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Camera-Mounted Solid-State Recorders All The Rage

Looking to help camera operators with tape-based camera record to solid-state media, or provide operators with a second option for recording their footage, several companies now offer small, lightweight options.

AJA Video Systems has introduced its new Ki Pro Mini. Like its predecessor, the portable recorder captures and saves files in the Apple ProRes 422 format directly from camera. This makes the 10-bit 4:2:2 files immediately ready for editing For production, the lightweight flash disk recorder mounts easily to most digital cameras and can fit in small spaces for POV and other types of “B” roll shots.

Ki Pro Mini offers support for SDI & HDMI cameras and key features including 10-bit full-raster recording to Apple ProRes 422 SD and HD formats (including HQ, LT and Proxy); recording of SD/HD files from digital video cameras to Compact Flash (CF) cards; Mac OS X friendly media and native QuickTime files-no log-and-capture required; professional video connectivity through SD/HD SDI and HDMI I/O; 2 channels of balanced XLR audio with switch selectable line/mic levels; 8 channels of embedded digital audio over SDI and HDMI; flexible control options including familiar front panel and web browser interfaces; as well as optional Ki Pro Mini Mounting Plates that attach to hot shoes, battery plates and virtually any other accessory bracket.

The Ki Pro Mini records native Apple ProRes 422 QuickTime files onto CF cards, which are formatted as HFS+ volumes that are instantly connected to a Mac computer via off-the-shelf CF card readers. The unit will ship in October for $1,995.

Convergent Design continues to find success with its field-tested nanoFlash recorder, which is being used in an ever-widening variety of production applications and HD camera models. The unit has even been used for difficult POV (Point of View) Shots, in tandem with small cameras from Toshiba, Iconix and Hitachi, among others.   

The nanoFlash utilizes the Sony XDCAM 422 (MPEG-2) Codec, with bit-rates up to 180 Mbps (Long-GOP) or 280 Mbps (I-Frame).   The video and uncompressed audio (now up to 8 channels) is stored on affordable Compact Flash media in QuickTime, MXF or MPG file formats.   These files can be edited in Avid, Final Cut Pro, Premiere, Vegas, or Edius or played directly off the Compact Flash cards.

The low-power (<6W), lightweight (<1 lb), rugged all-aluminum construction makes nanoFlash ideal for intense, high-G applications in the cramped space inside helicopters, acrobatic airplanes, and racecars.   These attributes also make nanoFlash the recorder of choice for many underwater shots as well as 3-D applications (where two recorders can be simultaneously triggered).   Finally, nanoFlash is starting to gain acceptance in the presentation market for both tradeshows and traveling museums, where video quality and portability are paramount concerns.

The company recently launched a 3-D version of the nanoflash and there's a new firmware upgrade for existing models that includes 8-Channel audio, variable frame rate (over/under crank), loop recording and expanded XDCAM Optical support.

Finally a company called Atomos has introduced its Ninja recorder, with a built-in color LCD monitor. The Ninja implements Apple ProRes in hardware to provide real-time, 10-bit recording anytime, anywhere. It interfaces well with HDMI-compatible video and consumer camcorders, as well as DSLRs.
The Ninja uses low cost 2.5 Notebook HDD or SSD hard drives. Spinning HDDs are for everyday use, in normal conditions, while solid-state SSDs can be used in more rugged locations. A 750GB/5400 rpm drive holds eight hours of high quality Apple ProRes footage. These are housed securely inside the Atomos Master Caddy, which locks inside the Ninja. The drives are hot swappable, which means inserting new drives on the fly is a snap.

The unit is powered by an Active/Passive system, which accommodates two batteries that can be hot swapped for continuous recording. When the active battery is depleted, the Ninja automatically switches to the fully charged passive battery. Operators can swap batteries on the fly without affecting operation.

The Ninja's tight Apple ProRes integration means recorded footage is instantly and natively editable in Final Cut Pro. Standard computer connections, such as FireWire 800, USB 2/3 or e-SATA, are provided to give users flexibility when connecting to their MacBook, iMac or MacPro. Simply insert the Master Caddy into the Master Caddy Dock provided and you can begin editing immediately.

The Ninja has just four main functions: Record, Stop, Monitor and Play. The user interface is designed for one-touch operation with every function clearly visible and accessible.

The Ninja is designed to sit silently on or near the camera or camera operator, so it s small, light yet tough. Made from lightweight, high-grade aluminum, the connectors, storage and batteries are all easily accessible. Line level audio provides higher quality audio than most cameras offer, and the 1/4 headphone out allows for audio monitoring level adjustment. A LANC loop is included to allow the Ninja to be operated remotely.