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Adding Dual Card to the Sony A7s II with Atomos Ninja Star

Adding Dual Card to the Sony A7s II with Atomos Ninja Star

Regardless of what you shoot, it’s likely that it would be expensive, impractical, or possibly impossible to replicate should footage get lost.

It’s recurring nightmare of the film maker and one of those perils that we just would all rather not think about. Enter the Atomos Ninja star as a simple solution.

The Ninja Star by Atomos is of course intended as primarily a device to get footage with less compression and a more edit-friendly codec. It also as an aside allows for > 30 minutes of recording, though the Open Memories hack is a good option for this as well.

The purpose we have however is getting a redundant backup recording of anything we shoot.

The Ninja Star automatically starts/stops with the camera’s record function and it weighs nearly nothing which makes it a fairly small compromise for those wanting to keep the gear to a minimum. Personally, I am still looking forward to the a7s line to get built-in dual card but for now this is a tolerable work around.

The most important thing to know is that the Ninja Star can only record HD and only up to 30fps. That being said, it CAN record a backup track even if you’re shooting at a frame rate it doesn’t necessarily support.

For example, I shoot a lot of 60fps footage at weddings. By setting the Ninja Star to the default “Lock” setting, you’ll get 30fps interlaced footage on the Ninja Star. You won’t be able to use it the same way as the original footage, but you’ll have footage that is very usable. For weddings, that’s peace of mind enough.

On the flip side, if you use 30p or 24p as your acquisition format on the camera, you’ll be able to get exactly that on the Ninja Star. For the 24p setting to work correctly on the A7s II you’ll need to set the Ninja star to the i – 24p setting. For 30p, you’ll want the i->p setting.

So to review, if you’re using he A7s II and want to use this as a backup recorder:

60 fps on A7s = LOCK on Ninja Star
30 fps on a7s = i-P on Ninja Star
24 fps on a7s = i-24p on Ninja Star

If you don’t get the setting right, you’ll notice interlacing artifacts right away (lines in movement).

So there you have it. Mount the Ninja Star on top of your camera, get a 128gb CFast card (not the 64, too small) and set the Codec to the Prores LT. Keep in mind that Prores LT is about 3x the size of the internal codec so roughly 32gb of SD card space is going to mean a full CFast card.

It’s not perfect, but until Atomos releases a new Ninja Star type device with 4K and 60fps support (and preferably an SSD or similar media) OR Sony releases a proper dual card camera, this is not a bad compromise.

 

 

Powering Sony Cameras with USB (The “Right Way”)

Powering Sony Cameras with USB (The “Right Way”)

This how-to covers any Sony camera with the NP-FW50 battery (Nex 5/5r/6/7/etc, Sony a6000, a6300, a6500, the A7s, A7r, A7, marks I and II where applicable.

Most of the latest Sony cameras have a USB power option. Unfortunately, what they don’t say is that it’s not really possible to run the camera on strictly USB power. You will need a sony battery in the camera at all times, and while the camera will draw power from the USB battery, it will effectively just allow the sony battery to drain slowly. For this reason, if you’re going to use a USB battery on one of the latest Sony cameras, it’s best to use a smaller battery and just enjoy the added time between battery charges! That’s why in the DIY shoe mounted USB battery I recommended a tiny 3350mAh battery for run and gun use. You will run out the battery in your camera long before you run through the external battery.

However, let’s say you want to run your camera for a very long period of time on one battery OR your camera doesn’t support USB power. In that case, you’ll need a DC-to-DC converter with a dummy battery like this one from eBay (~ $20).

In addition, you’ll need a fairly beefy USB battery that can output at least 2.4 amps consistently. The good news is that most larger USB batteries can do this and that’s really what this approach is best for. There’s very little point in this approach for “Run and gun” situations as the cables and such get a bit fiddly. This is best for shooting from a tripod or perhaps a fully built out shoulder rig.

Combine a solid USB battery like one of those listed below with the coupler from eBay and with some ingenuity find a great place to velcro or strap the battery to your rig, and you’re ready to shoot all day uninterrupted.

Here are a few options with high capacities:

Huge capacity:

Smallest/Lightest:

If you’re looking for something that’s camera mountable, you might consider either the Sony original battery grip or this simple DIY USB battery option detailed before.

XLR Cable stuck in DR60D/DR70D permanent fix

XLR Cable stuck in DR60D/DR70D permanent fix

Today I got a message from a fellow film maker who reminded me of a particular nuisance of the Tascam DR60D or DR70D. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are currently dealing with a common problem with this recorder — you’ve got an XLR connector stuck in it!

Sadly this is a problem with BOTH the original and the so-called Mark II version of the recorder. Good news is, I have the solution.

The bad news is, getting that XLR connector out may (or may not) be the easiest thing in the world.

If you have an XLR connector stuck in your DR60D or DR70D then the odds are good the XLR connector is a “locking” type. Locking XLR connectors are connectors that have a small “hole” in the casing that a pin falls into when the connector is inserted.

The problem with the DR60D/DR70D is two fold. One is that the port isn’t terribly forgiving, and the other is that cheaper XLR connectors tend to be slightly out of spec and can become stuck much more easily.

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DIY: Shoe mount USB battery with cold shoe attachment

DIY: Shoe mount USB battery with cold shoe attachment

A number of Sony cameras (And cameras from other manufacturers) can now be both powered and charged via an external USB source. With the short battery life of my Sony A7s II that I use for shooting events, I wanted to find a convenient way to extend the time between battery changes.

I have several small (and large) USB batteries and I have a few different methods for mounting them when working. The method I’d like to share with you today is one of my favorites for “running and gunning.”

To build this you’ll need these items:

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