To Convert or not to Convert – A Guide to Video Mini-Converters. (Part 2 of 2)

Welcome to part 2 of the Mini Converter discussion series.  Last week we talked about AJA Downconverters and SDI to HDMI converters.  This week we will talk about HD video distribution and HDSLR video monitoring solutions.

3. How do I spread beautiful HD video around my set without “daisy chaining” all the monitors together?













Okay, I admit, distributing video isn’t much of a conundrum, but it does give me the chance to talk about another convenient and rock-solid reliable AJA Mini-Converter.  The AJA Model HD10DA Dual-Rate HD/SD Distribution Amp takes all the hassles out of distributing HD-SDI video from one source to many destinations.  One nice feature of the HD10DA, is the “re-clocking” feature.  This unit will correct timing and signal errors that can occur on long HD-SDI cable runs.  So, your camera can be up to 400 feet away and you can remain confident that your monitors will still be displaying a clean picture.  You can even utilize the re-clocking DA as a bridge between two very long cable runs to maintain a solid signal lock.

4. I’m shooting with an HDSLR camera, such as the Canon 5D, how do I feed HD video to an on-camera monitor and a client/director monitor at the same time?





Blackmagic HDMI to SDI





For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll use the Canon EOS 5D Mark II as the camera in use, because in my experience, it is the most finicky DSLR camera to provide video monitoring with.  While this SHOULD be a simple matter of using an AJA Model HA5 HDMI to SDI Converter, you cant.  The problem is, the Canon 5D switches the monitor output from 1080i to 480i when you start to roll.  The Aja won’t accept a 480i HDMI input signal, so you just get a black screen when rolling.  So the answer to the 5D monitoring conundrum lies with the Blackmagic Design HDMI to SDI Mini Converter…but there is a caveat with this unit as well.  If you bought and older unit with Firmware Revision 1.4, you wont have any problems.  However, if you run out and buy one of these now, you’re going to get Firmware Revision 1.5, which has the same problem as the AJA converter.  It won’t accept a 480i HDMI input signal while the camera is rolling.  Fortunately, the Blackmagic converter allows you to downgrade the firmware revision.  Simply plug it into your computer via the USB port and run the version 1.4 Configuration Utility and it will automatically prompt you to update the firmware.  This process takes mere seconds to accomplish and is completely automatic.  I’ve provided a Mac download link to Firmware Version 1.4 to ease your pain and suffering.

Blackmagic Design Config Utility Version 1.4Download 5.1MB

Now that you have your mini converter problem figured out, its time to test it all out.  You will need a HDMI to HDMI-Mini cable such as the Canon HTC-100.  You can also pick them up at Radio Shack.  Very little difference between the expensive ones I’ve bought versus the cheaper ones because they all have the same weakness…the SUPER FRAGILE HDMI-Mini connector that plugs into the camera.  When using these cables on a production set, it’s not whether or not you will break one…it’s more a matter of when it will happen.  Take my advice, bring extra cables.  Now once you plug into the Blackmagic from the camera, you will have two HD-SDI  ports to use for monitoring.  One can go to an on-board HD-SDI monitor, and the other goes to the Director’s HD Monitor or a Video Assist recorder.

These mini converters and more can be rented from Moving Picture.  The next time you’re in Miami renting gear, give us a call, and let us help you with your production technical challenges.  Contact us at or 800-800-1361.  Serving Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and the rest of South Florida.

Josh Baker
IT Manager / Video Engineer