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Atomos Keeps Action Sports Cinematography Moving Even Faster

Vision Aerial Media
Mike Steidley takes Atomos monitors into all different kinds of high-action situations to ensure the best possible footage. (Image credit: Vision Aerial Media)

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—When I started out shooting action cinematography—a category that has exploded in recent years—I would go with whatever I could carry in a backpack because I was simply creating my own social media content.

After forming my own production company, Vision Aerial Media, the work quickly evolved into more complex and elaborate shoots. I can’t tell you how many things I’ve strapped myself into this year, filming off the back of an ATV or out of a helicopter with no doors. That one backpack has quickly turned into a van full of multiple camera systems, plus gimbals, drones and any other motion-related gear. It also usually includes more than one Atomos monitor or recorder.

DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT

Since my project requirements vary from week to week, I rely on the entire Atomos ecosystem, which includes 7- and 5-inch monitors, so I can select one that suits each job. If I’m shooting in tight quarters, working fast or need a lower profile, I’ll use the 5-inch. If I’m locked down or I need to do critical image evaluation, I’ll use a 7-inch to frame my shot and make sure I really nail it.

With my varying camera setups, Atomos monitors give me a consistent base point. I can load in the same custom LUTs I use in editing and have those on set. I know if it looks good on the Atomos monitor, then it’s going to look good when I get back to the editing suite. There are no surprises like “We’re actually one or two stops overexposed here when we really should have been there.” That consistency is big for me.

I also like the flexibility of using a recorder for better bit depths or a monitor-only version for exposure, critical focus and framing.

ADAPTING TO THE SITUATION

We were recently out capturing drift cars in the blazing sun. I was recording in ProRES RAW, which I love to work with because of the highlight recovery. The challenge was to get the exposure right without crushing any of the blacks. A car’s undercarriage might have sway bars or other cool parts the owners have installed. Car guys want to see those details, so you need to make sure you’re not putting too much contrast into your initial image.

I love using Atomos monitors on fast-action projects like this where framing and focus come even before nailing your exposure. A car may come into frame quickly and you don’t get to say, “Hold for focus and get your marks.” You have to make a decision before you hit “roll.”

On other shoots, I’ll use my 5-inch SDI Shinobi monitor. It’s super compact and runs all day on a tiny battery, but I know I can trust it for making critical decisions on false colors, zebras or focus peaking. For studio shoots or agency work with a client on-site, I’ll use the Sumo 19-inch as a dedicated client playback monitor and as a recording device capturing wireless camera signals. Plus, it’s touchscreen, so clients like using the “thumbs up or down” tags when approving shots.

In the field or studio, Atomos helps speed up my workflow and gives me peace of mind because I know I’m getting all the shots I can’t afford to miss.

Mike Steidley built a name for himself in the extreme sports world claiming 13 National Mountain Bike Stunt Championship Titles. He also operates Vision Aerial Media, a full-service video and digital content production company, ranging from action sports to corporate and commercial advertising projects. He can be contacted at visionaerialmedia@gmail.com.

For more information, visit www.atomos.com.