Australian-based digital recorder company Atomos not only listened to customers asking for more from their cameras and recorders, they acted. Now Atomos is helping redefine industry standards with their new open HDMI standard. And to make HDMI even more usable, Atomos has released a new set of HDMI cables that better connect cameras to recorders.
When the Atmomos press release hit my in-box earlier this month, it was pleasing to see someone had addressed the issue of better HDMI cables at last. HDMI’s natural moviemaking habitat has always seemed be the living room and the studio, connecting cameras directly to TVs to view movies and stills, not linking cameras to recorders in the field.
Existing HDMI cables in their three different connector sizes – regular, mini and micro – have not proven to be the most secure camera-to-recorder connections. The aftermarket for HDMI port protectors by SmallHD and LockCircle and the cable protector that Sony provides for its A7S camera solve part of the problem. Now it seems that Atomos has come up with another part of the solution with tight fit and coiled cabling.
The third part of the equation was when Atomos began moving HDMI closer to SDI in functionality with its open HDMI standard. As the press release states, HDMI is now “more usable and one step closer to the SDI standard by implementing auto start/stop trigger and timecode over HDMI”.
Coming up with a whole new industry standard, open or not, demands a desire to really listen and the willingness to lead the way. Those are uncommon traits in much of the Australian corporate sector but then Atomos and fellow Melbourne-headquartered company Blackmagic Design are uncommonly innovative, even uncommonly courageous.
I did’t know a great deal about Atomos beyond its products, so I asked CEO Jeromy Young and Co-founder/Director of Hardware Ian Overliese to tell me a little about themselves and how they do things.
Karin: Ian, your background is designing graphics for mobile phones – how has that helped you in creating hardware for video acquisition?
Ian: 3D graphics, mobile phones and ultra high definition video are both areas of electronics that are pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology in very similar ways.
They’re both processing ever-increasing quantities of pixels and similar data, with an almost insatiable appetite for processing power. At the same time they are moving away from big desktop devices and into small, battery powered devices.
Video and 3D graphics are sister industries. For example, HDMI is based on DVI. The techniques used for processing the large amounts of data needed by both industries are largely similar, and much of the experience gained in one is directly applicable to the other.
Karin: Jeromy, it’s all too rare that some vendors, the bigger vendors, actually listen to customers’ needs and act on them. What convinced you to do so?
Jeromy: Listening to the guys who make a living out of being creative is paramount to our development team. There isn't a lot to gain from developing products and features that customers don’t want or need.
We care for creative and business people who are trying to do a great job, and the tools they use like our products defines how creative and profitable they can be.
Because we care about them, we care about what they request!
Karin: What was their most frequent request?
Jeromy: It was “I want my camera to start the monitor/recorder at the same time with time code over HDMI.” So we implemented it!
Karin: Australians are often in demand overseas because they see, think and create differently from the locals. Has it worked that way for Atomos?
Jeromy: Interesting question. I feel we are an international company. We have offices locally in all continents and I grew up in the industry in Japan and Europe.
Most of our staff are well traveled so I don’t think we see anything remarkable in ourselves – we feel somewhat local wherever we go. Plus the world is so small today
Karin: Do you find that not being constantly, deeply embedded in the centre of the movie industry is an advantage?
Jeromy: Yes it is. Our offices are local so we are somewhat local. However, by not being in the industry working every day, we can actually solve problems in new ways because we don’t actually know the method used for the last 50 years.
So we solve problems differently. I think it is an advantage.
Of course we check best practices all the time. If there is a great way to do something we try to keep that method or function but being able to take that step back means we can sometimes see things from a different perspective.
Open Atomos HDMI Start/Stop Trigger Standard Released
Via Atomos Press:
Melbourne, Australia – 4th August 2014: Atomos today announce a move to standardize HDMI for the professional video industry by focusing on ease of use and customer experience. With in-depth experience along with their technical know-how, Atomos aim to help define industry standards.
SDI has ruled the professional video space for over 25 years, built on a backbone of dependability and control. The prevalence of HDMI in consumer electronics and the DSLR revolution created by Canon's 5D Mark II/III, Nikon's D800 and followed more recently by Sony and Panasonic's revolutionary 4K mirrorless cameras has made HDMI the default connection for video professionals. Until now, however many of the advantages presented by SDI have been missing from HDMI.
One of the big advantages of SDI over HDMI has been auto triggering and timecode communication between cameras and external devices like monitors and recorders. Atomos, the company that are famous for making life easier for professionals, have now made HDMI more usable and one step closer to the SDI standard by implementing auto start/stop trigger and timecode over HDMI. With this standard, users can connect using HDMI and automatically trigger functions on external devices from the camera itself, just as they have for years with SDI.
“We are very proud to be defining a new standard in such an established market place. We love HDMI, but as it gets more popular on the camera side we need to help make it work in the pro world.” said Jeromy Young, CEO and Founder of Atomos, “Historically this has only been achieved in the tech industry by creating an open standard… which is what we've done”
Atomos was the first company to engineer auto HDMI start/stop and timecode communication with cameras. Initially with Sony in 2011 for the FS100 followed up with Canon in 2013, for the 5D Mark III, 1DC and C100. Currently almost all professional Sony and Canon HDMI Cameras including the A7S employ this protocol. As the popularity of Atomos external monitor/recorders has grown, demand for this connection has spread quickly to all camera manufacturers. Now with an open, free and available standard this transition can happen quickly and easily.
Another advantage that SDI has enjoyed has been a firmer, tight fitting connection. Again in an effort to bridge the gap between SDI and HDMI, Atomos have developed their own range of HDMI cables with tight fitting connections and coiled cable lengths that allow for less clutter on the tripod and less force pulling at the HDMI connection.
“Initially we developed these cables purely to support the Ninja Star, our lightweight, pocket size ProRes recorder”, said Jeromy Young, “but after consulting with our user base we soon discovered no one had yet developed a complete range of HDMI cables purely for ProVideo users in our space”
Available from August 15th the range of HDMI cables includes a right angled HDMI micro to micro/mini and full coiled cables in lengths of 30cm (45cm extended). HDMI mini to full and full HDMI to full HDMI connections in lengths of 30cm to 50cms (65cms extended). Prices range from $19.95 to $29.95, for the full list of options sees www.atomos.com
You can see the full range of Atomos products at IBC 2014 Hall 9 D.25 in Amsterdam 12-16 Sept, www.ibc.org/
Atomos designs and manufactures smart production tools: affordable, easy-to-use field recorders and converters that save video professionals time and money, without sacrificing quality.
(cover photo credit: snap from Atomos)