This is a guest post by my good friend Barry Andersson who wrote “DSLR filmmaker's handbook” and whom I will be doing a 33 city training tour this fall (more on that to come!).
Canon 5D Mark III Firmware 1.2.1- HDMI Clean Output and the Atomos Ninja 2 recorder.
Recently Canon announced the latest firmware update for the Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera (Version 1.2.1 www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/standard_display/EOS5DM3_firmware/). The exciting new feature here for video is the clean HDMI out on the camera that allows you to record the signal to an external recorder. The clean HDMI out sends the video feed over the HDMI cable without any of the menus or markings so it can be recorded and used for your edit.
I chose the Atomos Ninja 2 external recorder to use on two of my recent productions and it works like a charm. The HDMI feed goes directly into the recorder and is recorded onto a SSD drive. If you have primarily been using DSLR cameras SSD drives may be new to you. They are solid state drives that are about the size of an iPhone.
If this is your first time using SSD drives there are a few things you should know. You need an adapter or device to connect to your computer. There are two that I have really been liking.
Seagate Goflex SSD adapter.
This is a $25 or less adapter that plugs directly into any SSD drive. It is super easy to carry with and is great in the field. It only connects to the port on the drive so you must be a little careful as any stress on that connection could damage your drive.
Voyager Q Drive Dock.
I can’t live without this unit. It allows you to easily swap between 3.5” and 2.5” drives by just sliding them in and out of this unit. The SSD drives slide directly into the smaller port on the top of the device. You can get either a USB 3.0 or a Firewire 800 base depending on your desired connection.
In order to starting using the clean HDMI out you must set up your 5D Mark III to some of the new settings.
First make sure you updated the firmware (or if you rented a camera make sure the firmware is version 1.2.1 or higher.
Go to the last camera menu on the 5D Mark III and a new option will appear under the “Movie shoot. Btn” that will say “HDMI output + LCD No mirroring.”
Select and that option and it will ask you if you want No mirroring or Mirroring. You want to select Mirroring so the HDMI signal is being sent from the camera without any menus or other markings on the screen.
You should now see that your HDMI output + LCD is set to mirroring.
You still have to set a few more settings before you can connect and control an external recorder. In the last sub sheading under the play menu you can find a new Ctrl over HDMI option. You need to set it to “Enable”. This will allow you to press record on the camera and it will start the external recording device at the same time.
Next go to the second sub heading under what I call the Wrench menu and you will see a new option for “HDMI frame rate.”
If you select it will give you three options AUTO, 24p and 60i. For most circumstances AUTO will work fine.
You are ready to connect your Atomos Ninja 2 external recording device. Assuming you have not yet used one here is a quick guide and settings so you are ready to roll.
Connecting your Atomos Ninja 2 external recording device
First you must put your SSD card into one of their special cases before you put it in the Ninja itself. The SSD drives are a little thin and don’t fit tightly into the device.
You will notice a little groove on the side of the SSD case and a matching groove on one side of the Atomos Ninja. This prevents you from sliding in the SSD drive the wrong way and messing up the connections.
In the menu section of the Atomos Ninja 2 you can get to the screen where you can setup your source and camera trigger. This tells the unit which input to get the signal from as well as the camera protocol in order for the unit to be controlled by the camera.
The next thing you need to do is to set the frame rate for the video. You can see the current frame rate in the upper left corner of the screen. If the camera and device are talking properly and the settings match the frame rate will appear in white.
If your settings don’t match then the frame rate will be grayed out and it won’t let you record. If you are getting this make sure the frame rate is correct on the camera.
I recommend using a CF card in the camera in addition to recording to the Ninja 2. It acts as a double backup live on two separate storage decives. This is great on jobs were there isn’t a DIT or data wrangler and you don’t get a chance to dump cards until the end of the day. This way you will always have two copies of your footage at all times. Redundancy helps keep your mind at ease and covers the production in case of a card or drive failure.
Go ahead and press record and test to make sure your camera and the Ninja 2 is recording. The Ninja 2’s screen will have no bars on the screen when it is not recording but will add a red strip across the entire top and bottom of the screen so you can easily tell if the unit is recording or not.
From here you are good to go. The Atomos Ninja 2 does not accept an audio feed directly from the HMDI feed. You need to bring in a direct feed for the unit to record audio. If you don’t have the ability to bring in a direct feed you can always sync in post. If you are like a lot of us you have been using Plural Eyes to sync your audio in post. This external recorder though adds a new twist. Since there is no audio feed then Plural Eyes has nothing to work with to sync the clips.
Here is a little trick. If you record both in camera and on the external recorder you can use Plural Eyes to sync the audio to the camera’s video files. Then since the clips are exactly the same timeframe you can just line up the takes in FCP and turn off the video layer from the CF card files you have a quick dirty solution to sync your audio and video files.
Perhaps you don’t feel you need to use an external recorder or see the need. Even if that is the case the new firmware update has a huge benefit to you. The HDMI mirroring from the camera allows you to send a signal to a monitor while at the same time keeping the image on the LCD screen on the back of the camera. This eliminates the need to buy or use two monitors! If your director or client needs to be able to see what you are shooting you can send a feed to a monitor for them and operate off the back of the camera’s LCD screen. A huge cost savings if you don’t want to buy a second monitor.
(cover photo credit: snap from the press)