Atomos Ninja and HV20

Why did I buy the Atomos Ninja?
Well as you can see from my intro on About me, I am a Yorkshireman and I like a bargain.
During my time as Head of Technical Operations at Mersey TV (now Lime Pictures) we were always striving to get pictures into files as quickly as possible, time is money.
On the permanent Hollyoaks sets we recorded straight to server but on location the historical way was to record to Digibeta. This meant digitising in real time, all the tape issues of possible drop out, over recording after playback checks and sizeable archiving space and tape stock cost. So as soon as we could get to a file based workflow for location too we did. When the Sony XDCAM disc recorders came along we jumped at the chance to use them. They were cheaper than Digibeta machines, more reliable, gave files and the discs were reuseable once we knew the programmes were archived on LTO.
So I used the lessons learned in my business, Activideo. Our main camera is an HVX200 and we love the P2 workflow although now I am leaning towards XDCAMEX as I like the full 1920x 1080 pictures and the longer, cheaper SxS adaptors with SD cards. However the 35Mbs footage is not as nice to edit with as DVCPRO HD at 100 Mbs. I personally feel that for most of what we do 100Mbs is a sweet spot, a good compromise between responsiveness, export time, quality and storage space. This is why I chose ProRes LT in my first use of the Ninja.

HV20 and ninja

Atomos Ninja and HV20

We also have an HV20 canon camera which is a second camera for shots that need smaller form factor or we use it for a wide shot camera on multi camera shoots.
It records onto HDV tape and is excellent little camera with picture quality approaching that of the HVX200. But the problem with tape of course is that ingest is real time and so with some long form programmes like a series for Vision and Media we were back to spending days digitising instead of editing.

I first saw the Ninja at IBC and was so impressed by the price point and functionality. It has given our little camera a new lease of life. It’s first job out in the field was to record a high shot of a class room and straight away the benefit was that the built in monitor was great for checking the picture at ground level from the camera high up and of course to keep an eye on it as shooting progressed. I did run the tape too as back up.
So I now have a £625 camera and a £695 recorder with the ability to run backup recording, remote monitoring if the camera is not easily accessed, cheap long form recording and no need to digitise hours of footage as with pro-res we are ready to edit.
I also want to use the Ninja when requiring a higher data rate than 25Mbs on HDV or 35Mbs on XDCAM EX. The benefits are more responsive scrubbing, quicker export times and of course better keying and more grading latitude. It all depends upon the project the budget and timescales but having the flexibilty is the key.
We have access to a Sony V1P and have used the Ninja on the camera for a location shoot handheld and for studio based chroma key shoot.
We hire in more expensive systems such as broadcast cameras or Red cameras when required but need good value systems for our bread and butter jobs as a corporate producer and the Ninja is already delivering.

I am sure the Ninja or the Samurai would be great for extending the life of HDcam tape based cameras as of course they are much more expensive to replace and people have probably invested a lot of money in glass!
The file system is not yet quite as robust as P2 but the guys at Atomos are constantly trying to improve the system and re-issue firmware very regularly
I am loving the flashing colours around the Atomos logo when the firmware upgrades it takes me back to my Sinclair Spectrum days and getting the data in off cassette tapes! I am now on 1.06.
Another thing we have noticed is that it is a hard drive solution so if you mount it on the camera you will get some hum on your camera mike of course if using an SSD this would not be an issue.
I am hoping to get a GH2 soon, I know there are some issues with the HDMI output and would love to get to grips with it first hand.

ninja case

Atomos Ninja case

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