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“ A very useful tool” The Samurai reviewed… by Stephen J. Brand I nternational cameraman Stephen J. Brand’s work takes him to some far-flung places. As well as work for BBC Channel 5, ITV and Channel 4, Stephen recently spent 6 weeks in the Middle East filming a wildlife commercial for Qatar TV using a Sony EX3 and an Atomos Samurai, which he describes as a ‘‘very useful little tool”. Here, he tells us exactly why. “The Samurai kit is portable, but very practical. We have many problems to deal with filming on location. There are many different HD cameras, different media formats and different codecs. Some cameras record to tape, others to CF cards, SxS or SD cards. Most cameras actually throw away data by squeezing and compressing it down when recording it - e.g. Sony’s XDCAM disk cameras only record at 50Mb/s, even though the camera sensor can process much more visual information.“ “The Samurai works with any HD/ SDI camera, and can take it to new performance levels too. It takes just a minute to attach the recorder, format the SSD drive and then you can record video at 220Mb/s, increasing Photo courtesy of John Waters the latitude and colour space of the camera. I think the minimum requirement for green-screen is 100Mb/s, if you have a 50Mb/s camera, plug in the Samurai and you are fine. The Samurai is a fraction of the price of a new camera e.g. the Sony EX3 which is good in very low light, small and capable of taking a variety of lenses but only records 35Mb/s to SXS cards. The BBC requires a minimum of 50Mb/s for HD, so the camera becomes useable again with a Samurai at 100Mb/s in LT.” “I’ve tested a Sony F3 for aliasing/ moiré by pointing the camera at a brick wall, recording 35Mb/s internally to SxS cards and with a Samurai attached at 220Mb/s. Just by looking at the ‘live’ compressed image on the internal monitor of the camera, there was moiré, but the Samurai screen had no signs of the moiré pattern. The SxS card footage had moiré and the SSD from the Samurai was great.” “Recording to SD and CF cards you are restricted by the read/write speeds of the media - SD around 45Mb/s and CF around 90Mb/s. SSD drives are robust with no moving parts and can easily record 220Mb/s 4:2:2 10-bit. SSD drives are getting cheaper by the week – a 120GB is typically around £70 – with read/write speed of around 500Mb/s!” “The Samurai really is ‘Plug and Play’. Many production companies don’t have an array of ingest machines for different formats, so their post- production departments like the fact that they can just tell you to shoot in ProRes for FCP or DNxHD for Avid, there is no conversion needed. The SSD drives are easy to attach and quick to download.” “You can also use your camera to record a safety copy. Record in camera to either tape, CF, SD or SxS as the offline and record the master to the Samurai on SSD. Post-Production will confirm if they need it in ProRes or DNxHD and what quality, either e.g. ProRes LT (100Mb/s), 422(150Mb/s) or HQ (220Mb/s). Some productions like to supply the SSD drives which they take with them at the end of the day and some like you to supply the SSDs and download onto their laptop and mirror drives as we go.” You can contact Stephen J Brand GBCT, Cinematographer on 0044 7976 731725 or email sjbrand@ dop2000.freeserve.co.uk 72 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE TV-BAY075MAR13.indd 72 11/03/2013 16:52