Three Things We Need From Sound Devices

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PIX 260 from Sound Devices
At NAB 2012, the Sound Devices PIX 260 (shown above) was at the top of my list of “must sees”. We use the PIX 240 in daily production and it is … butter. In my opinion, there is no better all-around production capture device for BOTH audio and video. The PIX 240 brings all of the rich, powerful audio capture tools that production sound techs crave and adds crisp, clean 1080p ProRes (or DNxHD) capture from HD-SDI or HDMI, with pass-through. Drop it in your production chain and you are golden.

The Pix 260 brings all of the 240’s sexy to the party, while adding three more SATA docks (with RAID-1) and a rack-mountable form factor which allows the device to more easily plug into a fly-kit. The PIX 260 does not ship until the fall, but it is now on my short list of “must have” gear.

Having given Sound Devices their much deserved due, I’d like to break down three things I would love to see added to their line up by NAB 2013. Each is essentially an enhancement of an existing product or, like the PIX 260, a new form factor for one of their already excellent devices.

  1. H264 Encoding in the PIX Family: Since I opened with the PIX line, I’ll address it first. Each of the PIX devices record to a high quality, post-production ready format like ProRes or DNxHD, which is excellent. However, in almost all of our live events, we need to capture an H264 copy as well. In some cases, it is just a lightweight review copy for the client. In others, it is a simple heads & tails edit before we push it up to the client’s Youtube or Vimeo channel. Right now, the solutions are as follows:
    1. Add one or two PC/Macs to the pipeline and encode using software (ie. Telestream’s WireCast),
    2. Encode with hardware (i.e. Blackmagic Design’s H.264 Pro Recorder) and capture to a PC/Mac,
    3. Bring in a “big iron” encoder (i.e. Elemental Live), which is bulletproof, but cumbersome and expensive; especially in the field.

    I’ve used each of these options at one time or another and each has significant drawbacks for a mobile production team.

    By adding H264 encoding to the PIX family, Sound Devices would solve every problem caused by one of the currently available solutions. Ideally, this new PIX, let’s call it the PIX h264, would simultaneously encode both ProRes/DNxHD and H264, with the former going on the SSD and the latter on the CF card. Sound Devices would be sure to eliminate the buggy encode problems found in current lower-cost solutions from Telestream and Blackmagic Design. And, even if it were half-again as expensive as the current PIX 260, it would still be almost half the cost of the Elemental Live, while taking up one tenth the space/weight. Reduced shipping costs alone would pay for the PIX h264 within a few jobs.

    As ubiquitous as H264 has become, it is amazing that no one as addressed this need at a serious professional level. I really hope Sound Devices makes this happen.

  2. 788t Digital Audio Recorder from Sound DevicesRackmountable 788T: Follow the PIX 260’s lead and make a 1U, rack mount version of the 788t portable digital audio recorder. No need to change the internals, just the form factor. Of course, like the PIX 260, I would expect Sound Devices to add cool new features to a larger, rack mounted 788t, but I’d settle for just a new form-factor.

    Why do this? The 788t is designed to be carried by a sound engineer, so XLR jacks and other ports are placed all over the box to provide audio capture techs lots of ways to access/configure the device while keeping it mobile. While great for field mobility, it makes the 788t a pain to mount in a fly-kit rack.

    There are other, similar devices already out there, most notably the Motu 8pre (no recorder) or the TASCAM HD-R1 (not multi-track), but all of them lack major features found in the 788t and none of them have it’s rock solid reputation for reliability.

  3. MixPre-D from Sound DevicesSmall Form Factor Pre-Amp with Audio Capture on SD/CF Cards: In the simplest terms, I want a Sound Devices tool that marries the recording capabilities of the Zoom H4n and the form-factor and mic pre-amp of the BeachTek DXA-SLR Dual XLR Audio Adapter. The closest thing in the Sound Devices family is the MixPre-D Compact Field Mixer. Adapt the form factor to easily mount to a DSLR or ENG camera RIG, add recording to CF or SD (preferably the latter) and you’ve got a killer product that would absolutely smoke the competition.

There you have it. Sound Devices is already taking market share from bigger players in the market. If they add these updates to the mix, stand back; because Sound Devices will explode!

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