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Almost Live from NAB: Atomos Shogun Flame

The new Atomos Shogun Flame, along with other new entries in the Atomos monitor/recorder line, brings forth AtomHDR, which enables producers taking advantage of new HDR capabilities available in their cameras to reproduce it on their monitors as they do HDR work in the field.

Atomos' new Shogun Flame, a new 7" 10-bit AtomHDR 1500nit Field Monitor with 4K/HD 10-bit ProRes/DNxHR recording, also brings to market AtomHDR, a new feature in the company's monitor/recorder product line that delivers the brightness and dynamic range of HDR.

In this interview from NAB 2016, I spoke with Atomos chief marketing officer Tony Trent regarding the Shogun Flame and the new features it introduces as the latest evolution of the Shogun line.

"With the Shogun Flame or the Flame series, and the Inferno which we've also launched here," Trent said, "It's all about HDR. We're super-pumped about HDR. It ticks all the boxes for new technology; end-consumers can really get it. We don't have to explain why they'd want it. They can just look at the picture and say, 'Oh yeah, that looks better--that looks more realistic.' We're seeing more content producers using it. Netflix and Amazon are getting right on board. Flat-panels are coming through. And the best bit--the juicy bit for me--is that you don't have to buy a new camera. The cameras are already producing HDR Log, which is already 12, 14, 15 stops of dynamic range. So it's not about going out there and buying new kit; it's just about being able to reproduce it on screens for the first time. And that's what we've done here--we've enabled you to see HDR on your monitor." 

The Atomos Shogun Flame sells for $1,695 online.

The complete transcript of the interview follows.


Shawn: It's Shawn Lam here for Streaming Media Producer at NAB 2016. I'm here with Tony and we're talking about the evolution of the Atomos Shogun line. Now we have the Shogun Flame. What's new with Shogun?

Tony: With the Shogun Flame or the Flame Series and the Inferno, which we've launched here, it's all about HDR. I'm super-pumped about HDR. It checks all the boxes, I think, from new technology and consumers can really get it. We don’t have to explain why they’d want it. They can just look at the picture and go, "Oh wow, that looks better. That looks more realistic."

We're seeing more content producers produce it: Netflix, Amazon, getting right on board. People and are already starting to show HDR content. Flat-panels are coming through. The best bit, the juicy bit for me, is that you don't have to buy a new camera. The cameras are already producing Log, which is 12, 14, 15 stops of dynamic range. It's not about going out there and buying new kit. It's just being able to reproduce it now on screens for the first time. That's what we've done.

We've enabled you to see HDR on your monitor. That's what'll step through here.

What we're looking at here is a Panasonic VariCam and it's coming log out. We're pulling HDR into the new Shogun Flame as native source video. This is just straight Log. It's got that washed-out look that we all know and love looks like, coming into the Shogun Flame and the same signal coming out into the existing Shogun which is also native Log. The good news, as I said, is that all Log is HDR.

In this situation here, the only person happy on the set is the shooter. He knows he's got all of that information for post. Everyone else that's looking around is going, "That looks terrible. What's going on there?" The danger is that even the shooters that are less experienced will look at this and think it looks washed out and ... think that it's a bit over the top. They might start to pull back looking at this shot, trying to get that right; they'll pull back their exposure on the camera, but you're missing out on the full capability of the sensor.

Instead, the better way is to make sure that you get as much exposure as possible. Up until now, to get it right, what they'll be using is calibration card, 18% gray and for this log you have to use this IRE, for this log it's a different figure. It's cinematography mathematics, which is what we want to try to eliminate. We want to make it as simple as possible. What we've done instead is we've added HDR and that's onto the Flames and the Infernos, as we'll talk about the existing models as well.

It’s all a matter of coming in on the monitor settings. You can see on the waveform here, you've got this line, this clipping line that moves up the waveform as we go from SDR to HDR. It's telling you the exact amount of dynamic range you've got for this scene and the exact right point that you're getting HDR image, how much HDR is for this. Basically, what you see on the screen is what you see in front of you. Exactly what HDR is going to be as a final result. You're no longer having to use calibration cards and all this fancy complicated math. You'll just be able to point, focus, expose, shoot, and you're getting HDR.
Still recording is totally non-destructive so you're still recording log on the SSD and it's completely ... what we're doing here is all about the luminance standard of HDR. As we know, Rec. 709 has got luminance standard, and it's got a color standard. Most people know the color triangle, but there is a brightness standard, a luminance standard as well. In HDR it's the same. People will hear terms like Rec. 2020 and P3. These are all color standards. The standard for HDR and luminance is PQ or ST 2084. What we're looking at here is that PQ luminance standard. That's what we're focusing on here to make sure that we get exposure smack on.

What we can do, apart from viewing it on screen, is you can ... Over the HTML SDR, you can take it out, the PQ out to a screen. HDR screen coming through this year for example and you'll be able to see it on a larger screen. What's really exciting is we also can do PQN. We've got it set up for a Panasonic here. If I change that or if I scroll through to where we see PQ as an input, now from your NLE you're able to output PQ as a signal, as a curve, as a HDR luminance curve, take it into the Shogun Flame, Ninja Flame, or the Inferno, and you're able to ... This is not set up because this is from Panasonic, but you would be able to see true HDR on the Flame, so you could do your calibrating using The Flame as a reference for HDR.

It really makes it easy in two ways. It doesn't mean you have to buy a $30,000, 2000-nit monitor for your HDR grading, but also, you're able to preview and not use cinematography mathematics to get exposure right in the field. That's how we made HDR super easy. If you're not doing HDR, you take it back out. You may not have a full dynamic range scene that's nice and not nearly as well-lit and everything. You can just use the brightness scale to get the maximum 1500-nit capability for outdoor adventure guys, or anyone that needs that high brightness can use this as a high, bright monitor just in normal Rec. 709 mode as well.

It's really versatile. That's what we've announced for the show. Ninja Flame is our HDMI-only model, $1,295. Shogun Flame add SDI, and HDMI, and XLR, for $1,695. Then the Shogun Inferno, which is coming in Q3 this year, it's going to add full-pay 60p recording, HD 240 frames, and quad SDI inputs on the back for only $1,995.

Shawn: It's important when you're setting up the Shogun Flame that you select the right camera as the input, right?

Tony: That's correct. Each log curve is different, so we have to map it differently to make sure you can see the final result. It's very simple but all you have to do is go into our monitor page and select your right camera. In this case it's a Panasonic, but as I can show you, you could do ARRI, you could do JVC, you could do RED, you can use a PQ input. You could do Sony or Canon, but in this case, as I said, we're Panasonic. Then you select your right log. Day log is the only option, but Sony, you've got S-Log 2, S-Log 3. Canon you've got C-Log, C-Log 2, make sure you select that so that it knows the right curve there. Then from a color ... So, that's your luminance. That's your brightness with your log. From a color point of view select the right gamma. We don't touch color here. We just record what you're bringing out. It's important to know that so that when we're displaying it, we're displaying it the right way. You just select your brand, your log, and your gamma, and you've got a perfectly matched HDR image.

Shawn: Of course the recording is in ProRes as well as DNX?

Tony: How did I not say that? That's very important. That's right! It is logging it's ProRes, all the flavors of ProRes, 10-bit, and DNX as well all the way up to DNX HR for 4K as well. Edit-friendly codecs, no transcoding, dumped straight into your timeline on your editing package.

Shawn: You can avoid that internal codec which usually very lost in a very low-bit rate codec.

Tony: Exactly, we like to think we're almost like a Swiss Army knife for productions. No matter what the camera, no matter what the codec, add ProRes to it all. Add the best in monitoring you can do, no matter what you're restricted to here. Minimal zebra, no false color, no this. You're getting ProRes for every camera, premium monitoring for every camera. That's HDR. Then show you how you can use both HDR and SDR on the new monitors. Outside of that, we really do believe this is the best monitor in the world, period, as a field monitor, and that you get the recording, playback, editing, tagging, for free.

Other reasons we can claim it is really, you can also calibrate this. We've teamed up with X-Rite, who is pretty much the industry benchmark for calibration, to use the exact-same X-Rite i1 Pro that they use for your monitors in post or on your desktop. You can now use that same unit on the Shogun Flame, the Ninja Flame, right down to the Blades to calibrate ongoing calibration of your monitor; that's one thing.

We're also showcasing a technology partnership, we're working with G-Tech on, whereby the same master caddy system we've got that lets you just load ... You don't have to have proprietary Atomus media. The SSD's a 2.5-inch SSDs from ScanDisk, and Angelbird, and Intel, and Samsung. It's affordable, a third of the cost of normal media. You could take those same master caddies and load into the G-Tech system so you've got grade systems, you've got desktop dual systems for fast transfer so data wrangling, apart from being affordable data, now data wrangling is so much easier as well. The whole system has just gone up a notch, I think, in workflow ease and also the monitor quality that we're talking about.

Shawn: In addition to the upgrades on the Flame line, you've also going to be announcing upgrades to the existing Blade line, when it comes to HDR Sport. Tell me about that.

Tony: From May and midway next month or thereabouts, we're going to give an update to take eight models to HDR. We're going to give the Blades, the Ninja Blade, the Samurai Blade, our 495 HD monitor recorders, 5 inch, they're going to get the HDR treatment as well. That'll upgrade, so you'll be able to preview just like we showed on the Flame, you'll be able to preview that HDR-look on the Flames as well.

It's important to note, there are still reasons to get this. It's a better monitor. That's the point. This is a 1500-nit, 10-bit panel, versus having a 400-nit, 8-bit panel. As good as the Blades are, and the Shogun, and the Ninja Assassin, for that matter, you are getting a monitor improvement with the Flames. Keeping in mind, you think about dynamic range. It's showing you brightest of brights, down to, darkest of blacks. If we're starting our journey, at 1,500 nits and sweeping back, you're getting a bigger dynamic range than if we're starting at 400 and going back. There's still reasons but, it's all a free upgrade for next month, for Blade users, for Shogun users, for Ninja Assassin and Shogun Studio.

Shawn: Thank you very much Tony. This has been an update from Atomos at NAB 2016. My name is Shawn Land, for Streaming and Media Producer.

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