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September 2014
Issue: January 1, 2010

REVIEW: AJA'S KI PRO

By: Mike Romey
PRODUCT: AJA Ki Pro

WEBSITE: www.aja.com

PRICE: $3,995
- large number of I/Os in a variety of formats
- built-in Web server
- can be controlled with Apple iPhone

The AJA Ki Pro is a dedicated video recording device. You can use it on set like you would any 4:2:2 deck, connect it to editing software, like Final Cut, or even crash record direct to file.
The thing to consider about this device is that it is recording a 4:2:2 video signal directly to a hard drive as Apple Pro Res QuickTime movies.
The beauty of this is that when you want to review a take or footage, it is a click away, no fast forwarding or rewinding necessary. Gone are the days of multiple tapes. Because the footage is stored digitally on a hard drive, more space is as simple as ejecting the current storage device and replacing it with a new one. The unit comes with a 250GB drive, but with drive sizes constantly evolving, larger capacities should become available over time.
The typical I/O process used in a traditional studio pipeline to convert media from tape to files can disappear with a unit like this. Ki Pro can save real money when you are talking about a television show with multiple episodes and hundreds of shots.
The Ki Pro is packed with nearly every input connection and output connection conceivable. It also has legs to grow with some connections simply awaiting a firmware update via a built-in Web server.
We needed a way to capture multiple digital feeds on set with embedded timecode for virtual set production. All capture devices had to have synced timecodes and clip names. The solution had to be tapeless in order to save money on I/O time and we did not want to rent multiple decks for each VFX shoot day. The solution had to multiply easily since we wanted to record the background, foreground, key and composite of the virtual set synchronized. To put it lightly, all of these requirements were features that all commanded a high purchasing or rental price tag. Then comes the Ki Pro out of left field. It has the potential to do every one of these features and it is small, quiet and affordable at $3,995.
So it was an, “I have to have one of these... now!” moments. To be honest, it was more like, “Can I get four of these?” To start with I got the okay to evaluate one, but I do have my eye on getting another three for our studio.
Nested inside this device is a built-in Web server. The user can connect to the device through a network connection — either wireless or via Ethernet cable. Once connected to the device, the user can then configure settings and externally control the unit through a simple Web interface. The real whiz-bang feature is the ability to control the unit via an Apple iPhone or iPod Touch — it’s truly awe-inspiring. The days of using DOS to control digital disk recorders is over.

WISHLIST

Understanding what’s in the trunk of this device makes you realize that AJA has the framework and hardware to do many special things with this unit in the future. For our needs, we would be interested in seeing an update that might include the ability to export a clip log to a CSV file that could be imported into Final Cut or your favorite shot tracking software. Or better yet, imagine being on stage with one of these devices  and sending it a live feed of metadata from a tracking device or Cooke camera lens — then bringing the footage into your favorite compositing software, like Nuke. Connecting the footage to a metadata reading node, then linking that node to a 3D camera. Ta da! — a perfect track every time.
This device doesn’t currently support these features, but conceptually it could. Technology and innovation can make these concepts a reality, and it’s quite apparent that AJA is forward thinking with this device.
So here’s the catch — this is the first generation of the product. Some pivotal features are still awaiting development and deployment via a firmware update, such as the all-important RS-4:2:2 support. The Ki Pro exclusively supports Apple’s ProRes 4:2:2 codecs and cannot record to any other formats. And it’s built for Final Cut, so if your studio uses Avid you may need to transcode your footage.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I believe this unit it is well suited to the guerrilla/Webisodes production market that wants big-dollar quality without spending big dollars. If you’re innovative, this device can also be used to bypass the purchase of converter boxes as well as costly deck purchases. It’s small and quiet, and can easily be transported anywhere. The Ki Pro really goes to town with features that win me over.

Mike Romey is a Pipeline Supervisor at Zoic Studios in Los Angeles. He can be reached at:
mromey@zoicstudios.com