Practically with the cheapest monitor / recorder from Atomos.
There are only a few areas of the film industry where there is clearly one provider that surpasses all others. Almost every market has some major competitors: Sony vs. Canon, Sony vs. Panasonic, Zeiss vs. Cooke. Even with 35mm cameras, where ARRI housings were very dominant, there was still Aaton and Moviecam and (some sort of) Panavision.
But not so with monitors / recorders. While there are some others out there (Odyssey, although they have moved on, and Sound Devices Pix and Blackmagic), there is really one dominant player in this space right now and that is Atomos.
We had to spend some time with the entry-level device, the Ninja V Pro kit.
What is it?
A monitor / recorder is a device that looks like an external monitor for your camera, but has a built-in recording function. So you get two benefits instead of one. The first is that you get a bigger screen (usually 5 “or 7”) to view your image. Second, you can record this image on the SSD in the monitor instead of your internal storage.
When it comes to surveillance, it gives you a whole bunch of tools that a typical small camera probably won’t. In addition to focus assistants and zoom-in tools, the most popular is false color, which assigns clearly readable colors to different exposure values.
Since SSDs are cheaper than CFexpress and available in larger sizes, you will typically get longer recording times in terms of internal recording. Your monicorder also generally records to something like DNxHD or ProRes which can be edited instantly with no delay while the compressed camera files are being transcoded. Since many cameras send robust signals to their outputs, you can sometimes even transfer better quality pictures to the external monitor.
In fact, with many modern cameras, the raw recording is only available to the external recorder, not the internal one. There are many reasons for this, one of the biggest being internal media recording speed limitations and file size issues. Atomos worked closely with Apple in the original development of ProRes RAW, advancing the format extensively to make it an open source RAW format that anyone can accept and support.
As general supporters of open source platforms, we like ProRes RAW and we appreciate its support in Final Cut Pro X, Premiere, and Media Composer. We still hope to see native support in DaVinci Resolve soon.
Due to the RED patent for internal RAW recording, we are still in a world where many cameras cannot do internal RAW (without paying the license fee). Blackmagic gets around this by only being a partial RAW (it makes a partial debayer), while ProRes RAW is a full RAW but does not record internally. It has to go to an external recorder. This makes the Atomos units an attractive way to work with RAW for both users and manufacturers who want to avoid paying the RED license fee but still get RAW support.
The only other large platform that ProRes RAW supports is DJI with the Inspire 2, which can get away with it because the “camera” in the gimbal is mounted on the drone and the recorder is “external” in the body of the drone.
The ninja v
The Ninja V is the smallest monicorder in the current lineup, but it has a few design features that make it a smart balance for filmmakers looking for a monicorder. It supports up to 4K resolution, makes ProRes RAW and runs on the usual Sony NP batteries that every filmmaker already has.
So how do you keep the price down?
The key is the little interesting connector at the bottom of the battery compartment.
This small connector allows the Ninja V to work with accessories despite its small size.
For example SDI. While it makes a lot of sense to just stick with HDMI with the 5 “Ninja range, as it will mostly pair with small cameras (and you can get the Shogun 7 for SDI connections that are usually found on larger cameras) there it Maybe you would like to have SDI on the small device.
Not your typical use case of not bundling into each unit as it is a waste of space for most users, but something you would want the option to do.
With this little connector you can mount an adapter for SDI on the Nina V if you wish. There has been talk of some other adapters coming out for things like streaming, but that seems like it’s rolling into the Ninja Stream instead. Still, more flexibility is better.
Another feature we appreciate about the Ninja V is that it uses an old standard SSD connector that you can see right behind the SDI ports above. You should buy SSDs that have rails on the side for easy insertion, but then these SSDs can be read by any SATA reader.
They’re so cheap that we keep one at home, one in the office, and one in our camera bag to make sure we can read SATA drives whenever you need them.
If you compare this to the price that is replenished with, for example, REDmag readers for $ 50 apiece, we appreciate this design decision.
The Ninja V Pro kit is Atomos’ “entry-level” model, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer tremendous functionality for its price and size.
It’s significantly smaller and lighter than the Shogun 7, but still offers a lot of the same features (although it lacks multi-channel recording, that’s a wonderful but not important feature).
4K is still the most common recording format, and when you add this device to an a7S III for longer runtimes, greater monitoring and better image processing, this is a dynamite combo.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.