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Is anyone else interested in a screen-less (small) external recorder?


kye
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Is anyone else interested in an external RAW recorder that isn't a screen?

Atomos used to make a screen-less recorder called the Ninja Star which was tiny but is limited to 1080p30:

image.png.3187d1176988edd0375abbf4d1dedd57.png

However, now the smallest recorder they make is absolutely huge:

7_NINJA-sq.jpg

Considering that getting a decent codec (Prores or RAW) now either requires a hugely expensive camera (eg R5), a huge camera (P4K, P6K), or an external recorder, there is no way to get a small camera with nice codec....  and if you add in IBIS as a requirement, the list goes to zero.

Is anyone else interested in a screen-less compact external recorder?

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  • kye changed the title to Is anyone else interested in a screen-less (small) external recorder?
EOSHD Pro Color 5 for Sony cameras EOSHD Z LOG for Nikon CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

Ninja Star is 130g but it requires a mounting plate (55g). So total weight is 185g. Ninja V is 380g. The smallest NP-F battery is 100g.

Question is: Are 200g difference really a problem?

Would not call BMPCC 4K huge. It is slightly bigger than a DSLR but weight (721g) is in line with Panasonic S5, GH5, Sony A7 series etc. Having in mind you can use a smaller and lighter lens with m43 difference in weight if any is negligible.

Same for Ninja V and Blackmagic Video Assist 12G 5'' - they are relatively small and compact. If their size bothers you, there is a solution. Leave them in the bag and do not mount them on the top of the camera. There will be a tiny HDMI cable hanging from your camera. No big deal. Start/stop recording and monitoring from the camera.

It is another question altogether is it a good thing to have small and light camera setup. It turns out weight is good for handheld shooting. 

Over the years struggled with handheld footage stabilization. Until found the youtube channel of Mark Bone. Mark is professional documentary filmmaker. Same as with color grading learning from the pros helped me improve quickly.

 

Following his advice use a cage, top handle and external monitor/recorder so the whole setup has some weight. Shooting that way is very comfortable and footage stabilization is much better than anything else I’ve tried. Whole setup is 2.5 kg. Not the lightest and smallest but good for stabilization.

Most of the time I carry bigger bag and more weight. When I want to be more inconspicuous and look like a tourist and still shoot in BRAW or simply want to carry lighter, smaller bag, will use something like Panasonic S5 with Blackmagic Video Assist 12G 5''. And leave the recorder in the bag as described above. 

BMPCC 4K + external optical viewfinder attached on top can also be used in this tourist style and would be even lighter than Panasonic S5 + Blackmagic Video Assists combo.

 

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I'd be interested, preferably with SDI. It should be designed to use smaller SSD's as the ones made for the Ninja V are on the bigger side. I think something designed to be like a battery grip could be interesting and very compact. Prores RAW is a big advantage codec wise and Prores is nice too. Sure the advantages to prores over H264 aren't huge but if you don't have the latest PC prores is way more manageable. I also like to shoot 1080p downsampled from 4k which not all cameras do internally. 

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16 hours ago, stephen said:

Ninja Star is 130g but it requires a mounting plate (55g). So total weight is 185g. Ninja V is 380g. The smallest NP-F battery is 100g.

I care about size and weight, but size more because size is what gets unwanted attention when out filming.

If you don't think the P4K is large then this conversation isn't really for you!

16 hours ago, androidlad said:

I've seen a Ninja V taken apart and from the size of the chip and heatsink/fan, it really can't be much smaller.

If it didn't have to drive the screen perhaps it would be smaller?  I do realise that 4K60 support would be 8x the processing of 1080p30 though, so the processing requirements are definitely a factor.

10 hours ago, KnightsFan said:

No, I'm not interested in cameras that can't shoot the format I want internally.

You won't find measurable differences in quality or usability between ProRes and H264 All-I at the same bitrate, so there are plenty of smaller, cheaper cameras that hit your criteria for a decent codec internally.

I looked at the differences between Prores and h264, and found large differences, measurably, practically and aesthetically.  If h264 works for you then great stuff!  My advice is that if you don't care about the differences then don't look for them in future - what is seen cannot be unseen.

7 hours ago, TomTheDP said:

I'd be interested, preferably with SDI. It should be designed to use smaller SSD's as the ones made for the Ninja V are on the bigger side. I think something designed to be like a battery grip could be interesting and very compact. Prores RAW is a big advantage codec wise and Prores is nice too. Sure the advantages to prores over H264 aren't huge but if you don't have the latest PC prores is way more manageable. I also like to shoot 1080p downsampled from 4k which not all cameras do internally. 

The battery grip is a great idea, and would suit the M.2 form factor:

M2-FAQ-COMP-Q7.png

I would assume Prores RAW is great, but Prores from any camera with a clean HDMI (or SDI) output would be the most flexible.  I actually think that the look of Prores is about half-way between the equivalent h264 and RAW - prores just looks so much less like the over sharpened cheap and nasty images that come out of cheap cameras these days.  I wonder how much of that cheap look is due to h264 rather than the cameras themselves.

I also really like downsampled images.  Trying to find a small setup that has IBIS and downsamples to Prores seems to be impossible.

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29 minutes ago, kye said:

I looked at the differences between Prores and h264, and found large differences, measurably, practically and aesthetically.  If h264 works for you then great stuff!  My advice is that if you don't care about the differences then don't look for them in future - what is seen cannot be unseen.

I'll shoot some ProRes HQ, convert to H264 with equivalent specs, and post them as a blind test. Does that seem like a good comparison?

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54 minutes ago, kye said:

 

M2-FAQ-COMP-Q7.png

I would assume Prores RAW is great, but Prores from any camera with a clean HDMI (or SDI) output would be the most flexible.  I actually think that the look of Prores is about half-way between the equivalent h264 and RAW - prores just looks so much less like the over sharpened cheap and nasty images that come out of cheap cameras these days.  I wonder how much of that cheap look is due to h264 rather than the cameras themselves.

I also really like downsampled images.  Trying to find a small setup that has IBIS and downsamples to Prores seems to be impossible.

I've found the S1's H264 10 bit is pretty darn good. Prores seems to look better in the shadows from the quick test I did. 

 

9 minutes ago, KnightsFan said:

I'll shoot some ProRes HQ, convert to H264 with equivalent specs, and post them as a blind test. Does that seem like a good comparison?

I think it varies from camera to camera. Some cameras have less processing in their Prores outputs which contributes to a different look. Bitrate helping the image should depend on how much motion is in the frame. 

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14 minutes ago, TomTheDP said:

I've found the S1's H264 10 bit is pretty darn good. Prores seems to look better in the shadows from the quick test I did. 

I think it varies from camera to camera. Some cameras have less processing in their Prores outputs which contributes to a different look. Bitrate helping the image should depend on how much motion is in the frame. 

That's encouraging about the S1.  The C100 was notably good as well.

I also think it varies significantly from camera to camera.

I believe it goes beyond that, and low-bitrate Prores is much less offensive than low-bitrate h264.  However, we digress.  

I still want a small external recorder.

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20 minutes ago, KnightsFan said:

So you're saying you'd rather test an individual camera's encoder rather than the codec itself? In which case, like I said, I'd rather buy a camera that shoots the way I want internally rather than bolt an external recorder onto it.

I was saying your proposed methodology was flawed, even outside of camera-to-camera variations.

I've never seen a prores encoder I didn't like, but many h264 encoders that produce quite thin and brittle images.  My guess is that either Prores is to encode, and/or the hardware encoders that are implemented are designed for professional use and are therefore tuned for optimal image quality.  Certainly the professional attitude towards h264 is that it's a delivery standard being abused for consumer use and nothing more.

It's also worth noting the bitrates that are involved - good luck trying to find a camera that gives h264 bitrates anywhere near the standard Prores bitrates.

Aesthetically, Prores looks soft compared to RAW but retains the subtleties in the image with the artefacts being relatively benign, but h264 looks over-sharpened and without subtlety compared to RAW and the artefacts are perhaps as far from organic as you can get.

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24 minutes ago, kye said:

I was saying your proposed methodology was flawed, even outside of camera-to-camera variations.

Yes, it would have handicapped H264 since it's double compressed, so if H264 introduced the massive losses you say, then it would be even more apparent than if both had started from a clean source.

28 minutes ago, kye said:

I've never seen a prores encoder I didn't like, but many h264 encoders that produce quite thin and brittle images.  My guess is that either Prores is to encode, and/or the hardware encoders that are implemented are designed for professional use and are therefore tuned for optimal image quality.  Certainly the professional attitude towards h264 is that it's a delivery standard being abused for consumer use and nothing more.

The attitude that H264 is seen as a delivery standard and is therefore not for capture is what annoys me. It reminds me of people who think that a PL mount automatically makes a lens produce professional images.

36 minutes ago, kye said:

It's also worth noting the bitrates that are involved - good luck trying to find a camera that gives h264 bitrates anywhere near the standard Prores bitrates.

Definitely once you go to ProRes HQ there is nothing at that bitrate for H264.

But to get back to the topic, I think we agree that, with the right encoder, H264 is identical to ProRes. So doesn't it make more sense to wish for better encoding in cameras than for a bulky accessory that you have to buy separately, mount, power, and connect up? My entire point is that wishing for a small, external recorder is wishing for a workaround to a problem instead of wishing for the direct solution... I mean if you're talking about products that don't exist, just wish that Panasonic licenses ProRes in the GH6.

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18 hours ago, androidlad said:

I've seen a Ninja V taken apart and from the size of the chip and heatsink/fan, it really can't be much smaller.

GoPro makes a camera the records 4k60 for hours on end while enclosed into a waterproof case with no external heatsinks, at under half the weight of the Ninja V. I'm sure it's quite possible to build a screenless recorder smaller than the Ninja V.

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1 hour ago, KnightsFan said:

YBut to get back to the topic, I think we agree that, with the right encoder, H264 is identical to ProRes. 

No, I absolutely do not, under any circumstances, think this is even remotely true.  Once you see it, you can't unsee it.  I'd suggest if you're not seeing it then I wouldn't go looking...

I am the owner of a GH5, which does 200Mbps 1080p, which is one of the very few cameras that give a bitrate MORE than the ~176Mbps bitrate of Prores HQ, and yet, I am still interested in something that can record Prores externally that isn't a large screen.

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