December 24, 2014

A Super Helpful Crash Course in Using the Atomos Shogun 4K Recorder with the GH4 & A7s

Atomos Shogun on Panasonic GH4
Few filmmaking products this year are as highly anticipated as the Atomos Shogun. In what can only be described as a Festivus miracle, we now have an incredibly in-depth guide to using the fabled device just days before it's slated to begin shipping to the masses.

The Shogun external recorder/monitor, which was the first and only of its kind to be able to utilize the 4K HDMI outputs of the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7s until the recent announcement of the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+, suffered from some brief shipping delays earlier in the month. Luckily, the device is finally starting to make its way into the warehouses of resellers, which means that patiently awaiting filmmakers everywhere will begin getting their hands on the 4K recorder in a matter of days.

German filmmaker and frequent Atomos collaborator Stefan Czech recently had the chance to spend some time with an early version of the Shogun. During that time, he managed to review the recorder, shoot a music video, and put together an in-depth guide to using it with the Sony A7s, Panasonic GH4, Canon C100, and Canon 5D Mark III. It's a lengthy watch, but well worth your time if you're considering an investment in this new piece of gear, or if you're just curious.

For me, there are a few major takeaways from Stefan's presentation. First and foremost, the Shogun does wonders for both the image quality and the general usability of the Sony A7s. Up until recently, we hadn't seen any 4K images from the A7s because the camera is unable to record 4K internally. While the internal 1080p images are fairly clear and detailed, the 4K images from the Shogun take the detail and overall image quality of the A7s to another level entirely. Additionally, the built-in exposure tools, combined with the Shogun's ability to display a basic Rec 709 monitor LUT for log footage, make the tedious process of exposing properly while using S-Log2 so much simpler and more efficient.

Another revelatory note from the presentation comes from the GH4 segment. It can be difficult to accurately portray the differences between 8-bit and 10-bit footage, as well as the differences between a 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 color space. In the following comparison, Stefan shows us just how massive an impact those specs can have on a final image.

Bit Depth of GH4 and Atomos Shogun

The other thing to note is that the Shogun makes a highly capable companion for HD cameras as well, which isn't really much of a surprise. With that said, if you're in need of a monitor/recorder for an HD camera, there are plenty of options on the market that are less expensive than the Shogun.

Ultimately, it seems pretty safe to say that the Atomos Shogun lives up to the massive amount of hype built up around the device since NAB, and that it adds tremendous value to cameras like the A7s and GH4 that have the ability to output a 4K HDMI signal, as well as any other camera that can output a clean HD signal over SDI or HDMI.      

Your Comment

13 Comments

Thanks Stephan for your excellent review! We really appreciate the detail you went to explain the functions of the Shogun and camera settings for the different cameras. Now I just need a decent story to tell .... :-)

December 25, 2014 at 9:19AM

4
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Andy Kochnedorfer
Sr. Director, Global Production Management
114

Thanks Andy ;-)
Cheers
Stefan

January 3, 2015 at 5:45AM

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Stefan Czech
Dop, Steadycam Operator Filmmaker
143

10 bit 4K from the A7s? Thought it was only 8

December 25, 2014 at 11:47AM

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ABFSC
163

You're right.
Hdmi output on GH4 is 4k 4:2:2 10bits
4k 4:2:2 8 bits on the a7s
Why Sony? This is the only thing stopping me to not buy this camera.
Stuck until next NAB

December 25, 2014 at 8:21PM

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Baptiste Jaze
Camera operator / Director -- corporate events
201

I thought so. I bought an A7s because i do a lot of low light so it was definitely the right choice but yea 8bit is kinda lame. I have heard both sides of the 8 vs 10 argument, especially with this video championing 10bit, so I guess I'll have to wait and see. But all the 4K videos this guy shot wit the A7s has a 10 bit title tag over the video so I thought maybe I missed something. Thanks for re-clearing that up.

December 25, 2014 at 9:51PM

1
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ABFSC
163

The video author explained what he meant on vimeo, that was a small misunderstanding.
8 bits is cool for brodcast stuff, really really cool.
I mean nothing to grade, ready to upload to vimeo as said by many people.
However, 10 bits is a real plus for grading and keying for example, definitly.
But I agree with you, low light possibilities of this device are god damn good.

Moreover, some a7s' user feedbacks make me confused about buying this camera.
Like this article about a lot of things including ergonomic problems : http://eriknaso.com/2014/07/20/things-that-drive-me-crazy-about-the-sony-a7s/

December 26, 2014 at 12:22PM

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Baptiste Jaze
Camera operator / Director -- corporate events
201

Hi, thanks guys for you nice answeres.
Yes it was a bit missleading, but all the Atomos devices record in 10bit 4:2:2 regadless whats coming over HDMI/SDI. For this in the subtitles are 10bit.
Sony A7S deliver 8bit 4:2:2 over HDMI.
Cheers Stefan

January 3, 2015 at 5:29AM

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Stefan Czech
Dop, Steadycam Operator Filmmaker
143

This is a really helpful article, though the thumbnail on the front page had me thinking that it's an article about the importance of color charts. Color chart usage is something that I find is even more conspicuously missing from the mind of most DP's.

I think the proper use (and use in general) of color charts is a glaring omission from many DP's toolsets. I also think you guys desperately need to do an article on this subject (perhaps have Art Adams as a guest contributor) covering the proper use of color charts, image calibration, and camera matching. For example, the color chart in the test (made by X-rite) is utterly useless for a Rec709 target delivery since that particular chart is made with photo printing in mind. Those colors are derived from an ink-based delivery format. They have 0 use in film and TV unless you are printing a frame grab somewhere.
The proper color chart to use for this application would have probably come from DSC Labs (the Chroma Du Monde is probably the best one).

I have learned most of what I know from Art Adams' articles in the series, Stunning Good Looks at http://provideocoalition.com/aadams as well as Corey Robson's website (http://www.coreyrobson.com/); and I think that others should be aware of just how important it is to calibrate the color and exposure with the delivery format in mind. Getting the image to translate properly into post is one of the most important things to consider when you are shooting something. I find that most amateur DP's forget about this and prefer to "get it in camera".

I always get strange reactions from people when I insist on shooting a color chart before every setup. As a colorist, the importance has been highlighted for me time and again. In the grade, you can do a lot more to the image if you have a reliable, consistent starting point. This attention to color science allows you to not only match cameras, but to actually make the image appear as it appears to the eye before you get heavy on the color treatments.

December 25, 2014 at 3:38PM

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Harry Pray IV
Director of Photography/Lighting Technician/Colorist
325

Hi Harry,
thanks for you advise.
I don´t know f you talking about the color chart I used for the Atomos Shogun review. And if this is useless for Reg.709. It is the Datacolor SpyderChecker.
http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2014/06/color-correction-made-easy/
Shane decsribe here how he use the color chart, and I use it in the same way.
Thanks Harry for your link to http://provideocoalition.com. Very helpfull.
Cheers
Stefan

January 3, 2015 at 5:54AM

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Stefan Czech
Dop, Steadycam Operator Filmmaker
143

No problem. I am merely going by what Art Adams said in his article about color charts. He knows more than me about this subject (as I used to use an X-Rite to get color calbiration myself) but thats' what Art said. My point remains, though: Nothing outperforms the DSC Labs stuff for cine use.

February 6, 2015 at 3:23PM

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Harry Pray IV
Director of Photography/Lighting Technician/Colorist
325

Keep in mind that Vimeo is an 8-bit ONLY platform, so you won't be able to properly judge the 10-bit 4:2:2 footage until you can view it in 10-bit video format on a monitor that can display a 10-bit image. ( still looks damn good in 8-bit )

December 26, 2014 at 12:48AM

5
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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
30429

FABULOUS, Stefan always does a good job. I can't wait to get one.

December 27, 2014 at 1:08PM

11
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Alan Austin
Artist/Photographer/Cinematographer
88

Than you very much Alan.
Cheers
Stefan

January 3, 2015 at 5:55AM

1
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Stefan Czech
Dop, Steadycam Operator Filmmaker
143