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Issue: December 1, 2011

Review: Blackmagic's HyperDeck Shuttle

By: Barry Goch
PRODUCT: Blackmagic’s HyperDeck Shuttle

WEBSITE: www.blackmagic-design.com/products/hyperdeckshuttle

PRICE: $345 for the Shuttle and power supply. (SSD drive and other cables not included)
- Solid design
- Easy to operate and employ in both production and post
- Creates application agnostic uncompressed QuickTimes for edit/VFX

To me, the HyperDeck Shuttle is the iPod of field recorders. It does what it’s advertised to do well — record HD or SD video to uncompressed QuickTime files. It’s easy to operate, well designed and robust. 

The HyperDeck Shuttle is a beauty — clean and elegantly designed. It’s machined out of a solid block of aircraft grade aluminum. The HyperDeck is only slightly larger than the 2.5-inch solid-state drive it uses to record media. The HyperDeck Shuttle ships with a universal power supply and plug adapters for all countries. It’s powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery.

It sports ports for HDMI I/O and SDI I/O (via DIN 1.0/2.3 connectors). The DIN to SDI cables are a specialized and should be best purchased at the same time you get the HyperDeck. AbelCine and B&H both stock these cables. 

WHERE IT GETS INTERESTING

All the ports are live, and the HyperDeck automatically senses the flavor of the incoming video signal. It accepts the majority of video formats from SD NTSC and PAL to all the common HD formats. Further, it passes the signal cleanly through the device, which allows it to be used inline with an on-set or on-camera monitor, for example. And it’s super easy to operate. It has VTR-style buttons with the record and stop buttons lit by LEDs for ease of use. It also has LEDs that indicate incoming video signal presence, SSD drive activity, and battery status.

The shuttle records uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 QuickTimes with eight channels of audio via HDMI and a whopping 16 channels of audio via SDI. The cool thing about these files is that they aren’t any specific codec; rather they are truly uncompressed files. Because the data rate at true uncompressed video resolution is quite high, Blackmagic specifies that only certain models of SSD drives will support uncompressed video. And because the drive is a SSD, it operates silently, uses less power, and is much cooler than standard hard drives. By the way, the drive (not included) must be formatted as a HFS+ drive.
through its paces

I started testing with my trusty Panasonic GH2 camera and its mini HDMI port. The output of the port is full 1080p video and the HyperDeck recorded each take perfectly —even when I forgot to clean up the camera’s display! The image quality rivaled the onboard capture. Where the device really shines is in conjunction with higher-end cameras such as the Sony F3 and the brand-new Canon C300, which both feature an SDI port that will bypass the camera’s onboard compression. 

I also tested recording straight out of an Avid Symphony HD-SDI output and also through the standard and format convert output from an HDCAM SR deck and the HyperDeck automatically correctly detected the video signal and recorded uncompressed QuickTimes. The resultant files were clean and easy to transfer to another system, like Smoke, for compositing. It’s so easy to use. Just hit record at any time to capture the video stream. Hit the record button again to stop recording or use the stop button. Hit play to instantly playback the recorded QuickTime either via HDMI or SDI. The stop button also toggles to input video from playback. I can see the HyperDeck being used inline with any on-set monitoring as an instant playback device.

As for post, I tested the uncompressed QuickTime files in Apple FCP 7, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and Autodesk Smoke and they worked and looked great. Just make sure that your drive systems can handle the bandwidth for working with full resolution files. You can also mount the SSD drive into a dock connected to your computer and start editing right away.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The HyperDeck is still an evolving product,  and I could not successfully capture the HDMI from my Xbox 360. Blackmagic is aware of this issue and is working to resolve it. There is also a display button on the control panel which will become active in a future release. Given the pace and depth of improvements that Blackmagic is making with Resolve, I have no doubt that more user-requested features will be making their way into the Shuttle. 

Also, at IBC, Blackmagic added the HyperDeck Shuttle Mounting Plate as an accessory to the Shuttle. When paired with the upcoming HyperDeck Studio, a rack-mounted SSD player/recorder, you’ll be on the cutting edge of 21st Century post workflows.