Portable on-camera video recorders have expanded the functionality of digital cinema camera systems in the past several years. Since many modern cameras have physical limitations as to the bitrate or resolution their on-board internal media can support, external recorders are used to leverage better quality video from an existing camera system. However, now we have a new generation of purpose built cameras specifically designed to take advantage of the power of external records. So it only stands to reason the caliber of external recorders should evolve as well.
Two new products, the Convergent Design Gemini RAW and the AJA KiPro Quad are of particular interest to us at Moving Picture based on their impressive feature sets and relative affordability.
The Gemini RAW is Convergent Design’s next generation on-board video recorder based on the Gemini 4:4:4 design and its more distant sibling, the nanoFlash recorder. This new unit now supports up to 4K RAW recording up to 30fps for cameras such as the new Canon C500, 2K ARRIRAW up to 60fps for the Alexa, or standard HD/2K RAW up to 120fps. There are also built in LUTs for ARRI LOG-C and Sony S-LOG viewing. Additionally, the SDI ports are programmable, you may either have two SDI inputs and four outputs (used with 4K quad SDI monitors) or four SDI inputs and two outputs.
Audio support is more limited on the Gemini RAW that we would like, without any XLR inputs and only a 3.5mm line level stereo I/O port, you will be relying on the embedded SDI audio from the camera. However, the omission of the XLR input jacks and circuitry help keep this unit light and compact, which is a definite plus for on-camera usage.
The Gemini RAW records to a pair of rather pricey on-board 1.8″ SDD drives, however, they are still 1/3 the cost of comparable sized REDMAG SSD drives. When recording 2K RAW at 30fps, you get nearly two hours of video on a 512gb drive. One nice feature of the Gemini SSD drives is their compatibility with Seagate GoFlex drive adapters, which will snap on the drive and cost about $30 from any street corner computer store. The GoFlex adapters come in USB 3.0, Firewire 800, and Thunderbolt flavors giving you all the options you need for transferring your media quickly.
The new AJA KiPro Quad has much of same features as the Gemini RAW recorder, but with more value. The KiPro has four dedicated inputs and four dedicated outputs unlike the programmable ports on the Gemini. We also like the Quad’s XLR inputs, level control knobs, and metering LEDs on the front. While the KiPro Quad does support RAW recording, I believe that KiPro Quad’s ability to record 4K ProRes to on-board SSD cards is huge. This gives you beautiful 4K high-resolution video that is recorded in an industry standard editing format. In the real world, you will have the ability to shoot with a 4K capable camera, wrap your shoot, and start editing immediately without the need for transcoding or special codecs.
The KiPak SSD cards used in the Quad are new for this device. Your old KiStor drives used on the original KiPro will unfortunately not work with the Quad. Additionally, the drive interface is proprietary and requires the use of an AJA Pak Dock to download media. The Pak Dock comes standard with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connections for high-speed transfers.
There is one spark of backwards compatibility with the Quad that I particularly appreciate. If your intention is to rig the Quad for on-camera use, all the old rigging accessories that you bought for the KiPro Mini will work with the Quad. With its brick-like modular chassis and all the audio and video connections tucked away on the dumb side of the camera, it makes for a clean on-camera product.
As for pricing, the KiPro Quad is available for pre-order now at $3995, while pricing is not yet released for the Gemini RAW. However, it is believed that the RAW will retail for $9,000-$10,000.