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Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More

COW Library : Blackmagic Design : Bob Zelin : Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
CreativeCOW presents Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More -- Blackmagic Design Editorial


Orlando Florida USA
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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.



Click for larger view.


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.



SIDEBAR: 4K AT OMNI PRODUCTIONS, ORLANDO

One of Bob's clients is Steve Martin at Orlando's Omni Productions. We dropped a quick line to ask about how they're using 4K right now. Here's what Steve told us.

We have two types of 4K cameras. One is a Panasonic GH4 with the YAGH pro audio-video interface unit. We also have 3 Blackmagic Studio 4K cameras plus a BMD Micro Studio camera that are used with our BMD 4K 1M/E Truck-in-Box (previously profiled here at Creative COW).

Internally, we're testing with 4K deliverables. For client projects, we've mostly used 4K as a re-framing tool, sometimes for a simple 1-camera interview with the ability to punch in to a closer shot and still deliver pristine quality HD.

For 4K studio monitoring we use the BMD 17" SmartView 4K in the Truck-In-A-Box. In the edit suite we're currently using a consumer 4K monitor just to make sure we're processing the 4K signal through the Blackmagic DeckLink card.




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.



Click for larger view


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.



Comments

@Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by Erik Lindahl
Regarding UHD / HD we have Sonys OLED (HD) ref-monitors and Sony TFT (4K / UHD) TV's hence the issue. Optimally when working in UHD we'd have UHD to the TV and HD to the ref-monitor.
@Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by Erik Lindahl
The only fan in our two main editing suites are the 2013 MacPro's. Their disk array and I/O is stored in the machine-room connected via thunderbolt 2 over fiber. I think the main source of noise is either the lamps when set at a certain level (coil-whine) or the air contiotion fan. So our sound-threshold is very low... :)
Re: Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by Erik Lindahl
Also if this model is loud is pretty silly as it renders it useless in a lot of applications. Fan noise in our suites is not acceptable. So I guess we then have to place these in the machine room with a HDMI-extension...? Doesn't quite make sense to me...
@Erik Lindahl
by Bob Zelin
I think that a company that is doing corporate AV sales and training videos for a dental and animal products supply house can deal with a tiny tiny bit of fan noise in the edit room. It's not like you stick the converter by your keyboard. When you had to deal with VTR's, and loud computers and drive arrays, did you have these in a machine room, or in your edit suite ? Did you have Gefen or SmartAVI KVM extenders ?

Almost no one will be bothered by the fan noise, in my opinion.

Bob

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com
Re: Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by Erik Lindahl
What's the I/O delay like?

Also, what would be terrific with a box that had SDI in / out + HDMI out where the SDI and HDMI-ports where independent in terms of scalers. I'd love to have simultaneous HD and UHD monitoring from a UHD source.

- UHD > HD over SDI > SDI
- UHD > UHD over SDI > HDMI

Not only that both outputs should preferably be 100% in sync or even better have support for manually setting the delay per output since modern TV's tend to have a nasty delay one could compensate for in the box. Also, preferably, it should be completely silent in operation.
@Erik Lindahl
by Bob Zelin
there is no delay. Would it be nice if there was a delay to compensate for old Plasma displays ? Sure, but I would not want to add to the expense of this box.

To do downconversion, Blackmagic sells plenty of boxes to do exactly this - just not in one single box.

Besides, you should update ALL of your TV monitors to 4K monitors if you are working in 4K, because they are SO INEXPENSIVE (the 4K monitors). You can get amazing LG and Samsung 4K UHD monitors for about $1000, so why bother buying converters to downconvert to HD-SDI for a 1080i only monitor ?
Bob

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com
Re: Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by Jacques Mersereau
Thanks for the info Bob. I get the cooling thing, just want a unit that is even quieter - if possible :-)

Regarding the price of the scaler, a list of $1375 is reasonable imo.

Peace and may your wishes come true!

Jacques

University of Michigan
Media Union Video Studio
Re: Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by David Roth Weiss
Nice piece Bob... I too love the idea of the instant confidence check - that alone is worth the price of admission.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist & Workflow Consultant
David Weiss Productions
Los Angeles


David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.
Re: Blackmagic Design Teranex Mini: 4K Monitoring & So Much More
by Jacques Mersereau
Hey Bob,

Funny, we just got two of these converters in TODAY and were testing them out.
We were able to send 4K over 250 ft using a single coax/BNC - this using Belden 1694A and Canare RG6 cabling.

That is pretty cool. One thing, the units are pretty noisy = not great for audio recording when you need to place a sensitive mic nearby (we are using the converters on a camera). Maybe BM can get some better fans and/or cooling worked out?

Next is to test their switcher brain and controller. I have not been a big fan of BM stuff,
but Teranex was a solid company that made great gear, so maybe things are taking a turn for the better. Also, perhaps BM could make on of these with a built in upconverter and/or scaler so you could plug in a laptop or computer that has any number of output formats/resolutions and get it converted over to 4K 12G?

Any other thoughts? Let me know.

Jacques

University of Michigan
Media Union Video Studio
@Jacques Mersereau
by Bob Zelin
Hi -
1) it's a little noisy, but it's not bad. And it beats no cooling, where the unit overheats. There are SO many little converters, that when left on 24 hours a day, they become burning hot, and overheat. So this is a welcome change.

2) BM makes a unit with built in up converter and scaler.
It already exists. It's the 1 rack unit Teranex. There are several models. The Teranex Express does everything (except analog), and it's only $1375 US price. That includes 4K. That's an amazing price.

And if that is too expensive, the Blackmagic UpDownCross converter (in the mini package, not Teranex package) is only $280 US at B&H Photo, and can be controlled via the USB port, or DIP switches.

See - your wishes have come true already.

Bob

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
bobzelin@icloud.com


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