Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
COW Library : Blackmagic Design : Bob Zelin : Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
When I was asked if I was interested in evaluating the new Blackmagic Teranex Mini converter series of products, I originally said no. It's just another converter. There are a million converters on the market. I saw no reason to do the evaluation.
Then I started to see issues with SDI to HDMI conversion for 4K media. Why are my clients doing 4K? You'll have to ask them. Why not though? It's cheap, and it's mostly easy. Except recently, some of my clients have had problems with one specific configuration: converting their professional SDI signals to HDMI for monitoring on cheap consumer 4K TVs from people like LG, Samsung, and Seiki.
The problem? No picture was coming through. Different TVs, different converters from different companies, same result.
Now Blackmagic Design was telling me that the new Teranex Mini fixes this. All of a sudden, testing a new converter that actually works sounded very appealing.
TERANEX MINI SDI TO HDMI 12G
There are many versions of the Teranex Mini. FIFTEEN of them actually, with various combinations of optical, analog, audio, SDI, and more. (Here's the complete list of Teranex Mini models.) The one I requested was the SDI to HDMI 12G ($495), because it could handle all the 4K signals I was having issues with.
One of the main appeals of the Teranex Mini to me, even before I received it, is that Blackmagic offers the Smart Panel, a ridiculously cheap 1" 4K monitor ($85!) that can be installed on the front of the Mini to give confidence that an image is coming in. So I requested one of those as well.
You might ask, "Who cares about a one-inch picture? What good is THAT going to do me?" Take a look at this to get just a brief idea before I tell you just how much you're going to care:
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The Teranex Mini is a little black box, but uses a standard, normal IEC power cord -- no wall warts like everyone else's converters, including Blackmagic's. (Unlike the Teranex Mini, I was never a big fan of the Blackmagic mini converters: all those little boxes, with all those wall warts, all getting hot, and making a mess behind the rack.)
While I am using AC power to power this unit, the Teranex Mini can also be powered from a POE (power over ethernet) switch, so I could avoid having to tie up a bunch of AC outlets if I had numerous converters that I needed to use and address over ethernet.
The Smart Panel 1" 4K monitor is an add-on option, but it's simple to install. Unscrew four Philips screws on the side of the unit, mount the monitor panel (no skinny fragile cables -- it just plugs in), put back the four screws, and you are in business. Plug in the power, and away you go.
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While you can do everything from the front control panel of this unit, it can also be done from software, using a mini USB to USB2 cable (not provided by Blackmagic). First, download and install the Blackmagic Teranex Mini driver from their website, then once the cable is plugged into your Windows or Mac computer, launch the Blackmagic Teranex Setup Utility.
It looks like all the other Blackmagic software these days, for the Decklink products, Videohub, ATEM switcher, etc. You click on your product, and the menus come up. There are different menus for different products. For mine, the SDI to HDMI converter, there are menus for Video, Audio, Configure, and About.
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The Teranex Mini de-embeds the SDI audio, so the Audio Menu allows me to assign which pairs from my SDI audio will be sent to the XLR Audio outputs. I can also change this XLR output to AES/EBU to feed a professional audio console. And here too, I can change which outputs from my original SDI signal went to the XLR outputs, as well as adjust the level.
And lastly, it allows me to switch to LTC Time Code out, in case I needed the LTC Time Code stream from the SDI embedded signal.
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Note again, this is the back of the model that I chose for MY clients. It is one of FIFTEEN DIFFERENT MODELS of Teranex Minis that Blackmagic offers. Here again is the complete list.
For the last stop in the software, the Configure menu allows me to set a static IP address for this specific converter, in case I have multiple converters in use, and I want to access them and adjust them from a single computer, instead of running around to the racks to push the buttons on the front panel.
Of course, I can make all these adjustments from the front panel of the converter, as it has the same menus available local to the unit, in case you do not want to use a computer to make these adjustments. Front panel or computer, it's up to you.
So with everything set up to my liking, I brought the Teranex Mini SDI TO HDMI 12G unit to two of my clients that were having issues displaying 4K images on their consumer 4K monitors via HDMI. As soon as they brought up a 4K Ultra HD image in Adobe Premiere, the image instantly appeared on the 1" 4K Smart Panel mini display on the Teranex mini.
When the play button was hit, you could see the audio meters bouncing up and down, and the LTC time code moving. And sure enough, there was now a wonderful 4K image on the consumer 4K monitors.
Once we had the Teranex Mini with Smart Panel in place, it really was a wonderful pleasant surprise that not only does the little 1" 4K monitor give me video confidence on the front panel of the unit, it also displays LTC time code and a set of stereo audio meters, all at the same time. When you are running around in a panic saying "Why can't I see any video, why can't I hear any audio, does this feed have time code on it?"- all of those questions are now answered by a glance of the front panel of the converter.
The display also shows the resolution (like 1080i, or 2160p), as well as the frame rate. So when you say "I can't see any images in Adobe Premiere!", you can now just look to see if your Adobe sequence settings match the clip.
This is both incredibly practical and a lot of fun. And at $85, it's a no-brainer.
INSTANT CONFIDENCE, COMPLETE CONTROL
I have mentioned that Blackmagic makes many versions of the Teranex Mini in addition to the SDI to HDMI 12G converter that my clients needed.
There is a HDMI to SDI 12G converter, SDI to Analog 12G converter (with audio XLR connectors!), Analog to SDI 12G, SDI to Audio 12G, Audio to SDI 12G (for embedding audio into a SDI stream), a 12G SDI to Quad SDI for older products that use 4 separate BNC connectors for 4K, a Quad SDI to 12G SDI converter, a SDI distributor 4K video DA, and 6 different "everything" to Fiber Optic cable converters.
As a result, the Teranex Mini family offers many more workflow options than the one that fit my clients' needs. Need to send computer HDMI to air over SDI? Need to connect analog gear to a fiber optic or HDMI projector? There's a long, long list of possibilities.
Now imagine the convenience of coming up to a complex rack, with a TON of different types of formats, and to be able to see at a glance if every converter is getting the correct signal -- both audio and video. AND controllable (and powered) by ethernet if that's the direction I choose.
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As this sunk in, it made me question if I will ever use OpenGear frames, even on higher end installations. This standard became a very popular way for a variety of manufacturers, including Blackmagic Design, to get their cards in the same (expensive) rack, which is fine if you've already invested in that kind of infrastructure - but with the Teranex Mini, I don't see a need to do that anymore.
The Teranex Minis are the same price as the Blackmagic OpenGear cards. Pretty damn impressive all by itself, plus they're more flexible to use. You can mount three of these little boxes in a cheap little 1U rack mount sold by Blackmagic for $145. This makes for a wonderful low cost alternative to the OpenGear approach.
Not only do I get the convenience of "instant confidence" that every converter is getting a signal, but I can control all of these over a simple ethernet network, from any computer on the network. It's really fantastic.
When people will now ask me "Is it really worth the extra couple of hundred bucks for the Teranex Mini, instead of the regular Blackmagic converter?", I can now say with confidence, "You bet it's worth it!" Nothing beats having confidence that your monitors and switchers have the correct signal when a client is in the room.
I have been in countless situations with not only Blackmagic converters, but AJA, Cobalt Digital, and other companies, and you always wind up saying "Crap, why can't I see a damn picture?!" and now, in 2 seconds, you can see if you screwed up or not, because every converter has a monitor -- for 85 bucks! You have to be crazy not to do this. Worth every penny.
And of course, compared to anyone else, this Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini does a lot more for a lot less than anything else out there. It's insane. This "yet another boring converter" turns out to be unique, and pretty exciting.