XDCAM workflows using AJA Kona LHi
Have a basic question regarding my workflow.
Here is my system:
Platform - Mac Pro 2* 8 core 2.26, 8 gigs of RAM
Storage - System disk + 2* 1TB software based RAID 0
Input - Sony XDCAM PMWEX3 camcorder.
Card - AJA Kona LHi
Output - Sony DVCAM recorder with FireWire Link, Betacam SP recorder
In my case there are 3 scenarios:
1. XDCAM to DVCAM - most frequent option (SD output)
2. XDCAM to Betacam SP (SD output)
3. XDCAM to BluRay (HD output)
How should I setup my system for above scenarios to use hardware acceleration of Kona? Should I use XDCAM transfer to get files from SxS cards and convert it somehow to Kona supported format, or should I capture my footage using SDI output of my camera?
What about an output - Kona does not have FireWire output - so I understand that I should make downconversion to file and then tape it?
Right now - after I connected AJA card I cannot see benefits of that hardware - render times are the same, and no RT at all...
First, let's discuss what the Kona does not do. It does not output DV over firewire, it does not make your render times go any faster, and it does not speed up your rt very much (it can sometimes take thin raster formats and scale them to full raster HD, taking that load off of your computer, but it's not a magnanimous rt booster).
Now, let's discuss what the LHi does do. The LHI is a hardware based capture and output card that allows up down and cross conversion on input and output. It will play almost any file format that is supported in real time by FCP. You can use the hard ware down conversion to go from HD formats up to 1080p60 down to SD. It does this over professional uncompressed base band video connection such as analog component, SDI (switchable HD/SD/3gb), or even composite and S-video, and with the introduction of the LHi, you know have HDMI 1.3a at your disposal.
If you are not getting any rt from XDCam material, this not due to the Kona. It is obvious that you have something else set up incorrectly. Have you used FCP before or is this your first go around? XDCam, while light weight in terms of file size, is a processor hog. When adding nay effects or motion control to the XDCam codec, rendering can become very longdue to the Long GOP structure of the codec. If you don't know what Long GOP is I suggest you read up on it. You might want to consider bring your XDCam footage in to an i frame based codec such as ProRes as it will be a lot easier to work with the footage when it comes to effects, and color correction. If you are planning to use Color at all, this transcoding process will be imparitive.
Now, how did you set up your system? Please include slot numbers and versions of everything including FCP, OS and Kona drivers/firmware.
Thanks for your detailed answer. One general remark - we are rather newbies at FCP - we've just moved from Windows based system (Matrox RT.X2 with Adobe Premiere Pro CS4) and we are exploring new environment. Unfortunately manuals for FCP is so massive and detailed so it is very difficult to go through it and Kona's documentation is not very good. Anyway, let's move forward:
1. Kona's hardware support.
Well, I'm a bit confused now - I did not expect that Kona will make whole rendering real time, but on their webpage in features section it is written:
- DVCPRO HD hardware acceleration
- HDV hardware acceleration
- Dynamic RT hardware acceleration
So, does that mean that they posted information which is not true?
2. Kona's conversion.
You are saying that Kona is able to make professional hardware based up/down and cross conversion both on input and output. Now, how can I make down conversion from 1080i to SD using Kona but using file as an output? Currently I do not have any recorder which would have SDI or HDMI input, does that mean that I cannot use Kona to make HD/SD conversion? I planned to acquire footage either from XDCAM files or SDI connection, edit it in HD and then use Kona to make down conversion to file and tape it on DVCAM. Is that possible?
Currently I'm using XDCAM transfer tool to acquire clip. I make easy setup to AJA Kona LHI - Apple ProRes 422 HQ and then bring the clip on the timeline saying Yes when asked to conform. Perhaps it would be better to acquire footage by SDI to ProRes? My project do not require to use Color right now - FCP color filters are sufficient for me now.
Slot number - the first one beneath graphic card - number 2 I suppose - according to AJA reqs.
MAC OS - I am up to date according to update tool
FCP - 6.0.5
Kona firmware and drivers - 1.1
Thanks in advance for further suggestions.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "So, does that mean that they posted information which is not true? "
No. As I mentioned earlier, the Kona will take thin raster scaling to full raster HD off of the duties of your computer processor. For example, in 60Hz countries, DVCPro HD is recorded 960x720 for 720p video. Of course, full raster HD is 1280x720. The Kona will take this anamorphic scaling out of the hands of your MacPro processor and leave it on the Kona card itself. Same goes for HDV. I would also imagine that the dynamic rt acceleration is taking the scaling of the whatever video is being played back and putting that on the card. Dynamic rt sometimes cuts the scale of the video in half (thus lower resolution) to help with playback. Some codecs are better suited for rt than others. ProRes is highly optimized while XDCam is not. FCP is a software based NLE and any rt is really dictated by the speed of your machine, the speed of your hard drives, and the codec that is used.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "Now, how can I make down conversion from 1080i to SD using Kona but using file as an output?"
The Kona is a capture and output device that connects to other base band video devices. If a file is your target, then you would either layoff and SD version to tape, and then recapture that tape. Or if you have another FCP system at your disposal, you would go Kona to KOna or Kona to ioHD or whatever. The Kona delivers uncompressed video over it's video outputs, it is not a device that records a Quicktime file while it is outputting. Make sense?
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "Currently I do not have any recorder which would have SDI or HDMI input, does that mean that I cannot use Kona to make HD/SD conversion?"
You said you have BetaSP, correct? You could go HD to SD via analog component. The Kona manual spells out how to do a down convert pretty well.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "I make easy setup to AJA Kona LHI - Apple ProRes 422 HQ and then bring the clip on the timeline saying Yes when asked to conform."
When you hit yes, this means that you are editing in XDCam as you told FCP to conform the the sequence to the codec going in. Use the ProRes 422 easy setup that matches your format and frame rate, drag an XDcam file to the timeline and then hit no. You will now be in a ProRes timeline. I find this is the easiest way to edit XDcam material (without transcoding it first) as you are now working in an i-frame world. You will have to get used to the rendering.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "Perhaps it would be better to acquire footage by SDI to ProRes?"
That's one way to do it, or you can do a software transcode to ProRes using compressor before you start editing.
It seems, we're moving somewhere. So, couple of next questions.
It is clear for me that I should move from XDCAM to ProRes as soon as possible in my workflow. First doubt - will I loose anything in terms of quality, if so, is that significant in any way? Secondly - is there any difference in terms of quality if I:
a. Transfer footage from my camcorder using SDI and Kona?
b. Use XDCAM Transfer tool and move clip on the timeline saying no to conform?
c. Convert to ProRes using Compressor?
Now output - analog outputting to Beta is an option, but what if I had to stay with DVCAM format? Use Compressor or FCP to make proper Quicktime movie? What about quality in such solution - I thought that Kona would perform better downconversion.
Anyway, in my current situation, Kona is only used in some RT acceleration if input and output is done on files and HD preview on external monitor. Have to say, that we expected quite more, but maybe it is time to acquire recording equipment that supports SDI.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] " First doubt - will I loose anything in terms of quality, if so, is that significant in any way?"
No. ProRes is very good at handling whatever you throw at it. It is a very very good intermediate codec and was designed to be as such.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "Secondly - is there any difference in terms of quality if I:
a. Transfer footage from my camcorder using SDI and Kona? "
That will probably yield the best results, but defeats a tapeless workflow
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "b. Use XDCAM Transfer tool and move clip on the timeline saying no to conform? "
This will be the quickest method of getting right to the edit. You will have to render every clip on the timeline, but you should get rt playback very easily.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "c. Convert to ProRes using Compressor? "
This is what I usually do if I get handed a set of files. I don't have EX hardware.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "but what if I had to stay with DVCAM format?"
If your dvcam machine has analog component or SDI, you can record to DV tapes. If all you have is firewire, then the LHi can't help.
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "Have to say, that we expected quite more"
Who set your expectations? I think the AJA website is pretty clear:
"KONA 3 and KONA LHi Hardware Scalar Acceleration
Final Cut Pro users will love our DVCPRO HD, HDV and Apple Dynamic RT Extreme hardware scalar acceleration, developed in close cooperation with Apple and available exclusively on high-end KONA cards. KONA hardware takes a portion of the codec processing load off the CPU, allowing more RealTime effects in Final Cut Pro when outputting."
[Krzysztof Kalukin] "but maybe it is time to acquire recording equipment that supports SDI. "
Or analog component. Whatever suits you best.