The Hyperdecks are Digital Disk Recorders (DDRs) available in two flavours. The HyperDeck Shuttle is a compact recorder with an internal battery. Its small enough to fit in a pocket or can be mounted on-camera with the optional cheese plate kit, the shuttle records onto a single 2.5inch format SSD. The HyperDeck Studio is the big brother which is a 1u rackmount format device, it has 2 slots for SSD drives allowing never ending recording by swapping out the non active drive when full.
Both devices can record and playback uncompressed HD from SDI and HDMI inputs, as well as offering AVID DNxHD compression in either AVID MXF or Quicktime wrappers. The MXF files work with AVID Media Composer, where as the quicktime files should work in any application which supports quicktime file formats (as long as you have the correct codec component installed, a simple free download from AVID)
I will mainly focus on the HyperDeck Studio version as this is the most sensible companion to the ATEM. Generally the operation of both devices is fairly similar and very simple for anyone used to using a CD player!
So looking at the front of the HyperDeck Studio we see the 2 SSD slots with their LED indications showing which drive is active and whether we are recording, playing or fast winding the video. Then we have some nice NKK style buttons for control (these are very similar to the ATEM Panel buttons – nice soft touch controls with coloured indicator lights). We then have a small monitor which shows Timecode, Video Preview and Audio Levels. Finally there is a jog wheel.
On the rear of the device we have the usual Blackmagic external PSU (12v with a “standard” 2.1mm DC jack – a horrible connector which I wish they would dump in favour of 4pin XLR!) Then BNCs for SDI IN, SDI Loop Out, SDI Output 1 and 2, SDI Monitor Output, Then we have a BNC for Genlock, a Dsub for RS422 control and then HDMI IN and HDMI OUT.
The SSDs need to be formatted before use, unfortunately they use the HFS+ file system. This makes them easy to use on the Mac but annoyingly difficult on the PC. Blackmagic suggest using MacDrive on the PC to access the files and format the drives, i've never been a fan of MacDrive having had bad experiences in the past with it going wrong and losing data. (I have been using a prgram called Transmac recently which works better than macdrive and can correctly format drives for the Hyperdeck)
I would of far preferred the HyperDeck to use exFAT as this filesytem can be natively accessed in Windows, OSX and Linux. (I mentioned this to Blackmagic and they explained that HFS+ was chosen to simplify operation for Mac users who “tend to be more creative than technical” - a fair explanation I suppose, though I'd still prefer exFAT!)
I would also really like to see the ability to format the drives in the Hyperdeck itself rather than requiring a computer for this step. Maybe a combination button push could be used to format the drive in the HyperDeck, this would enable people without a computer with them to start recording on a brand new SSD something which is currently not possible. (in-device format would also simplify using the exFAT filesystem to the point where even the “most creative” mac user could manage to do it! In device format would also prevent the problem where you've forgotten to delete the footage from the SSD and then cannot record more without having a computer and SSD dock to hand, this issue nearly cost us the loss of a record at fashion week and is something which is not very confidence inspiring in a professional device.)
So having formatted our drive we can shove it in the front of the HyperDeck and start recording. This all works (almost) as you'd expect. First select the correct input using the source button. Then you just hit the record button and the HyperDeck starts recording. This is not what I was expecting, as I hoped for a more traditional broadcast VCR approach where you need to push Play+Record to actually start recording (no doubt the thinking behind this is once again ease of use for creative types, however it makes it easy to accidentally start recording when you did not intend to)
The timecode starts from 00:00:00:00 again easy to understand if less standard than starting at 10:00:00:00! Timecode increments when the device is recording and stops when it isn't, so that's pretty simple. I'd like to see options for this though as I prefer to use time of day when recording events. (The latest firmware offers an option to take the embedded SDI timecode, this is useful,but it still doesn't facilitate multicam synchronisation unless you have cameras which can be fed with external timecode, even with such cameras you end up with a lot of cabling to get a common timecode on each deck. Some kind of external timecode separate from the SDI would greatly improve the usability in real world situations)
When you press stop the HyperDeck stops recording, and it creates a new file when you start to record again. This can now optionally be triggered via SDI from certain cameras (though not any that I had access to for the testing).
Using the Hyperdeck for recording is pretty simple and generally works well, there are a few things to bear in mind though if your thinking about getting one for your recorder. Firstly the audio functionality is minimal, you can record only embedded audio from the same source as your video and there is no ability to control the gain. There are nice audio VU meters built into the little display monitor, but that is all you get in terms of audio conformation, the lack of any headphone output means it's hard to actually have a listen to the audio and check for buzzing or other unpleasant noises which can easily make their way into any live sound recording situation. It would be a great upgrade if they included an analogue audio embedder in the hyperdeck alongside a headphone output – these 2 functions would really make a big difference to ease of use and confidence.
Using the Hyperdeck as a playback device is perhaps less well thought out, it is clear at this point in time that Blackmagic have concentrated on the use as a recorder.
The Hyperdeck will playback files which you load onto the SSDs – I managed to play both uncompressed and DNxHD Quicktimes made in Sony Vegas. The playback functionality is currently missing a lot of needed functionality though. Files seem to be played in alphabetical order and there is no easy way to instantly seek to a certain file. The timecode display seems to assign 00,00,00,00 to the first frame of the first file and then simply incrementally number the frames of all the files on the SSD. The Next / Previous buttons do jump to the next clip perfectly but without any way of randomly seeking ahead to a specific shot / timecode other than skipping through all the clips. Additionally you cannot stop on the last frame of a clip. The playback just keeps going as though your playing a tape. For most playback uses this is a total disaster and means the Hyperdeck cannot be used in its current state.
To improve the playback functionality I'd like to see the following options added.
Ability to stop / pause at end of current clip
Ability to loop current clip
Ability to random seek to specific timecode or cue point.
Ability to display timcode which counts down to end of current clip.
It would also be very useful to have analogue audio outputs for playback, this would make integration into studios much simpler, at the moment you need a separate device to de-embed the audio from the SDI.
I was hoping to get some of this functionality by using a standard RS422 deck controller (Ash Vale SM2) however the current firmware doesn't support the standard RS422 controls properly so the Ash Vale controller doesn't currently work for anything beyond viewing the timecode.
As ever with Blackmagic products the Hyperdeck may well see some of these suggestions taken on and incorporated via future upgrades. At the moment I would recommend the Hyoerdeck as a recorder as it records very high quality files and the DNxHD codec allows for a sensible record time even on fairly small SSDs. I would not currently recommend it as a general playback device though. For some specific playback tasks it is just about OK, but in the main the shortcomings make it unsuitable as a dedicated live playback machine.