AJA Io 4k Plus
AJA Io 4k Plus

The list of applications the AJA Io 4K Plus can be used for is just about endless. It offers both 12G-SDI and HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs, so 4K ingest is possible no matter how you serve it up. It can also handle up to four SDI sources for switching with a software switcher like Wirecast or OBS.

In the past, you would need an I/O device just to start working with your media. Capturing to tape (digital or not) still required ingest. With the introduction of digital media, there was no longer a need to digitize before editing. Additionally, higher quality computer monitors are causing some to ditch their reference monitors. For some budget edit suites; having an expensive monitor for reference might not be necessary.

Now, I/O devices serve new purposes for the average media maker. With the speed of today’s computers along with an input device, more and more people are looking to software to switch between inputs. With programs like Wirecast and OBS, the Io 4K Plus gives four SDI inputs for live switching. Moreover, it is a key tool for an HDR workflow.

In use

To test the Io 4K Plus, we connected it via one of its two Thunderbolt 3 ports to a 2017 Apple iMac Pro running a 3 Ghz Intel Xeon CPU with 128GB of RAM and a Radeon Pro Vegas 64 GPU. We tested it using the newest versions of both Premiere Pro CC (version 12.1.1) and Final Cut Pro X (10.4.2). This allowed us to preview programs out of each editor. If you have a reference monitor, you can preview both programs in real-time. We then connected an Atomos Sumo19 via SDI for testing the HDR workflow, in order to see how easy it was to set up.

We started off by going to AJA’s website and installing the newest software installer for our system. Support software includes AJA Control Panel and AJA Control Room. After a quick restart, we then plugged the unit in via its power source and then plugged in the Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Once connected via the Thunderbolt 3 cable, the fans came on, so we figured we were good to go. We opened up Control Panel to see what the Io 4K Plus recognized as an input and output. This is when we realized the computer was not seeing the I/O device. We got in contact with AJA and identified it as a macOS High Sierra problem. In this newest version of macOS, it requires you to allow new thrid party hardware when it’s installed. The only issue with that is that they hide that choice in a menu you have to know exists in order to find it. At this point, we were instructed to uninstall and reinstall the accompanying software. Then, we went into system preferences and found the correct setting to allow the new device to connect. After identifying the issue, if Apple hadn’t made it so difficult, it would have been plug and play. Instead, it took a lot of troubleshooting to get to the same conclusion. AJA has added directions in their release notes for Desktop Software to help with this process.

Once it was up and running, the setup for Premiere Pro was seamless.

Once it was up and running, the setup for Premiere Pro was seamless. A plug-in automatically installs to allow the Io to work with Premiere and you have lots of flexibility on how your outputs are routed. Using audio mixer tab within the AJA Control Panel application, you are able to route your audio out anyway you need. Before setting this up, what our iMac used as the headphone out changed depending on what program we were using. However, once we remapped the output, everything worked well. This means if you have a unique routing need, you are able to configure to that need. Using the Io 4K Plus with Final Cut Pro required us to turn on the A/V output feature. Then it allowed all monitoring within Final Cut Pro.

A bevy of input and output options
A bevy of input and output options

The HDR workflow is pretty simple, if you have the right equipment. HDR has to be made with the viewing monitor in mind. If the monitor has a larger dynamic range, then the dynamics of the shot can be widened. However, when watching HDR on a non-HDR monitor or one that it was not intended for, the shot will not look the same and may even look bad just because of the monitor that’s presenting the image. Looking at some HDR footage, we were able to grade higher than 100 IRE, the range for SDR video. HDR can be cumbersome to work with, but the results are amazing if you have the knowledge and capability.

The Io 4K Plus has a great form factor for sitting on your desk, but it’s not doing small work. We first experienced that the fans are always on, and as a whole, the device emitted warmth from start-up. We had it plugged in and working for a few weeks, and the heat never caused any issue. After we concluded our testing, AJA released a new firmware and software update that corrected the fan problem. Throughout our testing process, AJA responded quickly to our questions and it’s obvious they listen, because it’s a non-issue now.

The Io 4K Plus works as expected and as sold. However, we did experience some performance change in our system when it was plugged in. Both Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro would get hung up occasionally, even when there wasn’t a major command requested. That is surprising considering the system we tested it with is quite resource-heavy.

After speaking to AJA, we found there is a good reason for this — when previewing a 4K ProRes 444 file from Premiere, the Io 4K Plus is being sent an uncompressed preview. That means the system is giving us the in-system preview video stream, but also creating this uncompressed preview stream. That’s some heavy work, so performance change should be expected.

Marketplace

When it comes to Thunderbolt 3 4K I/O devices with 12G-SDI, there are only two names in the game: AJA and Blackmagic Design. The Blackmagic Design UltraStudio 4K Extreme 3 costs $3,000. The form factor is different with the UltraStudio 4K: although they have marketing photographs that place it on a desktop, it fits in a two rack unit space for rack mounting. The Blackmagic offers XLR and RCA audio inputs without the need of another device. Additionally, it has many more SDI and B&C connections than the AJA. If those added features are needed, the Blackmagic might be a good fit; otherwise, the Io 4K Plus is more affordable.

Final Thoughts

The Io 4K Plus is easy to use and will work well for many different workflows. Custom configuration though the Control Panel is straightforward and flexible. We experienced some performance change, but that’s to be expected. There is a lot happening behind the scenes. Overall, the AJA Io 4K Plus is a good option if you need 4K capture over Thunderbolt 3.

AJA

www.aja.com

STRENGTHS:

  • Easy HDR workflow
  • 4K 60p ingest

WEAKNESSES

  • Radiates heat

SUMMARY:

The AJA Io 4K Plus is a simple solution for 4K capture and HDR workflow

RECOMMENDED USES:

  • Corporate and Event Videography
  • Online Video Production

TECH SPECS:

Video Formats:

  • (4K) 4096 x 2160P 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 47.95, 48, 50, 59.94, 60
  • (UltraHD) 3840 x 2160P 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 47.95, 48, 50, 59.94, 60
  • (2K) 2048 x 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 47.95, 48, 50, 59.94, 60
  • (HD) 1080p 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 47.95, 48, 50, 59.94, 60

Video Inputs:

  • 12G-SDI, SMPTE-2082, 12-bit, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 6G-SDI, SMPTE-2081, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 3G-SDI, SMPTE-259/292/296/424/425, 12-bit, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 4K/UltraHD 4:4:4 (4x BNC)
  • 1.5G-SDI, SMPTE 372M, Dual Link HD 4:4:4 (2x BNC), 12-bit, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 1.5G-SDI, SMPTE 292M, Single Link 4:2:2 (1x BNC), 10-bit and 8-bit
  • HDMI v2.0
  • 30/36-bits/pixel, RGB or YUV, 6 Gbps per color component
  • 4K, UltraHD, 2K, HD and SD with HFR support up to 60p (4:2:2), 10-bit and 8-bit

Video Outputs

  • 12G-SDI, SMPTE-2082, 12-bit, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 6G-SDI, SMPTE-2081, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 3G-SDI, SMPTE-259/292/296/424, 12-bit, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 4K/UltraHD 4:4:4 (4x BNC)
  • 1.5G-SDI, SMPTE 372M, Dual Link HD 4:4:4 (2x BNC), 12-bit, 10-bit and 8-bit
  • 1.5G-SDI, SMPTE 292M, Single Link 4:2:2 (1x BNC), 10-bit and 8-bit
  • HDMI v2.0
  • 30/36 bits/pixel, RGB or YUV, 6 Gbps per color component
  • 4K, UltraHD, 2K, HD and SD with HFR support up to 60p (4:2:2), 10-bit and 8-bit
  • HDR 10 Support – HDR Infoframe metadata, compatible with HDMI 2.0a/CTA-861.3
  • HLG Support – compatible with HDMI 2.0b/CTA-861-G

Audio Inputs/Outputs Digital:

  • 16-Channel, 24 and 16-bit SDI embedded audio, 48 kHz sample rate, synchronous
  • 8-Channel, 24 and 16-bit HDMI embedded audio, 48 kHz sample rate, synchronous

Audio Inputs/Outputs: 8-Channel, 24 and 16-bit D/A analog audio, 48 kHz sample rate, balanced

Connection type: Thunderbolt 3 (2x)

Size (w x d x h): 8.74” x 8.11” x 1.65” (222.0 x 206.0 x 41.9 mm)

Weight: 3.4 lbs (1.6 kg)

Chris Monlux is a big fan of Dr DisRespect. He is also Videomaker’s multimedia editor

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