Price: £1,100 + VAT
Company: AJA Systems
Pros: Daisy chain Thunderbolt connectivity with bandwidth up to 10 Gb/s, 10-bit hardware up/down/cross conversion, Stereoscopic 3D support, Dual 3G/HD/SD-SDI Input/Output, good audio features, wide software support
Cons: Thunderbolt-powered Mac required; fairly complex and various PDF manuals could be amalgamated and simplified; requires broadcast level equipment to realise full potential.
AJA’s Io XT is a small and sturdy black plastic box that offers a portable interface for working with 10-bit uncompressed broadcast video and stereoscopic 3D workflows.
It connects to the Mac with a single Thunderbolt cable for up to 10Gbps bandwidth and also handily provides a second Thunderbolt connector for daisy-chain connectivity to RAID storage or Apple’s new display. The self-contained unit features a bank of BNC connectors including 3G/Dual-Link/ HD/SD-SDI inputs/output and a pair for reference in and out, while component, composite and Y/C functions are served by a separate BNC group.
Also on board is RS-422 device control, as well as a DB-25 connector that provides 8-channel balanced analogue audio output, while a front panel offers a headphone socket and audio VU meters. There’s also HDMI 1.4 for output and HDMI v1.3a for input, though the latter is designed to support long cable runs. Also useful for on-location editing is the power socket, which uses a standard XLR connector either to the supplied power adapter or to take power from battery packs.
The obvious comparison with the Io XT is the Ultrastudio 3D I/O device from Blackmagic, which although it is significantly cheaper, self-powered and offers HDMI 1.4a in/out, does suffer in comparison from the Io XT’s extra Thunderbolt connection, powerful conversion features or onboard audio feedback. Like the competition, Io XT offers integrated or plug-in support for Apple, Avid and Adobe editing software, as well as Photoshop and After Effects, though at time of writing Io XT doesn’t currently offer a plug-in for Premiere Pro CS6.
With 10-bit hardware conversion, the Io XT is easily able to up/down convert video and cross-convert SD and HD footage. It can change the format during capture, offering a very large selection of codecs, including Apple ProRes 422, Apple ProRes 422 (HQ), XDCAM HD, DVCPRO HD. For example we used the bundled AJA VTR Xchange application to capture a series of 1080p/50 video clips over HDMI and were working seamlessly with ProRes 422 and Avid DNxHD codec files in double-quick time.
This active processing of the video can be adjusted using the AJA Control Panel, a powerful nerve centre that also offers a visual guide to the whole I/O system. However a bit of broadcast video knowledge is required to ensure smooth running.