The KONA 3 from AJA Video Systems is an I/O Mac-compatible capture card for facilities considering to enter the “film as digital” landscape. The card is capable of working with SD, HD, dual-link HD and 2K files. It can receive and send 2K data via high-speed data link (HSDL), making it compatible with 2K telecines and DDRs that output 2K data via HSDL.
The easiest way for video professionals to understand HSDL is to think of it like dual-link HD for the transmission of 2K data. Where dual-link HD moves HD across two SDI cables as video, HSDL moves 2K over the two SDI cables as data.
When used with AJA's VTR Xchange software, users can ingest 2K data and create simultaneous DPX and QuickTime files. By creating a QuickTime file and a series of DPX files, the number of applications that can use the 2K data increases dramatically. This is because some applications only accept QuickTime files, while others will only accept DPX files. This flexibility is a benefit to post-production facilities with a variety of software and hardware applications in their workflows.
I/O capability and beyond
The advantages of the KONA 3 are more than just a 2K HSDL I/O capability. The card can also send HD-based data on a crop of the 2K media.
Users can simultaneously create an SD downconversion of this HD video. To review the data, the dual-link HD-SDI outputs are fed to 2K projectors as 2048 × 1080, to HD monitors as 1920 × 1080 or to SD monitors. These functions make the card useful as a display converter for users working in 2K to see their work on different types of monitors.
Another benefit is that existing 2K data files from film scanners or files generated via software applications in the Cineon and DPX file formats can be wrapped into QuickTime Reference Movies via the AJA's DPXToQT translator application. This provides display and output flexibility without requiring the writing of large amounts of new data to the storage system.
The QuickTime movies point back to the source's original DPX files, rarely occupying much space. Compare this with the hundreds of gigabytes used to define a series of 2K DPX files, which require 12.2MB per frame. This means the cumbersome sequence of potentially thousands of frames can be nondestructively consolidated into single files for easier management and tracking.
If the media needs to be transferred to a facility that does not accept QuickTime movie files, it can be converted back into sequential DPX files. Again, this conversion can be accomplished via the company's translator application. However, because there may now be changes in the media, such as effects, the process writes new data to the storage system.
Working with 2K vs. 4K
There is a growing need for cost-effective tools that work with 2K images in an evolving data-centric workflow. Although some people argue that 4K resolution is a better choice for cinematic jobs, working with 4K is exponentially more of a burden than working with 2K.
Some 4K and larger resolutions are currently used on feature films, but even then, only for select shots. Someday, 4K will supplant 2K as standard practice, much like HD is replacing SD.
However, that day is distant. For now, many motion picture companies have settled on the high quality provided by 2K images. That 2K source can derive the high-quality film, digital cinema, HD and SD deliverables without compromise, while not imposing a cumbersome technological and financial leap to 4K.
Capable 2K devices, such as the KONA 3, help facilities and filmmakers create an efficient data-centric workflow. The result is a universal mastering environment.
Jon Thorn is product manager of Mac desktop products for AJA Video Systems.