As those of us in the video production business know, sometimes you just need to take time to nerd out about equipment. We’re always looking for ways to improve our workflow, both on set and in the edit suite. When we find something new to add to our arsenal, we get pretty damned excited about it. To that end, welcome to the first installment of my new column! My goal is to create a monthly spotlight for whatever top-notch gear we’re currently obsessed with here at ECG Productions. I’m planning to keep a pretty even split between production and post-production products, so I’ll do my best to alternate when I’m able.
This month we’ve got the latest portable i/o solution from AJA Video Systems, the Io XT:
As you may have read in another of my blog posts, ECG recently made the switch from Final Cut Pro 7 to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Unfortunately that also meant that our AJA Io HD, which had been a transcoding & I/O workhorse, was immediately demoted to a rather expensive doorstop since it only works with FCP. I was extremely pleased to learn that the latest addition to AJA’s Io family of products is not only significantly more powerful, but also smaller and more portable to boot.
While the Io XT doesn’t have the internal hardware support for ProRes that the Io HD had, it more than makes up for it in other areas. It is essentially an external, portable Kona 3, with support for uncompressed HD & SD workflows in 4:2:2 and 4:4:4 color space, all the way up to 2K resolution. What really sets this product apart is thunderbolt connectivity. With two thunderbolt ports you can easily pair the Io XT with a current gen MacBook Pro and a fast thunderbolt drive to make a formidable mobile recording station. Its even got a 4-pin XLR power tap so you can run it via battery pack. The possibilities for compositing workflows alone make this box a virtual must buy for anyone doing frequent greenscreen work. I’m already planning to buy a second unit to use just for on-set capture and DIT.
The Io XT is just as strong in the edit suite. It has replaced the Io HD as my desktop I/O solution without a hitch. It works beautifully with Premiere and doesn’t have the annoying feature of tying up an entire FW800 bus. I really can’t say enough good things about thunderbolt. What an amazing interface! I’ve currently got a 12 TB Promise Pegasus RAID array (my main workspace), daisy-chained to an 8TB G-RAID (my mobile drive), daisy-chained to my Io XT and everything performs flawlessly and with blazing speeds. The fact that I could add additional devices to the chain and even thunderbolt displays only sweetens the deal.
But I digress. The AJA Io XT is an amazing addition to any post-production arsenal and truly a quantum leap for the Io family of products. It covers all the connectivity bases with 3G/HD/SD-SDI, HDMI (1.3a in, 1.4 out), component, composite, LTC, 8 embeded digital audio channels, 8 analog audio outs and even RS422 machine control if you’re still using tape (I’ll admit it, we still own a Beta deck for the occasional in-house tape layoff). Whether its VFX work with 4:4:4 workflows like the RED Epic & Arri Alexa, or more standard 1080 & 720p formats, the Io XT handles it all with ease, both in the edit suite and on location.