July 6, 2014

The Ins & Outs of Getting 10-Bit Output from the GH4 with the Atomos Ninja Blade

Atomos GH4In the past few weeks, the internet has practically exploded from people sharing their opinions, and footage, from the recently released Panasonic GH4. Most of what people are sharing at this point has to do with the camera's internal 8-bit 4K recording, which is fantastically detailed, and which is undoubtedly one of the biggest selling points for the camera. However, another feature that Panasonic crammed into the GH4, and a feature that might be revolutionary for a stills/video camera at this price point, is the camera's ability to output a clean 4K 4:2:2 10-bit signal from its mini-HDMI port. At this point, there aren't any recorders that can record the 4K signal (until Atomos releases the Shogun this fall), but if you want a glorious down-sampled 10-bit HD image from your new GH4 (and why wouldn't you), you can do it with the Atomos Ninja Blade. Here's Jeremy Young from Atomos to show you how.

Depending on your desired output frequency (NTSC, PAL, or Cinema 24), the GH4 has a few quirks and workarounds in order to utilize the Atomos Ninja Blade.

The process for recording in Cinema 24 with the Ninja Blade is about as straight forward as it gets. Set your recording format to 1080p 50Mbps, enable 10-bit HDMI output, make sure the Ninja Blade is receiving the 24p signal, and you're good to go. You may be able to push the bit rate higher than the 50Mbps setting used in the video. What effect that might have on the HDMI output, I am unsure, so definitely test it for yourselves. The other thing to remember is that the GH4 won't be recording internally if you're outputting a 10-bit signal since it's unable to record at that bit depth internally. However, if you want to record an 8-bit 4:2:2 ProRes file alongside the internal h.264 files, just make sure that you're only outputting an 8-bit signal via the HDMI.

For users who are shooting for broadcast standards, however, the process for recording 10-bit PAL or NTSC externally is a bit more convoluted. Beyond the basic menu changes of switching system frequency to 50Hz or 59.94Hz, you will also have to change the recording codec to AVCHD in order to get the Ninja Blade to even recognize the signal coming from the camera. However, the problem that is then encountered is that the Ninja Blade recognizes the signal as interlaced, even if the camera is set to output a progressive signal. In 10-bit mode, this cannot be worked around with the camera or the recorder. You simply have to use your NLE or another program to de-interlace the footage or convert it to progressive.

However, if you want to record a progressive 25p or 30p signal directly into the Ninja Blade, you have to settle for an 8-bit output, which is a bit disappointing. In the video, Jeremy mentions that the folks at Atomos have made Panasonic aware of the issue, and that this is something that could very well be fixed with a future firmware update to the camera. However, in the meantime, you either have to settle for interlaced 10-bit footage (which you can covert in post) or progressive 8-bit footage.

Have you guys had the chance to record externally with the GH4 yet? What recorder did you use, and what was the workflow like? Did you run into any strange problems with the GH4's HDMI output?

[via News Shooter]

Your Comment

34 Comments

can it record 96fps in 10bit?

July 6, 2014 at 7:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Adamsonline

No

July 7, 2014 at 5:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Kalamax

Nice article. Im still waiting for my GH4. But because of this article and video I may get the Atomos. I will be sure to put my results on my web page. Thanks for the post

July 6, 2014 at 8:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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If you're willing to wait a few months for the external recorder, I would recommend checking out the Atomos Shogun. It'll be able to record the full 10-bit 4K output.

http://www.atomos.com/shogun/

July 6, 2014 at 8:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4510

So we can convert 4K 8-bit 4-2-0 to 1080 10-bit 4-2-2, does that mean we could convert 4k 10-bit 4-2-2 to 12-bit 4-4-4 or something like that?

July 7, 2014 at 12:46AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Julian

Same question as Adamsonline. Thinking about renting this gh4 + ninja blade setup for a shoot. Can we only record 96fps internally or can we record 96fps on the ninja blade as well?

July 6, 2014 at 8:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I don't believe that the Ninja Blade can record higher frame rates. You'd have to do that internally with the GH4.

July 6, 2014 at 9:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4510

Thanks Robert!

July 6, 2014 at 9:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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96fps is not a standard framerate in HDMI spec

July 6, 2014 at 10:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ash

"Can record both internally and externally at the same time. So I can do, for example, a 4:2:2 8-bit MPEG recording internal and a 4:2:2 10-bit recording externally onto the ninja blade. Now some people will say you're only outputting 8-bit, how can you record 10-bit? Well what Atomos does is we record the 10bit color registries that are NOT present from the 8-bit to allow you to do post processing in a much better way."

THIS...right here...is marketing babble 101.

July 6, 2014 at 8:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sean

hahaha yeah, what he really means is "we take 10-bit color from an 8-bit signal and tell you it's true 10-bit because most of you don't need 10-bit and won't be able to tell the difference"

July 6, 2014 at 10:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

The GH4 outputs 10 bit over HDMI but will not record internally when this 10 bit option is chosen. I can live with that: a 10 bit 4:2:2 1080 that is derived from a 4k 1 to 1 sampling of the sensor. If you're still bitching at the end of the day then you'de better start shelling out a LOT more money.

July 7, 2014 at 12:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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William

If you don't need to record internally, then can record externally onto an Atomos device in true 10-bit. Panasonic is leading in the consumer field by including this.

Working in a 10-bit timeline also goes beyond video as well, as an example adding 10-bit graphics vs 8-bit graphics.

Cheers,
-Brooke | atomos.com

July 7, 2014 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Is not the down sampled 4k 4:2:0,8bit, equivalent to 1080p 4:2:2, 10bit? I am sure I have read it somewhere.

July 7, 2014 at 12:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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TJL

TJL, if you use some scripting trickery you can get 10-bit 4:4:4 hd files generated from 4k 8-bit 4:2:0

July 7, 2014 at 1:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Garrett

This is only mathematically true - you ARE getting that higher 422 colorspace, but you aren't resampling the original light. Color grading wise, there is virtually no benefit. Best way to get 10-bit is to get it initially. It took a few days of testing the scripts out there for me to figure it out. Kind of a bummer.

July 8, 2014 at 11:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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alex

Ok, for CC this might be true. But whats about the performance when keying greenscreen stuff? Will it be equivalent to 4:2:2 subsampling? And i guess, without any "scripting trickery" - just working in 4K environment and delivering in 1080?

August 28, 2014 at 1:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bo

I can live with that as well...point is he states they (still) record 10-bit when you dual record. A 10bit signal from an 8bit source is still 8bit. It's marketing bable to make it seem like they're doing something better than they actually are. That's all I was pointing out.

July 7, 2014 at 12:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sean

One small correction, the HDMI output of the GH4 uses a micro-HDMI (not mini-HDMI) connector.This connector is very snall. Your mini-HDMI cable won't fit.

July 7, 2014 at 3:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Erwin

"However, if you want to record a progressive 25p or 30p signal directly into the Ninja Blade, you have to settle for an 8-bit output, which is a bit disappointing."

As a 30p guy, I have to say this majorly sucks! If they don't fix this interlacing problem in a firmware update, I might just very well ditch the GH4 for an A7s.

July 7, 2014 at 12:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ben Corwin

Only assuming it's the same for the 4K signal. Hopefully it's not!

July 7, 2014 at 12:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ben Corwin

Is he hyperventilating?

July 7, 2014 at 1:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Nuno

Who me?

July 7, 2014 at 4:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ben Corwin

Picked up my first Atomos Ninja Blade HDMI for my GH4 but it can't even record Full HD 60fps nor 96fps. My Zacuto EVF and my Marshall monitor will work with Full HD 60 and 96fps. Atomos time to upgrade your firmware please! I will hold back the #shotgun once it hits the store.

July 7, 2014 at 1:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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We can't add 1080p50/60 to our device via firmware. More expensive hardware is required and why we choose to keep the cost of our devices down.

The Shogun was planned from the start with up to HD 120fps.

July 7, 2014 at 8:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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YAGH can record 4K 10-bit to AJA Ki Pro via SDI and Mitch Gross was hinting at Broadcast Asia that Q7 will also be able to record 4K via the HDMI at some point.

July 7, 2014 at 4:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Or you can buy a Shogun and not worry about hinting. :)

-Brooke | atomos.com

July 7, 2014 at 8:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Will it be out by September?

July 8, 2014 at 12:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

We are targeting end of Q3, early Q4. However demand is incredibly high, so we will have to fulfil our Pre-Order users first. If you wish to have one as soon as they ship, then Pre-Ordering will be your best bet.

Cheers,
-Brooke | atomos.com

July 8, 2014 at 2:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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How is the quality of the ProRes 8-bit on the Atomos vs the internal 8-bit on the GH4?

July 7, 2014 at 7:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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danillo

I have a Ninja 2 (not the Blade). It's capable of recording 1080-23.98p at 10-bit even if I have the GH4 in NTSC (59.97) mode as long as I select MOV as the format and 200 mb/s All Intra.

The GH4's HDMI output is set to 1080p 10-bit. This shuts off internal recording.

The Ninja 2 is set to ProRes HQ and indicates it sees 23.98 and I can see an image on its monitor -- as well as the camera, of course.

Going into record on the Ninja 2 works fine. Camera, since it's not in Record, allows changes in focus and exposure, though if I have it set to Focus Assist mode that enlarges the reference box for critical focusing, that too will be recorded on the Ninja 2.

If I attempt to select 1080-29.97p (or other modes), the Ninja 2 indicates "No Input," so it is definitely responding to what it sees.

Not having done any other testing, I can say I'm getting 1080-23.98p 10-bit to the Ninja 2, as advertised.

July 8, 2014 at 12:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

"Camera, since it’s not in Record, allows changes in focus and exposure, though if I have it set to Focus Assist mode that enlarges the reference box for critical focusing, that too will be recorded on the Ninja 2."

No matter the external recorder, the Focus Assist magnified box will always be sent to the HDMI-out recorded image?

July 23, 2014 at 10:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ryan

What the camera sees is output to the HDMI apparently.

I really have not used the Ninja-2 much since I got the GH4. It was mainly for my Nikon D800.

The GH4's internal 200mbps all-intra MOV is so good I use it recording HD unless going into slo-mo or fast-mo. (You can record between 2fps and 96fps in certain codecs. 2fps is easy and quick way to get a quick timelapse HD video clip without the hassle of a million stills to deal with.)

Side-by-side comparisons to Sony FS700 internal (25mbps) recording show the GH4's 200mbps is clearly superior. It's a safe and convenient go-to. We really need to look more closely at the Ninja-2's 10-bit file, however. I've got it. Might as well use it.

That said, the 4K internal on the GH4 is simply amazing. We shot some 4K scenes in a warehouse and outdoors this week and put it up on our only UHD screen -- a 6000x1800 pixel Christie MicroTile video wall, driven by a Christie X20 Spyder processor.

The wall is actually four tiles high by ten tiles wide (4ft x 13.3 ft) controlled by six ECU controllers (sort of like large video cards that send the signal to a subgroup of tiles like a video card in a computer sends the desktop to two or more monitors.) The X20 Spyder talks to the ECUs.

The X20 has multiple inputs and can receive the four Quad-HD signals out of the GH4. We then position the four 1080p quads on the screen (edge to edge upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right) to assemble the full 4K (3840x2160) GH4 output. At 6000 pixels, the screen is wider than 3840, but at 1800, it's not a full 2160 high. (We could reassemble the wall or mess with ECUs until we got the 2160 high, but that's not the way it's set up at the moment for the tradeshow it's going to.) Anyway, the wall is the closest thing we have to a giant 4K monitor.

We can view the image at its 16:9 shape in the middle of the screen or we can blow the picture up to 6000 pixels wide (cropping the top and bottom off). In short, the GH4's 4K image stands up nicely, even blown up 156%.

We are actually shooting the show to fit this screen: 3.33:1, cropping off the top and bottom of the GH4 UHD frame. It's like shooting through a mailbox slot. Usable image area is 3840x1152 (504 lines cropped off the top and 504 lines cropped off the bottom). But it is really cool seeing that giant, sharp, rich UHD image up there on the big screen.

A big challenge for us is to find a player that can play UHD 3840x2160 in the field reliably. We think BrightSign digital signage 4K players may work, but they can't get one to us in time. The Sony FMP-X10 UHD player may work. Or a Blackmagic offering.

Shooting in 4K on the GH4 is easy. Playing it back in the field is hard.

August 10, 2014 at 1:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dan

Just got Shogun -- recording from GH4 -- why is my GH4 display info recorded to final image on SSD of Shogun ? Have imported to Final Cut - display info is "burned" into each clip. Even if I turn off display of GH4 - I still get the small red SD card display - upper left corner of GH4 - from GH4 burned into footage on SSD - and also imports to Final Cut ? Help - what settings are wrong - and on which device - do I need to correct - to cancel out all GH4 display info. Thanks --

December 25, 2014 at 8:05PM

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Russ Gutshall
Stock Wildlife videographer
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