In part one of this blog we looked at the benefits of using a camera-mounted digital recorder. Now let’s look in a little bit more detail at some of the different products currently available on the market.
For ease of consumption, I’ve divided them up into price brackets.
Above £15,000 / $23,500
In this section we’re talking about the likes of S.two’s ‘OB-1’ and Codex’s on-board recorder duo, the ‘S’ and the ‘M’. All three record to expensive, proprietary (but removable) solid-state memory. Ideal for high-end cinematography, they can capture ARRIRAW and uncompressed HD (or wavelet encoded JPEGs) plus audio and, in Codex’s case, metadata. All three are at least 10-bit 4:4:4 and all attach to a camera via a mounting plate.
Codex’s M is for bigger digital cinema shooters like the Sony F35 and Arri Alexa and, as such, can deal in 4K Canon RAW from the new EOS C500 camera as well as ARRIRAW. The S is designed for smaller HD-SDI cameras such as the Sony F3 and the Canon C300 and has a dual channel option for either high-speed recording or stereo 3D from two cameras.
For around the same price the S.two OB-1 has a removable FlashMag that can store 36 minutes of uncompressed DPX file storage. Again, it works with top-end shooters from the likes of Arri and is fully certified for uncompressed ARRIRAW recording up to 3K.
Despite their price and size, neither the OB-1 nor its Codex peers have a display for playback or monitoring.
Below £10,000 / $15,700
There is a big price drop to the next set of recorders but we’re not talking low-end here by any means. For less than £10k you get a device capable of 4:4:4 colour recording and, as such, these are still for digital cinematography applications.
The names to focus on here are Convergent Design’s Gemini 4:4:4 and the Cinedeck EX. Both support various different codecs, record to solid-state drives and mount on the camera via at least a 1/4”-20 threaded steel stud.
Weighing in at 4lbs to the Gemini’s 1lb, the EX is much the heavier of the two devices but both have monitor/playback screens, so the trade off for that extra weight is that the EX has a bigger and better one (7” diagonally and 1024x600 pixels).
The EX is capable of recording uncompressed HD, DNxHD, CineForm and ProRes and does so to a single 2.5” SSD, while the Gemini plumps for uncompressed DPX and two slightly smaller drives (1.8” apiece). The latter has also recently been certified for ARRIRAW recording (via an upgrade).
Around £2,000 / $3,100
Now we’re getting to the kind of price bracket that achieves mass-market adoption. For around the £2,000 mark there are a whole host of recorders that will improve the image quality of your non-broadcast HD camera so that it can produce broadcaster acceptable HD pictures by upping bitrates to at least 50Mbs and colour space recording to 4:2:2.
Convergent’s nanoFlash recorder is popular in this section as is AJA’s Ki Pro mini recorder. Both record to CF (Compact Flash) cards and although neither features monitoring options, of the two, the Ki Pro mini, with its 10 bit recording capability, does offer a greater dynamic range. The Ki Pro supports ProRes (in its various guises) plus Avid DNxHD which means its files are instantly available to an Avid or Apple non-linear editing (NLE) system.
NanoFlash utilizes the Sony XDCAM 422 codec and stores files in either Quicktime, MXF or MPG file formats. As such, it should work with the majority of NLEs.
In the same price bracket you’ve also got Fast Forward Video’s new Sidekick (records 10-bit 4:2:2 to Apple ProRes and provides playback via a 4.3” monitor) plus Sound Devices PIX 240 (5” monitor, Pro Res and Avid DNxHD) and the Atomos Samurai.
The latter is one of the cheaper devices in its class but is far from the lowest spec. Using HD/SD-SDI only, the Samurai captures uncompressed 10-bit images to Pro Res (or Avid DNxHD via an upgrade) and has monitoring and playback options.
So there you have it. Other products are available but this should have given you a flavor of the camera-mounted recorder options currently available.
There’s plenty of choice and as digital production becomes the norm, they have a big role to play.