Could HDMI become a de facto pro standard? Atomos thinks so, suggests tweaks to make it happen


posted Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 3:37 PM EDT


If you're a pro, you probably like things bulletproof. There's a reason that pro gear is typically bulky, heavy and tank-like compared to consumer-grade equipment. Pros can't afford to be let down by their gear on a shoot, whether it's because moisture leaked into a consumer-grade camera body, or a loose connector interrupted a video feed. And yet as interchangeable-lens cameras capable of outputting uncompressed, high-definition video proliferate, pros have found themselves reliant on a decidedly consumer-grade connector.

In place of the locking Serial Digital Interface cable that they've used for video for decades now, pros looking for affordable yet high-quality video options have found themselves using full-sized, Mini or Micro HDMI connectors that are easily bumped or pulled free of the camera. It's pretty obvious that from the pro standpoint, that's a major issue. And nor is it the only one: Standard HDMI lacks features of SDI like timecode support and auto start/stop triggering -- but that could be about to change.

Atomos is proposing its extensions to the HDMI protocol as a free, open standard.

Atomos, the company behind the Ninja video recorders used by many pros to record video output by their interchangeable-lens cameras, has stepped in with answers to both problems. Working with the HDMI Consortium, Atomos has proposed free and open extensions to the HDMI standard that solve these issues, based on work it did to provide auto start/stop and timecode on the Sony NEX-FS100 Super 35mm camcorder.

Most subsequent pro gear from Canon and Sony -- including the Alpha A7S and EOS C100 mirrorless cameras, as well as the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D C DSLRs -- already support these extensions. Now they're being opened up to other manufacturers as well, with the aim of turning the de facto standard into one truly catering to pros.

As well as its protocol extensions, Atomos will ship new coiled, tighter-fitting HDMI cables.

And alongside the news, Atomos has also revealed a new line of HDMI cables aimed at professional use, with tight-fitting connectors that are harder to remove accidentally, and coiled cables that simultaneously reduce clutter and absorb forces that might otherwise pull the connector out of its socket.

It's not the first company to do so -- indeed, Atomos has been recommending Perfect Path's 25 lb locking HDMI cables for use with its products until now -- but the availability of more rugged, pro-grade cable options and (hopefully) wider support of the HDMI extensions might finally take HDMI from something pros use because they have to, and turn it into something they use because they want to. That's potentially great news, if you're a pro videographer!