AJA Ki Pro Mini field report

Creative Cow by Helmut Kobler

AJA's Ki Pro Mini ($1995) is a portable video recorder that gives older, cheaper cameras new life by recording their footage as digital files in Apple's high-end ProRes codec. All you need is a camera that can output its image via HD-SDI or HDMI. Just attach the Mini to the camera, and you're ready to enjoy a file-based workflow, and an industrial strength codec that delivers full-raster resolution and intraframe recording using 4:2:2 chroma sub-sampling and 10-bit color at data rates up to 220 mbps.

I got a chance to test the Ki Pro Mini out with two different cameras. First was Panasonic's new AG-AF100, which normally records to SD cards in the AVCHD format -- that is, at 24mbps, using interframe recording (not every frame is recorded fully; some are interpolated) with 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling and 8 bit color. The second camera I tried it with was a Varicam, which normally records to DVCPRO HD (100mbps, 4:2:2, 8 bit color, but with rectangular pixel resolutions of 960x720 and 1280x1080, instead of the full HD resolution's you'd get from square pixels).

Both cameras saw improved visuals by using the Mini. 10 bit color can produce smoother gradations. 4:2:2 sub-sampling gives more flexibility for color correction, better results for green screen work, and less fringing. Full-raster resolution can result in a sharper image if you're camera normally uses rectangular pixels (as many Panasonic cameras do). Intraframe recording and a higher date rate results is fewer compression artifacts, and an overall cleaner picture, and easier editing in post. But this still doesn't mean every shot on a Mini will be noticeably better than when recorded natively on a given camera. Your average TV viewer may not tell the difference in most situations, although DPs and directors should be able to. And the post production benefits will always be there. read more...

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