I had a chance to play with and review AJA's new Ki Pro, which is a hard-drive based digital video recorder. The beauty of the Ki is that it lets you boost the image quality of older, cheaper cameras, instead of having to buy a whole new model. Here's how it works:
- Take any camera that has an HD-SDI or component output, and use a cable to bring that output into the Ki Pro. For instance, you can attach a popular HDV camera like Canon's HV30.
- With the Ki Pro and camera attached, press the Ki's Record button to record whatever video your camera is "seeing".
- The Ki Pro records the video directly to its removable 250GB hard-drive, using Apple's high-end, industrial-strength ProRes codec. ProRes is a full-raster codec (records all 1920x1080 or 1280x720 pixels of an HD image), with a data rate up to 270mbps, using 4:2:2 color subsampling, and 10-bit color depth. This is a far better codec that older and/or cheaper cameras use natively. For instance, the Canon HV30 normally records video at only 25mbps data rate, at 1440x1080 pixels, with 4:2:0 subsampling, and 8 bit color depth.
At $3995, the Ki Pro delivers a noticeably better looking picture than many cameras do normally, and that image is also far better suited for post-production tweaking. Of course, the downside is that you lose a lot of mobility when you attach your camera to the Ki. AJA expects most people will buy a $595 "exo-skeleton" to attach the Ki to a tripod, right under the camera. That works fine, but makes handholding difficult, thanks to the extra bulk and weight. Plus, you have another device to carry around, worry about keeping juiced (with camera battery power), and worry about operating. (Note: It's not that using the Ki is very difficult--really, it's just a matter of hitting Record and Stop--but that still adds up when you're worrying about a bunch of other things during a shoot.)
My preference is to keep things as simple as posiible, which is why I invested in a camera that shoots a world-class codec to begin with (AVC-Intra). But if using a camera like that isn't in the cards, then the Ki Pro can indeed give you a quality boost without a huge investment.
You can read a few more details about the Ki Pro in my Studio Monthly review right here.