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AJA converts PsF-to-progressive with new Hi5-Plus converter

Despite popular confusion, 23.976PsF is not the same as 23.976p-over–59.94i.

At its press conference at NAB, AJA launched its new US$395 Hi5-Plus converter which —in addition to converting from SDI to HDMI— can also convert PsF to true progressive, which I love. Frequent readers know that I am extremely intrigued by this topic. I am the same guy who —so far— has published 10 chapters in the PsF missing workflow series, and has reviewed products from Átomos, NewTek, and SoundDevices that convert PsF signals to true progressive and remove nasty pulldown on the fly. Let’s see what these devices have in common, what differs, and when each “fits” in a particular situation.

Despite popular confusion, 23.976PsF is not the same as 23.976p-over-59.94i

I decided to insert this sidebar right at the beginning of this article to clarify a popular misunderstanding: Although 1080/25PsF is essentially 25p-over-50i, and 1080/29.97PsF is essentially 29.97p-over-59.94i, 1080/23.976PsF is not the same thing as 1080/23.976p-over-59.94i. There have even been (and may still be) some manufacturers which innocently label 23.976p-over-59.94i as 23.976PsF. However,1080/23.976PsF is essentially 23.976p-over-47.952i, and 1080/24.000PsF is essentially 24.000p-over-48.000. (To my knowledge, 23.976PsF has never been used over HDMI.) I even suggested to one manufacturer to use 23.976p Telecine as a short nickname for 23.976p-over-59.94i since I realize that this is likely to be to long to fit in a menu option, and that manufacturer accepted the suggestion (although so far has still insisted upon rounding 23.976p to “24p” to cover both the integer and non-integer version. image

A satirical image to demonstrate the complex 23.976p-over-59.49i process, that I created to illustrate my 2008 article, When 25p beats 24p….

Converters and video mixers that convert PsF to P or perform reverse telecine

Following are devices that I have covered in much greater detail in previous articles.

Átomos

Átomos manufacturers converters and 4:2:2 recorders (that I have covered in several prior articles in ProVideo Coalition magazine) which can remove 2:2 pulldown from sources like 25PsF and 29.97PsF, and deliver (or record) them as true progressive 25p, and true progressive 29.97p. In addition, many Átomos converters and recorders (with the exception of the CONNECT-AC series converters) can perform reverse telecine and remove 2:3 (aka “3:2”) pulldown of 23.976p-over–59.94i and deliver (or record) true 23.976p. All of the above can occur from an HDMI or SDI source (device dependent). To my knowledge, 23.976PsF is not currently supported by any Átomos product. If I hear the contrary, I’ll update this.

NewTek

NewTek manufacturers the line of TriCasters (a video mixer with inboard video players, recorder, character generator, still store, and streamer that I have covered in prior articles) and 3Plays (instant replay systems). Current TriCaster and 3Play systems are capable of removing 2:2 pulldown from sources like 25PsF (international models only), and 29.97PsF, and record them to true progressive 25p and 29.97p respectively. This can be set specifically for each input. In addition, TriCasters and 3Plays can perform reverse telecine of 2:3 (aka “3:2”) pulldown of 23.976p-over–59.94i and record pure 23.976p. The less common 23.976PsF (as clarified in the sidebar at the beginning of this article) is not currently supported by any NewTek product. I have been informed by NewTek that the input modules on their products have been updated to indicate 24p Telecine (no longer 24PsF) to clarify this fact. (Currently, NewTek continues to round 23.976 to “24” in its menus.)

SoundDevices

SoundDevices manufactures many professional audio devices, as well as 4:2:2 video recorders (that I have covered in prior articles) which can remove 2:2 pulldown from sources like 25PsF and 29.97PsF, and record them as true progressive 25p, and 29.97p. In addition, many SoundDevices recorders can perform reverse telecine of 2:3 (aka “3:2”) pulldown of 23.976p-over–59.94i and record true 23.976p. All of the above can occur from HDMI or SDI (device dependent). It is not clear whether 23.976PsF (as clarified in the sidebar at the beginning of this article) is supported with any SoundDevices devices. However, it is very clear that 25PsF, 29.97PsF, and 23.976p-over–59.94i can all be transformed by SoundDevices recorders to true progressive recordings, at least those that I have tested to date.

AJA’s new Hi5-Plus converter

At first glance, AJA’s new Hi5-Plus converter might be considered as a direct competitor for Átomos’s US$295 S2H HD-SDI to HDMI converter, since both (at first) offer to convert PsF to true progressive. But hold on a moment! Although they have some overlapping functions, not all functions overlap. Yes, they can both convert 25PsF to true 25p. Yes, they can both convert 29.97PsF to true 29.97p… (and both can even convert the very unusual 30.000PsF to 30.000p). That’s where the overlap ends. According to the AJA website, the Hi5-Plus converter can also convert 23.976PsF to true 23.976p, and 24.000PsF to true 24.000p over HDMI. However, the Hi5-Plus cannot convert 23.976p-over–59.94i into true progressive 23.976p, both by omission of that feature on the website, and a subsequent exchange of emails via AJA’s outside public relations department which confirmed that to be the case. So in that sense, the new Hi5-Plus can perform one unique function that the S2H cannot, and the S2H can perform a different unique function that the Hi5-Plus cannot. At the same AJA press conference, the company also announced the new HA5-Plus, which converts HDMI to SDI, but offers no conversion from PsF to progressive, nor does it perform reverse telecine. [In addition to the differences explained so far, the S2H can uniquely work either on battery or AC, and can act as a pattern generator, while the Hi5-Plus can handle 3G-SDI including RGB, change color space, and can also add audio delay (0 to 7 frames) and supply an analog audio output, whereas the S2H cannot do these things.]

Now that I have clarified the devices, let’s look at applications where you might use each.

From a progressive video camera that (unfortunately) doesn’t output a true progressive signal

As I have covered in many prior articles, the majority of (not all) progressive cameras I have seen in the past few years unfortunately refuse to deliver a true progressive signal over their digital output (HDMI or SDI). Instead, they offer either PsF or 23.976p-over–59.94i, telecine style. Depending upon your camera’s output (HDMI or SDI), your video mixer (“switcher”), and the distance between them, you may use any of the following devices, as explained in these examples.

If you have a TriCaster or 3Play from NewTek and want a 1080p session…

As I indicated earlier in this article, TriCasters and 3Plays are capable of eliminating pulldown from several types of signals on a per-input basis. If your camera offers one of those compatible signals, you won’t need any external pulldown removal (although you may need to convert from HDMI to SDI). For example, if you want a 1080p session, and your camera can output 23.976p-over–59.94i, 25PsF (international TriCaster or 3Play models only), or 29.97PsF, your are also set. Just set the input to tell the TriCaster or 3Play is outputting 24p Telecine (as NewTek currently labels 23.976 signals), 25PsF, or 30PsF (as NewTek currently labels 29.97 signals). The only type of signal that TriCaster or 3Play systems don’t currently accept directly are 23.976PsF and 24.000PsF. Currently, although I know of a few cameras that can output 23.976PsF, those cameras can also be set to output to 23.976p-over–59.94i, so that would be your second choice with a TriCaster or 3Play. If you have some camera than can exclusively output 23.976PsF (I don’t know of any such current model), then you must use a device like the Hi5-Plus to convert the 23.976PsF to true 23.976p, even it it also means another converter back to SDI. But, as stated already, I don’t know of any cameras like that. The ones I know nowadays offer (at least) either 23.976p-over–59.94i or pure progressive 23.976p.

If using a mixer like Blackmagic’s ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K in 1080p mode

If using a mixer like Blackmagic’s ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K in 1080p mode, you need to know that this mixer only accepts pure progressive signals when in this mode. If your camera only delivers some type of PsF or 23.976p-over–59.94i (telecine style), this is a situation where you will need an external device to remove the 2:2 or 2:3 (aka “3:2”) pulldown. If you want 23.976p and your camera only offers 23.976PsF (over 47.952), then the only choice I know is AJA’s new Hi5-Plus converter, and would plug into one of the ATEM’s HDMI inputs. The rest of the cable from the Hi5-Plus to the camera would be SDI. If the camera outputs 23.976p-over–59.94i (like most cameras I know nowadays), then if the camera’s only digital output is HDMI, I’d put an Átomos H2S at the camera end, set it to remove pulldown, and run SDI the rest of the way to one of the ATEM’s SDI input. If you want 25p or 29.97p, then you have more options, since both the Hi5-Plus and the H2S (or S2H) can convert 25PsF to 25p, or 29.97PsF to 29.97p. Beyond your possible brand preference (and other feature differences), you choice will depend upon the type of output from the camera (HDMI or SDI), the cable distance (SDI is better for longer runs), and the type and number of remaining inputs in the ATEM.

Connecting your progressive camera to your computer

Sometimes you just want to connect your progressive 1080p camera to your computer, for recording, webcasting, Skype, etc. So far, I don’t know of any professional video interface for a computer that has built-in conversion from 25PsF and 29.97PsF to true progressive (as part of their own capture function) over HDMI, or reverse telecine from 23.976p-over–59.94i from HDMI. However, I do know of SDI devices that can accept 23.976PsF over SDI and deliver true progressive 23.976p. From a progressive HDMI camera, you can use an H2S, set it to remove pulldown, and then deliver its true progressive via the SDI output to any of the popular SDI devices from companies like AJA, Blackmagic (including the US$145 UltraStudio Mini Recorder), Matrox, or MOTU, as long you have confirmed compatibility with your desired app or web service.

Connecting progressive video to an HDMI monitor

As I write this article, the AJA web page for the Hi5-Plus states:

HDMI monitors do not natively support PsF signals. However, many professional productions still work with PsF formats. Hi5-Plus converts incoming 1080PsF signals to 1080p. This progressive signal is compatible with HDMI monitors.

 

Let’s analyze that statement. The first line is completely true, especially as I italicize the adverb to emphasize it: “HDMI monitors do not natively support PsF signals.” In fact, I don’t know any monitor that accepts 23.976PsF or 24.000PsF over HDMI, and to my knowledge those two are not part of the HDMI specifications and I wouldn’t expect it to work at all. However, let’s look at other types of PsF: 1080/25PsF (which, as stated earlier, is essentially 25p-over–50i) and 1080/29.97PsF (which, as stated earlier, is essentially 29.97p-over–59.94i) over HDMI is accepted by almost all HDMI monitors I have ever seen, but not natively, so AJA’s first sentence is indeed correct. Most 1080p HDMI monitors will accept 1080/25PsF or 1080/29.97PsF but think that it is 50i or 59.94i respectively, and de-interlace the signal unnecessarily. (The only exception I know is the new Z27X DreamColor Monitor, which has a menu setting that allows you to shut of the de-interlacer manually.) The original LP2480zx DreamColor Monitor would even shut off the DreamColor Engine if you sent it one of those signals.

Now let’s analyze the last line of the AJA quote shown above. Even though I love progressive video and prefer it over interlaced or PsF, my experience differs with that of AJA’s. I have encountered some HDMI monitors that unfortunately reject pure 23.976p, pure 25p, and pure 29.97p, and only accept 23.976p-over–59.94i, 25PsF (i.e. 25p-over–50i), and 29.97PsF (29.97PsF). However, all of the recent multi-standard HDMI consumer monitors —those that are also sold as offering the capability of “true 24p” or similar— do accept all true progressive signals I have tested, at all of the framerates.

Is the Hi5-Plus a good fit for DreamColor Monitors?

The US$395 Hi5-Plus is a good fit for the original LP2480zx DreamColor Monitor if the source is SDI and is definitely some type of PsF (not 23.976p-over–59.94i or otherwise interlaced) or true progressive, as a possible lower-cost solution compared to the established “Band-Aid”, which is of course the US$495 HDLink Pro 3D DisplayPort from Blackmagic. Unlike the HDLink Pro 3D DisplayPort which requires deactivating EDID for best results in grading and editing applications, as I covered in this 2013 article Why you must deactivate EDID on your HDLink (aka “Band-Aid”) so the framerate from the output will match the source, according to the email message I received from AJA’s outside public relations department, this is the only way the Hi5-Plus is designed to work, so there is no need to do that particular adjustment. (You should still set the Hi5-Plus to output RGB.)

The Hi5-Plus can also be a good fit for the two new DreamColor Monitors if the source is SDI and definitely some type of PsF (not 23.976p-over–59.94i), true progressive, or even (yikes) interlaced. (Even though the new DreamColor Models can accept YUV, if you purchase the Hi5-Plus, you should still set it to output RGB.)

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…
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