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AJA Ki Pro Captures Formula 1 Drivers on a Virtual Track


Formula 1 race car drivers square off on Sony’s PS3.
Formula 1 race car drivers Lewis Hamilton, Bruno Senna and Heikki Kovalainen recently took to the race track, except this time, the race was digital. Codemasters, developer of the new “F1 2012” video game, brought the drivers together for a promotional event during the Italian Grand Prix, where they raced on a digital track using Sony PS3 consoles. The BBC was on site to record live-action footage of the event, while U.K. reseller and systems integrator Digital Garage Group used AJA Ki Pro digital video recorders to capture gameplay from the game consoles. All footage was edited and used to create a BBC segment that aired during the Singapore Grand Prix.

Only the developer versions of the PS3 consoles can output a non-HDCP signal. To capture gameplay from the PS3 consoles Digital Garage solutions specialist Mark Sekula looped PS3 footage through four Ki Pros over HDMI and into the gameplay monitors, while recording Apple ProRes to the Ki Pro drives. The Ki Pros were used to record three driver views and one spectator view of the PS3 console feeds simultaneously. Formula 1 2012’s 60fps output was recorded at 720p 59.94 in Apple ProRes and the AJA GEN10 was used for sync.

“We needed to record the gameplay to a professional file-based format that the BBC would accept and hand it to them straight after the shoot,” explained Sekula. “After considering various devices and workflows, the combination of the non-HDCP output and the Ki Pro’s ability to loop the HDMI feed while recording ProRes, without noticeable delay to the gameplay monitor, gave us a simple solution.”

Given a limited amount of time with the F1 drivers, Digital Garage had no room for error and less than an hour to complete a dry run and final recording of the race before handing the footage over to the BBC. “We knew a second take was never an option. In a situation like that, you must have complete confidence in the kit you are using. From the first workflow test, we noticed just how solid, professional and reliable the Ki Pro felt compared to other field recorders. We quickly decided that it was the only recording device we would trust for this project,” said Sekula.

The event took place in a confined space that was crowded with spectators and camera crew. Once the equipment was fixed in position and the BBC cameramen began shooting preparations, Digital Garage could not access the devices directly. All of the Ki Pros were connected to a portable Ethernet switch, which allowed Digital Garage to control them on a web browser on a laptop, via the Ki Pro’s built-in webserver GUI. “Being able to control the Ki Pros remotely was essential,” said Sekula. “The browser interface was simple to use and quicker than the button menus. I could change settings, format drives, download and view test clips, control transport and monitor remaining space. I was able to gang the Ki Pros together remotely, then start and stop them simultaneously.”

At the end of the shoot, Digital Garage was able to eject the drives, download the footage over FireWire 800 to an external hard drive and hand the content over to the BBC crew, without any problems.

According to Sekula, “This was the first time I had gone into the field in support of a client and used multiple Ki Pros in this way, and I was really impressed. They are like professional VTR’s for the file-based age, but with the added bonus of being small, rugged and truly portable. I never felt like they were going to let us down.”

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