Atomos markets the Ninja Inferno as a professional tool for cinematographers, with a gloriously bright, 1,500 nit display, heaps of exposure and focusing aids, touch screen interface, a variety of codecs, XLR inputs, Atom HDR for obtaining perfect exposure with Log footage for HDR delivery, 4K 60p recording, as well as for use as a portable grading monitor. And in online demonstrations of their product, we are treated to lone filmmakers frolicking about in the woods, prancing at the beach, hanging precariously out of helicopters and ascending mountains, shooting handheld with the device mounted atop a mirrorless camera and presumably effortlessly editing their masterpieces at home, using the Inferno as a grading monitor. I’m exaggerating a bit, but just how realistic are these promotional videos? Is the Inferno practical for one-man band shooting? Is it really possible to use as a monitor in an editing suite?
If you’ve got a Lumix GH5 and are dying to unleash 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-bit, there really is no other choice but the Inferno. As far as exposure and focusing aids go, the GH5 already has a wave form monitor and focus peaking, but they are extraordinarily difficult to view on a tiny 3″ LCD screen. With the Inferno, it’s possible to enlarge the wave form monitor for precise control, and focus peaking is razor thin, allowing for far greater precision. And while it’s possible to import files directly from the GH5 into Final Cut Pro, your project will chug along on the timeline once you begin adding LUTs and effects. Being able to import ProRes files from the Inferno without any transcoding is an enormous time-saver.
So how is it working out in the field? To be honest, I haven’t used it much yet – it’s the Tet holiday here in Vietnam, and I won’t be able to start shooting my next project until next month. But while most reviewers touch on the excessive power consumption, loud fan noise and heat generated by the unit, it’s actually the sheer size and weight that get in the way of usability, at least when shooting solo. And unless you’re a bodybuilder, shooting handheld is going to be seriously challenging. I wouldn’t be caught dead bringing it along to a picnic or to shoot my nephew’s graduation party. This really is a production monitor, not conducive at all to run ‘n gun filmmaking. My intention all along was to use the Inferno for making short films, so that doesn’t bother me so much.
What has been frustrating has been trying to use the Inferno as a grading monitor. First of all, it took weeks of enquiries just to find out which connector was required for hooking up the Inferno to my Mac. Then, after installing Blackmagic’s software, the UltraStudio Mini Monitor wasn’t recognized by the computer. Then, even after solving that, the Inferno refused to display anything. I was able, however, to get my lowly Blackmagic Video Assist to work. So it isn’t because of Final Cut. It isn’t because of the hardware. And it’s not the HDMI cable. So, what is it then?