I’ve been testing and using a Gemini with my S-log equipped PMW-F3 for a month now and I have to say that every time I use the combo the image quality amazes me.
The Gemini firmware has been updated many times in that month, but I can report that the latest release is nice and stable and delivering the goods. The gemini is remarkable easy to use, the on screen menus are clear and concise. Talking of the screen the LCD is very good indeed. It is clearly visible even in bright direct sunlight. I’ve also been using some other external recorders with screens and the Gemini stands out as a clear winner in this regard.
Power consumption is very good. I’m using Swit 86U batteries with a D-tap to power both the F3 and the Gemini and I get around 2 hours from a fully charged battery. This keeps the size and weight of the rig very manageable, no need to upgrade my tripod or use special mounts for the Gemini, it sits very nicely on the F3’s handle. You can still use the full kit handheld without needing to use a shoulder mount or wear the recorder in a rucksack or similar.
Now.. there are some important things to consider with the Gemini. It is a high end production tool at a low end price. You do get high end, beautiful image quality and you get the same kind of files as you’d use for high end movies and commercials. These DPX files are basically sequences of uncompressed still frames. If you are considering the Gemini you do need to think about your workflow. You will be generating some damn big files, 750GB per hour and that presents a few issues.
Don’t expect to transfer your material to a laptop hard drive in real time. The Gemini uses ultra fast SSD’s because regular hard drives are not fast enough for 444 uncompressed data, so you just won’t get real time uncompressed copies to a laptop drive. It’s taken me up to 3 hours to copy an hour of footage to a fast single hard drive. If you want real time or faster transfers of uncompressed 444 (from ANY device) then your going to want a nice big, fast, raid array, that’s just a fact of uncompressed life.
One option with the Gemini is to convert your files to a compressed codec as you transfer from the SSD’s. This can actually end up faster than doing a straight copy as with a fast computer the material can be pulled of the SSD quickly, encoded and then the more compact file written to a conventional hard drive. For this to be effective I recommend at the very least a dual core i5 2.3Ghz machine. For current model MacBook and iMac users you will be able to use the Sonnet Echo Express thunderbolt to express card adapter along with a Sonnet Express34 to dual eSata adapter to get fast transfers (available December).
I’ve been transcoding to ProRes 4444 and the results are superb. Avid Media Composer 6 now includes a 444 codec but I have not tested this yet. My i7 iMac will encode from uncompressed to ProRes 444 at around realtime speeds.
Another thing you must consider is that because DPX is a stills sequence, there is no audio. At the moment the Gemini does not record audio, so I record both in camera with audio plus the DPX files on the Gemini. It’s pretty straight forward to sync them up in post. There will be a firmware update in the future to add audio recording to the Gemini, so this is just a temporary issue.
So, being realistic about things. The Gemini 444 is a great device. It’s uncompressed so the image quality is fantastic. But you must consider that this is a very high end uncompressed recorder and with any uncompressed HD recorder you will end up with big files. I won’t be using the Gemini for everything I do, the workflow doesn’t suit fast turnaround productions and frankly it’s overkill for web videos etc. But when quality is paramount the Gemini truly excels, performing as well as devices costing many times more, yet offering one of the best LCD’s, very low power and it is a featherweight in comparison to some of the other external brick recorders.
6 Responses to Convergent Design Gemini, one month on.