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Review: Atomos Shogun Flame

The Atomos Shogun Flame has a great feature set for my DSLR-based videography, giving me many features and capabilities that my DSLR simply does not have, but which make shooting, viewing, assessing, recording, and editing, easier and better.

Software

On a recent shoot, we shot LOG in a JVC 4K camera and used SDI for input to the Atomos Shogun Flame. Then, I used the Flame to adjust the image for viewing in the control room and fed the corrected HDMI out to the in-studio monitor for the client.

These days with LOG recording so readily available, the ability of the Shogun Flame to load and store up to 8 LUTs means I can be ready to connect this and shoot log with JVC, Panasonic, Sony, Canon, etc.

Ingesting the footage from the Atomos is as simple as putting the drive caddy in the drive dock and connecting it to the computer. One computer I used did not have USB 3.0, which can fully power a spinning HDD. The drive dock includes a split USB pigtail for just this reason. Using a second USB 2.0 port on the same computer provided enough power for the dock to spin up the drive so I could access the media files with ease.

While setting up the shoot, I utilized the waveform to assess and attempt to correct the lighting behind the talent to make it even across the shot. We had to move the background lights as the falloff to the sides was greater than we were looking for. Without the scopes, it's impossible to see this on a camcorder screen, or with a histogram.

The vectorscope ensured that our manual white balance was dead center in the scope with no odd color cast (Figure 5, below). When we added the talent to the shot, we could see that their skin tones were along the correct axis of the scope and the color of their shirt was within spec for recording.

Figure 5. Assessing white balance with the vectorscope

Also, we were able to keep the brightness of the talent under the brightness of the background to help ensure a clean luma key in case we needed to reposition them in the shot depending on how we added graphics for these tutorial videos. We wanted to have the option to do this, even if it was not initially planned. Also, shooting 4K enabled us to just keep pushing forward if there was a mistake. We did not reframe the camera because we can change between a wide, MCU, and CU in post, and still deliver full HD to the client. It also keeps us from getting stuck if we had multiple takes but didn't reframe the camera shot.

If the Atomos is your primary recorder, you also have the addition of several options using the in-recorder tagging. You can flag takes as good/no good, different talent, color, exposure, closeup, wide shot, and other metadata. You can also do this in post while reviewing the clips in the Atomos, but it makes the most sense for the camera op to tag it while recording.

Comparison

I also had the Video Devices PIX-E5 in my studio at the same time as the Atomos, and I thought I would like the PIX device better. It was smaller, with tighter integration, and had tactile buttons for various features.

But the Atomos allows full menu capability for everything while recording; the PIX did not. The physical buttons across the bottom of the PIX, even when they are usable, are all identical, so you have to look down to read the button label to know what you're pressing. This is not very different from needing to look at a touchscreen to use it.

The Atomos plastic case was easy to grab and move the screen after the device was recording for a while and was hot. That is a biggie for me. I thought the bigger unit would feel clunky, but it did not. The size and the insulation between me and the hot components was very welcome. I liked the 7" screen (which is also available in the PIX series) much more than the 5" screen. Being able to use most any hard drive or SSD I wanted and have multiples at the ready for less cost than the PIX media was a bonus.

Having a dedicated record LED on both the front and back may seem like a small thing, until you wish you had one. The tiny PIX LED is on the top of the recording media and might appear bright--if you were directly above the unit. I was underwhelmed. Atomos' rugged plastic case full of accessories, and die-cut padding to hold all those accessories and more, is not to be overlooked. These monitors are investments you are going to want to build around, accessorize, and protect.

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