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AJA: HD and 4K Production

AJA Product Manager Eric Norrell offers an overview of key AJA products and applications for HD and 4K production, post-production, and streaming, along with a look at integrated solutions featuring AJA gear like the vMix Thunder.


This article was sponsored by AJA.

AJA was founded in 1993 up in Grass Valley, California. We started out making little tiny boxes that would convert various signal types around a switcher workflow, so we’ve always been involved in live production. Common conversions included SDI-to-HDMI or HDMI-to-SDI or DVI. There are a lot of different digital connections in our digital age. To get a specific signal type it is into your switcher, sometimes requires conversions. Most cameras are smart enough to have multiple formats available as an output, but they’re not always the ones that your switcher can accept. For 22 years, AJA has been making converters to help with those problems.

Io 4K

We also make KONA and Io boards and Thunderbolt boxes, which are ways to get video signals into computers. Traditionally they’ve been used to work with Adobe Premiere and other postproduction applications. More recently, producers have used them with Wirecast and vMix, applications that enable you to do a multichannel switch with just a laptop and AJA boxes like the Io 4K, shown in Figure 1 (below).

Figure 1. The AJA Io 4K

The Io 4K can do 4K I/O, but it can also do multichannel. This is a great box. It makes it possible to take a commodity PC or Mac laptop and turn a Paladin- or vMix Go type of system.


This year we also started making a 4K production camera called the Cion, which you can see on the camera operator’s shoulder on the left in Figure 1. It’s our first live production camera.

We’ve also been making camera recorders and solid state recorders used in Iive production as crash recorders for a long time, but with the CION we’ve put all of that capability into a box with a sensor and a lens mount, using a lot of conversion and scaling technology. It can actually do up to 120fps RAW, which is especially useful in sports applications.

For streaming, at this point most users will record 4K on the camera, then stream in SD or HD, given that most of the streaming audience is watching 360p, 480p, or 720p video. Whereas at home, people demand a nice 1080p picture, and some early adopters are watching 4K video from Netflix and some of the other avenues for distributing highband, cable is not quite ready for that yet.

We also make a product called TruZoom (Figure 2, below) uses some of our hardware scaling expertise to take a 4K raster size. Often, on shows like CSI, the characters will say, “Enhance! Enhance! Enhance!” and endlessly zoom into images. That doesn’t actually exist unless you use something like TruZoom to do pixel interpolation and build that image in scaling.

Figure 2. TruZoom

This technology is used very commonly in sports replay, but it can benefit your productions at any kind of event where you just have one camera. For example, if I were speaking as part of a panel with 3 or 4 other speakers, the operator could easily have one camera filming the whole stage, but provide close-up shots on everyone because by building virtual cameras from within the 4K image.

Figure 3 (below) shows a still from test footage shot by AJA at a NASA launch. They used about 10 of these virtual cameras because they were looking at different places, such as where a rocket is firing and they want to capture a certain color.

Figure 3. Creating HD virtual cameras from a 4K image.

This is a great example of using 4K today and taking an HD image out of that 4K raster so that you can use your traditional broadcast and/or streaming system with 1080p, 720p, or even an SD signal. It is an arbitrary scaler so you can zoom in as far as you want, way beyond any reasonable degree of pixelation. For some sports applications, that’s fine.

Streaming Production with AJA

Figure 4 (below) shows a diagram of recording multi-cam for optimal delivery, with the cameras running into our solid state recorders and then out into our SDI router for monitoring, and then to the MiniConverter.

Figure 4. Multi-cam recording diagram

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