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Re: Aaton keykode system

Dear Rob,

I think it is best to look at the Aaton Keylink in terms of whether or not
you need all its features.

To buy a complete 35mm/16mm Keylink with Aatoncode support is about $37,000.
 You can omit one optional Keykode head (~$5K) and the Aatoncode software
(~$9K) and still have a very accurate Keykode/time code system which makes
EDL's that your local neighborhood "Aviteers" will love.  On the other hand,
a complete Evertz 35mm/16mm set-up with Evertz heads (much superior to Cinema
Products or RIM, both of which I have used and detested) was going for around
$15,000, the last time I checked.

Neither system reads Arri code directly; both take the output of the Arri FIS
unit and integrate it into the time code, EDLs, and so forth.  

The Aaton makes you put up with another "compuker on the console."  Actually,
the PC itself needs to be near the telecine, but the monitor and keyboard
belong with the operator.  If there's some length of cable duct between the
telecine and the control console, you'll have to get mixed up with VGA
distribution amps and making your own keyboard extension cables.  And one
thing that is so obvious everybody overlooks it the first time around is that
you have to connect the video up so that you can see the Aaton output on the
telecine picture monitor.  With their more recent software releases, the
Aaton display, which you need to see in order to tune the head, is keyed into
the video when you're in setup mode.

If you plan on making files with Evertz, the optional Keylogger is another PC
(Piece of Clutter) to contend with.  But installing it is greatly simplified;
you just need one serial data cable to tie it in with the system.  In fact,
you could even run the program on a laptop (if it has a parallel port for the
hardware dongle), and stow it in a drawer when it isn't needed.  The
Keylogger does have rudimentary editing capability, which the Keylink does
not, by the way.

One thing I have not yet seen much discussion on is the proprietary way these
systems encode additional information into VITC.  In both the Aaton and the
Evertz, all the extra data, which includes things like camera roll, audio
roll, take number, auxillary (audio) time code, etc., are encoded onto one
(Aaton) or two (Evertz) extra VITC lines.  These extra line(s) have a
different CRC, so they will not be recognized by ordinary time code readers.
 Unfortunately, the two systems are not compatible.  At one time, I heard
talk that they were working on some sort of joint system that would make
future units compatible, but from what I see in the latest catalogs from both
companies, this hasn't happened yet.   As you would expect, Evertz makes time
code readers that can recover four-line VITC, the most popular of which is
the Afterburner.   And of course Aaton makes a time code reader that works
with three-line VITC called the Postburner.  These VITC encoding schemes were
supposed to help filmmakers along with their logging, but I have yet to see
any widespread use of them for that (or any other) purpose.

In terms of service and support, Evertz has got to be one of the nicest, most
caring, and most helpful companies ever.  Their prices on repairs to
out-of-warranty equipment are very reasonable as well.  Before they made
their deal with Rank, we dealt with Aaton through a company called Abel
Cine-Tech.  Abel is another company that went out of its way to help its
customers with problems, and it is a pity they weren't allowed to continue
doing so.  I haven't dealt much with Rank on Keylink matters so I'd rather
not comment except to say that  I can see how somebody might have second
thoughts about dealing with Rank for Keylinks installed on BTS telecines,
since they don't appear to have an oversupply of knowledge or experience with
Keylinks installed on Rank machines!

Christopher Bacon
DuArt Film & Video