NAB, the “broadcasting” industry show, remains the event of the year for visual gear lust fantasies. We kicked off this week with new gear from Edirol, but that was just the beginning. Contributor Anton Marini (“vade”) weeds through the rest of the announcements for us, and finds some very tasty-looking equipment if you’re interested in getting HD video into your computer in real-time, or recording HD-resolution computer performances. The combination of this hardware with our faster-than-ever computers means that HD VJing and visualism is now more accessible than ever. -Ed.

NAB ’09 is winding down, and there have been a slew of announcements of new products and upgrades that run the gamut of super high-end real-time 4K playback systems to.. well, not so high-end. I’ve tried to pick through the details and find the announcements that may help change the game for visualists in 2009/2010, for both high-end professional VJs and hobbyists alike.

The key word this year is HDMI.

AJA Ki-Pro


The Aja Ki-Pro is a field recorder. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s a stand-alone device that records audio and video to a hard drive. While Ki Pro is aimed more at higher-end production and post-production markets, it does allow visualists with the budget to do one thing we’ve all been wanting: Record your performances in HD, without compromise.


The Ki pro features a slew of professional inputs and outputs, and features niceties like 10 bit up/down/cross conversion, playback, LANC, rs422, gigabit Ethernet, Wifi, and a Web server (!), but the one thing we really care about is HDMI input and output. The Ki Pro records to Apple’s Pro Res 422, either via an internal hard drive which can be used as a FW 800 drive, or ExpressCard 34 storage. The choice of Pro Res 422 makes working with the footage a bit of a pain (Pro Res is only included with Final Cut Pro on the Mac, or a playback-only codec on the Windows), but it ensures sane bit rates and professional color fidelity, so your gig footage will look sharp and clean, unlike those muddy DV 25 recordings…

The Ki Pro also features HDMI 1.3a with “Deep Color”:

“Deep Color: HDMI 1.3 supports 10-bit, 12-bit and 16-bit (RGB or YCbCr) color depths, up from the 8-bit depths in previous versions of the HDMI specification, for stunning rendering of over one billion colors in unprecedented detail.”

This means you should be able to slap a standard — and cheap — DVI-D-to-HDMI conversion dongle into the rig and be able to record your set. I’ve requested confirmation from AJA about supporting RGB DVI via an HDMI converter box, and have yet to hear back. Im fairly certain this should work without a hitch, assuming you choose to output in some HD video resolution.

The Ki Pro will retail for around $4000. Read more at or read the press release here..

Matrox MXO2 Mini & Aja Io Express

Matrox and Aja have both announced ExpressCard 34 capable HDMI Video IO boxes in portable form factors. What does that mean? It’s basically a laptop-friendly BlackMagic Intensity card — think uncompressed HD video input into your MacBook Pro or PC Laptop.


The AJA IO-Express has HDMI in/out, component and HD-SDI, and component input. No composite or S-Video here, and allows your laptop to ingest the following formats from a laptop:

  • DV25/DV50
  • SD Uncompressed
  • Apple ProRes 422
  • SD and limited HD

AJa’s earlier IO boxes all support standard QuickTime Capture Components, which means that any software that uses QuickTime Capture should have no problem seeing and bringing in video. In other words, these are not meant just for Final Cut Pro. VDMX, Resolume, Jitter, Quartz Composer, etc. should all be able to use the Io-Express.

I’ve yet to hear back on what “limited HD” means, specifically, but the support for HDMI 1.3 deep color is there. That re-enforces the hope of DVI-to-HDMI-enabled capture. The Io-Express is expected to retail for about $1000; read the press release or go to AJA’s product page.


The Matrox MXO2 – Mini is a similar product, but may be closer to what visualists seek. It has HDMI, Component, Composite and S-Video (Y/c) inputs, and supposedly supports true uncompressed 1080 (they do not specify interlaced or progressive in their spec sheet). This means the Mini is really V4 friendly, and will work with your legacy analog standard-def video gear.

Matrox also states the MXO2-Mini supports standard QuickTime components, meaning all your standard QuickTime-friendly VJ applications ought to be able to capture from the Mini. Matrox does state that the Mini supports 10-bit HDMI capture, which hints at HDMI 1.3 support. That in theory means RGB capture from DVI. I’ve asked for some clarification on this, and the QuickTime capture support from applications other than Final Cut, but I’m optimistic that DVI capture should work.


The MXO2-Mini is a much more VJ-friendly $450; read the press release or the MXO2-Mini product page where you can read up on the details.

Ed.: Other NAB announcements we missed? Say so in comments. And if there’s any gear here in which you have a particular interest, we can try to nab (cough) it for review.

  • nice post anton! you know the one thing I'm really missing in all these boxes is a VGA out. (I know I know it's too much to ask for a D/A signal converter).

    SO- does anybody know a good HDMI to VGA converter? the idea being that you'd HDMI out to one of these guys, then take the HDMI out from one and convert it to VGA for the projector. (because none of the gigs I've been to in the last 3 years have had HDMI runs to the projectors).

    that said- yes- would love to see a review of the matrox box: I want to know about recording quality and where the s-video input is πŸ™‚


  • Most of the professional SVideo adaptors use a Y/c Cable to 4 pin SVideo and slave off of the Y and Pb connectors in the component, and the Y connector for standard composite. Avid Mojos and others do this, its fairly standard.

    I spoke with AJA today, and they gave me some more information regarding their products.

    The Chipset *definitely* supports RGB capture from DVI, however the current in testing drivers do not. They are aware its a much wanted feature and plan on having, but it may not be ready for the product launch of summer 2009.

    As for "limited HD", thats just marketing speak, as the product is still somewhat in development, and they have not tested every possible config, they dont want to advertise it can do something that on specific laptops it cant. I bet it will handle uncompressed just fine, the issue is disk subsystems on laptops. But since we dont want to capture to disk, who cares!

    As for Matrox, all of their engineers are at NAB still, so I spoke with pre-sales support and expect information regarding DVI capture early next week.


  • Oh, and I should mention, you probably can do HDMI passthrough on these boxes, so you can monitor your input from the HDMI output. So you probably could put a scan converter 'behind' the IO-Express or MXO2-Mini, and simultaneously capture your input to one laptop and send it to another projector at the same time.

    Im also curious about latency, but, we'll have to get a review item πŸ™‚

  • yes, passthrough is exactly what I'd be after in a signal path like this. (converting the passed signal). zero latency monitoring would be very nice!

  • Well, AJAs passthrough for their higher end cards is typically 0, so it that looks like a good possibility πŸ™‚

  • now I just need 4000 dollars… anyone want to hire me for a gig? I'll give you a nice HD recording afterwards πŸ˜‰

  • yeeeeeeeeehaaaaaaaaa! solid state drives and expresscard/34 capture now mean there's no need to lug a desktop. that for me is massive.

  • Toby when you get your SSD, can you do a review of various apps and 1080p playback performance. HD is here for reals!

  • Drew

    Hi all, I was lucky enough to get some time off to go to NAB this year. I will say that one common theme I found was that there was a lot of 3D Display solutions and 3D capture devices. Even the company that did the "hologram" effect for the CNN Election coverage set up their system where the "remote reporter" was in the booth across the aisle from them. I'll post pics and the links soon.


  • Vade – I've got an SSD in an eSata case right now if there's something specific you want me to try. Though if we want super-dooper speeds, we may need to put together a RAID of them (Johnny DeKam mentioned he's been trying this)

  • Just curious: These thingies are expresscard aren't they? What would you use to connect a harddrive? Is FW800 fast enough?

  • vjwunderkind ; I dont follow your question, what do you want to do?

    if you want to capture uncompressed HD you will need a large raid, if you want to capture compressed HD you will need a fast CPU to do compression and decent storage. These are made just to allow sampling of HDMI sources, so you can stream the video into the app of your choice, similar to hooking a DV camera up to VDMX, except, you know, its another laptop running HD footage from another app πŸ˜‰

    I dont know of a FW 800 disk solution that can handle Uncompressed HD, let alone 4:4:4 RGB HD sources (Video is typically 4:2:2 which is lower datarate)

  • Vjwunderkind

    I was actually thinking about content creation.

  • Terrible Toronto

    FW 800 drives (or FW 800 RAIDs) are fast enough to support playback of ProRes 422 HQ files – i've just edited a film in prores HQ using the matrox 2 via expreasscard and FW 800 drives on MBP 17 … playback to desktop was fine, playback to matrox was sketchy until matrox released their 1.3 driver – since then it has been fine.

    i don't know about higher data rate codecs but i suspect ProRes HQ pushes the practical upper limit of FW800.

  • Terrible Toronto


    note that i am talking playback. we had the captures done at a video lab.

    prores capture via matrox 2 on a laptop is still sketchy. see matrox forums for more info.

  • bernardo amorim

    ok so i got:

    PC 1:
    webcam server and video blower output second DVI – HDMI adapter to

    MATROX mxo mini out to

    MAC Book via Host cable
    VDMX central

    can this be made?


  • Does anyone know if VJ's will need to get the Matrox MXO2 mini with the MAX technology in order to do realtime 1024×768 capture from one laptop into another running VDMX or the like? It seems like the added cost of the MAX option pushes the product back into the realm of major investment, and it would be nice if it wasn't needed. Avidly awaiting a review, this really seems like an ideal device!