Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gary Adcock - gives us the Ki Pro religion

Gary Adcock of Studio 37, Chicago (and Digital Cow) spoke at the New England SMPTE meeting last night. He was really brought there by AJA Video Systems, maker of the Ki Pro tapeless video recording device, but in introducing him, AJA’s Northeast Region Manager, Jay Ignaszewski said that “Gary isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.”

He wasn’t far wrong. Working his way back and forth in front of the crowd like a preacher at a revival meeting, he proceeded to share the word; tape is dead, and if you aren’t going tapeless, or planning to go tapeless, then what kind of moron are you? This is the future, and it’s all going to be good whatever crappy camera you have!1

What is the future? Well tape is dead. It wasn’t even worth talking about why it’s dead, it just is. So moving on, he talked about the profusion of compression and file formats from the different manufacturers (those fools!!2) Why deal with that, when Apple has a perfectly wonderful compression format called ProRes (read his paper ProRes: A Closer Look, that’s already been read by a million people3.) What’s the big thing about ProRes? Well it’s better than DVCHPROHD because it doesn’t lose color information (see scopes in the article linked above.) And it’s 10-bit, not 8-bit.

With that cleared up, on to the Ki Pro, a tapeless device for recording to ProRes from pretty much any camera you currently have. The good; well it seems that if your camera has HDMI or Component out, you can hook it up, and you’ll actually get a better picture out of the camera than you would if you went through the cameras regular compression stage. He even mentioned people hooking Webbie4 and Flip Cameras5 up6 to the Ki Pro. It'll do format conversions (SD to 720 to 1080) both in and out, if that's what you want, and it has a connector for just about everything. You can record to hard drive or to an ExpressCard flash card. And once it's in, just connect the drive up to your Mac, and you can start editing in Final Cut Pro.

He said he’d tested the Ki Pro with 21 cameras, from low-end cameras to high-end (the mention of the Flip not withstanding, I got the distinct impression his low end was my high-end) and they had all worked except one – the RED camera.7

So what is the Ki Pro? Well it’s a box that's smaller than you'd think, but larger than you might want, with lots of connectors on the back, and a disk drive in a special enclosure on the top. It runs Linux (though you can’t access that) and it compresses stuff to ProRes 4:2:2 - they don’t support 4:4:4 partly because it wasn’t out at the time, and partly because it would be a big bandwidth hog. Evidently AJA is the only company – at the moment – with a license to put ProRes on a non-Apple CPU.

The device was announced at NAB this year, and is selling madly (current backlog is to end of January) and it's still being developed; software updates are supposed to add several new features. One thing noted several times is that it’s intended for use with cameras as a field capture device, and that there are limitations with the device that make it not as great for other functions (i.e. the FW800 port on the back at the moment can’t be used to copy data off the drive; you have to remove the portable drive from the unit and use it’s FW800 port to transfer data to your computer.)

One warning; make sure you dismount the drive correctly...otherwise you can get yourself in a mess.

Gary was adamant that if you hook up the component out from a typical camera and connect it to the Ki Pro, you’ll get better video (with the 10-bit ProRes compression) than you will from the files the camera itself is saving. He did note one caveat; if you have a lower priced camcorder don’t use the HDMI audio; it evidently often comes through with much lower gain, so you’re better to bring the audio in separately (and the Ki Pro has XLR and RCA jacks for that.)

All in all, it’s an exciting piece of…wait, it’s $3,999! Ouch! Well, for those that can afford it, it looks really cool. Jay from AJA said that Ki refers to the product line, and PRO refers to the model, and we “might infer from that” that there will be other models (maybe cheaper!, maybe more expensive!!) that offer other functionality.

At the conclusion of the talk, Gary had one more vitally important message for us now that we had abandoned our evil tape ways, and gone to tapeless acquisition: Don’t forget to backup to’re backing everything up to LTO tape, right?

1. He may not have actually said it in those words, but I knew what he meant, cause I’m a true believe now.
2. He didn’t really say that, either
3. He did say that
4. Yes, he did say that
5. You’re kidding, right? Nope he said it
6. Really? To a $4,000 device? Yes.
7. Oh, he explained why, but it was complicated. He also had a laudatory comment from a Red "Leader of the Rebellion"8, so I guess there must be a way to make it work.
8. Rebellion? Really? Yes...that’s what I thought too.

No comments: