16 Jan 2015

Using an Atomos Ninja Star to make an older camera better than new

  • Written by 
Camera-mounted Ninja Star Camera-mounted Ninja Star Craig Marshall


Some readers may remember a piece RedSharkNews published in 2013 detailing the camera rig I built up from parts collected from all over the world. In keeping with this theme, I recently purchased an Atomos Ninja Star portable ProRes recorder to give my three year-old Sony HD ‘hybrid’ a new lease of life.

Whilst I have been very pleased with the native AVCHD video recordings at 50P, the bitrate of 28Mbps is fairly low by today’s standards. Consequently, the lightweight battery operated ‘Star’ recorder allows direct ProRes recordings from HDMI to CFast cards at 10bit resolution with HD bitrates of up to around 185Mbps. A number of popular frame rates are supported, in both progressive and interlaced, up to but not including 50/60P.


NEX Vg20 with Zeiss 28-70mm and Speed Booster on rails with a matte box and C Handle for accessories

The Ninja Star can be easily connected to any camera with a ‘clean’ HDMI output and as my Sony NEX VG20 was one of the first lightweight HD video cameras with a Super 35 or APS-C sized sensor and a clean 8bit 4:2:2 HDMI signal, I was keen to test out the Star’s capabilities. Perhaps the Ninja Star’s most endearing feature is its minuscule size and low weight, even with the battery fitted. A 3.5mm ‘line’ level audio input is provided with LED metering and this can be manually selected over the usual stereo HDMI audio pass-through. Although the VG20 records stereo or 5.1 surround sound internally, I also use a Rode NTG-3 shotgun microphone to capture specific sounds. As this mic needs phantom power, I’ve modified an I-Rig preamp with correct plug for the Ninja Star’s 3.5mm audio input. The Preamp’s 9 volt battery also supplies the necessary 48v DC to run the NTG-3’s phantom circuit and it accepts a balanced XLR input but outputs a ‘line’ level signal. So for only $49, the I-Rig preamp provides three great audio solutions for the Ninja Star owner.

Video I/O is provided by two micro HDMI sockets and whilst these miniature ‘consumer’ connections have been criticised in the past, especially on some BMD cameras, Atomos have gone to a great deal of trouble to make them as secure as possible and have recently released a series of bespoke HDMI adapter cables with a right angle connection designed especially for the Star recorder body.

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Craig Marshall

Retired freelance TV commercial and documentory producer/director/camera/editor

Website: www.HDvideo4K.com

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