Product Review: Page (1) of 1 - 01/06/10 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at MyDmn.com).print page facebook

AJA Ki Pro

Sometimes a product just makes you say 'WOW!' By Kevin McAuliffe

Every once in a while (sometimes a long while), a product comes along that makes you say "WOW!". I haven't had one of those moments in a long time, until I got my hands on the Ki Pro from AJA. I remember sending my AJA PR rep an email when it first came out, and there was, of course, a backlog of reviewers who wanted to get their hands on one, so I went into the queue, and forgot about it. Well, about a month ago, AJA sent me one, and needless to say, I had my "WOW!" moment when I pulled it out of the box. Here's what happened.

What You Get
The unit comes in a standard configuration with some options that were very well thought out. Purchasing just the standard unit gets you the Ki Pro Recorder, an HDD Storage Module (specifically designed for the Ki Pro), and an AC Adapter with a 4-pin XLR cable. The great thing about the unit is that it can be powered by a plug in the wall, or off a battery belt on location.

Optional products include an Exo-skeleton that can be mounted to a tripod, and then have a camera mounted to the E-S for quick access to the unit. There is also a Ki Pro SSD Storage Module. The last thing you want is to be in the back of a truck taping, and your truck hits a huge pothole, and the shock gives your HDD a good bounce. With an SSD (Solid State Drive), don't worry about your footage, as it's perfectly safe, no matter what the situation. The Exo-skeleton also has an optional Rod accessory kit to attach two 15mm camera accessory rods (which are not included), and finally, AJA has a Lens Tap Cable accessory, which gives you control of quick start/stop recording with the Ki Pro.


How it Works
Once I unboxed the unit, the first thing to do was slide the HDD into the slot on top of the Ki Pro. Next, I need a signal. Now, I'm not a camera operator, so I didn't have access to a camera, so I did the next best thing. I got an HDCam VTR to double for a camera.

I plugged in the HDCam machine, and connected one end of a BNC cable to the HD-SDI output on the VTR, and the other end to the SDI input on the Ki Pro. There's no need to tell the Ki Pro what the signal coming in is, it figures that out for itself. One thing I want to point out before I go on is that the Ki Pro will accept a lot of different signals both HD and SD. On the input side, you can send it an HDMI, SDI (SD/HD), Component (HD and SD) as well as analog audio and even a mic signal, as the Ki Pro let's you swap between line levels and mic levels. On the output side, you can output both SD and HD-SDI, as well as HDMI on the digital side, and Composite and SD/HD Component on the analog side.

The unit also supports SDI audio and timecode as well, which is very, very nice. The unit will also do a real-time up conversion from 720p to both 1080i and 1080PsF, and a real-time down conversion from 1080i to 720p. You also have up and down conversion options such as Anamorphic, Pillar box, Zoom, Zoom Letterbox and Zoom wide, depending on what look you want to achieve. If you are familiar with the IoHD or the Kona 3, the up/down/cross conversions work almost the same, the only difference is that it's all done on the actual Ki Pro, not in the AJA Control Panel. Once you turn the Ki Pro on and press the "Status" button you will see, assuming your Camera/VTR is playing, what the signal coming "IN" is, and what format is being "REC" to. Obviously if you want to record in 1080i, you just need to make sure that both the "IN" and "REC" are set to the same format. Now it's time to record. Just like your old time VHS VCR, when you want to record, simply press the red record button on the front of the unit. When you are done, simply press stop. If you had a monitor connected to one of the Ki Pro's outputs, you could now simply press "Play" and watch what you just shot. As the Ki Pro is recording, you are going to see the clip name (that you can change if you want to), the reel number (again, you can change it if needed), the timecode that is being sent to the unit, and finally, what percentage of space is left on your HDD. Now, to get an idea of the amount of storage on the supplied HDD, the formatted drive size is 233GB, which will give you about 200 minutes per drive at ProRes 422 1080i.

Once your recording is done, simply press the "SLOT" button on the front of the unit, and then press the "EJECT" button on the upper left corner of the faceplate to remove the drive. Now, Here's the cool part. I figured that you would need to keep the HDD attached to the Ki Pro to get the media onto your computer, but that is not the case. Once you eject the drive, you will notice that there is not only a plug for AC power, but there is also a built in FireWire 800 connection to simply attach a cable to the drive and to your computer, and you are all set to go! This unit was designed for Final Cut Pro shops that want to simplify their workflow, and believe me, it does.

Value for your dollar
At a cost of about $4000US the Ki Pro is, for me, a no brainer for production/post facilities that use Final Cut Pro for all their editing. This unit is so simple to not only shoot with, but edit with as well, you will wonder how you did without it. If you have the chance to check out the Ki Pro either through a demo or by purchasing one, it is well worth your time and investment, as your workflow, and your life, will have just gotten a whole lot easier.

PROS
- Simple to setup, simple to use
- FW800 port on drive is brilliant. No need to take the Ki Pro out of your production to capture.
- Plug & Play functionality of hard drive works perfectly
- Every possible input and output you could need
- Up/Down/Cross Conversion on the fly
- 4-pin XLR power connectivity for field production
- SDI Timecode (an AJA speciality!!!)
- Optional SSD for any situtation
- Edit right off the hard drive if you want to.

CONS
- $4000 price tag might scare people away
- You'll kick yourself for not getting the P.O. out sooner!

Final Thoughts - One of the best products I've seen this year, and a must have for HD post/production houses that use Final Cut Pro.

The Ki Pro is one of the best products I've reviewed in the last year, and AJA has continued to push ahead as (in my opinion) the leader in not only capture cards/units, but with each new product release, workflow is becoming as important as the hardware they are selling. You can get more information on the Ki Pro at www.aja.com .

Bonus
I had to throw in this little bonus section at the end , as I not only got to take a look at the Ki Pro, but I also got to take a look at the new Io Express.  What is the Io Express, you ask?  Well, up until this point, AJA didn't have an entry level HD-SDI option for post production.  They have the Io series of capture devices, but they were either limited to SD-SDI (via FW400), or the IoHD, which is an awesome unit, but also very expensive, and has way more bells and whistles than someone starting out in HD will need.  The Io Express is AJA's alternative to both the Kona 3 and the IoHD.  This awesome little unit can take an SD/HD-SDI I/O as well as an HDMI I/O and it even sports an HD/SD Component output as well.  Rounding out the I/O's it has RS-422 control and a two channel RCA output for audio monitoring.  Remember, this unit is designed for both desktop and laptop work, so you will need an available PCIe slot or an available Expresscard interface.  The unit itself is supported on both Mac and Windows, and can work with either Final Cut Studio or Adobe's CS4.  Something important to keep in mind is that even though the unit supports Apple ProRes 422 on the capture side for Mac only, you can play it back on the Windows side with the correct codecs for Windows.  The unit itself is compact, and fits perfectly right on top of your Mac Pro tower, and if you are familiar with AJA's products (Io all the way to Kona 3), you will have no problems working this awesome tool into your workflow.

The MSRP of $995 is very reasonable, and if you are looking for a "starting" unit, and don't need all the bells and whistles of the Kona 3 or IoHD, definitely check out the Io Express at www.aja.com <http://www.aja.com>  .


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Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at kevinpmcauliffe@gmail.com


Related Keywords:video post production, ki pro review, NLE, final cut pro editing

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