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Aja Kona 3 Vs Blackmagic


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#1 Rodrigo Martins

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 09:14 AM

Hi there,

I have been cracking my head for quite some time, trying to figure out the difference between Aja Kona 3 and Blackmagic?s Multibridge Eclipse.
Although not very experienced in Post-production, I am struggling my way into the dream of film making, and in the process of putting together a very small production company (I & me), it is time to choose a video editing card.
For my price range the best I can get seems to be one of these 2.
From what I could gather until now, the main difference is that Aja only works in a Mac environment (which is my case), and Eclipse is able to serve as converter even when unplugged (don?t know if Aja presents this nice touch); but I am sure there must be tons of differences in protocols, codec, features, etc. - Stuff that experienced post-producers would know.

Can anyone help me to find a reason to unbalance my situation into a choice? Or, at least does anyone know of a comparison already made between the 2.

Thank you very much - as always, I am sure you guys will be of great help.

Rodrigo Martins
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 10:43 AM

Hi,

There isn't really that huge a difference. The Aja stuff is usable on Windows PCs; the Kona (for a Mac) is called a Xena under Windows, but the hardware is exactly the same.

I have used both and unless you are going to use the capture app that comes with it (in which case the Aja stuff is probably better) the difference at the Final Cut level is in the name of the project preset you choose, give or take any minor differences in features. For instance, the Kona 3 has some degree of hardware support for various compressed codecs; the blackmagic doesn't, although my view is that anything other than uncompressed on nice boards like this is a bit of a waste. As far as I am aware the Kona/Xena stuff does not do any sort of internal LUT. Blackmagic does - this is very, very handy.

I have a Multibridge and it is very fine. I like the idea of having the analog components outside the electrically noisy environment of a PC.

P
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#3 Tim Brown

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 12:18 PM

I would like to echo Phil's sentiments.

We just completed installation of two Mac Pro suites using Black Magic products including two Multibridges and a Video Hub and having replaced a Power Mac with a Kona 2, the differences between the two systems are minimal. Save for a few features. I've heard many extoll the virtues of the AJA products but personally I've not seen a great deal of difference as long as your preferred card offers you the feature set you're looking for.

I should note however, that we did experience a great deal of trouble interfacing our BM equipment with our RAID card in the Mac Pro. Minor troubleshooting with the BM tech support, who were extremely helpful by the way, and we were up and running.

My advice would be to determine a list of needs and compare these with the feature set of the two systems. You state that you're interested in following your dream of becoming a filmmaker and are looking to start your own business. What exactly are your NEEDS as a filmmaker/business person and what do you need either system to do for you.
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#4 Saul Rodgar

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 12:52 PM

I have used Kona products extensively, which are rock solid and versatile enough for what I do.

I hear great things about the Blackmagic Eclipse, but have not played with it. I am particularly interested in its real time rendering capabilities. Anyone has had any experience with this who cares to elaborate?
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#5 tylerhawes

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Posted 23 July 2008 - 03:52 PM

Just a note: I think if you want your AJA card to work in both Windows and Mac, you HAVE to buy the Xena version, which will do both, while the Kona version will be Mac-only. The Xena is slightly more expensive due to the increased R&D load on AJA to develop the Windows drivers and software, etc. This was the case when we bought our cards (we got Xena 2Ks), but it's possible to have changed since then (check with AJA).

I haven't looked at the latest BMD cards, but when we last looked into it, we noticed better quality of format conversion with AJA as well as more variety of format conversions supported. OTOH, BMD offered more analog i/o (if you need it) without resorting to ala carte converters...
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#6 Keith Mottram

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 12:30 PM

I have used both for years and the major difference is reliability. Personally I prefer the software that comes with the Kona in the sense that I think it is okay, whereas the BM is a bit poop. As is the BM built quality. If you are really short of cash then by all means by a BM card, but I would never choose one especially if it is going to get used heavily. Konas are pro and BM are amateur. that is the way I see it, which might be snobbery but is based on throwing quite a few BM cards in the bin. The Konas also have higher quality converters and give more professional up and down conversion. So a BM is okay for pumping an image to an external monitor or the odd playout, but if it is going to get used proffessionally i would lean to a Kona 3 or whatever the PC version is. In fact I have already told the edit studio where i am working next to get rid of the bm cards in their existing macs and put konas in them and the new ones, when asked why i said reliability and that was that. BMs are super cheap for the money though...
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#7 Rodrigo Martins

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 12:31 PM

Hi,

...I have used both and unless you are going to use the capture app that comes with it (in which case the Aja stuff is probably better)...
...As far as I am aware the Kona/Xena stuff does not do any sort of internal LUT. Blackmagic does - this is very, very handy.

P

Hi Phil,

well, first, thank you for your help and opinion.
So from what I can understand now - you fell that the out box (is that the capture app you refer?) is better in Aja, right? Why would that be, does it provide more or better connections?
i was more inclined to Blackmagic because of those analog components converters. But do you really get to use them?
Oh, just one more question: When you say Kona/Xena does not do any sort of internal LUT... What are you referring to? I am sorry for my huge lack of knowledge on post, or perhaps is it just a language issue...
Once again thank you very much.

Cheers,
Rodrigo
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#8 Keith Mottram

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 12:37 PM

Hi Phil,

well, first, thank you for your help and opinion.
So from what I can understand now - you fell that the out box (is that the capture app you refer?) is better in Aja, right? Why would that be, does it provide more or better connections?
i was more inclined to Blackmagic because of those analog components converters. But do you really get to use them?
Oh, just one more question: When you say Kona/Xena does not do any sort of internal LUT... What are you referring to? I am sorry for my huge lack of knowledge on post, or perhaps is it just a language issue...
Once again thank you very much.

Cheers,
Rodrigo



If you are going to do any work with analogue sources then I would really lean towards Kona as it has a superior analogue to digital converter.
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#9 Rodrigo Martins

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 02:24 PM

I would like to echo Phil's sentiments.

I should note however, that we did experience a great deal of trouble interfacing our BM equipment with our RAID card in the Mac Pro. Minor troubleshooting with the BM tech support, who were extremely helpful by the way, and we were up and running.

My advice would be to determine a list of needs and compare these with the feature set of the two systems. You state that you're interested in following your dream of becoming a filmmaker and are looking to start your own business. What exactly are your NEEDS as a filmmaker/business person and what do you need either system to do for you.


Hi Tim,

Thank you for your tips. I was looking for that kind of experiences... So you had trouble installing your MB. I've heard a couple of people saying that Kona (because it is specific for Mac) doesn't have that many difficulties. But apparently Xena is exactly the same hardware as Kona, and so there will be no reasons for it to work better (at least not based on its specificity).

You are absolutely right when you say I should first establish exactly what I want to do... Of course I am looking for absolute freedom... But I will do most of my work in HD, maybe combining animation with HD, and I will need some power to handle color and cinematographic effects.

Again thank you Tim.
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#10 Rodrigo Martins

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 03:21 PM

Hi Phil,

well, first, thank you for your help and opinion.
So from what I can understand now - you fell that the out box (is that the capture app you refer?) is better in Aja, right? Why would that be, does it provide more or better connections?
i was more inclined to Blackmagic because of those analog components converters. But do you really get to use them?
Oh, just one more question: When you say Kona/Xena does not do any sort of internal LUT... What are you referring to? I mean usualy you wont find LUTs for Mac do you? I am sorry for my huge lack of knowledge... I Thought Matematics was just a Win specialty.
Once again thank you very much.

Cheers,
Rodrigo


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#11 Andres Pardo aka Gral Treegan

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 11:43 PM

Hi there!!

the difference between AJA - BLACKMAGIC is just the compression algorithm, the way they order the information packs.

in my 10 years of working with video cards i could say that no matter what kind of video card you use if youre planning a big postproduction/key/matte painting/3d composite go for a flame, flint or smoke capture.

i dont know why but the information that this suites handle are far better than any video card that you could buy under 5K

working with green screen footage i found that capturing with blackmagic the keylight works better than capturing with aja.

bye!
GT
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#12 Thomas Worth

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 12:30 AM

the difference between AJA - BLACKMAGIC is just the compression algorithm, the way they order the information packs.

These companies' SDI cards aren't really "video" cards. They're primarily interface cards, like a USB or FireWire card. SDI is a 1.5 gbps serial connection per link (now up to 3 gbps). The video data that is transferred uncompressed. For versions that have analog i/o (which I almost never use), you can capture uncompressed, or in the case of BM, Motion JPEG. I'm sure the Aja will do something similar. You can also monitor on an analog display if you need to, which I have done. Much better than monitoring with a DV camera or deck.

Both Blackmagic and Aja cards transfer single link packed as UYVY. That is why their uncompressed "codecs" are compatible. You can open up video transferred on a Kona with a BM and vice-versa.

working with green screen footage i found that capturing with blackmagic the keylight works better than capturing with aja.

There will be no difference in quality if capturing uncompressed SDI with either of these cards. Again, it's an interface. It's wrapping the SDI data in a "codec," only so QuickTime or Directshow can make use of it.

My advice is "go with the cheaper one" (Blackmagic). I agree with Phil that having the unit in a rack mount box is much more convenient (and professional) than having an armful of spaghetti coming out of the back of the machine.
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#13 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 01:08 AM

We just did a project in 1080P DPX and had a problem with decklink. After calling we were told categorically by Decklink that their cards will not do 1080P - they do a weird format called 1080Psf that requires a pre-render of 1080P footage (IN or OUT)

This will not impact most people but if you get the External Drive back from Telecine with 1080P DPX and expect to be able to realtime preview on a 1080P system (like Optomo) it will not work and requires a lengthy render.

Check under the HD Video standards http://www.decklink....idge/techspecs/

Whereas the KONA will do 1080P

thanks

Rolfe
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#14 Thomas Worth

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 05:52 AM

We just did a project in 1080P DPX and had a problem with decklink. After calling we were told categorically by Decklink that their cards will not do 1080P - they do a weird format called 1080Psf that requires a pre-render of 1080P footage (IN or OUT)

Rolfe, when you say "render," do you mean transcode? As far as I know, 23.98/24p is the same while on the computer, so the card / output device should format the video to appropriate video standard. For example, I can output 23.98PsF, or 59.94i w/32 pulldown for an HDMI device. In either case, the Multibridge handles the output without transcoding / rendering, even though technically they are completely different formats.

Do you recall which codec / settings they said to use?
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#15 Rodrigo Martins

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 07:19 AM

in my 10 years of working with video cards i could say that no matter what kind of video card you use if youre planning a big postproduction/key/matte painting/3d composite go for a flame, flint or smoke capture.

i dont know why but the information that this suites handle are far better than any video card that you could buy under 5K

bye!
GT

Hey GT,

I hear you... But there obvious budget issues here! We are not talking about the same league of products are we? I mean, one can't even buy smoke, flint or flame, just as software... or can he? Here in Portugal flint (the less expensive) goes for just above 100 000? that would be 156990 US$. Is it any different over there?

Cheers
Rodrigo
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 01:21 PM

Yes there are limits on what the BMD stuff will do regarding 24p as opposed to PsF. Sorry, should have mentioned it before. You may work a while before you hit this as a problem, though.

> i dont know why but the information that this suites handle are far better than any video card that you could buy under 5K

I'm not sure what you're talking about here. You're comparing a capture card to a very big complete system.

The capture itself should (and inevitably will) be identical.

P
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#17 Rolfe Klement

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 04:52 AM

The summary of our problem was that we had 1080P DPX files. When you import them directly to FCP with Gluetools they would not preview in the timeline to an external broadcast monitor like an Optomo 1080P projector in realtime unless you rendered them to the Blackmagic 1080psf QT first. And it can take a while to render. And you lose the advantage of 1080P DPX format in COLOR and SHAKE since you now have to use a blackmagic QT format. But many people might not ever be in the situation of using 1080P DPX files...

thanks

Rolfe
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#18 Thomas Worth

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Posted 26 July 2008 - 09:49 PM

The summary of our problem was that we had 1080P DPX files. When you import them directly to FCP with Gluetools they would not preview in the timeline to an external broadcast monitor like an Optomo 1080P projector in realtime unless you rendered them to the Blackmagic 1080psf QT first. And it can take a while to render. And you lose the advantage of 1080P DPX format in COLOR and SHAKE since you now have to use a blackmagic QT format. But many people might not ever be in the situation of using 1080P DPX files...

Ah. That makes perfect sense. Bummer.

I think Aja has a tool you can download (for free) that will take DPX files and frameserve them as a QuickTime movie with the appropriate codec required by the Decklink / Multibridge. That way you shouldn't have to render. I'll test this myself and see if it works. If not, the rendering thing may be the only option. Not the best one, as you pointed out.
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#19 Andres Pardo aka Gral Treegan

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 01:19 AM

There will be no difference in quality if capturing uncompressed SDI with either of these cards. Again, it's an interface. It's wrapping the SDI data in a "codec," only so QuickTime or Directshow can make use of it.

My advice is "go with the cheaper one" (Blackmagic). I agree with Phil that having the unit in a rack mount box is much more convenient (and professional) than having an armful of spaghetti coming out of the back of the machine.



in theory theres no difference, in the real life theres difference ... im sure of that. im gonna post pic during weekend.

GT
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#20 Keith Mottram

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Posted 27 July 2008 - 04:22 PM

My advice is "go with the cheaper one" (Blackmagic). I agree with Phil that having the unit in a rack mount box is much more convenient (and professional) than having an armful of spaghetti coming out of the back of the machine.


how many times is going with the cheaper one in a pro enviroment the correct choice? as for the un-professional spagetti style how about an aja k-box? that's what i use which has been very reliable- in the sense that i didn't throw it in a bin in the middle of a client session as i did with a multibridge. then again i wasn't that surprised having chucked one of their dodgy sdi-dvi boxes and a couple of their cards. i'm beginning to wonder if some of the people commenting here have actually used these products...
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