I’ve been testing and using a Gemini with my S-log equipped PMW-F3 for a month now and I have to say that every time I use the combo the image quality amazes me.
The Gemini firmware has been updated many times in that month, but I can report that the latest release is nice and stable and delivering the goods. The gemini is remarkable easy to use, the on screen menus are clear and concise. Talking of the screen the LCD is very good indeed. It is clearly visible even in bright direct sunlight. I’ve also been using some other external recorders with screens and the Gemini stands out as a clear winner in this regard.
Power consumption is very good. I’m using Swit 86U batteries with a D-tap to power both the F3 and the Gemini and I get around 2 hours from a fully charged battery. This keeps the size and weight of the rig very manageable, no need to upgrade my tripod or use special mounts for the Gemini, it sits very nicely on the F3′s handle. You can still use the full kit handheld without needing to use a shoulder mount or wear the recorder in a rucksack or similar.
Now.. there are some important things to consider with the Gemini. It is a high end production tool at a low end price. You do get high end, beautiful image quality and you get the same kind of files as you’d use for high end movies and commercials. These DPX files are basically sequences of uncompressed still frames. If you are considering the Gemini you do need to think about your workflow. You will be generating some damn big files, 750GB per hour and that presents a few issues.
Don’t expect to transfer your material to a laptop hard drive in real time. The Gemini uses ultra fast SSD’s because regular hard drives are not fast enough for 444 uncompressed data, so you just won’t get real time uncompressed copies to a laptop drive. It’s taken me up to 3 hours to copy an hour of footage to a fast single hard drive. If you want real time or faster transfers of uncompressed 444 (from ANY device) then your going to want a nice big, fast, raid array, that’s just a fact of uncompressed life.
One option with the Gemini is to convert your files to a compressed codec as you transfer from the SSD’s. This can actually end up faster than doing a straight copy as with a fast computer the material can be pulled of the SSD quickly, encoded and then the more compact file written to a conventional hard drive. For this to be effective I recommend at the very least a dual core i5 2.3Ghz machine. For current model MacBook and iMac users you will be able to use the Sonnet Echo Express thunderbolt to express card adapter along with a Sonnet Express34 to dual eSata adapter to get fast transfers (available December).
I’ve been transcoding to ProRes 4444 and the results are superb. Avid Media Composer 6 now includes a 444 codec but I have not tested this yet. My i7 iMac will encode from uncompressed to ProRes 444 at around realtime speeds.
Another thing you must consider is that because DPX is a stills sequence, there is no audio. At the moment the Gemini does not record audio, so I record both in camera with audio plus the DPX files on the Gemini. It’s pretty straight forward to sync them up in post. There will be a firmware update in the future to add audio recording to the Gemini, so this is just a temporary issue.
So, being realistic about things. The Gemini 444 is a great device. It’s uncompressed so the image quality is fantastic. But you must consider that this is a very high end uncompressed recorder and with any uncompressed HD recorder you will end up with big files. I won’t be using the Gemini for everything I do, the workflow doesn’t suit fast turnaround productions and frankly it’s overkill for web videos etc. But when quality is paramount the Gemini truly excels, performing as well as devices costing many times more, yet offering one of the best LCD’s, very low power and it is a featherweight in comparison to some of the other external brick recorders.
Well I’ve been out and shot a few short clips with the Gemini just to shake it down before I fly to Mumbai in the morning. It works well, even though the firmware is a very early development issue. First thing that got me is just how bright the screen is. Look at the picture here and compare it to the not too shabby F3 LCD!
I have a free day on Tuesday to shoot some local footage in Mumbai, which I will be doing with S-Log and the Gemini. I’ll get some frames on;one as soon as I can.
Just obtained a picture of a pre-production Convergent Design Gemini mounted on a Panasonic AF101. It really shows just how compact this device is. The LCD is 800×400 resolution and a very bright 800 nits, which is nearly twice as bright as an iphone or ipad! You have to remember that this is not just a monitor but also a 4:4:4 10 bit, uncompressed recorder! With a street price of less than $6k this will be the perfect match for the Sony PMW-F3.
Well here it is. I’ve known about this rather amazing device for some time, but have been under NDA. I see this as the perfect companion for Sony’s PMW-F3 and with a street price of around $6,000 it’s a bit of a bargain. It is both a 4:4:4 uncompressed recorder and a rather handy monitor (it will do 3D recording and monitoring too), all in a single unit that is no bigger than most high end HD monitors. It records to readily available, cost effective SSD’s and can even make dual recordings to both drives giving an instant backup. It records uncompressed, so you get the absolute best quality possible. If you need an alternative codec then you simply transcode to your chosen codec when you ingest the material in to the edit system. When will it be available? Well CD are hoping to start shipping at the end of July, but that may slip a little, still it should not be too long to wait. Here are some of the headlines from CD’s press kit:
“Gemini enables videographers and cinematographers to capture at the ultimate video quality, in a small, low-power, lightweight package, at a very affordable price. Gemini features a built-in high-brightness 5.0” 800×480 24-bit LCD touch-screen for monitor and playback, and introduces an industry first – the ability to simultaneously record to two removable solid-state drives – creating instant backups; an invaluable insurance against lost footage, as well as, opening new workflow options.
Building on, but not replacing, the highly successful nanoFlash, Gemini records 10-bit uncompressed 4:4:4 / 4:2:2 video in most popular HD/2K/3G formats, including 1080p24 and 1080p50/60, with up to 16-channels of embedded audio and timecode. Gemini has slots for two removable 1.8” solid-state drives (SSDs), enabling recording in either parallel mode (instant backup), or spanning mode (longer record times). Sporting a lightweight milled aluminum case, Gemini is about the same size and weight as the popular SmallHD DP6 monitor, but includes Recording, Playback, Image Processing, Dual HD/3G SDI I/Os, HDMI-Out and consumer level audio I/O; while consuming only 8 to 15 watts of power.
Gemini features S-Log support, with user programmable viewing LUTs, which can be enabled selectively for either HD-SDI output. Flexible recording options, include simultaneously recording native S-Log video to one SSD (for on-line), and the same footage with burned-in LUTs to the second SSD (for faster creation of off-line proxies and/or H.264 video for mobile devices/internet).
A 3D/Stereo (extra-cost) option will also be available, enabling dual-stream recording and playback in a single Gemini unit; creating the world’s smallest, lowest-power, 3D recorder available anywhere. Gemini will record independent left/right channel files, while providing full synchronized playback of two streams as well as side-by-side, 50/50 composite, or anaglyph combinations. Gemini can uniquely output 3D in multiple formats simultaneously (ie side-by-side and 50/50 composite), to aid in camera alignment and monitoring.”
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