Now that many creative studios have adopted 4K as the production and post standard, demand for 8K support across global creative pipelines is on the upswing. To stay ahead of the curve, Doha, Qatar-based creative shop Katara Studios – which has worked on the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 opening and closing ceremonies, and original episodic series “THE PACT,” among other projects – recently completed a facility overhaul, with AJA’s KONA 5 an integral part of the design to enable up to 8K I/O. The updates span Katara Studios’ full Dolby Atmos facility, which supports multi-studio music recording, 5.1 mixing and mastering, and complete post from editorial to VFX and color grading.
Katara Studios Senior Technical Engineer Thahasin Kasim, who led the redesign, noted that while the studio has been equipped with state-of-the-art technology since its inception in 2018, a recent surge in 6K and 8K client footage brought new challenges tied to encoding and file sizes. The studio’s edit machines could no longer handle projects at that resolution, prompting the need for a complete infrastructure overhaul. The goal of the upgrade was to implement a future-proof setup leveraging the latest technologies while ensuring the highest quality of product possible for clients spanning the music, film, and commercial industries.
“We implemented a host of updates to our pipeline that have helped our entire post team to work faster and more efficiently, and I/O was a big part of that,” shared Kasim. “We looked into new I/O cards and chose KONA 5 because of its ability to handle 8K; the high resolution, high bit rate video processing power that you get with the card is impressive. Also, we’d used past iterations of AJA KONA cards in our audio systems and had good experiences.”
Katara Studios uses six KONA 5 cards across Windows, macOS, and Linux workstations. Presently, the I/O cards are installed on Thunderbolt 3 PCIe expansion chassis made by Sonnet with Apple Mac Studio, with more cards planned for the second phase of the studio upgrade. Outside of KONA 5, Katara Studios also uses AJA Hi5-4K-Plus Mini-Converters in its color grading suites and KONA 4 audio and video I/O cards to give clients an UltraHD output for review sessions. This combination of products helps the team convert 4K SDI to 4K HDMI and unlocks HDR options through AJA’s Mini-Config software. For Thunderbolt I/O, AJA Io 4K Plus is also tapped by Katara Studios for mobile recordings and shoots outside the studio.
“Our AJA gear is crucial to ensuring the content we’re monitoring and sharing with clients for review is top-notch. We made the decision to implement KONA 5 as part of the upgrade based on our understanding of its capabilities, reliability, and potential to serve as a future-proof product, and that choice has served us well,” added Kasim.
During the initial stages of design and research, the team previewed a range of I/O cards to support its Avid Pro Tools-based sound mixing and video post workstations, but Kasim found KONA 5 capabilities to be unmatched. He noted, “KONA 5 is compatible with such a wide range of media production software so it’s easy to integrate anywhere in our post pipeline. Using it with Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Foundry Nuke, Baselight, Avid Pro Tools, and many other creative applications, we’re able to confidently conduct quality control and preview the output on professional-grade monitors. I’ve also been impressed with the audio mixer add-on within the AJA Control Panel, which significantly enhances the audio monitoring options offered by the card.”
For Kasim, media management remains the most demanding aspect of the job, especially as technology continues to evolve. He is constantly working to stay on top of the available storage, backup, and archive space across Katara Studios’ facility. He said, “We now deal with terabytes of data, especially with 6K and 8K high bit rate camera rushes in the ingest process. Managing media has become increasingly challenging, especially when the online department requires the highest quality footage for VFX and color grading. Additionally, avoiding data duplication is crucial to prevent filling up storage with duplicated footage in the post pipeline.”
With the new facility infrastructure in place, Katara Studios has been able to resolve a number of these challenges, and Kasim credits the upgrade to providing artists the efficiency and flexibility to invest more time in their creative work, improving productivity, and accelerating creative output. “Our latest facility overhaul and investment in KONA 5 are allowing us to provide a higher level of service and product quality that will help ensure the sustainability of our facility for the coming years,” he concluded.
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