As the demand for higher resolutions in production increases, so does the need for standards converters in post. Blackmagic Design’s recently acquired Teranex is a product to watch out for, says post production specialist Tony Ruthnam
In the past few years, Blackmagic Design has slowly and surely become the post-production equipment manufacturer to watch. Through smart acquisitions and high standard R&D and manufacturing, it is perhaps one of the few companies to provide tools spanning production to delivery, servicing all forms of media, from film to web.
The Teranex standards converter is an example of one of Blackmagic’s success stories. Originally developed as the VC100 and intended for military purposes, the unit was an amazing standards converter, used quite extensively in the recent past in 2D to 3D conversions.
Judging by the competition, especially the Alchemist Ph.C made by Snell, this is a serious piece of kit to have in your post-production arsenal. The prices on both these units, however, made them financially out of reach for smaller post-production houses. Blackmagic Design entered this scene and changed the dynamics of post. After acquiring the company, Blackmagic Design proceeded to upgrade the internals and swap out the older chipsets with more modern chips, which has enabled it to not only reduce the manufacturing costs, but also significantly drop the price of the unit, all the way down to $1995 for the standard 2D version and $3995 for the 3D version, making it finally accessible to a larger audience.
Essentially a standards converter allowing you to convert a signal from one format to another, the Teranex is sleek, small and rack-mountable, taking up 1U of rack space. The front portion is made up of buttons to choose the various settings along with a small LCD to check settings and menus as well as monitor picture and audio in some cases. More on this feature to follow.
The LCD monitor is crisp and clear with a matte finish, significantly reducing reflections and glare. The back is made up of a plethora of connections, and based on which unit you pick, there could be a lot, such as in the 2D unit or there could be a lot more such as the 3D unit. Other than 3D processing such as dual channel stereo 3D, the 3D unit is also capable of 4:4:4 signal processing, whereas the 2D unit is limited to 4:2:2 signal processing. There are six preset buttons on the front panel for you to store your preferred setups as well as a lock button to prevent accidental changes. The unit also doubles as a test signal generator with various options available.
Operating Teranex – at least at a basic level – is very straightforward. You connect a video source – which can be SD to 2K, analogue, HDMI, or 3Gb/s HD-SDI – and select the ‘In’ button to choose which video and audio sources your signal is coming in from (SDI embedded, analogue, AES/EBU). Once the connection is established, the unit will automatically detect the input video format.
Teranex operates on a simple principle – the output determines everything. Once your input has been set up, you choose the output format. You do so by pressing the OUT button. You can then modify the following options:
• aspect ratio conversion,
• changing frame-rate.
As you can imagine, this gives you absolute control and total freedom in modifying the signal output to any format that you can think of, in order to match exactly the specs that you require. The outputs are also exactly the same as the input so you can output 3Gb/s HD-SDI, HDMI and component/composite analogue. All flavours of input are supported all the way up to 10 bit and up to eight channels of audio on AES/EBU as well as up to four channels of balanced analogue audio are supported on a DB-25 connector. The ‘upgraded’ 3D version has XLR connectors as well for audio.
Now, this is where the previously mentioned in-built LCD monitor comes into play. The little monitor, as previously mentioned, not only provides the user a way of accessing the user interface to modify settings, but also to check the output in terms of checking out the applied settings. The monitor acts as a confidence monitor, allowing you to check the noise reduction, resizing, proc-amp, etc. Teranex really shines when it comes to noise reduction and ARC settings. You do have some ghosting that appears on certain fast-moving shots but overall, the quality is really high.
The unit is quite noisy as it is fan-cooled, and given that it connects to the host system through a thunderbolt cable, at this point, until you can locate really long thunderbolt cables, you are limited to having Teranex right next to the system.
I decided to really push the unit and try out some unusual workflows. Having recently completed a documentary series, we had a ton of GoPro footage lying around, along with a couple of actual GoPro units. GoPros are fantastic little cameras, that enable you to shoot in places no others can. However, dealing with footage in post is a whole new matter. The camera shoots to H264 in an MP4 container, which requires a full conversion pass in order to make the footage more edit-suite friendly. This can be quite cumbersome and take up a lot of time. Luckily, the GoPro is equipped with an HDMI out (cable sold separately) allowing you to play out straight into the HDMI in port at the back of Teranex and ingest in realtime, saving you quite a bit of time in transcoding. However, you’ve got to watch out for the onscreen indicators of GoPro and just make sure that they are turned off or that there is sufficient pre-roll. Bear in mind that this is an undocumented workflow so it does require a bit of finessing.
As a standards converter, Teranex represents outstanding value for money – what used to cost thousands of dollars – and for those setting up an edit suite that needs a little more than simple I/O, it’s an attractive solution, even without the conversion capabilities.
The unit can be used as a standards converter or by connecting it to a thunderbolt enabled NLE, used as an IO for capture for your favourite NLE such as Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere or Apple Final Cut Pro. It is also compatible with Photoshop and even Protools although these features were not tested in this review.
The unit also comes with Blackmagic Ultrascope bundled for monitoring video signal levels, which is a very welcome extra.
Blacmagic Design is definitely a company to watch out for in the future. If Teranex is an indication of things to come, well then, we’re in for some serious treats in the upcoming months!
• Compact package and affordable price
• Great noise reduction and conversion features
• Can be used as IO for most NLEs
• Noisy fans
• Limited by thunderbolt cable length
• Better algorithm for dealing with fast moving images
• 4K up and down conversion
• Extra-long thunderbolt cable option
• 4:4:4 signal processing on
Tony Ruthnam is a Freelance Editor based in Abu Dhabi.