AJA KI PRO MINI – ON MY DESK

Cameras

I just took charge of the Ki Pro Mini, one of only 6 currently in circulation in the UK. Now, this is just the equivalent of Jared’s quick take videos so don’t expect anything earth-shattering just yet. For me, this little unit is the missing piece of the DSLR puzzle. If, and this is an almighty if, we can get a camera that will play out a clean HDMI signal (4:2:2 8bit would be good, 10bit would be amazing), then the Ki Pro Mini will give you the back end you need to record something a lot closer to the magnificent image the sensor is actually creating. So much crunching is done to that image to fit it onto CF cards in camera but if you bypass that process and devolve the process to a dedicated unit then you ought to see a dramatic improvement in image quality. Not something you’d necessarily notice online but for broadcast and even theatrical applications you’d be much closer to being able to compete. Bitrate is everything. The new Sony Super 35 camera offers a paltry 24mb/s. Add on a Ki Pro Mini and you can shoot past 100mb/s should you need. It records in all the flavors of Prores, it features XLR inputs, dedicated input controls and a full set of transport controls.

Why should you care. Well, right now, DSLRs are no use with it. But they will be. And soon. The major attraction of DSLRs is the value proposition. Yes, they’re pretty, but they’re so so so so so so cheap. While these new large sensor camcorders are certainly attempting to bridge the gap between DSLRs and traditional camcorders they have all had to compromise heavily to do so. DSLRs are actually a much more focussed proposition, concentrating on imaging and if we simply let them do that and that alone then they shine. By devolving the recording responsibilities to another unit, which costs a little bit less than a 5D, you can own a camera system that won’t just compete, it’ll seriously kick ass. An EX1 costs more than the kind of camera system you will soon be able to build with a DSLR and a Ki Pro Mini. We’re not there yet, but the Ki Pro Mini is real, it’s sitting on my desk, and it’s just waiting for the DSLR market to catch up. For now, it’s going to take a feed from my XF300, from an EX1 and we’re going to really put it through its paces on a 48 hour film challenge shooting with an F3. The F3 is limited to 35mb/s which is frankly crap. But we can take a feed into the AJA and really make best use of what the sensor is doing. That’s going to be an interesting test for it. Remove the need to sync audio and the need to transcode and suddenly this unit looks like proper value for money. Not to mention that the nearest equivalent doesn’t even really exist yet, and the Nanoflash is a lot more expensive. AJA equipment comes with a 5 year warranty. Interested yet? It’s all handbuilt, and each unit spends 72 hours at the bench going through tests. Anything else? They hold killer parties at NAB.

There’s a lot to like about this unit. It’s small, it’s light, it will need power of course, but with a Switronix power setup you can tap the Ki Pro as you would any other 12v device. The XLR inputs remove the need for a Zoom, you’ve also got HD-SDI input and output for maximum flexibility. HDMI input and output also featured. In other words, it ought to be great. We shall see. This much I do know. The BBC have been looking at the Ki Pro Mini and testing it for use in acquisitions for their programmes with very positive reports back. Prores is traditionally a mastering codec and not an acquisition one.

Jared Abrams
Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • http://bensengsouvanh.wordpress.com Ben Sengsouvanh

    Great post Robin! I’ve been looking at ways to record to a better codec using my 7D and this might just be the device I’ve been looking for. Sure the 7D doesn’t put out a clean image but if your shooting for 2.35:1 aspect ratio I’d assume you could just crop the red dot out of the footage and voila you have footage straight from the sensor pretty much. I know that cropping footage to 2.35:1 aspect ratio isn’t ideal for most situations since it’s more of a cinematic thing but the option is there if you want to use the Ki Pro Mini.

    I think you’ve sold me on this device, though I wish I had the cash to acquire one. It fulfills two of my needs at the moment, an audio recorder with XLR inputs and a better codec for video. Just a couple of questions does the audio record to the same video file being recorded from the camera or is it a separate file? and are the XLR ports phantom powered?

    Cheers,

    Ben

  • Mavs1459

    It is phantom powered but not sure if it récords audio separted. Good question…