AJA and Sound Devices embrace Sony NXCAM’s timecode-over-HDMI
Free firmware updates enable timecode-over-HDMI from NXCAM, but is that enough?
By Allan Tépper | February 29, 2012
Many ProVideo Coalition readers may recall my article called Untapped features in Sony NXCAM’s new HDMI output from June 2011. At that point, I surveyed several external HD video recorder manufacturers as to their plans to support the multiple new NXCAM features. (This of course includes the FS100 which Adam Wilt just reviewed, along with other NXCAMs from Sony.) At that point, I received a response from AJA and from Sound Devices which both expressed intent to support at least some of the features, but no dates or other details. Now I am happy to report that both AJA and Sound Devices have embraced Sony NXCAM’s timecode-over-HDMI in some of their products. This article will review the NXCAM’s new HDMI features and clarify which are now supported (and which are not yet supported) by these two manufacturers, and what that means for you.
Link to the original article from June 2011
If you’d like to read all of the juicy details, here’s a link to my original article from June 2011, Untapped features in Sony NXCAM’s new HDMI output. Otherwise, a summary is ahead.
Summarized view of Sony NXCAM’s new HDMI features
- The possibility of either YUV 4:2:2 or RGB 4:4:4 when requested via EDID (both sadly at 8-bit) over HDMI. [Apple ProRes444 (RGB) has existed for years, although to date not in any standalone portable recorder to my knowledge. Since several of the standalone recorder manufacturers have licensed ProRes from Apple, I hope to see those "matrimonies made in heaven" happening soon!]
- Timecode metadata over HDMI (in the private stream channel). This is now available from some products, as you’ll read ahead in this article.
- 1080/50p and/or 1080/59.94p over HDMI (model dependent) [Since several of the standalone recorder manufacturers have licensed ProRes from Apple, I hope to see them recording these formats soon.]
- Pulldown versions of 23.976p, 25p, and 29.97p over HDMI (model dependent) [Rather than offering native 23.976p, 25p, and 29.97p over HDMI in the new NXCAMs, Sony has chosen (so far) to use pulldown (2:3 in the case of 23.976p, and 2:2 in the case of 25p and 29.97p) (model dependent) together with pulldown flags embedded in the timecode in order to facilitate reverse telecine prior to creating a native progressive recording on an external recorder. In this public video, Juan MartÃnez, NXCAM product manager, has explained that this decision for pulldown rather than native is to ensure compatibility with Sony's professional monitors with HDMI input. This approach is obviously different from the one taken by many consumer Blu-ray players (even from Sony), which offer a menu option for outputting native 23.976p over HDMI when playing a "24p" Blu-ray disk onto a compatible monitor.]
- 3D over HDMI [This will likely take much more time to get support in 3rd-party recorders based upon Apple ProRes, since to my knowledge, there isn't (yet) a specific ProRes standard for 3D in a single file, although there is in Sony's recent expansion of AVCHD at 28 Mb/s, both for 3D in a single file and for 2D at 1080p50 and 1080p59.94 (model dependent).]
Responses from external video recorder manufacturers
As of publication time of the June 2011 article, here are the responses I had received, followed by the future updates, if they ever arrived.
AJA (KiPro or KiPro Mini):
"AJA has a close relationship with Sony, working closely with the company to support their products. AJA therefore plans on providing support for the newest Sony NXCAM camcorders." However, at that time AJA would not yet specify when this would come, or whether it would come in a new product, or in a firmware upgrade or retrofit for the current KiPro or KiPro Mini. Flash to February 2012, and some improvements have arrived:
Starting with firmware update version 3.0, the KiPro Mini (but not the original KiPro) accepts Sony NXCAM’s timecode-over-HDMI, but does not support other NXCAM features, as explained ahead in this article. I conversed with AJA this week to confirm this, since there was a minor discrepancy between what the website said and what the release notes stated about which model(s) could read timecode via HDMI from an NXCAM. This will probably be clarified on the AJA website by the time you read this.
No immediate response in June 2011. Months later, I received an e-mail saying that they would answer soon, but no answer has arrived, and no announcement on the website about these topics.
No response about this as of the June 2011 publication time. Since then, Convergent Design launched its Gemini 4:4:4 recorder (which can obviously record 4:4:4/RGB), but the Gemini 4:4:4’s only video input is SDI (HD-SDI, dual link, and 3G), so the Gemini 4:4:4 is not for any current NXCAM.
Blackmagic Design (HyperDecks):
No response as of the publication time of the original article. Later, Blackmagic wrote to me to say that the HyperDeck’s HDMI input could theoretically support 4:4:4/RGB, and they would write back if and when it was ever implemented. Since then, no further word, and the website still says only 4:2:2.
SoundDevices (PIX 220/240):
SoundDevices responded in June 2011 that none of their current product supports 1080/50p or 1080/59.94p or RGB over HDMI. Regarding timecode over HDMI, they said: "Until we thoroughly test this, no time code is supported over HDMI, only over SDI. PIX recorders can support this with a firmware update if/when we receive thorough documentation from Sony." Regarding which current products (if any) will be able to detect the pulldown flags, execute inverse telecine, and create a native 23.976p, 25p, or 29.97p ProRes recording after a firmware upgrade or retrofit, the response was both the PIX 220 and PIX 240. Things have improved: Starting with firmware 1.03, the PIX 240 has been able to receive and record timecode via HDMI from Sony NXCAM cameras. Starting firmware 1.07, even the lower-cost PIX 240 can also receive and record timecode via HDMI from NXCAM cameras.
How do AJA KiPro Mini and Sound Devices PIX recorders stand now? What’s missing and should you care?
If you’ve followed me so far, you know that (to my knowledge) there are now three recorders on the market that can accept and record timecode-over-HDMI from Sony NXCAM cameras:
- AJA’s KiPro Mini
- Sound Device’s PIX 220
- Sound Device’s PIX 240
AJA’s KiPro Mini
Sound Device’s PIX 240
RGB/444 from NXCAM over HDMI
Sound Devices said back in June 2011 that neither of these recorders (PIX 220 or PIX 240) would ever be capable of RGB/4:4:4 or 1080p at 50p or 59.94p. This week, AJA similarly confirmed that both the KiPro and KiPro Mini are 4:2:2 recorders that cannot and will not record RGB/4:4:4, and that they cannot and will not record 1080p at 50p or 59.94p. That is understandable. Reading between the lines, there may be new recorders from these companies in the future with these capabilities, perhaps at NAB 2012 in April.
Recording 23.976p, 25p, or 29.97p from NXCAM’s HDMI output
As I stated earlier in this article, Sony does not (yet) want to offer native 1080p at 23.976p, native 25p, or native 29.97p over NXCAM’s HDMI output because of its concern about monitor issues.
This week, AJA responded to me that currently (despite the KiPro Mini’s new embracing of timecode-over-HDMI from NXCAM), the KiPro Mini does not pay attention to the NXCAM’s pulldown flags or otherwise carry out reverse telecine (pulldown removal) from any HDMI source. This means that today, if you record one of those framerates from an NXCAM on a KiPro Mini, your recording will unfortunately be interlaced (actually, Malignant PsF as defined in my PsF’s missing workflow series) and if you want to use them on a progressive timeline, you must use one of the workarounds I’ve explained in that series, at least until one of two things happen: Until Sony decides to make the mentioned outputs native, or until AJA adds reverse telecine (pulldown removal) from HDMI to the KiPro Mini. Presently, I have no indication of which (if either) will happen, or when.
On the other hand, the Pix 220 and Pix 240 are both capable of performing reverse telecine (pulldown removal) of 2:3 (23.976p-over-59.94i) over HDMI prior to recording, or the simpler reverse telecine (pulldown removal) of 2:2 from 25p-over-50i or 29.97p-over-59.94i, not only from NXCAM, but from any HD camera that outputs the proper cadence (in the case of 23.976p). I’ll have more details about that in my upcoming article SoundDevice’s PIX recorders: a closer look as of firmware 1.07. Stay tuned!
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Contact Allan T©pper for consulting, or find a full listing of his books, articles and upcoming seminars and webinars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his TecnoTur program, which is now available both in Castilian and in English, free of charge. Search for TecnoTur in iTunes or visit TecnoTur.us for more information.
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