Over the past several years, I have reviewed several 10-bit 4:2:2 HD video recorders, but the Ninja Star that Átomos sent me to review is certainly the tiniest: It weighs only 230 grams (8.1 ounces) including battery and media, which qualifies for many low-capacity drones. As you’ll see ahead, Ninja Star fortunately does not sacrifice any audio/video quality for its size. Its two secrets? It has no built-in video monitor, and it records onto the breakthrough new CFast format I recently covered, which is also used by other pioneers like Arri and Blackmagic.
The breakthrough new CFast format
The above photomontage is the one I created for my recent article called The dawn of CFast video recording. As I explained in that article, the first CFast devices were shown at CES in 2009, but NAB 2014 was the first time I saw professional video products using it. CFast is a derivative format of CompactFlash which offers the very high bit rates required by virtually lossless intraframe 10-bit 4:2:2 códecs like ProRes 422 and DNxHD for HD, and even for 4K. The pioneers I saw using it were Átomos and Blackmagic. A tiny CFast chip now rivals an HDCAM SR tape,
and a US$50 CFast reader now rivals an HDCAM SR deck (see above) which typically costs well over US$50k. More details about CFast in that article.
Initial tests I made with the Ninja Star
I made my initial tests by connecting Ninja Star to Jorge González/Acquest’s Sony A7s camera, which I’ll be covering soon in a separate article, after I receive the Shogun recorder from Átomos to review it. Everything worked perfectly when I used the Ninja Star with the A7s. The reason to use an external 4:2:2 recorder with the A7s (or any other camera that doesn’t offer internal 4:2:2 recording) is to achieve a better recording than what is capable inside the camera. Although the output of the A7s is unfortunately limited to 8-bit (not 10-bit), the live HDMI output is fortunately 4:2:2 (while the internal recording is 4:2:0) so the recording on the Ninja Star is better since it can be 4:2:2 (in addition to being i-frame and directly compatible with legacy Final cut Pro 7 editing systems which are surprisingly still in use). I made my tests using a cable from Micro HDMI to Micro HDMI, since that is exactly the connector used both on the Sony A7s and on the Ninja Star. More about cables ahead in this article.
Physical specs of Ninja Star
- 8.9 x 5.8 x 2.0 centimeters (3.5 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches)
- 230 grams (8.1 ounces) including battery and media
- 130 grams (4.6 ounces) without battery and media
The battery for the Ninja Star lasts 5 hours.
Digital audio/video input, audio input too
The Ninja Star accepts audio embedded with video via its Micro HDMI port. It can also connect analog stereo audio from its unbalanced 3.5 mm input.
4:2:2 10-bit recordings that the Ninja Star can record and play back
The Ninja Star can record three different types of Apple’s ProRes 422 códec:
- ProRes 422 (HQ)
- ProRes 422
- ProRes 422 LT
All of the above can be up to 1080p at 10-bit 4:2:2 at all broadcastable framerates.
If desired, the Ninja Star can also record:
Reverse telecine/pulldown removal on input, before recording
Like other recorders from Átomos and Sound Devices (Video Devices) that I have covered, the Ninja Star is capable of removing 2:2 pulldown from 25PsF (25p disguised as 50i) or 29.97PsF (29.97p disguised as 59.94i). It is also capable of removing 2:3 (aka “3:2”) pulldown from 23.976p telecine (23.976p over 59.94i). All of this happens so we can get an ideal progressive recording at pure 23.976p, 25p, or 29.97p and without any unnecessary de-interlacing or degrading of our picture. All of this is to compensate for the fact that many HDMI cameras don’t offer pure progressive on their output. It is also useful when connected to the output of many video mixers which only handle 1080i, when they are fed with disguised 1080p from their camera sources. That combination allows using a 1080i video mixer as if it were 1080p, as long as set accordingly in the camera and in the recorder.
Start/Stop recording from the camera’s own trigger
The Ninja Star can automatically start and stop recording via the HDMI time code trigger protocols from Canon, Panasonic, JVC, Nikon, and Sony. That way, it will match the camera’s internal recording, which can be considered a lower quality backup, in the case of the A7s and many other cameras.
Breakthrough pricing of Ninja Star
In the US, the Ninja Star recorder player costs US$299. In Europe, it has the palindromic price of €242. In the UK, it costs £197.
That price includes:
- Cheese Plate Mounting Bar
- Battery Charger
- Átomos CFast Card Reader
- Limited 1-Year Warranty (extended to 3-years after product registration)
When a Ninja Star is the best fit
- When you don’t need a built-in monitor.
- When you need it tiny and featherweight, like with a drone with a low maximum weight.
- When you need a maximum 1080p at over-the-air broadcast framerates.
- When you are mainly recording relatively shorter programs or are able to offload before recording again.
When one of the other recorders makes more sense
- When you need a built-in monitor, you should look at any of the others.
- When you are recording extremely long programs, since for very long durations, the CFast cards can currently become expensive compared with the available drives for other Átomos recorders.
- When you need to record 4K UHD (3840×2160).
- When you record the (not directly broadcastable) high framerate HD formats like 1080p50, 1080p59.94, 1080p119.88, or 720p119.88.
Current pricing of CFast media
At publication time of this article, a 64GB CFast module from Átomos costs US$159, while a 128GB CFast module costs US$239.
Calculate how much recording time will fit on each CFast module
To calculate how much recording time will fit, consider using the free online VideoSpace online calculator, courtesy of Digital Heaven. It includes all of the supported ProRes 422 formats. Remember to set both the spatial and temporal (framerate) resolution, since that naturally affects the result.
Yes, as stated earlier, the Ninja Star uses Micro HDMI, not Mini HDMI or full HDMI. Fortunately, Átomos is now offering a family of coiled HDMI cables which are available as optional at extra cost. They are available in 30 or 50 centimeters in length, and offer several combinations to and from Micro HDMI, Mini HDMI, and full HDMI. The full variety of them is visible here.
- Átomos announces Shogun 4K 4:2:2 recorder/monitor w/ balanced audio
- It’s a calibrated 709 field monitor! No, a 10-bit 4:2:2 recorder! It’s Ninja Blade or Samurai Blade!
- Review: Átomos Spyder monitor calibration system
Very soon I’ll be publishing a reviews on the Shogun (4K with balanced audio input).
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Contact Allan Tépper for consulting, or find a full listing of his books, articles and upcoming seminars and webinars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his CapicúaFM and TecnoTur programs. Search for CapicúaFM TecnoTur in iTunes or Stitcher Radio.
My latest book (paperback + ebook)
My most recent book is available in two languages, and in paperback as well as an ebook. The ebook format is Kindle, but even if you don’t have a Kindle device, you can read Kindle books on many other devices using a free Kindle app. That includes iPad, Android tablets, Mac computers, and Windows computers. Although generally speaking, Kindle books are readable on smartphones like Androids and iPhones, I don’t recommend it for this particular book since it contains both color photos and color comparison charts. The ebook is also DRM-free.
In English, it is currently available in the following Amazon stores, depending upon your region:
- Amazon.com, for the US and other countries in the Americas that don’t currently have their own Amazon store, or anywhere if you simply prefer it
- Amazon.br for Brazil
- Amazon.ca for Canada
- Amazon.de for Germany
- Amazon.es for Spain pero a lo mejor lo preferirás en castellano, a continuación)
- Amazon.fr for France
- Amazon.in for India
- Amazon.it for Italy
- Amazon.co.jp for Japan
- Amazon.com.mx for México
- Amazon.co.uk for the United Kingdom
Or in your favorite bookstore by requesting ISBN–10: 1456310232 or ISBN–13: 978–1456310233.
En castellano, está disponible actualmente en las siguientes tiendas Amazon, según tu región:
- Amazon.com para EE.UU. y todas las Américas donde no existe ninguna tienda particular… o en cualquier parte si simplemente lo prefieres
- Amazon.com.br para Brasil
- Amazon.co.jp para Japón
- Amazon.de para Alemania
- Amazon.es para España
- Amazon.fr (Francia)
- Amazon.in para India
- Amazon.it para Italia
- Amazon.com.mx para México
- Amazon.co.uk para el Reino Unido
o en tu librería preferida al solicitar el ISBN–10: 1492783390 ó el ISBN–13: 978–1492783398.
No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.
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