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Let’s get it straight right from the get-go. Right now there are several very good field recorders/monitors out in the field as we speak. I have had the good fortune of using and reviewing others such as Blackmagic Design Video Assist ($895) and Video Design PIX-E7 ($1695) to name two. 

Each of these units has both plusses and minuses that sometimes only get sorted out once you are out on the shoot. Yes, I know that specifications are incredibly important, (we will get to them in a moment) but I have to go with my first thoughts as a shooter, not an editor, and say... "OK, how does it look? How easy is it to use in the field? Will it hold up to adverse conditions?" Are you getting the picture here? Last but not least, do I think it will be a good return on my limited gear budget? Can I be confident that what I am shooting and seeing is going to be what the final shot looks like?

The 7” Shogun Flame Display/Functions

Two words: Loved it. Very bright, and easy to look at and use the touch screen rated at 1500nits brightness was easy to set up and view both in the studio and in the field. Overlays of the waveform and vectorscope the images? Loved having it. One can not look at the waveform or the waveform for a true readout of levels and settings.

Hell I never, yes never, go out on a shoot without them. Did I say never? Yup. That's a big check. Big, easy to see audio levels with a convenient headphone jack? Check. The layout was super intuitive and I like that the operator could flip the on-screen display if needed.

All the monitor assist(s) you would want are there, along with a cool and very functional focus zoom feature. Additionally, you can set up the Shogun Flame with Canon, RED, Sony, Panasonic, ARRI, and JVC. Or if you are looking to monitor from log, one can choose Native Source with no processing, Atomos HDR, Log to Video, or Custom Look.

I also was impressed with how on a feature like HDR, the operator could choose between Auto HDR, WFM HDR, and Soft Clip HDR, which would act as a soft roll off, taking some of the edge off.

Also, I really could appreciate the slider on monitor mode that provided an actual percentage of dynamic range as in SDR number of stops plus over SDR. (Lastly, as a nod to shooters, the on-screen controls didn’t get lost or in the way.) What does this mean? Simply stated one could see and utilize a ton of info and the 1920x1200 7 inch display didn’t seem cluttered. Not technical I must admit, but in my opinion, so true.

Let’s Get Physical/More Functions

So there is a lot to like about the physical structure and layout of the Atomos Flame. Weighing in at a scant 38.6 ounces with batteries and media, the Flame is in one word - solid. Big enough, but not too big. The wrap-around case and bumpers would most likely protect the unit if it got whacked but not if it was dropped.

I was also concerned with vent placement on the top of the unit. Rain, snow, or dirt could potentially get into the unit. A lot of my shooting is on-location so the elements might be an issue and make me bring two.

However, other nice features include in/out HDMI, SDI in/out/sync, mini XLR, and a locking on/off button. Additionally, the unit can be powered via 2 batteries or AC.

The headphone jack and an option to control the unit remotely is also right above the HDMI In/Out ports.

One of the most noticeable differences is the lack of physical controls, unlike those found on the Video Devices PIX-E7. I think that whether you like the tactile control functions of the E7 or the Flame is really going to depend on what you, the operator, feel the most comfortable with.

Some other nice touches include mounting points either on the top or bottom of the unit. Fan noise and unit push was nominal and I was able to run the Flame for quite a long time with no noticeable heat build up. But before we move on, let's take a specs break and look at some of the numbers for the Atomos Flame.

Supported Codecs & Frame Rates (Record & Playback)

Raw Record*

Sony FS5/FS7^^/FS700 CDNG
4K DCI; 24/25/30p
4K UHD;
2K; 24/25/30/50/60/100*/120p*
1080;

Canon C300MKII/C500 CDNG
4K DCI; 24/25/30p
4K UHD; 24/25/30p
2K;
1080;

Panasonic Varicam LT CDNG*
4K DCI; 24/25/30p
4K UHD; 24/25/30p
2K;
1080;

Raw to ProRes / DNxHR

Sony FS5/FS7/FS700*

ProRes (HQ, 422, LT)
DNxHR (HQX, HQ, SQ, LB)
4K DCI; 24/25/30p
4K UHD;
2K; 24/25/30/50/60/100*/120p*
1080;

Canon C300MKII/C500
ProRes (HQ, 422, LT)
DNxHR (HQX, HQ, SQ, LB)
4K DCI; 24/25/30p
4K UHD; 24/25/30p
2K;
1080;

Video to ProRes / DNxHR (DNx utilizes a .MOV wrapper)

Codecs
Apple ProRes HQ, 422, LT
AVID DNxHR HQX. HQ, SQ, LB
Frame rates
4K DCI; N/A
4K UHD; 24/25/30p
2K; N/A
1080p; 24/25/30/50/60/100^/120p^
1080i; 50/60i

Onboard Processing

Pulldown removal

24/25/30pSF > 24/25/30p (2:2 pulldown)
60i > 24p (3:2 pulldown)

4K UHD downscale for HD monitoring
Yes - Loop-out and playback (Not available in RAW)

HDR
AtomHDR Yes

Supported Log formats
Sony SLog2 / SLog3, Canon CLog / CLog 2, Arri Log C,
Panasonic Vlog, JVC JLog, Red LogFilm

Supported Gamuts

Sony SGamut / SGamut3 / SGamut3.cine
Canon Cinema / BT2020 / DCI P3 / DCI P3+
Panasonic V Gamut
Arri Alexa Wide Gamut

Bit depth 10-bit (8+2 FRC)

Brightness 1500nit (+/- 10%)

HDR input  (PQ/HLG*) Yes / Yes *

HDR output (PQ/HLG*) Yes / Yes *

Recording

Pre-roll record Yes (HD 8s, 4K 2s)

Custom timelapse Yes

Metadata tagging Yes (10 tags available)

Supported media (Approved List Only)
4K / HD (50/60/120p*)
SSD 2.5”, HDD (7,200 up to 1080p60)
HD
SSD 2.5”, HDD (5,400 up to 1080p30)

Master caddy case
Master Caddy II (included)
75mm x 105mm x 12mm

Master caddy dock
2.5” SATA to USB 2.0/3.0

Supported applications
Supported Applications FCPX/FCP7+ / Media Composer 5.0+ / Premiere 5.5+ EDIUS 6.0+ / Vegas Pro 10+ / Lightworks / Autodesk Smoke 2015

XML support

FCPX XML native, FCP7 supported with conversion (Adobe compatible)

Lastly, there is a great marking feature called cut and tag. This gives the operator the ability to mark takes as good, bad, mark two different talents, good audio, and a bevy of other markers that help speed up the editing process. My cinematographer Sam remarked after using this feature that he could envision shaving a good amount of time off of the editing process using the markers. I could see that as well.

What I could also envision is using the Flame off-camera and having an extra set of hands to mark shots as they occur vs. having to go back and review the footage. If you were limited on editing time, I would say this would be a no-brainer.

The Bottom Line

The Shogun Flame records 10-bit color information, 4:2:2 color encoding and to visually lossless, edit-ready codecs like Apple ProRes or AVID DNxHR. Output the 4K/HD Raw from cameras like Sony FS7/FS700 & Canon C300MKII/C500 over SDI and can record directly to 10-bit 4:2:2 ProRes or DNxHR. Capturing Raw is a free feature with no additional licensing costs. The Shogun Flame is capable of resolving HDR in the field as you see it in Post Production and record the original Log image directly from the sensor for HDR grading in post.

Ultimately the purchase decision is yours. It did come with a ton of extras in a handy case. At $1695 it might seem a bit pricey at first blush. But after having the unit for a couple of weeks (and not wanting to return it) I would be very happy to put the Atomos Shogun Flame in my inventory.

About the Writer - Mark J. Foley 

M Joseph Foley is the Technology Editor for ProductionHUB. He is in currently in preproduction for his next documentary Making the Perfect Wine: A Love Story.