External Recorders

1 minute read

One way that people have found to capture higher-quality codecs on cheaper cameras is to use an external recorder.

Many prosumer cameras can offer excellent image quality but don’t have the ability to record high-end codecs, and so it’s common to pair a camera with an external recorder, giving you both the image quality and the recording format of a high-end camera, albeit in a more cumbersome package.

These devices (many of which can double as external monitors) take an uncompressed signal from the camera, via HDMI or SDI, and compress it separately. So you end up with two copies of your footage – one copy heavily compressed on the camera, and a second copy lightly compressed on the external recorder. The key thing here is that the camera sends the signal out to the recorder before compressing it.

One important note here is that many cheaper cameras only output 8-bit, and often not in 4:4:4. An external recorder might be able to compress to a 12-bit codec, but if the camera is only sending 8 bits, the recorder can only record 8 bits. Some cheaper cameras may also not output a “clean” HDMI signal that is suitable for recording. We call an output signal “clean” when it’s just the pure image with no camera interface overlays.

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