Atomos has released its update for the Ninja V that will add ProRes RAW recording to the Sony a7S III. When Sony announced the camera, Atomos followed suit confirming that it was developing the RAW compatibility for its recorder. It's now arrived in the form of AtomOS 10.54.
Before we dive into the details, No Film School wants to answer a question we get a lot: When will Shogun/Shinobi receive ProRes RAW updates?
The official answer from Jeromy Young of Atomos is it's in the pipeline. Meaning, it may eventually happen.
The unofficial, speculative answer is a little longer. When Apple didn't win its patent lawsuit against RED, Apple had to shift its strategy for ProRes RAW. Losing the lawsuit meant Apple couldn't easily license the compressed RAW format to camera manufacturers like Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, and Nikon for them to incorporate into their cameras—if they even wanted to. It also meant camera manufacturers would need to develop their own versions of a compressed RAW format like Canon, or not do it at all and leave them uncompressed. It's partially why we have Log shooting options.
Since the RED patent is protected only in the U.S., Apple partnered with Atomos, an Australian company not beholden to U.S. patent law, which allows them to develop products for filmmakers to record using the compressed RAW format externally. From our understanding, external recording is not part of the RED patent.
We reached out to Convergent Design last year to ask if they would be adding ProRes RAW to its external recorders, and they told us they had no intention of doing so. Just this August, Convergent Design announced they would stop manufacturing its Odyssey 7Q+ and Apollo video recorders. So, the only way right now to record ProRes RAW is either with Atomos or rent/buy a Kinefinity MAVO Edge 8K which has internal ProRes RAW recording. Basically, Atomos owns the ProRes RAW recording market. Owning the market means you get to dictate terms.
While No Film School doesn't know the exact reason why Ninja V is only receiving ProRes RAW updates, it could be one of several things. Maybe it's just easier for Atomos to develop and program only one unit. To concentrate all of its efforts on one machine so they are not spread thin. But it could also be because they have no competition. Without any, Atomos can market filmmakers to buy the Ninja V. Then when the market starts to dip and fewer Ninja V recorders are jumping off the shelf, Atomos can offer an update to filmmakers with a 7" screen in Shogun that records ProRes RAW. But that's speculation.
Marketing has always been one of Atomos's strong points. If you've ever been to NAB or another trade show at which they have a booth, you know what we mean. Only offering it on the Ninja V now allows Atomos to stretch the lifeline of the ProRes RAW as far as they can, or until RED U.S. Patent No. 9,245,314 expires. Which by our calculations, if the patent utility has a 20-year span, would be 2027. (If you know better, let us know in the comments.)
Now we're not suggesting what Atomos is doing is wrong. Nor is the RED patent terrible. The latter is just a law that governs U.S society. Both companies are very much part of the democratization of filmmaking and that's a good thing. It's just a waiting game at the moment. No Film School reached out to both Apple and Atomos with a list of questions about the subject. Neither has returned a comment.
With that topic out of the way, let's see what's part of the latest Ninja V update. According to Atomos, users will be able to record ProRes RAW up to 4K 60 via the full HMDI port found on the a7S III.
The a7S III can output 16-bit linear RAW, but the Ninja V will compress that signal into a smaller 12-bit ProRes RAW file. As of now, Final Cut Pro X does not offer white balance or ISO adjustments so you're basically recording a big ass Log file. No word on when Final Cut will support those adjustments. DaVinci Resolve is also lagging in ProRes RAW support, maybe by design to keep its BRAW relevant, but it's more than likely shooters will see support for it eventually in both programs. If Assimilate has support, let us know in the comments.
Below is what can be expected:
ProRes RAW Recording
- Uncropped metadata mode 4264 x 2408 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
- Cropped metadata mode 4240 x 2385 at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
- The Metadata crop provides a simple way to transform the RAW data to a 16:9 aspect ratio that closely represents the internally recorded 4K UHD files
- 16-bit linear converted to 12-bit Log (visually lossless process)
ProRes and DNX Recording
- 4K UHD (3840 x 2160p) recording at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
- HD (1920 x 1080p) recording at 23.98p, 25p, 29.97p, 50p, 59.94p
- HD interlaced (1920 x 1080i) at 50i, 59.94i
- Video output of the camera is 10-bit 422
AtomOS Monitoring Settings
- Native – Linear to Slog3 or use with 3D LUTs – can use any existing Slog3 LOOK LUTs
- Rec709 – to view RAW input in SDR up to 6.7 stops of dynamic range
- HLG – to view RAW in HLG with up 10.5 stops of dynamic range
- PQ – to view RAW in PQ/HDR10 with up to 10.5 stops of dynamic range, for scenes with extended spectral highlights
Philip Bloom shooting on a Sony a7S III with an Atomos Ninja V
Atomos has also made clear some limitations, including larger recordings on a 2TB SSD, may not playback correctly on the Ninja V, the device may not start recording automatically again when losing its video signal, and PQ / HDR10 output conversions may appear slightly incorrect.
You can download the latest AtomOS software on the Ninja V product page. The Sony a7S III is expected to ship September 24th.
Did you pre-order an a7S III? Let us know in the comments below.