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Review: Paladin flypack

Smaller and smaller is the direction of mobile video production, and now video mixer, playback, recording, and streaming services are all being crammed into ever-smaller cases. Today I take a look at the Paladin Flypack, a Windows-based, portable production system by Paladin Innovators.

The Flypack

Paladin had sent me their flypack, which packages the computer in a plastic case that has a 17" LCD monitor embedded into it. Connected via a short HDMI cable, the LCD seemed to be set to 720p, which I thought was low for a monitor that size. When I resized the Windows output to 1080, the entire Windows and Wirecast interface became too small to read, so I reverted to the 720p resolution.

The keyboard and mouse are wireless which is handy to help reduce the clutter of the whole setup. There's a little USB dongle in the mouse. But I found that when I put the dongle in the USB port in the back of the Paladin, and used the keyboard in front of the computer, even just a couple feet away, it had trouble communicating my keystrokes. So I added a little USB extension cable to hold the wireless receiver over the top of the computer and it worked much better. I also opted to use a USB mouse because I wanted to have at least one surefire way to interact with Wirecast in the event that there was simply too much wireless interference during the trade show.

Click the image to see it at full size

The screen has speakers, but if you're in the same room as your production, you'll need a headset to monitor the audio so the microphones don't pick up the audio you're listening to. The headset also isolated the production audio from the noise of the exhibit hall behind me. Lastly, I'm certain the headset provides better audio fidelity audio than the little speakers in the monitor.

The Paladin itself is strapped into the center of the case and there is space around it for the power supply. The cameras Paladin included for me also fit nicely into the space around the computer. I even found that I could fit a thin Behringer audio mixer into the space above the computer and below the monitor when closed. Since I didn't want to damage the monitor, and the mixer can indeed slide around a bit, I wrapped it in bubble wrap and everything fit together very nicely.

Inside the Paladin, there's a small-form-factor motherboard, and a custom PCI ribbon cable out to the card providing the four HD-SDI jacks for video input. The CPU has a slim fan that always operates at a good speed to keep the CPU cool, within the limited fin space available. The enclosure has plenty of openings to facilitate effective cooling and there's a large, thin fan over top of the video card area to assist with overall heat extraction.

Click the image to see it at full size

I suspect that a custom enclosure could be designed to hold the surprisingly small PCI card over top of the motherboard. And you'd end up being able to cut off about 5" off the case, or build a power supply into the case, which is nice when compared to dealing with a large, bulky, heavy, external power supply. I think it may well be the heaviest thing in the case. But altogether, the whole flypack is not that heavy at all.

The plastic case itself has an integrated handle. The monitor is built into the lid and I didn't try to remove it. There are two latches on the sides and they even have holes to lock the kit closed. The plastic itself is not as hard as what you'd find with a Pelican case. The latches are not as deep, and the edges of the case are not as rigid, so I would not use this case for shipping, or put it in checked luggage on a plane. But for transport around a campus, or in a car with other gear, I think it's fine. For just a $300 premium over the Paladin alone, I think it's worth it.