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ATOMOS Ninja Flame 4K: HDR Monitoring and Battery Life

As an ATOMOS user and fanboy for some years now I knew I was going to love the Ninja Flame. With 4k/24p and 1080/60p ProRes recording, full scopes, and custom LUTs it has breathed new life into my A7s kit and once again confirmed my faith in ATOMOS and their products. However, it also delivered to me a feature that I never knew I needed until I had it, HDR monitoring.


A studio setting is where the Flame is really at its best.

The ability to monitor footage in HDR, or High Dynamic Range, can be a godsend. I shoot most all of my footage in Sony's Slog2, which is fantastic for grading footage and handling difficult exposure situations, especially when paired with the ProRes HQ recording of the ATOMOS. But, log footage, straight out of the camera, looks flat, washed out and, in the case of Slog2, overexposed. It can be painstaking to measure proper focus and exposure and an awkward nightmare to show the raw, greyed-out footage to a client. HDR monitoring changes all of this.


When monitoring in HDR, the Ninja Flame is displaying the full range of luminance levels of the log footage being captured, basically unpacking the compressed levels for you, in realtime. So the image you are looking at is closer to, if not even better than, a final color grade. You can show properly exposed highlights and shadows at once the on the monitor, which makes your life a lot easier shooting and will make your clients think "Wow, this guy (or gal) is good!" when they look over your shoulder. It is by far my favorite feature on the new line of ATOMOS products, but, unfortunately, it comes with one major downside.


Overall, the battery life on the 7" Ninja Flame is somewhat disappointing. On their bare-bones original 5" Ninja Blade, you could run all day on just two batteries, and while it is expected battery life would take a hit going to a 7" screen, the change is frustrating. But, when running the Flame in HDR mode, the batteries are rendered all but completely useless. Even the larger NP batteries drain in under an hour. My first few weeks shooting with the Flame, infatuated by the HDR, I was monitoring with it constantly, and tearing through batteries. Finally, unable to afford or carry the crazy number of batteries I would have needed, I did some experiments and concluded that it was in fact the HDR murdering my battery life. I would imagine this holds true for all of the ATOMOS monitors, but have only tested it on the Ninja Flame.


Now, compromising for my battery life, I have been able to stretch it to a reasonable length by running in Rec709, with the brightness turned all the way down and relying heavily on the waveform to measure exposure. Not ideal but has forced me back into the arms of my waveform, which is really the right way to do it. I now reserve the HDR mode only for when plugged into a power source or to review footage for a client, and even then I use it sparingly.


Looks like its back to the days of "Don't worry [Client name] it won't look like that when its graded."