About a week ago I finally acquired my Ki Pro Mini but only now have I had the time to write about it. I ordered it back in September when they were first announced, which is why mine showed up before the broadcast supply houses in my area. With AJA it's first come first served, which is how it should be. This article will be a recap of what it takes to get the Mini up and running with portable battery power as well as some of the 'gotchas' that hopefully you'll avoid by reading this. Who was it that once said "Learn from the mistakes of others because you'll never live long enough to make them all yourself."
Today I went down to my local broadcast supply house with the Mini to get a battery for this new toy. The folks there were more than helpful and eager to get me up and running. In the process we all learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. The Mini requires an electrical supply between 12 to 18 volts with a sustained amperage of 3.3, which translates to about 30 watts, as I found out. First we were going to try a 'D-Tap' system that uses a battery similar to the Sony BP-U60 for my XDCAM EX cameras but it turns out that there is only 10 watts left for the cable used to connect to another device. I guess this is okay if you're running an LED light, etc. but not nearly enough for the Mini. After a few more minutes of discussion I decided to go with an Anton Bauer setup which offers an elegant solution but is also the most expensive one. The combination battery plate, inline charger and battery literally dwarfs the Ki Pro Mini.
Since I had ordered one of the Mini optional mounting plates It was a simple matter of finding out which Anton Bauer mounting plate (called a Gold Mount) was the right one for the job. This is determined by the hole patterns on the Ki Pro Mini's optional plate. The The Anton Bauer Gold Mount for a Panasonic shoulder mount camera is one you want. It bolts up directly to the many holes in the Mini mount and is very solid. The inline Anton Bauer charger I chose is called a Tandem 70 which gives you the luxury of being able to connect to house power and charge the battery at the same time. Nice. The actual battery I went with was the Dionic 90 which, if our math is correct, should keep the Ki Pro Mini running for 6 or 7 hours. Since my end goal is to have this setup mounted behind either my EX1R or EX3 I will be ordering a second Ki Pro Mini mount so I can put the whole system on 15mm rods with the appropriate tripod plate mount. I also have an EX1R bottom plate ordered from Juice Designs.
NOTE: if you decide to go the Anton Bauer http://www.antonbauer.com/
route then buying bottom EX1R and EX3 plates from DM Accessories http://shop.dm-accessories.com/
or Juice Designs http://juicedesigns.com
/ is an absolute must with this much extra weight. Without them you run the real risk of tearing out the stock (and flimsy) tripod mounting plates on these cameras.
Ki Pro Mini Setup
The easiest and fastest way to set up the unit is to use the CAT5 connection. Once connected to your computer's Ethernet port or through your router, start up Safari (the recommended browser) and set your IP address to DHCP. If everything is connected properly the Ki Pro Mini will connect automatically and your browser will display all the parameters and options, which looks sort of like filling out an online form. If the unit doesn't connect automatically, the PDF manual that comes with the unit on the CD will talk you through things. Doing it this way, at least for me, was preferable to drilling down into the unit's menu structure and changing all the parameters manually. For some of you, setting up the unit using the Ki Pro Mini's buttons will be the way to go. The PDF manual is well thought out and informative. Make sure you take the time to read it. As you can see there are 7 available screens with the Config. menu as the one being shown in the picture.
If you're like most users who will want the Ki Pro Mini to start recording when you hit the camera's record button there are a few important things to watch out for. In the SDI pipeline is a protocol known as "SDI RP 188." This is the one you want to activate in the TC preferences. Then make sure in the Arm Recording field you see "TCREC/KEY. This means that the Ki Pro Mini looks for timecode from the SDI signal and will start recording when the TC starts running in the camera. If you have a camera that doesn't have imbedded TC in the SDI stream there are other options described in the PDF manual.
Make sure the recording format in the Ki Pro Mini matches the one in your camera. The unit records to Pro Res 422 in 4 different flavours so choose the one that will do the job for your subject matter. If you choose Pro Res 422 HQ and all you're doing is shooting talking heads you're wasting bandwidth and precious storage space on your CF cards. In this situation I would choose Pro Res 422 LT which is around 100 Mbits per Sec. Keep in mind that you're good for broadcast requirements at anything over 50 Mbits per sec.
UPDATE: It was just pointed out to me that the 50Mbits sec. broadcast standard may be for Long GOP codecs and not for all codecs. It may be that I-Frame codecs like Pro Res may have a minimum standard of 1oo Mbits sec. To be totally sure, get in touch with each broadcaster you intend to submit to and ask them what their standards are. Different broadcasters have different standards.
Some numbers. The bit rates of the various Pro Res codecs are right from Apple's Pro Res white paper. On a 32G CF card you'll have enough room for:
Pro Res 422 (PROXY) @45Mbits sec. - 79 min.record time.
Pro Res 422 (LT) @102Mbits sec - 37 min. record time
Pro Res 422 @147Mbits sec. - 25 min. record time
Pro Res 422 (HQ) @220Mbits sec - 17 min. record time
As you can see, if you want any sort of decent recording times without offloading frequently you're going to need at least 2 64Gig CF cards. There are some card choices listed at the AJA web site as well as on the PDF manual on the provided CD.
As a rule, you'll need a CF card with a 90 Megabyte per second transfer rate, otherwise you'll drop frames and get the dreaded Ki Pro Mini warnings. SanDisk just came out with a 128G Extreme Pro at a data rate of 100 so that one for sure will be listed by AJA in the near future. Trouble is, the card retails for $1499.00 CAD. Ouch.
When you insert your CF card make sure it's in the slot snugly. If you get a flashing slot light on the front panel(not the top one by the slot), the card is NOT seated and you won't be able to record. When the light is a steady green then you'll know that the card has a good connection. I had trouble with the Lexar card I bought and had to pull it in and out a few times before it made a solid connection in any of the 2 slots. I'll assume that once the card has been in and out a few times it won't be an issue. NOTE: Beware that if you yank the card out before unmounting it via the slot select button on the front panel first you'll get a "Format Card" prompt as well as risking real data loss. Pretty important.
A big thanks to Greg and Lorne of Lorne Lapham Sales and Rentals http://www.llsr.com/
for spending a couple of hours getting me up and running, battery-wise. I'll add to this article in the next day or so with some frame grab comparos between the SxS Pro cards and the various flavours of Pro Res from the Ki Pro Mini. And when I find out where my wife filed the receipt for the Anton Bauer stuff I'll also post some part numbers.