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May 2014

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Page 48 of 51 Post • May 2014 47 review Atomos' Ninja Blade recorder monitor T he Ninja Blade is Atomos' newest 10-bit HDMI recorder/monitor/player. The Ninja Blade has waveform moni- tors and a vectorscope, and a plethora of other features that make it a must-have, or an upgrade to consider. With the Ninja Blade you get a single bat- tery charger, a battery power adapter, a car- charging cable, one battery, a LANC cable for remote operation and screen calibration, two battery conversion plates, and a master caddy docking station with USB3 cable. There is also an A/C adapter included. My test unit came in a hard case with foam inserts to keep every- thing neatly organized. The Ninja Blade's recorder hasn't changed from previous versions: it still records to all flavors of Apple ProRes 422 or Avid DNxHD onto cheap 2.5-inch hard disks or SSDs. It also still records 10-bit 4:2:2 video at 1920x1080 resolution maximum. As before, it uses con- tinuous power, which allows automatic switch- over to the second battery when the first runs out of steam. Audio recording hasn't changed since the Ninja 2, with the ability to fine-tune synchronization between video and audio signal for various cameras. One thing that has changed in the record- ing domain is that previous versions did not include a tally light, while the Ninja Blade has one on the side. The new Ninja Blade does not have a latch for the disc caddy. It is friction fit. This means that you can simply pull the master caddy out using the top and bottom tabs on the master caddy itself. Finally, and in contrast to the Ninja 2, there is no recording limit of 30 minutes per clip anymore. DISPLAY The Ninja Blade has a reflective screen, which is five inches diagonally with a resolu- tion of 1280x720 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:9. It has been factory calibrated to the Rec 709 HDTV color specification, and its native frame rate playback is auto-switchable between 48-, 50- and 60Hz. The Ninja Blade's 325ppi screen has a maximum viewing angle of 179 degrees at 400nit brightness. At the maximum viewing angle, the brightness and clarity of the screen help provide an impres- sive viewing experience. The Ninja Blade is powered by Atomos' latest operating system, which enables over- lays used for waveforms and monitor assistant functions displayed on top of the rendered scene. The waveform features include a luma overlay, an RGB parade and a vectorscope, which can all be resized. You can also control their transparency and set the brightness of these monitoring functions. The vectorscope monitor can be zoomed in, from a small cor- ner rendition to full-screen. In addition, all monitors can be shown on a black back- ground. This makes it easier to calibrate (or rather, pre-calibrate) your camera's settings by visually evaluating a white balance and/or color checker card, such as those sold by X-Rite and Datacolor. Activating the RGB parade as an overlay running across the lower third of the screen is a boon for applying realtime exposure adjustments when lighting conditions change — which frequently happens when you're shooting outdoors. The Ninja Blade also has the monitor-assist tools that were already available on the Ninja 2 — i.e. focus peaking, zebra pattern, false color and blue-only exposure. The new Ninja Blade has an extra monitor assist feature: the safe area/grid lines feature helps with framing for safe areas, title safe and 4:3 framing. The grid lines stay visible, even when you tap to hide all overlays. No matter how good a value for the money the Ninja 2 was overall, there were far better monitors on the market, and you often saw photos of Ninja users with another moni- tor mounted on their camera rig. With the Ninja Blade's IPS screen, that really isn't neces- sary anymore. First off, the Ninja Blade's black is black! That is due to the In-Plane Switching LCD panel being used. In this type of panel, when no electric current is running through the liquid crystal cells, the cells naturally align in a hori- zontal direction between two substrate panes of glass, which blocks the transmission of light from the backlight. This renders the crystals opaque and results in a black display. When an electric current is applied, the liquid crystal cells are able to rotate freely through 90 degrees, allowing light to pass through and resulting in a white display screen. IPS panels have excellent image quality, good contrast ratio and wide viewing angles. Another benefit is that you can actually color calibrate the Ninja Blade's panel. This results in a monitor image that you can visu- ally trust to render colors accurately even as time goes by. The optional calibration acces- sory co-developed with Datacolor will allow you to bring the Ninja back to the exact Rec 709 HDTV color standard. The vectorscope functionality, in a sense, is a cross-breed feature between production and post in that it can save you from white balancing and color matching across clips in post. But the Ninja Blade has other, more post production type features as well. Like the Ninja 2, the Ninja Blade has SmartLog capa- bilities, allowing users to approve or reject clips directly on the Ninja and export this metadata as a Final Cut Pro X XML file. The advantage over the Ninja 2 is that you can now use this not only on a "good shot/bad shot" level, but also on a "good/bad color for grading" level. CONCLUSION At $995, the Ninja Blade is much less expensive than its direct competitors, and in many areas, delivers more functionality in an attractive package. This compact recorder offers monitoring and a direct-to-edit workflow. VITAL STATS The new Ninja Blade (top) compared to its predecessor, the Ninja 2. By ErIk VLIETINck VITAL STATS MANUFACTURER: Atomos PRODUCT: Ninja Blade PRICE: $995 WEBSITE: · accurate blacks · panel can be calibrated · waveform & vectorscope · FCP X integration Post • May 2014 47

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