-inch SSD, battery,
charger, four-to-three- pin power adapter cable, camera shoe mount and
carrying case. It supports either HDMI or HD-SDI input with embedded
audio and an analog two- channel microphone/line input as well as head-
phone output. While the sideKick is ready to shoot out of the box, a
2.5-inch removable drive bay will need to be acquired separately in
order to do a file- based media transfer to a NLE system.
up the scale in capability and price, the Cinedeck EX supports all
forms and data rates of Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD, AVC-Intra, XDCam,
H.264, legacy Avid Meridian, and Cineform DI codecs as well as 4:4:4 and
4:2:2 uncompressed HD recording from HDMI, HD/SD-SDI single-/dual-link,
or LAN to a standard 2.5-inch SSD.
the 7-inch touch screen provided for monitoring and control, the EX
has a column of 10 physical buttons dedicated to the most common field
recording tasks. Its larger size allows it to provide more I/O
including a video graphics array monitor port, time code/sync connectors,
eSATAp port multiplier with RAID support, USB and a breakout
connector that supports I/O for analog video, analog and digital audio
plus RS-422 machine control. The Wi-Fi connector and extensive controls
provided by the touch screen really make the EX more than a simple
cinema grade portable recorder.
same is true of Sound Devices' PIX recorders that are available in two
variants, the PIX 220i and the PIX 240i, both of which use 5-inch
in-plane switching displays for control and monitoring.
PIX 220i supports only HDMI with four- channel embedded audio input
while the 240i supports both HDMI and HD-SDI with eight-channel embedded
audio and the 240i adds AES3 digital audio input and eSATAp to support
additional external storage. Beyond those differences, the 220i and 240i
look nearly identical and support the same functionality.
Devices' PIX 240i
systems have balanced XLR microphone/line audio input with switchable
48 Vphantom power, and two-channel XLR line-level audio output plus a
headphone connector. Power is supplied by two Sony L batteries or by
another DC source through a Hirose four-pin connector. If the unit is
connected to a DC power supply, but is turned off, it will act as a
buttons below the 5-inch LCD screen pro- vide transport control while
four small metal ball buttons, two on each side of the display, provide
dedicated function control and set-up menu access. The PIXs can record
to either high-speed Cinedeck’s EX.
the 7-inch touch screen provid- ed for monitoring and control, the EX
has a column of 10 physi- cal buttons dedicated to the most common field
larger size allows it to provide more I/O including a video
CompactFlash or standard 2.5-inch SSD in the internal bay or in an
optional caddie that can be used for content transfer to
Thunderbolt-equipped computers. The PIX-CADDY supports USB 3.0,
Firewire 800 and eSATAp connections while PIX recorders can capture to
all variations and frame rates of Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD.
Design’s Gemini 4:4:4 does what the name implies: It records to
high-definition television systems (REC-709) 10-bit uncompressed 4:4:4
or 4:2:2 (QuickTime .mov format) 1080p to two SSDs.
Gemini’s monitoring and menu control is available through the 5-inch
LCD display on system’s side, and the device can be set to record to
both SSDs simultaneously for back-up purposes, or it can relay the video
to devices providing longer recording times.
Design's Gemini 4:4:4
can program the Gemini to over-/ under-crank or record in time-lapse
mode. Two HD-SDI inputs support embedded time code and eight-channel
audio, and they can be configured as single-link, or dual-link 3G ports.
Outputs include two HD-SDI, 3.5-millimeter headphone jack and HDMI. An
optional wired remote control can add a locked in time code I/O.
optional add-on codec includes ARRIRAW, Canon 4K and stereo 3D
recording. The newer Gemini RAW includes those options in the base
package. Gemini kits include an eSATA “transfer station”
SSDs to a computer or NLE system.
order to preserve as much resolution as an imager can deliver before
the camcorder’s native compression degrades it, investigate those and
the numerous other portable recorders currently available. Running the
price spectrum from sub-$1,000 to $5,000 plus, there are plenty of
opportunities to buy less or more than needed, so be sure to consider
all environmental and operational use-cases to determine which device
best meets the studio’s needs.