Light at the End of the Tunnel?

In my quest to come up with the easiest workflow for HDR, without the hassle of purchasing a half-dozen LUTs; investing in expensive reference monitors; complex project, rendering and delivery settings; HDR to SDR conversions; complicated scripts; and i/o devices costing as much as a brand new a7R III, I’ve run up against just one obstacle: getting the Ninja Inferno to cooperate. I just heard back from Atomos this afternoon, and a solution may soon be at hand. Lewis Brown, Product Marketing Manager for Atomos, confirmed that while the UltraStudio Mini Monitor will not work via the HDMI port of the Ninja Inferno, it does operate properly when connected to the SDI of the Shogun Inferno. Additionally, the Blackmagic DeckLink Mini Monitor 4K in a TB chassis not only works via HDMI, but will also send HDR EOTF metadata infoframes – though this is not strictly necessary when using the Inferno. The downsides are the additional bulk (the Akitio Node TB 3 is large and heavy and the TB cable is ridiculously short) and expense – together with chassis, the connector can run over $400.00 – though this may be the most affordable solution for using the Ninja Inferno with Resolve. As far as Thunderbolt-out only devices go, the AJA T-TAP will work with both Final Cut Pro and Premiere, but not DaVinci Resolve. Apparently the root of the problem with the UltraStudio Mini Monitor is the HDMI handshake, and Mr. Brown is sending the EDID to their engineering department for examination.

17 thoughts on “Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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  1. Great! Hope you’ll post more on this soon.

    In my ignorance I graded and uploaded an entire short in Rec.2020 HLG with the Atomos Ninja Inferno monitoring FCPX 10.4 via the MacBookPro’s HDMI out. It turns out that the FCPX option “Show HDR as raw values” was fooling me into believing I had a good look (it was all legal, if I looked at the scopes & monitors). In fact the end product was horribly red in the brightest areas, only revealed when it left my Mac’s built-in tone mapping and hit Vimeo’s algorithm which automatically makes an SDR version from the HDR H265 file.
    (You can see what I mean at — but I hope to replace it with an SDR only version by 16 Feb so if you don’t see the little HDR badge it’s been replaced!)

  2. Hello Jon,
    so, if I am understanding well, it is not possible to use Atomos devices as a reference monitor with direct HDMI connection? Sorry if I bother you but Atomos does not state clearly how to do it…Franco

    1. It is not possible to use the Ninja Inferno as a grading monitor with the Blackmagic UltraStudio Mini Monitor. Supposedly, the Shogun Inferno will work with it, but only through the SDI connection. The Decklink may work with the Ninja Inferno’s HDMI input, but together with a Thunderbolt chassis, it will cost more than $400 and the chassis is pretty huge. If you have a PC, the Ninja Inferno should work with the Decklink without requiring a Thunderbolt enclosure. I hope that helps.

  3. Thank you for your answer Jon, it seems much more complicated than I thought….I was thinking of buying Atomos Inferno for recording and reference monitor but I think I will find another solution for grading my GH5 footage (maybe my Panasonic OLED?). Regards, Franco

    1. That solution may actually end up costing $3,000 or more than using the Atomos. First of all, you should probably be using the Atomos as an external monitor anyhow; secondly, a 4K i/o to send the appropriate flags to your television will run at least $2,500; and thirdly, the television will be adding its own color management to the footage you’re grading.

    2. Franco, I think you mean just plugging an HDMI cable directly between your laptop (eg. as an output for FCPX) and the Atomos, no? It’s the mistake I made (and yes, very unclear from Atomos, who never replied to my query about it). While you might get away with working in Rec.709 by keeping an eye on ‘scopes, as soon as you hit HDR you’ll be in a world of pain since the HDMI output is colour-managed by OSX for SDR and doesn’t show you what end-users will be seeing once it’s broadcast or uploaded to Vimeo etc. The colour shifts especially can be horrendous.

      1. No, I don’t mean plugging a monitor directly into the HDMI port of the computer. Any solution will require the use of an i/o device.

      2. Yes Adamsebire, that’s right what I thought to do: just plugging HDMI cable between my Macbook and Atomos device as an output for Final Cut Pro 10.4. So do you think that color management by OSX is too “heavy” even using High Sierra and FXP 10.4? In the latest version of FCP there is support for wide gamut videos, maybe Apple just thought about it and decided to manage video to a secondary screen in a different way. My videos captured by my GH5 in HLG profile look extremely good in my Panasonic TX65EZ950 using my Macbook PRO and USB-C to HDMI output (I am using the “natural” color profile in my TV). They don’t seem so horrendous.

      3. You are not only adding the color management of your computer but also that of the television. When uploaded to YouTube, viewers will be seeing wacky color.

      4. Franco, I didn’t try shooting GH5 HLG, just normal 10-bit LOG, then finishing in HLG. So maaaaybe you will have more success and less colour shifts than I did editing with OSX10.13.3 and FCPX10.4 across HDMI because you are using HLG from the start. I don’t pretend to understand how Apple displays HDR on its SDR devices (which is everything except the iPhoneX and latest iPad Pro) but there’s some problematic down-conversion going on which means you can’t be sure that you’re really seeing accurate colour. Vimeo explained to me the reasons for my video looking very red (after grading on an Atomos directly plugged into the laptop’s HDMI) like this:

        “[you’re] being affected the difference between per-channel and luma-only tone mapping. The ACES ODT reference implementation does per-channel tone mapping, however we do luma-only tone mapping by default. This results in a lot of color distortions as stuff gets bright, especially red -> yellow.
        When you do tonemapping, you bring non-visible pixel values (that would be clipped or burned) to the visible range. In doing so you can operate only on luma, leaving chroma untouched or on all the three channels (rgb). We do compute how much to bring back the luma and then apply it to all the channels, instead of computing each channel separately. This is because our version makes the SDR image a bit more natural. The screen/sw [you] used (aces odt) uses the latter tonemapping algorithm instead, which results in a lot of color distortions as stuff gets bright, especially red -> yellow.”

        So the moral of the story is, just because your HDR looks nice across HDMI at 4K on an Atomos doesn’t mean it will for the end-users as Jon says above.

        If, as Atomos suggested to Jon, they are able make the UltraStudio Mini Monitor work with the Atomos in a firmware update then that *may* be a solution (albeit at HD resolution).

  4. Thank you Jon, I will try to upload on youtube a short video graded on my TV and see what happens 🙂 Thank you for your support and my compliments to your work for your blog!

    1. When sending a signal to your television without the proper i/o, it is not receiving the necessary HDR flag, so you will essentially be grading in the dark.

  5. Any updates on this issue? Just got my Shogun Inferno today along with an AJA T-TAP and when viewing my FCPX timeline on the Inferno everything looks exactly like it does on my 5k iMac, blown out. Would love to get this resolved ASAP as it is the only way for me to be able to properly edit an HDR video.

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