Review: AJA Ki Pro

Not so long ago if you wanted to record broadcast quality 4:2:2 video you had little choice but to use Betacam or Digibeta tapes. Continue reading

Wed 15 Jan 2014

Stefan Stanciu

Not so long ago if you wanted to record broadcast quality 4:2:2 video you had little choice but to use Betacam or Digibeta tapes.  Taking that footage into the edit suite required a capture process (ingest into an edit friendly format) which was usually real time (1 hour for 1 hour of video).  Thank goodness those days are long gone and we no longer need to spend £25000 on a tape deck which needed regular cleaning and maintenance!  Welcome to the AJA Ki Pro!

One of the first of its kind, the Ki Pro was designed as a tape deck replacement capturing onto hard disk and recording in an edit friendly format.  At the time of its release, Final Cut Pro was at the peak of its existence establishing ProRes 422 as the benchmark codec for editing.  Even after the whole FCP X fiasco with many editors jumping ship to Adobe or Avid (myself included), ProRes remained well supported by other NLEs.  The Ki Pro records ProRes, ProRes LT or ProRes HQ directly onto a removable hard drive.  Once recording has finished, the drive can be ejected and linked directly to the NLE machine via FW800 allowing for the files to be dropped directly onto the timeline.

So what’s the big deal? I mean we’re used to this sort of thing in 2014!  Well I guess it’s nice to remember how far we’ve come is such a short time.  We bought our Ki Pro in 2009 soon after its initial release.  It was the only product of its type on the market at that time and I remember the £3450 price tag being rather hard to swallow.   At the time we were working with SD video and the Ki Pro happily worked in 625p25.

The vast choice of inputs and outputs was indeed very helpful.  kipro2HDMI, HD/SD SDI and RGB inputs and outputs. if working with SD, there is even a CVBS output for using a cheap monitor.  The audio I/O is also excellent, with 2ch XLR balanced inputs (mic, line and 48v switchable) and outputs and also RCA unbalanced inputs and outputs.  The Ki Pro is network enabled with both an RJ45 connector and WiFi.  The unit can be managed and even remote controlled via the web interface by simply navigating to its ip address using a web browser.  Its even compatible with iOS!  There is also LTC in/out as well as LANC control.  All in, a very well featured unit!

Its very versatile and comprehensive menu system allows a wide variety of settings to be applied.  It can even mix and match certain inputs (SDI video with Analog Audio for example).  Daily use of the Ki Pro is painless.  One touch of the Record button and it does its thing.  The display will display a hard drive remaining percentage so you always know how much space is left.  Depending on which flavour of ProRes we’re recording in, we can easily achieve a couple of hours on the supplied 250Gb drive.

I have come across one irritating aspect of the Ki Pro which occurs if there is sudden power loss during recording.  Basically the whole recording becomes corrupted and is lost.  This is also the case if the drive is ejected without being unmounted.  A drive which has been suddenly removed then has to be re-formatted in order for the unit to record to it again.  This is an annoyance which I’ve even personally communicated to AJA at the various trade shows I’ve attended.  Its not a simple fix however, as its down to the way their OS is written.  Once I became aware of the problem, I simply put measures in place to ensure we do not run into problems.  Our engineers know the correct eject procedure and all equipment in our OB unit runs on a UPS to eliminate accidental power loss.

Would I buy another?  At a lower price point I wouldn’t hesitate as the product is fairly solid and certainly well featured.  If I was back in 2009 with no competition on the market then I’d buy another for sure.  Its sped up our workflow by a huge amount.  In 2014? It would be a harder choice as there are many tempting alternatives, especially from Atomos.  None however feature the networking features and the vast array of pro audio and video inputs… it takes a bit more consideration but I guess the answer is still a yes!  Come on AJA sort out the corrupted files!!