C. David Tobie: Atomos Spyder Support, and What It Means for You
Sep 2013 24

Last week a company named Atomos announced a bundle that includes an Atomos Video Field Recorder/Display with a Datacolor Spyder, plus custom software and a special cable. Its a clever solution that allows these small, camera-mounted video displays to be color calibrated, so that they can be trusted for more than just seeing where the camera is pointing.

To appreciate the value of this, its important to understand how calibration differs between computer-driven displays and video displays (be they small field displays, or big, expensive video reference displays). With a computer, there is a standard end-to-end solution available. The screen can be read from a Spyder connected to the same computer that the display is connected do, and the resulting calibration can be downloaded to the video card that drives the display.

In the video world, life is not so simple. Some method is needed to display and time the reading of the patches on the screen. Then the screen much be adjusted, either by front panel controls, or by applying calibration data to it. There are no standard methods for any of these steps.

What Atomos has done is to use the Spyder to create a calibration similar to what would be loaded to the video card in a computer-based system. They then use a special cable to upload this calibration data to their field display, and apply it in their own operating system. This is a one-of-a-kind solution, and Atomos is the only field display developer to integrate such a solution into their product.

So what, as the title asks, does this mean to you, as a photographer or videographer who already uses Spyder solutions? If your only field is photography, then you already have an end-to-end solution, and no need of either video field displays, or video reference displays, so the only reason you might have to calibrate a video-stream display is if you wish to calibrate your TV or Home Theater.

If you shoot video, than you may be quite interested in the Atomos combination field display/video recorder products. These devices record much more video than a camera card, and in some cases can offer a higher grade of video capture than the heavily compressed video stream saved to internal camera cards. Combine these advantages with accurate color, showing what your footage will look like in Rec 709, and you get a sense of the overall value of those products.

But it gets better: if you already own a Spyder, then you will be able to purchase an Atomos Field Display, and use your existing Spyder with it, providing you get the special USB to Serial cables Atomos provides for communicating with their displays, and download the free Atomos software for calibrating their devices. On the other hand, if you don’t yet own a Spyder, you can buy one of the Atomos Display/Recorders bundled with a Spyder, and then purchase software upgrades to use that Spyder on your computer displays, or other reference displays, at Datacolor’s website. Either way, it’s a winning combination for videographers.

C. DAVID TOBIE has been involved in color management and digital imaging from their early development. David has worked to see affordable solutions put in place for graphic design, prepress, photography and digital imaging, and then taught users how best to utilize them. He has consulted internationally for a wide range of color-related companies, and is best known by photographers for his writing and technical editing of texts and periodicals for the photo industry such as Mastering Digital Printing, and Professional Photographer magazine, and his seminars on color and imaging at photographic workshop around the globe. David is currently Global Product Technology Manager at Datacolor, where he develops new products and features for their Spyder line of calibration tools. His work has received a long line of digital imaging product awards including the coveted TIPA award, and a nomination for the Spyder line of calibration tools. Much of David’s recent writing can be found at his photography blog: cdtobie.wordpress.com, and his samples of his photography can be seen at: cdtobie.com.