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AJA CION Takes 4K Spotlight at Pacific Producers Group

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An appreciation for filmmaking quickly turned into a full-time gig for Shawn Serdar. Channeling a passion for the craft, he took over the reigns at Pacific Producers Group (PPG) in 2007, and the Vancouver-based production company has been thriving ever since. Operating out of Gak Studio, a video and photography studio where Serdar is Partner, PPG provides multimedia services to industrial, government, legal and commercial clients. Favoring 4K capture for greater creative flexibility, Serdar and the Gak partners keep the studio stocked with an arsenal of 4K gear, including a new AJA CION camera.

Before using the camera in-studio, Serdar took it out for a test-run to see if he could film as a one-man band. To his surprise, it was easier than anticipated. "I was shocked by how simple CION was to set up and operate; I could put it on a tripod with an ENG plate, release the lever and be shooting 4K ProRes 444 or ProRes 422 HQ on my shoulder in seconds. It's a really practical and versatile camera," he said. "CION also has built-in audio inputs, so you don't need a separate audio recorder, and the ergonomics make it easy to handle. The camera worked perfectly in a variety of environments–indoor and outdoor–giving me ready-to-edit footage right out of the camera."

CION made its first PPG project debut when vitamin manufacturer Natural Factors enlisted the production company to shoot a series of promotional videos earlier this year. The project called for a green screen live-action shoot, with motion graphics to be added in post. Opting to use CION for its in-camera ProRes 444 recording capabilities, Serdar explained, "With green screen production, you want to record in the codec that gives you the most color information. By recording ProRes 444 with CION, I knew we'd be able to get the highest quality color information and bit depth in-camera; it was an ideal setup."

PPG, in collaboration with Oregon-based boutique creative agency Mountain Hut Media, set up shop at Gak to deliver a 20-minute video for Natural Factors retailers; a two minute promo for its consumers; and a handful of audio takes for radio promos. They pre-rigged and pre-lit the set; equipped the CION with an EVF and ENG Plate, Zeiss CP 2 Prime Lens and a matte box; stationed a teleprompter in front of it; began filming; and wrapped production within four hours.

"I was blown away by how great CION worked and how it sped things along; the quality of the footage also looked amazing in-camera," Serdar shared. "We had an on-set editor who was going to be our DI tech, but he didn't need to, because we were able to transfer the footage from CION quickly with Thunderbolt 2, and use the ProRes files immediately in After Effects."
Since adopting CION into PPG's workflow, Serdar has seen a significant drop in the time required between production and delivery. The improvement was most apparent while working on a shoot for another client, for which PPG captured event footage and cut it into a 5-minute video montage on-site, in under an hour using a laptop.

"I couldn't believe how quickly we could do it, and how little color grading it involved. We've worked with other cameras, but often find that they're bulky, the menus are labyrinthine and they require a ton of transcoding," Serdar expressed. "With CION, we're saving about 40-50 percent time on projects, because the ergonomics are great, the menu is straightforward and we can shoot and edit in ProRes without any transcoding. It's a smart and efficient camera that delivers outstanding quality at a great price point."

With Serdar recognizing AJA's commitment to bring CION users new features and improvements on a regular basis, he concluded, "I also love to see AJA delivering on its promise. Prior to NAB I'd made a few suggestions for CION improvements and was pleased to see some of those suggestions implemented in the firmware announced at the show. It's that kind of responsiveness that makes customers feel valued and keeps them coming back for more."
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