Atomos is the creme de la creme of video monitor/recorders and a true must have for anyone making video content and trying to tell a story.
My company AN Productions recently shot over the course of 13 hours a new short comedy called Delivery Boy. There were multiple locations, lots of set ups, different actors, crew only available at certain times...
...so everything we've come to expect on a low budget shoot.
Delivery Boy's director of photography - Jim Frasca - had always been worried about shooting out doors. We were using a Black Magic Pocket 6K and he knew the being outside in direct sunlight would make seeing the viewscreen near impossible.
Shooting the project in 1.33 anamorphic also adds to the list of complications. Anamorphic lenses distort the image in order to be stretched back to normal in post production to get a full widescreen image (2.35:1). So Jim and the crew really needed to be seeing what they were doing in order to capture the best image they could.
Introducing the Shogun 7
Something we've experienced before while shooting outside is the dreaded sun glare. How can you see the screen on your camera?
This was a major problem with our BMP6K. It has a wonderful viewscreen that's almost 5 inches, but it can easily become dim under a high light situation, which is exactly what we were going to run into on this shoot.
Knowing this would be a problem, I went to Atomos for a solution. At first, I wanted the Ninja V, a 5" monitor/recorder. But I found the screen too small for our liking. The next solution was the Atomos Shogun 7, a 7 inch monitor/recorder with both HDMI & SDI input capability.
Here's a shot taken on set. Above is the Atomos Shogun 7 with a Sun Hood. Below is the original BMP6K viewscreen. As you can see, the screen on the Shogun 7 is much brighter and easier to see out in the intense sunlight.
The best way to make sure the screen is bright enough is using the Shogun 7 Sun Hood, which simply pops onto the Shogun 7 with ease.
Almost immediately, Jim fell in love with being able to set the BMPK monitor for safe areas and grids, while looking at the Shogun 7 to get his focus peaking and exposure levels.
"In terms of weight and size, (the Shogun 7) was pretty much perfect. It weighed probably a little less than the camera itself even though the screen was much much bigger," said Jim Frasca.
We used a 4' slider a lot on this shoot, and Jim flat out could not keep track of focus and exposure while also having his assistant (Antonio Bottiglieri) moving the dolly. Luckily the Shogun 7 saved the day. Now he could see what he was shooting, keeping his eyes on the shot itself and no longer worrying if the image is in focus or over exposed or under exposed. Now he could get the full / crisp image he wanted.
This is also important since this is a low budget, run and gun shoot. We had to get in and get out fast. After all, we only had the budget to have everything for 1 day. So there is just no time to get flags to help us manage to the harsh lighting from the sun. Shooting in ProRes 422 allows us to take the image and manipulate it in post production to the look I want to help best tell the story. Yet even in ProRes 422 that wouldn't be possible without having proper white balance, focus, and exposure. And the Atomos Shogun 7 allowed Jim to do that.
There is always a question of power and battery life when shooting something outdoors. How long will the battery last? Will this drain the camera faster? Do i have enough batteries to last the whole shoot?
Luckily, we were in a spot where direct power could be drawn. "Having 100ft stingers made it so I never had to worry "how's my battery doing" because I knew I always had power."
This is possible with both the Shogun 7 and the BMP6K. But what's cool is one can be on a battery, while the other isn't. Also the Shogun 7 allows you to have 2 batteries on at once, so if one dies, it will immediately switch to the next one. Atomos offers a full kit available with 2 batteries and a charger.
A Quick Snag
Something we discovered on our prep day 2 days before shooting the short film was that the BMP6K only outputs 1080p over HDMI. So while I can still set the Atomos Shogun 7 to record ProRes 422, I'm stuck at 1080p. This I didn't want. Luckily, the BMP6K has 2 SD slots and ProRes 422 4K options built into it.
So instead of using the Atomos Shogun 7 as a monitor/recorder, we wound up using 2x ProGrade 250gb SDXC UHS-II SD cards that could handle recording in 4K. We then just used the Shogun 7 as our main monitor, letting the camera do the recording itself.
Specs for the ProGrade Cards:
- Capacity: 256GB
- Read Speed: Up to 300MB/s
- Write Speed: Up to 250MB/s
- Form Factor: SDXC UHS-II
If You Are Using a BMP4K or BMP6K
What would be a good solution for those using the amazing Black Magic Pocket 4K or Black Magic Pocket 6K - like us - which are both limited to 1080p outputs over HDMI?
How about the brand new Atomos Shinobi 7!
All I can say is I can't wait to get my hands on one of these because the Shinobi 7 would have been the perfect solution on set since we were now recording to the camera.
"Shinobi 7 combines a large 7” HDR screen with a calibrated peak brightness of 2200nits and the lightweight monitor-only functions of the original Shinobi. The Shinobi 7 can be used in the brightest of environments to monitor signals up to 4Kp60 via HDMI or SDI. An ideal directors’ monitor, focus pullers’ monitor, program or preview display for video switchers, and perfect for vloggers presenting to camera." - Atomos
However, for those using LUMIX cameras, Canon cameras, many Sony cams, or even FujiFilm, can easily utilize the Shogun 7's dual monitoring and recording features, saving your cameras the need to record.
In The End
it's no surprise that Atomos has been the pioneer of video monitor/recorders. Having used them for our short/low budget movies, these monitors are a simple must have for any videographer.