The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Archive for April 20th, 2009

For the details of the announcements, see my news report at the Digital Production BuZZ.

Among a blizzard of NAB announcements Blackmagic Design’s Ultrascope is another of Grant Petty’s breakthrough products. Grant has always had as his goal to bring down the price of truly professional tools without sacrificing quality.

Until now, HD monitoring has not kept pace with the drop in prices for other parts of the HD production workflow. The Ultrascope runs on commodity PC hardware (i.e. cheap) and a 24″ display to bring six SD or HD Waveform Monitors into a single display, for a total investment of around $2000. The bundle includes a DeckLink card and the Ultrascope software for $695: bring your own PC and monitor.

Like the VideoHub router, Ultrascope breaks through the price/performance barrier. All we can wish for now are future software updates that add Vectorscope and other scopes to the display. (All things in time I guess.)

The optical fiber support in HDLink and a new DeckLink card positions Blackmagic Design well for the “big iron plant” business. Optical Fiber is a little out of my league but it is becoming increasingly important in those large facilities and previously needed to be converted to HD-SDI before capture. The new card takes the conversion out of the picture for direct capture to anything offered.

While I didn’t mention it in the main press release, I was interested to notice that there is now Linux support for Blackmagic cards and their Media Player software. Linux is not widespread in the post industry except in the large facilities that would also be likely targets for VideoHub and optical fiber support.

Seems to me that Blackmagic Design are providing more and more for the higher end facility while maintaining low cost products for the wider production community. And that’s a good thing.

For the details on the releases see my story at the Digital Production BuZZ  AJA’s NAB Announcements.

The Ki Pro is the most exciting announcement I’ve heard at NAB so far this year and is likely to garner a number of awards before the week is out. A direct shot at Panasonic who are constantly touting AVC-Intra as “pristine 10 bit full raster capture”, that quality is now available to any camcorder, regardless of format, direct to ProRes 422. It’s even possible to shoot with an SD camera and have the Ki Pro scale to HD before converting to ProRes. At $3995 it’s comparable to similar recorders from Panasonic for AVC-I and AVCCAM.

It’s a smart device – recording either to removable hard drive modules that come complete with FW800, or to Flash RAM modules in the ExpressCard 34 form factor that will go directly into any modern Mac laptop. I’m told there’s also an ‘exoskeleton’ that mounts the Ki Pro under the camera between camera mount and camera so it doesn’t need to hang off the camera.

This is a great product for those who mostly want to shoot, say, XDCAM EX/HD but require higher quality at times; or for those with older cameras who want to move forward to a ProRes workflow. Unlike the JVC GY-HM700 or GY-HM100 “Final Cut Pro ready” camcorders, the Ki Pro is full raster ProRes master quality while the JVC records in XDCAM HD within a QuickTime movie.

Definitely the Ki Pro is an amazing product, if only they could get the price down a little.

The Io Express appears to be a direct challenge to Matrox’s MXO 2, at a slightly lower price point. The key difference is that the Io Express, like the Io HD, converts to ProRes 422 in hardware before sending it to the computer. The MXO 2 pushes uncompressed video through the ExpressCard34 slot (or PCIe slot on a desktop) where it can optionally be converted to ProRes on the CPU. (Of course Matrox have new products as well, the MXO 2 mini at $449, which I’ll cover shortly.)

With fewer inputs than the Io HD (although not that many fewer, mostly reduced audio input support) the Io Express at US $995 is pretty darned cool.

Finally, the Kona LHi and Xena LHi (essentially the same card with minor differences due to platform support) seems to be everything the Kona 3 was with added support for HDMI in and out but at only US$1495 it’s cheaper than the Kona LH/LHe with more capability than the Kona 3 that was twice the price. Plus the new cards have analog input support missing from the Kona 3.

A great set of new tools for us all to play with. Now, let’s see what everyone else has been up to!

April 2009
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