AJA Debuts CION: 4K/UHD/2K/HD Professional Camera

Las Vegas, NV, NAB Conference, Booth SL2505 (April 7, 2014)— AJA Video Systems today announced CION, an entirely new professional camera. CION features an ergonomic design and is capable of shooting at 4K/UltraHD and 2K/HD resolutions. AJA pioneered lens-to-post Apple ProRes workflows with the introduction of the Ki Pro product line in 2009; CION builds on this achievement by offering in-camera recording directly to the Apple ProRes family of codecs – including 12-bit 444 – for pristine image capture. ProRes codecs are well established in many post-production environments and offer wide compatibility with editing, color correction and finishing applications. CION enables today’s growing demand for high frame rate support and offers the ability to output 4K raw data at up to 120 fps via 4x 3G-SDI outputs. CION can record directly to AJA Pak SSD media at up to 60 frames per second.

“CION represents a new direction for AJA. Bringing this sophisticated camera to market underscores our passion to support filmmakers, broadcasters and content creators,” said Nick Rashby, President, AJA Video Systems. “We are incredibly proud of CION. We believe that the thoughtfully considered design, along with a powerful feature set, will make it extremely useful and versatile for productions worldwide.”

CION embraces a familiar and tested camera form and ergonomic layout. It includes a built-in shoulder mount and standard connectors in logical positions. CION features a PL lens mount for compatibility with industry-standard lenses. When recording in HD or 2K, the image is oversampled from the full 4K sensor, retaining focal length as well as providing a vibrant and detailed image. A built-in filter combines an optical low pass filter (OLPF) to eliminate unwanted aliasing and moiré with an infrared (IR) cut filter to produce appropriate colors. Additionally, a back focus adjustment means the sharpest image possible can be produced. Also included are several 3G-SDI and HDMI outputs, which are all simultaneously active and supply signal to a variety of 4K/Ultra HD and 2K/HD monitors. A power output connector is conveniently placed at the front of the unit to make electronic viewfinders easy to use. Professional audio inputs round out an unmatched amount of connectivity.

CION features an uncomplicated user interface that can be easily managed from the operator-side. The camera’s menu parameters are also remotely configurable via a web interface and can be accessed through any web browser via a LAN connection. CION’s sleek chassis is formed of magnesium, which is lightweight yet extremely strong. Integrated steel rosettes allow for mounting of industry-standard accessories such as handgrips and handle extensions directly to the camera body. The open approach to design also includes integrated cheese plates with standard tapped holes. These cheese plates are fitted to both the top and the bottom of the chassis to provide easy mounting of accessories from both AJA and third parties.

CION is the culmination of years of development; AJA has used a considered process to create a production camera with a feature set and form factor that offers the user a wide variety of options both in the field and the studio. CION is an elegant union of great design and functionality, an engineered aesthetic that AJA is proud to describe as “Science of the Beautiful”.

CION Features:

  • Sensor: 4K APS-C sized CMOS sensor with an electronic global shutter. 12-stops of dynamic range.
  • Recording Formats and Resolutions: Apple ProRes 4444, Apple ProRes 422 (HQ), Apple ProRes 422, ProRes 422 (LT) and Apple ProRes (Proxy); 4K (4096×2160), Ultra HD (3840×2160), 2K (2048×1080), HD (1920×1080). 2K and HD are hardware scaled from the full 4K sensor for high-quality over-sampled images and retention of field-of-view.
  • Media: Record to AJA Pak SSD media available in 256GB and 512GB capacities. Transfer via Thunderbolt™ or USB3 with optional AJA Pak Dock; Complete 10-bit and 12-bit workflow from HD to 4K.
  • Raw Support: Output AJA Raw via 3G-SDI at up to 4K 120 fps or via Thunderbolt™ at up to 4K 30 fps.
  • Lens Mount: Industry standard PL mount
  • Connectors:

4x 3G-SDI/HD-SDI outputs (4K/Ultra HD/2K/HD)

2x 3G/HD-SDI monitor outputs with overlay support

1x HDMI output offering support for 4K and Ultra HD or scaled 2K/HD

1x HDMI output for 2K/HD

2x mic/line/48v XLR analog audio inputs

2x LANC control ports

1x LTC input connector

1x reference connector

1x USB connector

1x 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN connection

1x Mini TRS headphone jack

1x 4-pin XLR power connector

1x input power connector for attaching third-party battery plates

1x output power connector

1x Thunderbolt™ connector

  • Optical Low Pass Filter and IR cut filter: An integrated OLPF (Optical Low Pass Filter) reduces unwanted moiré effects while still retaining vital image detail. The infrared (IR) cut filter produces high quality colors within the image by blocking unwanted light wavelengths.
  • Back Focus Adjustment: The mechanical calibration of the distance between lens and sensor allows finely tuned adjustments to ensure the sharpest image quality possible.
  • Industrial design: Lightweight magnesium chassis, built-in confidence monitor, standard playback controls and connectors placed to optimize functionality. Integrated “cheese plates” fitted to both the top and the bottom of the chassis provide easy mounting of accessories.  All CION accessory connection points use open standards, including 15mm rods, 1/4-20 and 3/8-16 threaded holes, and M6 hirth-tooth rosettes.
  • User interface: Via operator side panel display, control knob and buttons or via LAN connection using a web-browser; no software installation required.

Pricing and Availability

CION will be available Summer 2014 via a worldwide network of AJA resellers at a US MSRP of $8,995. AJA Pak SSD media is available at a US MSRP of $695 (256GB) and $1295 (512GB). AJA Pak Dock is available at a US MSRP of $395. Optional CION accessories will also be available when the camera ships. For more information about AJA products please visit www.aja.com.

About AJA Video Systems, Inc.

Since 1993, AJA Video has been a leading manufacturer of video interface and conversion solutions, bringing high-quality, cost-effective digital video products to the professional, broadcast and post-production markets. AJA products are designed and manufactured at our facilities in Grass Valley, California, and sold through an extensive sales channel of resellers and systems integrators around the world. For further information, please see our website at www.aja.com.

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Ashton Kutcher: What Matters Is Entrepreneurial ‘Grit’

While entrepreneurship and higher education are sometimes thought to run counterintuitive, Colgate University invited five of Silicon Valley’s biggest rock stars to speak to its students this weekend — as well as to host aShark Tank of sorts, in which three young founders walked away with $5,000 in funding.

Panelists included Ashton Kutcher, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky, eBay CEO John Donahoe, former Yahoo COO Daniel Rosensweig and former Microsoft business development head Tony Bates.

As founder of venture capital fund A-Grade, Kutcher said that each of the 50-some investments his company has made have hinged upon a person rather than an idea.

Typically, if it’s a good idea, he said, there are at least five other people trying to do the same thing. What sets a leader apart, he said, is “grit.”

Audio-Technica’s AT5040 Cardioid Condenser Mic

Audio-Technica is known for reasonably priced mics that do a good job—thank you and goodnight. Up until now, their best 40 Series models (such as the AT4050) usually take a back seat to more expensive mics from Neumann. However, at about $3,000, Audio-Technica’s AT5040 cardioid electret condenser microphone comes out of the gate with a bang. The AT5040 is a very different mic for a number of reasons and I think these differences win Audio-Technica and the new AT5040 “top shelf” status.

FEATURES

Designed with the aid of two anechoic chambers—one at A-T Japan and one at their U.S. facility—the AT5040 has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz; even rising gently a few dB below 80 Hz. There’s also a gentle presence boost of 2 dB that begins at 1 kHz, achieves 2 dB about 3 kHz to 4.5 kHz and then dips back to zero at 5 kHz. There’s a slight wiggle and then a short 1 dB plateau between 9 kHz and 11 kHz. By 20 kHz, the frequency response is down 2 dB. This curve works very well on male and female voices, among other things.

Open circuit sensitivity is a walloping -25 dB (56.2 mV) relative to 1 Volt @ 1Pa. Audio-Technica makes the point that because they were after “sonic purity” before anything else (including manufacture cost), there are no switches, pots or transformers to degrade the output.

We’ve all heard that using electret designs may result in quality compromises; however such microphone capsules can be designed and built which exceed the performance of some externally polarized capsules. That’s what’s going on with the hand-assembled AT5040. Yes, it’s an electret condenser and has four rectangular, two-micron, electret diaphragms. These electret capsules require fewer electronic parts, adding to the “less is more” AT5040 philosophy.

Rectangular diaphragms have been used in other microphones (notably Sanken, Pearl and Milab), so this is not a first. Combining the area of the four diaphragms is the theoretical equivalent of a round diaphragm that’s about an inch-and- a-half in diameter. That part is different.

A single round diaphragm with an inch-and- a-half diameter would be problematic due to size and mass. If you were able to make a usable round diaphragm that big, there could be two benefits: low self-noise and high sensitivity. The self-noise of the AT5040 is 5 dB-A, making it one of the quietest mics on the planet. The increased diaphragm size also makes it one of, if not the most sensitive mic on the market, requiring less pre-amp gain than just about every other mic out there.

So, where would you use that extra sensitivity? The recording of very low level sources in very quiet environments immediately comes to mind. I realize that TV Technology readers may have applications outside of everyday audio around the station. In some of those situations, especially those where the source and ambient sound are very quiet, this mic will shine. Also, as the AT5040 has no output transformer, it has a wider bandwidth. When I zoomed in on the timeline I could see low-frequency components in the waveform that I’ve never seen with any other microphone.

IN USE

Let’s look at the AT5040 as a booth mic. Even with the AT5040 as flat as it is, A-T has designed in enough sparkle to do very nice things for male and female voices. The microphone has a rich clarity on male voices especially, with no harsh edge, along with a slight, chesty thickness that reminds me of the time when I used to smoke half a pack (or more) of cigarettes every day.

I work regularly with talent Molly Moores, recording her for a flight of radio and TV voiceovers each month. Molly has a great voice, but with the wrong mic, her sibilance can peek out a bit too much, especially when she’s rushing to get all the copy in and using compression and limiting to increase the “punch.” I tried the AT5040 mic on her and found that we didn’t have to use any equalization. (I could have nudged things around 125 Hz up slightly, but the AT5040 was very complimentary to her chest tone and again, no edginess.)

I was concerned that off-axis sound across diaphragms this large would result in scattering and messy phase response and worked the mic from each side, and the top and bottom in search of some sort of smeariness or beaminess, but found none. There is a fairly narrow angle of acceptance for high-frequency response. Anything greater than 20 degrees either side of center and the high frequencies roll off, but the roll-off is well-behaved.

Depending on the abilities of your voiceover talent, you may not need a pop filter for this microphone, but it’s not a bad idea to have one for talent who haven’t learned how not to pop a mic. Also as this mic hears very low frequencies, it might catch some breath eddies.

The AT8480 shockmount is exceptional in design, giving the mounted mic a very finished look as well as being highly functional and very easy-to-use. The non-reflective finish of both the mic and suspension mount would make the pair a likely candidate for the desk on an upscale TV talk show.

SUMMARY

The AT5040 is the first in Audio-Technica’s new 50 Series. It will be very interesting to watch what they do with this grand new effort. At $3K, this microphone will be out of reach for some buyers, but so are Volvo, BMW and Mercedes Benz. The AT5040 makes a statement and repositions Audio-Technica as a high-end mic manufacturer.

Ty Ford has been reviewing professional audio gear for over 20 years. Find out more about him at www.tyford.com.

FAST FACTS
APPLICATION
Studio and booth recording

KEY FEATURES
An exceptionally sensitive quiet and sensitive condenser microphone

PRICE
MSRP, $2,995 (with custom suspension mount)

CONTACT
Audio-Technica US
330-686-2600
www.audio-technica.com
– See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/product-news/0095/audio-technicas-at-cardioid-condenser-mic/269901#sthash.jLfQjfI9.dpuf

Blackmagic Design Disrupts Studio Environment With Sub-$3,000 4K Camera

Designed for live production and available in 1080 HD and Ultra HD versions

LAS VEGAS—Billing it as “the world’s smallest live broadcast camera with the world’s largest viewfinder,” Blackmagic Design introduced a camera specifically designed for live production and available in 1080 HD ($1,995) and Ultra HD ($2,995) versions.

The Blackmagic Studio Camera includes features designed for live production, such as a 10-inch color LCD viewfinder, talkback, tally indicators and optical fiber signal transport, all housed in a magnesium alloy body. It includes a 4-hour battery (to allow independent operation with a single optical fiber cable), phantom-powered microphone connections and built-in optical fiber and SDI connections that allow users to connect to a live production switcher with a single cable. The camera also includes a large fold-up sun shield for outdoor use.

The Blackmagic Studio Camera features an active micro four-thirds lens mount that is compatible with a range of lenses and adapters. The company says this allows customers to use high-quality photo lenses for smaller setups or fixed camera use, and then use high-end broadcast ENG lenses for large live broadcasts using an MFT-to-B4 lens mount adapter.

“I have dreamed of a camera perfectly designed for live production for a long time,” said Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design. “When we looked at how we would design a camera for live production, what really surprised us was how small we could make it, but then the viewfinder would also become small. It’s really a dream to operate a camera with such a large viewfinder and it’s amazing the detail in focus and framing that’s available to the operator.”

The camera includes a fiber-optic connection, allowing customers to get the advantages of long lengths and small size and weight of optical fiber for a single thin tether cable to connect cameras to live production switchers. The optical fiber connection is bidirectional and carries HD or Ultra HD video with embedded audio, and camera remote control.

The Blackmagic Studio Camera supports the tally SDI standard used on the company’s ATEM range of live production switchers and tally lights illuminate automatically with a light on the front for talent, and a light above the viewfinder for the operator, making it easy for the cast and crew to see which cameras are on air. The operator side control panel allows access to focus, iris and on-screen menu settings. On-screen menus are overlaid on the viewfinder and slide on and off as needed.

In addition to the HD model that costs $1,995 (and supports full HD in 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30 and 60 fps) and is available now), there’s a 4K model, for $2,995, that supports up to 30 fps and will begin shipping in June, according to the company.

“I totally love this camera,” said Petty. “It’s my dream product.”
– See more at: http://www.tvtechnology.com/product-news/0095/blackmagic-design-disrupts-studio-environment-with-sub–k-camera/269912#sthash.kjGlX5O3.dpuf

The Fresnel Light. Reimagined.

http://www.zylight.com/f8-fresnel/

The multiple award winning F8 LED Fresnel from Zylight is the next generation of Fresnel lights. By incorporating a special blend of Quantum nano particles with traditional phosphor the F8 boasts a CRI of 97+ and a quality of light matched only by traditional sunlight and incandescent bulbs, while using a fraction of the energy.

All of the hallmarks of a traditional Fresnel light are present; Single shadow beam shaping through barn doors, continuous focusing and a smooth light field. The Zylight F8 adds wireless and DMX control, water-resistant IP54 rating,and very rugged construction for field reliability. Available in both 3200K or 5600K color temperature versions, the Zylight F8 is extremely compact, durable and the most versatile Fresnel light ever built.

Field or Studio Friendly

The Zylight F8 can be powered by both a worldwide AC power adapter or a standard 14.4V camera battery for complete portability. Its thin design and shape allow it to pack into small cases and be taken anywhere. The water-resistant IP54 rating ensures the F8 will be comfortable in falling rain or snow, and blowing dirt and dust. Whether shooting a stand-up in a hurricane or snow storm, the F8 will deliver bright light with ease. Try that with your traditional LED Fresnel.

In the studio, all functionality of the Zylight F8 can be controlled via DMX or remotely via the built-inZyLink ™ wireless link. Local control such as dimming, focus and wireless operation are provided on the rear of the F8. At 15” x 12” x 4” it will take up considerable less space in your grid than its traditional counterpart. The yoke mount allows for easy panning and tilting for quick focusing. The F8′s silent operation means it can run in a studio setting without disruption of audio recording or talent distraction.

Ultra Bright Output

The F8′s advanced ultra bright LED module ensures excellent skin tones and rich, accurate color rendition. Continual focusing and an adjustable beam spread between 16-70 degrees allows for even coverage when shooting with wide-angle lenses or HD 16×9 format. Beam specifications are available for download on our support page. The F8 uses a high quality glass 8″ Fresnel lens and has an equivalent output of a traditional 650 watt instrument. Barn Doors, soft box and other accessories will be available soon.

Features

  • Thin & Lightweight Design
  • High 97+ CRI
  • Water Resistant IP54 Rating
  • Continual Focus- Variable Spot-Flood
  • Completely Silent Operation
  • Single Shadow Beam Shaping
  • Fully Dimmable 100 – 0%
  • 3200K or 5600K Versions
  • DMX or Wireless Operation
  • Battery or Worldwide AC Power
  • Yoke Mount for Pan & Tilt
  • Sturdy, Durable Aluminum Construction
  • Made Production Tough in the USA

Benefits

  • Packs Small and Light
  • No Heat. No Noise.
  • Low Power Draw
  • No Spare Bulbs to Buy or Carry
  • Low Maintenance Cost & Downtime
  • Very Portable. Use it Anywhere!
  • Water Resistant
  • Extremely Versatile Light

Roland’s VC-1SC and VC-1 DL Modules

For as long as I’ve been in the broadcast engineering business, there have been small “brick” pieces of gear. Some of these were merely pin-out test devices, some were isolators, and some even functioned as test/sync generators. Until recently though, these were just about the only items that you could fit in your coat pocket, feature wise.

Fast-forward to the present time where manufacturers such as Roland Systems Group have been packing more and more features into smaller packages. Prime examples of these new technologies include that company’s VC-1-SC up/down/cross scan converter and their VC-1-DL bidirectional converter that’s equipped with delay and frame sync.

It’s rare that I review two products in one article; however, the simplicity and straightforward design on these little boxes makes sense in this case.

FEATURES

Both units are housed in similar small aluminum cases and are powered via a PSB 1U 9-Volt adaptor. The chassis has a slick power cord retaining clip to keep the plug secure, and although the adaptors are rated at 18 Watts, I found no power consumption figures. (The power adaptors and converters do run cool to the touch.) While the two units share many connectivity traits such as USB, DIP switches, ref in, power connector and status LEDs, there are differences in connector types, ie: HDMI, RCA, BNC, and VGA. The VC-1 products feature onboard re- clocking and support for both level A and B 3G SDI. The units are very well labeled in terms of hookup, block diagrams and DIP switch programming.

The VC-1-SC provides up-, down-, cross-, frame-rate, I/P and aspect ratio conversion. In addition, it offers 3G I/O, HDMI I/O, RGB/component inputs, composite video input, and support for HDCP. The VC-1-SC also includes a built-in frame synchronizer, scaler, audio embed-der and de-embedder. The VC-1 RCS PC/ MAC application provides control.

The VC-1-DL is a bidirectional SDI/ HDMI converter, with delay and frame sync functionalities. It features lossless image conversion, 3G capabilities, HDCP support, separate audio and video delays of up to nine fields, audio embedding/ de-embedding and channel selection. The VC-1-DL also uses Roland’s VC-1 RCS PC/ MAC control application.

IN USE

I was shipped a VC-1-DL and VC-1-SC for evaluation. I tried out the VC-1-SC converter first, as it seems I’m always drawn to transcoders! I connected the power supply, and hooked up the HD/SD SDI output to a Blackmagic Design eight- inch dual monitor. For an input source I attached my six-year-old Gateway laptop computer to the converter via a VGA connection.

At this point, I guess I expected a picture to just appear; however, I wasn’t so lucky. My first reaction was to start pressing the “input” select switch. While I could see the monitor screen flash a bit, there was still no picture. Next I made sure that the “second screen” feature was activated on my computer and I was pretty sure that I had that one right. Next, I changed the resolution on the PC away from 1280 x 768 to 1024 x 768. Viola! I had a very

At this point, I guess I expected a picture to just appear; however, I wasn’t so lucky. My first reaction was to start pressing the “input” select switch. While I could see the monitor screen flash a bit, there was still no picture. Next I made sure that the “second screen” feature was activated on my computer and I was pretty sure that I had that one right. Next, I changed the resolution on the PC away from 1280 x 768 to 1024 x 768. Viola! I had a very

Next, it was time to try the USB connectivity and control via my PC. I downloaded the VC-1 RCS software and installed the application. The process proved to be simple and straightforward. After installing this app, I connected the USB cable between my PC and the VC-1-SC, and when I clicked on the desktop icon, the application launched and I had a full screen of options for the VC-1 SC all at the control of my mouse. These included DIP switch settings, inputs, scaling, analog input parameters such as phase, col- or gain, as well as brightness and contrast. Also displayed were audio level and level alarm adjustments, HDCP, H/V positioning and more.

To test the VC-1-DL, I ran a 1080i direct feed from my NBC program stream to the input of one of the dual eight-inch monitors. I fed the looped output of that monitor to the input of the VC-1-DL and connected the output of the VC-1-DL to the other monitor in the dual configuration.

When I connected the power adaptor I was able to see the NBC incoming feed on both monitors without any discern- able delay between them. As a test of audio monitoring/de-embedding capabilities, I took the audio out from the VC-1-DL via the RCA connectors and connected the feed to an American Audio rackmount LED meter set that we use. I immediately saw audio registering on the meter. By using the RCS software, I was able to connect to the VC-1- DL and dial in varying amounts of video or audio delay—up to 4.5 frames, in 0.5 frame increments. (For fine delay, you can also select lines of delay as well.) And while this can be accomplished with on-chassis controls, I wanted to try out the GUI which I found to work very nicely.

After dialing in some video delay, I could easily detect that delay between my two video monitors. Connecting a set of headphones (in place of the metering) allowed me to confirm that I was indeed affecting the lip sync. When I dialed the same delay into the audio delay adjustment, the lip sync stayed “dead on.” Other adjustments on the GUI included audio embedding options such as channels and groups, input embedding selection, audio level controls, metering thresholds (for establing LED alert levels), DC warning thresholds and HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) encryption and mask.

SUMMARY

I left both of the units up and operational for about a month. Occasionally, I’d disconnect them and reconnect. Never once did I have to restart them or perform any sort of reset operations.

I spoke with tech support at Roland about the 1280 x 768 resolution issue and they advised me that no one else had re- ported this, but they would check into it. They got back to me later that they were indeed able to confirm the problem in their lab and would be addressing it in a software update. (I may have been the only user who tried using a 1280 x 768 resolution setting.) I did check about a dozen other resolutions and they all worked perfectly.

In summation, I found the Roland “bricks” to be well worth the money. Video quality was more than acceptable, they were easy to operate and they proved to be very reliable.

Joey Gill is chief engineer at WPSD-TV in Paducah, Ky. and has been with the station for 30 years. He has worked in television since 1977. He may be contacted at respond2jgill@yahoo.com.

FAST FACTS

APPLICATION
Video format transcoding, audio embedding/de-embedding and general processing

KEY FEATURES
Cost effectiveness, compact size, low power consumption and ease of operation

PRICE

VC-1-SC, $995 MSRP; VC-1-DL, $795 MSRP

CONTACT
Roland Systems Group
323-215-2111
www.rolandsystemsgroup.com

K-Tek’s Nautilus Mic Suspension Mount

he writer is a videographer who specializes in wildlife and always strive to record clean audio—mostly without a boom operator or a sound person.

This means that he usually handles the mic-ing himself, mostly with the mic mounted on, or very near, the camera. Mounting the microphone off-camera is the best way to go, but is really only feasible when you’re shooting in a fairly stationary position. When using using the mic on-camera (which is most of the time), some kind of shockmount is needed to isolate vibration and handling noise.

Unfortunately, some shockmounts curtail the use of windscreens, or at least require their removal in order to mount the mic in the suspension. This can make switching mics in the field a cumbersome process, and something to avoid if at all possible. Moreover, some shockmounts are fairly flimsy and vulnerable to damage. Combining stability and suppleness with a rugged design is something of a challenge. K-Tek Boom Poles has met this challenge with their new Nautilus microphone suspension mount.

FEATURES

The Nautilus incorporates a revolutionary design from nature—the mathematically symmetrical spiral design of the chambered nautilus, a conch-like shellfish that’s widely admired for its symmetric spiral form. The Nautilus spiral was chosen over a host of other natural and artificial designs after a year of intensive R&D by the K-Tek design team. It evenly disperses force applied to the mount through a single continuous circular surface rather than concentrating it in multiple places. Moreover, the spiral design disperses the force evenly in three dimensions. The Nautilus suspends microphones from a center clamp of two or more spiral coils mounted on a rail. Depending on the length of the microphone, the rail can accommodate multiple coils, but typically only two are needed.

The coils can slide back and forth on the rail to adapt to the weight and dimensions of the mic being suspended, as well as to adjust the degree of stability desired vs. flexibility needed. Multiple rings can be bunched together or dispersed along the four-inch rail for optimum support. The mic is suspended in the center of the rings, which allows it to move in any direction, no matter what microphone orientation is desired. The flexible coil dissipates vibrations from the base of the mount, when handheld, or attached to a camera, a stand or other mount.

The Nautilus coils are constructed with a “new age” poly material that’s both flexible and strong. The mount’s spiral resembles a small letter “e,” without the horizontal line bisecting its center. A pair of rubberized pincers is used to grasp the shaft of the microphone. These pincers don’t lock, but rather flex enough to enable the microphone shaft to push past their nearly touching tips into the open center, forming a cradle for the shaft of most of the standard shotgun-type microphones.

K-Tek plans to offer different sizes of coils and clamps, to accommodate most popular mic sizes.

IN USE

At first glance, as much as I liked the Nautilus’s appearance, I couldn’t help but wonder if its thin structure could handle a hefty shotgun mic such as the Røde NTG without stretching or even breaking the clamp during insertion. This initial skepticism was quickly dispelled when I realized that the Nautilus was not made of your ordinary “cheap plastic.”

The device perfectly fit a standard-sized shotgun mic (Sennheiser’s new ENG style MKE 600, which is 10-inches long with a 3/4-inch shaft). My MKE 600 backed easily into mounting position on the twin coils and then pushed into both clamps after a only slight bit of initial resistance. Once seated, the MKE 600 couldn’t be dislodged from the Nautilus, even by vigorous shaking.

During the evaluation period , it was subject to daily jarring vibration on several miles of gravel “washboard” roads in the Black Mountains of Arizona. Even though the mic visibly flexed, it remained attached, enabling me to record some of my best ambient desert audio ever. thanks to the Nautilus’s ability to isolate the mic from the camera body, despite being mounted to it.

Another feature was being able to quickly and easily switch between the MKE 600 and other shotgun mics whenever needed.

One of these was the hefty Røde NTG. It took a bit of hard pushing to get the Røde to slide into the clamps. While it was finally gripped fairly firmly by the “fingers,” it was not as firmly clasped as the MKE 600 was. The mic’s back end wriggled free with moderate shaking. However, the front end held firm and pulled the back end back into the cradle after any vibration. The audio recorded was just as clean as with the MKE 600.

However, adding a third “unstretched” clamp at the end produced more stability. The lesson learned here was that while very good, the Nautilus clamps aren’t quite as resilient as originally hoped and one size will not really fit all mics. However, adding a third or even fourth clamp is a sure way to bolster stability and provide optimal performance by Nautilus, even though it performed really well with only two clamps throughout testing.

SUMMARY

ds
K-Tek’s Nautilus microphone suspension system takes a fresh approach at isolating field vibration and mic handling noises by employing a spiral coil to spread out forces evenly over one long, circular surface, thus creating an even force distribution in three dimensions. This greatly attenuates handling noise and makes it easier to balance mics on a boom pole, camera or other mount, due in large part to a flexible, modular, rail-based mounting system.

Thanks to meticulous system design and testing—including the development of new strong, resilient, and lightweight base materials—the Nautilus takes microphone suspension to a new level, yet is fast and easy to use. While there may be some minor kinks yet to work out, the system is superior to most of the competing units, especially those that are priced anywhere close to the Nautilus. It’s well worth adding to one’s ENG/EFP/event shooting kit to assist in the coverage of everything from weddings to drama and interviews—even extreme weather coverage. The Nautilus has the potential to become a breakthrough audio support product with a broad spectrum of applications.

Carl Mrozek operates Eagle Eye Media, and specializes in wildlife and outdoor subjects. His work regularly appears on the Discovery Channel, The Weather Channel, CBS, PBS and other networks. Contact him at eagleye11@gmail.com.

AJA’s ROI DVI-to-SDI Converter

The AJA ROI miniconverter is a small device about the size of a deck of cards that converts a standard DVI or HDMI output from a computer or other device into SDI video that can be recorded, displayed or streamed. It uses sophisticated algorithms to perform very high-quality aspect ratio and frame rate conversions, and also includes the ability to add audio.

FEATURES

The AJA ROI DVI-to-SDI converter is an unassuming little box that’s packed with sophisticated technology. Its main purpose is to convert anything that you can display on your computer screen into high-quality HD video over an SDI link.

The unit’s distinctive features are found in the software interface called MiniConfig (compatible with Mac or PC platforms) which allows you to select any portion of the computer screen and turn it into high-definition video.

While performing this task, the portion of the screen selected is upscaled and processed to maximize and enhance image clarity. The AJA ROI converter unit provides excellent resolution and its frame rate conversion capability makes it possible to create video for just about any destination desired. For example, one could select a window on a computer screen playing a video clip, resize it and convert it over SDI to HD video at 1080i 59.94 or 24 fps.

In fact the list of output formats covers just about any requirement that anyone could possibly encounter. They include 1080i (50, 59.94), 1080p (23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30), and 720p (23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50, 59.94, 60).

In spite of its small size, the AJA ROI is well designed for a studio environment, as it includes a reference input for multi-switching compatibility with other devices and cameras. The converter has a DVI loopthrough to maintain full monitoring of the original DVI screen while using the interface to select a portion for output through the SDI channel.

The device also has audio input capacity, making it possible to embed audio into the SDI output. Audio can be input via an analog 3.5 mm TRS two-channel input or via HDMI-embedded audio. The output format is SDI embedded audio, 24-bits, in two- or eight-channel configurations.

IN USE

I connected the AJA ROI to a MacBook Pro using a DVI connection adapter. I also connected audio from the laptop’s headphone output into the audio input on the ROI, as this allows the embedding of the audio into the SDI output.

I then connected the SDI output on the ROI to a Panasonic BT-LH1700W HD SDI monitor. On the MacBook Pro, the display is

Zylight’s F8 LED Fresnel Instrument

In my humble opinion, one of the most important and useful tools in the lighting arsenal is the Fresnel light.

One of the unique features of the Fresnel is ability of the lens in front of the light to diffuse the illumination. Focusability also goes hand-in-hand with the Fresnel, as you’re able to go from flood to spot and back again with the twist of a knob.

There are some drawbacks with the Fresnel fixture though: you lose some of the light output due to the lens, they generate lots of heat, and they consume lots of power.

However, that has all changed with the introduction of Zylight’s new F8 Fresnel. The instrument uses LED technology to eliminate most all of the problems associated with conventional Fresnel devices such as high power consumption, talent discomfort due to the heat generated, expensive lamp bulbs with a short life, and a large physical footprint.

Light emitting diode technology is not new; many manufacturers are using LEDs in lighting instruments. The only real drawback to this technology is that the LED falloff is very rapid. LEDs function well close to the subject, but once you move a few feet away, the light’s output is drastically reduced.

Zylight has overcome this problem with the introduction of their first LED Fresnel, the F8. All LED fixtures aren’t created equal. Zylight utilizes Quantum Dot LED technology, which in layman’s terms, means that the LED’s illumination is more accurate in producing lifelike skin tones and greater color depth retention. The color retention index (CRI) of the F8 is listed at 97.

FEATURES

The F8 (named for the diameter of the unit) is 8-inches in diameter and is available in either daylight (5600 degree K) or tungsten (3200 degree K) color temperatures. Its associated four-blade barn door mounts and dismounts easily to shape the light pattern. The F8 itself is extremely compact in that it is a mere 3.5-inches deep. When changing from flood to spot, the unit’s “bellows” extends the light from 3.5 to 9-inches.

The glass lens in the front of the instrument is just that—real glass that diffuses the light for the softer look for which Fresnel lights are known.

At the rear top of the light is the focusing knob which easily changes the light beam emitted from flood to spot. As the focus knob is rotated, the bellows extends or contracts to move the light source closer to or farther from the lens.

There’s a five-pin DMX input with a rotary adjustment knob directly above it. The unit also can be controlled remotely via the wireless Zylink link.

Directly below the Zylight nameplate is an OLED screen for displaying the unit’s output in percent. At the center of the back is a 14.4 Volt battery plate for Anton/Bauer-type batteries. There’s also a four-pin AC/ DC input for feeding power from either a battery pack cable or the included AC adapter.

The F8 is water resistant and extremely well built. It weighs only 12 pounds, including the yoke. The power input is 90 Watts and with that you get more light output than with a 650 Watt tungsten bulb fixture. This makes for an extremely bright light with miniscule power consumption.

The focus range of the F8 is 16–70 degrees.

IN USE

The F8 unit I received for review was the daylight model. Most lighting units at our school are daylight balanced, allowing their use with window illumination.

I found the F8 easy to use and set up directly out of the box. My testing began by shooting some footage at 60 fps with a Canon EOS C100 and using the F8 as my only source of illumination.

Some of my work required early morning sunlight, midday light, and moonlight indoor illumination. The F8 handled all of these flawlessly.

Outdoors, the F8 was perfect as a fill light as it was daylight balanced. I used makeshift cardboard venetian blinds as a cookie, with the Zylight acting as the sun. Changing the color temperature on the camera and focusing the F8’s beam to spot or flood allowed me to be a one man crew.

I was fortunate to also be able to shoot a documentary with the Zylight F8 as the only lighting unit. The talent, a 103-year old woman, had had difficulty with the bright lights that most video crews had used around her when recording, and asked me not to point the light directly at her. I set up the F8 about eight feet from her and dimed its output down to 40 percent. I got great images and she was thrilled. (I suppose that Zylight could use her testimonial in their brochures saying that the Zylight F8 is recommended and approved by a 103-year old.)

SUMMARY

I really couldn’t find much not to like about this lighting instrument. If you only have one light with which to illuminate your environment, make sure it’s a Fresnel, and make sure that that Fresnel is the Zylight F8.

Chuck Gloman is chair and associate professor of the TV/Film department at DeSales University. He may be contacted at chuck.gloman@desales.edu.

FAST FACTS

Application
Any studio or location shooting where a compact, very bright, noise-free and low-heat focusable lighting fixture is required

Key Features

Low power consumption, light weight, long-life LED light source, produces very little heat, adjustable barn doors, daylight- or tungsten-balanced models available

Price
$2,400

Contact
Zylight

www.zylight.com

The ARRI Alexa XT Plus Cinema Camera

It’s not often I get the chance to review a camera of this stature—the last time I used an Arriflex camera in this magnitude was when I shot 35 mm motion picture film. And quite honestly, this camera creates digital images just as pristine and at a fraction of the cost of its film camera brother.

FEATURES

ARRI has several Alexa models, including the Classic, XT, XTM, XT Plus, and the XT Studio). The Alexa XT (Extended Technology) Plus, which was targeted for this review, has a few features unique to its class, including the capture of images in “ArriRaw” at up to 120 fps. When used with a 512 GB XR hard drive, the XT Plus can record images in Apple Pro Res 4444 (up to 107 minutes at 24 fps) or Avid’s DNxHD.

If you’re not using the XR drive, the XT Plus can also capture footage up to 120 fps in ProRes HQ onto SxS Pro cards with the use of an adapter. The camera does have variable frame rates and numerous other export options. The option of recording in Arriraw is helpful if you need uncompressed footage.

The Alexandra XT is switchable between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios—the Super 35 mm sensor is 4:3 which is the same shape as a 4-perf Super 35 film frame and used mostly for theatrical releases. This could be one of the reasons that this camera is used in the production of a long list of Hollywood film and television projects.

When the camera is in use, there is a screen on the operator’s right side that displays pertinent information, which includes the frame rate, shutter speed, white balance and exposure index (EI). Timecode, battery voltage, capture format, the geographic location of the content being captured and shot duration are also provided for the convenience of the operator and others involved in the production. The SDI outputs are available on BNC connectors. The lens used in this test was an ARRI Alura 30-80 mm T2.8 zoom made by Fujinon and controlled by a WCU-4 wireless follow focus device.

All camera functions can be saved to an SD card if more than one user needs to access pertinent information.

IN USE

Besides being a beautiful camera to look at, it also produces some amazing images. For my evaluation I mounted the camera on the strongest tripod available—a Matthew’s Doorway Dolly and added tracks for smoother shooting. With conditions changing from a cold drizzle to a brilliant, cloudless sky in a matter of two hours, we kept the lighting people busy.

The two stars of the demonstration shoot—other than the XT Plus camera, of course—were a 1963 Corvette Stingray convertible and a 2000 Corvette convertible. As the cars left the starting point, traveling side by side, I dollied the Alexa back to follow them. The wireless follow focus was critical, not only because the depth of field was shallow, but also because the sun was constantly playing hide and seek with us that day.

As I wanted to create a movie within a movie, the entire shoot was captured with another super 35mm sensor camera, the Canon EOS C100. It was very important to our production that the log files captured on the C100 could be intercut with the footage shot with the Alexa (a camera costing nearly $200,000 including batteries, accessories, and a 2575 O’Connor tripod).

As we don’t have access to cameras of this price range frequently, we had to scramble to keep the Alexa fed with the type of “fuel” that it requires in location shooting service. The school has only two Anton/Bauer brick batteries and both will keep the Alexa running for less than 30 minutes. We opted to use AC power delivered via a very long extension cord to keep the camera humming for our evaluation testing.

The old adage that you get what you pay for couldn’t be truer when shooting with the Alexa XT Plus. The images in the heated viewfinder rivaled those of the 35 mm motion picture behemoths of old. It’s really true that the sensor and the glass make all the difference with a camera. If you light correctly, almost any footage can look better—but the Corvettes we were capturing never looked this great, even in real life.

I did find the camera to be somewhat finicky in that the setup and teardown times were greatly extended due to the unit’s girth and complexity; this is not the camera of choice for one-person operations. Also, I found that the remote unit batteries weren’t really as long-lasting as I might have liked. As for the learning curve, it’s not really that steep, but is somewhat longer than with other cameras I’ve used due to the amount of control (ability to vary settings) in producing your recorded images.

All in all, if it’s the best camera available that you’re looking for, I couldn’t even begin to offer another contender for that title.

SUMMARY

If you want the kind of quality and sharpness that professionals demand in their cameras, you would be hard pressed to find a better example than what the ARRI folks are offering in their Alexa XT Plus.

Chuck Gloman is an associate professor and chair of the TV/Film department at DeSales University. He may be reached chuck.gloman@desales.edu.

FAST FACTS

APPLICATION

Cinema production, very high quality capture of nearly any event

KEY FEATURES

Multiple recording and output options, ability to tailor parameters of any shooting environment to your needs and save that information, production of digital footage that very closely captures what the human eye sees.

PRICE

All prices are MSRP: Alexa XT Plus camera body, $78,600; Fujinon 30-80 mm T2.8 zoom lens, $26,930; XR drives, remotes, licenses, cables and hardware, $49,287

CONTACT

ARRI
www.arri.com