Convergent Design has long been producing products in the external, portable recorder arena, starting with one of the first such appliances, the nanoFlash, a very compact SDI/HDMI HD recorder. Their design trajectory has brought them to the Odyssey series of high quality monitor/recorders, of which the 7Q+ is the latest and best.
Can record at resolutions through 4K via SDI and HDMI to two SSDs. The Odyssey series has been through several iterations of continuous improvement, a value to which Convergent Design as a company seems deeply dedicated. The 7Q+ flagship model, which made its first appearance at the end of 2014, can record at resolutions through 4K via SDI—single, dual, or quad link—and HDMI to two SSDs, up to 1 TB each, which allows for long record times, even at the highest resolutions and quality. Convergent Design highly recommends their own branded and tested SSDs for best performance, but has also tested and qualified Samsung 850 EVO and Pro SSDs, which cost less.
Record formats include—straight out of the box—ProRes 422 HQ, 422, and 422 LT, up to 4K/UHD at 29.97p, and all resolutions and rates below. The Odyssey can also record 2K and HD as uncompressed video,12 or 10 bit, in DPK stacks (recorded as 4:4:4). It can downscale on record and/or output from 4K/UHD to 1080p for on-set monitoring, and the downscaling looks fantastic thanks to its super-sampling feature (see the web site for images of detail improvement). Recording and camera interface capabilities can be expanded by purchasing all RAW features and free future upgrades for $995 or renting RAW capability for ARRI Alexa, Canon C500, or Sony FS7/FS700, which are available online and easily installed. This list will no doubt expand over time.
There is SDI and HDMI I/O as mentioned above, a 3.5mm analog input and a 3.5mm audio output, which are suitable for headphone monitoring, a BNC for linear timecode I/O, and 2 SDI ports that can be configured for input—allows for four channel monitoring on input—or as extra outputs. A planned firmware upgrade in the near future will enable multi-stream, simultaneous recording.
The monitor is a 7.7-inch, 1280x800 OLED touchscreen that looks fantastic, even in sunlight. It has a wide viewing angle, true blacks and accurate, wide gamut colors for monitoring in REC709 or DCI-P3 spaces. 3D LUTs can be applied to the image and viewed on the monitor, viewed in any of the image analysis tools listed below, and/or routed to an output (or not), and recorded as an XML tag with the clip for post work. The Odyssey comes with a library of 3D LUTs, including those for ARRI, Blackmagic, Panasonic, RED, and Sony cameras, with additional presets downloadable from the Convergent Design website. Custom LUTs can be created and stored in the unit with ease.
Image analysis tools include waveform monitor, vectorscope, histogram, false color exposure guides, Zebra, three modes of focus assist, pixel zoom—1:1 and 2:1—image flip, and various frame guides. All image analysis modes have many customizable parameters to use in any situation or shooting mode.
Two hardware buttons on the left side of the unit function as lockout for the touchscreen and power down—there is a power on button on the bottom edge of the unit—and will be made programmable in a future firmware upgrade. The case also features a mini-HDMI input port, a Kensington lock port, remote port—which will be made operational in a future free upgrade as well—a DC power port, and three 1/4-20 threaded mounting sockets on the sides, four M3 sockets on the rear of the case and two M4 sockets on each side.
The touchscreen provides access to and controls for the menu system; a shallow and quickly accessible system with no setting more than one or two levels away. The screen itself is nicely responsive yet not so sensitive that proximity can trigger it, which is very important in the pressure of a shoot. The menu system, which can be displayed or not at a single touch, also functions as a status display, and has just three root level sub-menus: Odyssey, Setup, and Outputs.
The Odyssey menu controls basic device functions such as date/time settings, SSD format and recovery routines, and activation functions, which are necessary for initial authorization of the unit and activation of any purchased or rented software options. The Outputs menu simply controls the tally indicator, and whether the outputs show any of the image analysis overlays, if the output is progressive or PSF, and whether the output levels are legalized or extended, as applicable. The Setup menu functions as both a detailed status display, if wanted, and control for all the camera, record format, source and triggering options, none of which are more than one level deep.
In addition to the menu and status displays, the interface includes toolbars across the top and bottom of the screen. The top bar can display system, input, record, and SSD status, along with quick access to control and parameter settings, audio meters, and clip metadata and last take information.
The lower bar shows timecode and quick access to the numerous overlay and image analysis settings. A tap on these turns the feature on or off, and a longer hold on the button gives access to settings and parameters.
The unit weighs in at about 1.2 pounds of magnesium alloy case in a compact, 8x6x1-inch form factor. It consumes between 8 and 18 Watts, depending on record mode, and can run on anything between 6.5 and 34V DC, provided through battery or included AC adaptor. It runs silently, with no fan or vents.
When a product is this good, it always seems as though there is never enough time to spend with it, as the use and testing/evaluating is always such a pleasure. In the case of the Odyssey 7Q+, I was able to use it to record the output of an HD camera (Sony EX3) and a small 4K camera (Sony AX-100) in several performance settings, as well as being able to spend a day in the studio of cinematographer Alan Dater and his Sony FS7. In both situations, the Odyssey exceeded expectations and hopes.
In performance shooting situations, I found that the recorded output of either camera was visibly better than what each camera records internally. Side-by-side comparisons in my edit suite confirmed what Convergent Design shows on their web site: sharper edges, deeper blacks, and an overall feeling of clearer image, the degree dependent on the nature of the scene being shot.
The size, weight, and silence of the unit made mounting and using it during a performance easy. The benefits of having such an excellent monitor on a shoot are obvious, and the OLED monitor is indeed excellent in all the conditions and situations I used it in.
Despite being a fairly confirmed and old school button and knob kind of guy, I found adjustments and controls quickly available, intuitively designed and programmed, and very easy to use, even in a cramped and dark theater setting. There was not even a technical hiccup while shooting, reviewing, or offloading footage from the Odyssey. I should note that the Convergent Design-supplied SSDs performed flawlessly and were quick in transfer situations.
In the studio with Alan Dater and his FS7, we shot and compared both still life scenes, carefully lit, and several test charts, and found the same clarity of image and ease of operation as I noted above, during and after performance shoots. The degree of image improvement was far less noticeable with such a spectacular camera as the FS7, but we both agreed the fidelity was superb, even when recording a downscaled version of what the camera recorded internally.
There are so many benefits to using a unit like the Odyssey 7Q+ as part of a production package, some of which have been mentioned above. And there are so many benefits to using specifically the Odyssey 7Q+, including top notch performance specs, continuous improvement via firmware and feature upgrades, and incredible ease and fluidity of use thanks to intelligent and excellent design of both software and hardware. I highly recommend careful consideration of what using the Odyssey 7Q+ can do for your specific production situations. The designers at Convergent Design really got it right!
Michael Hanish operates Free Lunch, a video/audio/multimedia production house near Guilford, Vt. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.
➤ FAST FACTS
Lightweight, high-quality recording up to 4K, including high-res monitor
Superb monitor and monitoring tools, multiple formats and resolutions up to 4K, SDI and HDMI inputs, light weight, low power draw
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