AJA Ki Pro Mini + Canon XH-A1

We promised to keep you updated about our Ki Pro decision, and we decided on the AJA Ki Pro Mini to extend the lives of our twin Canon XH-A1 camcorders.

We ordered the Ki Pro Mini last week from Adorama (the only vendor we found who had them in stock) and were finally able to test it out yesterday after the Black Magic analog to SDI converter we ordered came in from B&H.

If you are interested in the pros and cons of the to AJA devices for our workflow and also what factored into our decision click here for the last blog. In the end it came down to two things: Price and Function. Even with the core peripherals that we needed to make the Mini function with our A1′s, the price was much lower for the package then the standard Ki Pro. Some of the more convienient peripherals, like the plate that mounts it to rods and the battery can wait.

Also, the peripherals we had to buy (like compact flash cards) work with our 7D.  The cost of those was more like an investment in our gear overall. As for function, we just didn’t need the features present in the standard Ki Pro that are absent from the Mini. Our primary need is footage that we could edit with immdiately, no transcoding, no capturing. The AJA Ki Pro Mini provides that.

About peripherals and setting up the AJA Ki Pro Mini with the Canon XH-A1:

For those who are not familiar, the Canon XH-A1 outputs video via Component, while the Ki Pro Mini only accepts HDMI or HDSDI. Therefore a converter is required, and we chose Black Magic Design.

After we unboxed all our new toys, we got right to testing them out. The menu on the Ki Pro Mini was incredibly easy to navigate. We plugged in two 64GB Sandisk compact flash cards and formatted them easily. Then we told the Ki Pro Mini to record Apple ProRes LT at 1080. Then we plugged in the component cable to the back of the A1, and with the help of a couple of BNC adapters, right into the side of the Black Magic Converter.

From there it was as simple as running a BNC cable to the Ki Pro Mini, turning on the A1, and then hitting record on the Ki Pro. Test one complete, we popped out the card in slot 1, hooked up to our card reader to one of our MacPro stations and we had Apple ProRes LT ready to edit.

We are still working on audio. For the test we plugged a Rode NTG-2 shot gun mic directly into the Ki Pro Mini via its XLR inputs. It recorded great, and perfectly synced.

That is a completely acceptable solution for professional work (running audio directly into the Ki Pro we mean). However, we would like to bring audio out of the camera and into the Ki Pro Mini. For that we tried using a 1/8 to two mono 1/4 audio cable shown in the pictures above, but it’s not working for us. We’re only getting one channel and the other channel is noise. This is probably user error, or maybe we’ve got the wrong kind of cable. If you know anything about audio and can tell us what we’re doing wrong please do. When we figure it out, we’ll update.

Edit 04/21/2011 we fixed the audio issue:

To bring audio out of the camera and sync it correctly through the Black Magic Converter you need to get 1/4 adapters for the A/V RCA cables that come with the Canon XH-A1.

White goes in the left, red goes in right, and yellow just hangs out.

The 1/8 end plugs into the AV/1 hole on the back of the camera.

You can use the 1/8 to two mono 1/4 cable to get audio from the camera to the Ki Pro Mini, like we originally tried to do.

The secret is that you need to plug in the 1/8 end into the headphone jack. We were able to get stereo channels that way with no noise. Also, the convention is Tip in the left and Ring in the right. (You can reverse it and they still work though.)

We don’t advise doing it that way. Stick with the RCA method, but if you’re in a pinch and all you’ve got is the cable above, it will work.

Our original problem was using that cable connect to the AV/1 hole. We realized that hole was sending out an audio and video signal to a cable only meant for audio. Thus one channel of audio and one channel of noise. User error. You live and you learn.

The only other problem that we ran into was definitely user error. The Ki Pro will record whatever feed the camera is giving it. We left the display on, so all of our timecode and other information was burned into our video. If you don’t want to do that, which we don’t, then it’s as simple as navigating through the menu on the A1 and telling it not to send that information out with the video feed. Menu> Display Setup> TV Screen> Off


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16 Responses to “AJA Ki Pro Mini + Canon XH-A1”

  1. Yohance Rodriguez says:

    Nice Setup to extend the life of XH-A1.
    How are you powering the BlackMagic Analog to SDI converter ? If you intend to use it in the field…

  2. admin says:

    We’ve been using standard AC power, because we’ve only used this set-up in situations where the camera is locked down indoors with easy access to electricity. However, you can use an Anton Bauer Dionic 90 Battery mounted to the Ki Pro Mini (all mounted on rods) for more mobile work in the field.

  3. Yohance Rodriguez says:

    Wondering if you compared the HDV captured image Vs the Component captured image via Ki Pro Mini?
    I know logically their should be an improvement – but I have never actually seen an image to image comparison. If their is a significant improvement in the image quality this could be an alternative (other than getting away from the Tape HDV format)
    Your findings on this would be truly appreciated.

  4. From a technical perspective there is definitely an improvement. By capturing through the KiPro you are bypassing HDV compression and going to ProRes which is a higher quality, full raster codec that uses a 422 color space. That translates into more flexibility in post-production, applying filters and color grading. However, to the naked eye, I can’t tell that much difference in the raw, uncorrected footage.

  5. Tain Barzso says:

    Hi, I am curious about any noise that is introduced in the analog to digital conversion. I am doing something similar with an Atomos ninja, and the all the analog to HDMI (not SDI) converters I can find introduce some very fine grain noise. Do you find this is the case with the black magic converter?

  6. Mark Harmer says:

    I’m really interested in this as I have two XHA1 camcorders and they are still very useful. Even though I have a DSLR, for some things a camcorder is a lot easier to use. But I would be really interested to see some comparative screengrabs of xha1 HDV and via Component, because it’s still quite a big investment. Choices for me are:

    XHA1 with a firewire recorder (at least, bypassing the tape or using it as archive / safety)

    XHA1 with component – Ki Pro Mini or similar

    XHA1 with component – HDMI converter, then record on Atomos Ninja 2

    This latter route is good because of the built-in screen and batteries on the Ninja 2, and the screen has a number of other features such as reviewing / marking shots, and also some zebra etc functionality.

    However, though I hate to say it, for the money and inconvenience any of these involve, it might be better just to buy a newer camcorder. There’s still the quality issue, and I would love to see the comparisons I mentioned because I just can’t find any anywhere on the web and without buying the equipment I’m not going to know.

    So – if you have something particularly which shows any difference in chroma detail / how it handles grading / image noise, that would be great.

  7. But that can vary slightly, and it really just will depend on how you want to use the information. As you realize, there is much more to the story than what is offered here. The final half of the article will offer you a lot more solid info about this. Even following what is next, we will not stop there because the best is yet to come.

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  12. Yesterday I decided to couple Atomos ninja to my two XHA1/XHA1s and if that will somehow not return investment, I have two HV40 with HDMI as well and even DSLR. Somewhere Ninja will help.

    Why I write this:
    Everyone reports that some FINA GRAIN is introduced when comverting component to HDMI. That makes perfect sense and that ecouraged me to buy cheap NEET converter.

    If this grain is visible that means A/D coverter workd great. Fine grain is XHA1′s native noise, which is wiped and blocked away after compressed to HDV! I tested XHA1 to my high quality fullHD flatscreen LCD TV which have component input.

    I already have DN-60 hdv recorder via firewire. I was capturing live feed from camera and looking it in sreen at the same time. Than I was able to replay it instantly from DN-60 back through camera to TV and compare. Either with HV40 or XHA1, picture was better via component out.

    - better colors (but that is the least until grading comes in)
    - slightly better sharpness
    - no MPEG blockiness on flat coloured surfaces
    - no “moscito effect” around details!
    - no smearing and blockiness with fast moving (rotating) umbrella
    - natural grain (not blocky digital noise, which moves slowly)
    - no banding (strong light pointed toward coloured wall)
    - no odd coloured blocks in darkest shaddows, but even grainy blacks

    I had to crank all the processing on TV to see differences (TV by “normal” fixes all the grain, debock, deinterlace, so picture would be clean in both situations):

    - turned max contrasts and boosted colors to the max (dynamic preset)
    - turned off any deblocking and denoiser
    - turned off clearscan
    - kranked sharpness to max
    - turned “resolution+” to the max (it sharpens again)

    I do a lot of shooting in low light, not perfect light (mixed temperatures), running and gunning. So a lot of time I must salvage footage I would reject by far distance if I had a chance. But I:

    - convert it to Cineform at max bitrate (Film scan 2)
    - denoise everything with NeatVideo at radius 4 or 5 (slow as molases)
    - use VirtualDub’s BobDoubler to make 50p out of 50i
    - use Cineform FirstLight to krank up the shadows ridiculously + CC
    - import representing clips to SpeedGrade, fix it there, make LUT’s
    - put custom LUT’s on AVI files via FirstLight and than edit in Premiere
    - in Premiere I use Mercali stabilizer or warp stabilizer on some clips
    - I crank shadows even more some times with shadow/highlight effect

    I make 0-255 signal out of maybe 0-100 original. That much I stretch it. So It is fundamental for me that I have uncrushed darker third of signal, where all lossy codecs “save” bits. Especially so with HDV. Than blockyness and lack of color is another part where HDV struggles to deliver, and fixing colors from wrong white balance is hard too.

    Finaly, that fine grain is easy to fix with NeatVideo. Why: When I fiy footage from my old SONY VX1000, which had fabtastic DV picture, great color depth, but huge grain like beans, NeatVideo at radius 5 can pull unbelievable a lot out details out of nothing. It improves color to the eyes by 30% at least, too. But with HDV it is not so sucessfull. On HDV I can see “noise” changes so every 12 or so frames “real” noisy frame comes, others in between are washed. With analog VHS or less comprressed DV, grain “flyes” around all the time, so each frame brings information on some different part of (some) detail. All in all it stacks together in fine picture (my old editor’s trick was to stack up 3-5 instances of same clip with some level of transparency, but out of sinc by one frame each clip. That way noise canceled it self through all clips, since it was at differet place at the same time. That worked only for static indoors footage, though, but in churches or galleries where lights were prohibited and shutter could not go lower that 1/50th, that did the trick).

    I have no doubts that Prores HQ will do better job on XHA1 if only A/D converter will make it’s job high quality enough. Anyway color grading will be much easyer and this new tapeless recording will be much more reliable than Firewire recording out from tiny small FW jack to very whimsicative DN-60. Component cable have locking mechanism on camera, and more flexible cable than FireWire.

    I will report back what I found out and make some picture to picture comparison, when I will make that together. I think a lot of us still have XHA1. It’s smaller than XF300, lighter and free – we have it already :)

    Case – VHS restoration – https://vimeo.com/30491208

  13. Before I get my Component > HDMI converter, some words about using my NEW ATOMOS NINJA 2 with HV40. I can see resolution improvement (not drastical, but some 10%, depending on color), colors are beter represented together with luma – in HDV colors are behind luma for 1/2 frame. Richer colors in some cases (orange). Smooth color (reds are very distorted in HDV). ATOMOS is good for HV40 (I plan to couple all of my old cameras). I’ll report after I try XHA1.

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