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April 2014
Issue: August 1, 2013

Review: AJA's Ki Pro Quad

By: Jim Geduldick
PRODUCT: AJA Ki Pro Quad

WEBSITE: www.aja.com

PRICE: $3,995
- enables 4K workflows
- compact design
- RAW or ProRes capture
- camera mountable

4K seems to be a bit more of a buzz these days, on the heels of the NAB show in April and CES back in January, as well as the slew of 4K panels, cameras and recorders either being announced or shipping this summer. 

I have been shooting and working in post with 4K since 2007, when the first two Red One cameras came to NYC. A lot of things have progressed in the popularity and technology of 4K digital cinema and the capturing of media via recorders. 

Stepping to the plate with the prototype at last year’s NAB, AJA and Canon showed two early tech previews: the AJA Ki Pro Quad and the Canon C500. The Ki Pro Quad joins the already rock-solid Ki Pro line-up of digital acquisition hardware from AJA. 

POWER PACKED 4K ON THE GO

AJA has been packing a lot of great features into its line of professional products for filmmakers and post pros for years. They managed to get not-yet-seen 4K image-capture features into a hand-held device by way of the with widely-used Apple ProRes codec. 

For my test shoots with the Ki Pro Quad, I was shooting with the Canon C500, which is capable of DCI 4K. Using the 3G-SDI, I was able to capture 4K ProRes 4:4:4 and Canon RAW over Dual Link to the 256GB SSD mags. It does this on the fly by being able to de-Bayer the C500’s RAW signal and convert it to a ProRes file. 

The Ki Pro Quad is capable of a bevy of resolutions and frame rates, ranging from 720p all the way up to 4K. I mostly shot in the 2K and 4K modes, as I am looking for all the pixels I can grab for either archival purposes or visual effects plates. 

A lot of 4K cameras on the market can do 4K, although they cannot do 4K over SDI, which is another advantage of this pairing. Being the Ki Pro Quad has dual recording slots, I would fill one mag and either hand it off to the DIT or assistant cameraman. 

A really cool feature of the Ki Pro Quad is the ability to do realtime pass-through of the C500’s RAW data over Thunderbolt to a Mac laptop or iMac using the AJA CamXchange application, where I saved over to a Thunderbolt storage device. Because of AJA’s continued small footprint for its line of digital recorders, the Ki Pro Quad can be rigged with the C500 on some rails and a baseplate, or can be handheld. 

Power options are available for all-day use. AJA likes to play well with every DP’s, AC’s, rental house’s or studio’s different kit.

RAW VS. COMPRESSED

There is always going to be a point with today’s digital cameras when “RAW vs. Compressed” comes up. This is something you have to think about in a few different ways. How much are you shooting in a given shoot day? Do you have enough storage? What is your, or your client’s, desired delivery method? There are more questions, but in the end it will come down to time and money, and the Ki Pro Quad saves you both. 



Because ProRes is a lossy codec, it is very close to the RAW images that come out of the C500. By shooting 2K/4K ProRes, you’re retaining a lot of the image quality and range of what the camera can generate — not to mention transfer time and storage. 

The RAW RMF workflow is a bit cumbersome using Canon’s tools to mux into an editable format — another reason the workflow of the Ki Pro Quad makes your editorial process easier. Most of the files I edit within Premiere Pro are native or ProRes, in one of its varied flavors, which the Ki Pro Quad supports.

LOOKS

Monitoring options on the Ki Pro Quad let you output via HDMI and SDI to standard 1080 or 4K resolutions. For my tests, I have been using two different monitors: one consumer and one professional prototype 4K. Be careful to read the tech specs on a 4K panel before rushing out to buy that sub-$1,000 monitor. Not all are equal and some don’t support full 4K or all of the frame rates the Ki Pro Quad may output.

One feature I did really like was the ability to add LUTs and bake in a desired look to the ProRes files. The Ki Pro Quad is even smart enough to stop you from accidentally adding the dreaded “double LUT.” Ever see your image blacks get beyond crushed? Good luck having to explain yourself to a client. Thank you, AJA!

FINAL THOUGHTS

One thing I would have liked to see on the Ki Pro Quad is the ability to record higher frame rates at 2K and 4K. With the C500 being able to output up to 120fps, this was something I missed being able to work with.



In all, the Ki Pro Quad leads AJA’s Ki Pro line into full 4K workflow. Whether you are doing 4K live events, broadcast, commercials or cinema, you would be hard pressed to find another 4K-capable recorder in this price range with this feature set. 

By the time you add SSD mags with the recorder, you’re still coming in less, price-wise, than some of the competition. 

Being able to have a small, modular, robust 4K recorder that can fit in my backpack and deliver industry-standard workflows at a fair price? Consider me in line.

Jim Geduldick is a DP, Editor and Visual Effects Artist in New York. He can be reached at filmbot@mac.com or on Twitter (@filmbot).