Working With Blackmagic's HyperDeck Shuttle

I've been shooting a lot recently with the Panasonic AF-100, a great AVCHD camera with the look of a DSLR and the ergonomics of a motion picture camera. The AVCHD footage (MPEG-4), shot at 1920x1080, has a bit rate of roughly 17 Mb/s. To get more latitude from the footage we acquire with this camera, we're trying out Blackmagic's HyperDeck Shuttle.

The HyperDeck Shuttle is an external recording device that takes 2.5" SSD drives. It allows the shooter to capture footage in uncompressed 10-bit HD, ProRes 422, or Avid DNxHD. I recently unpacked the HyperDeck shuttle, formatted a new SSD drive and tried it out on a brief interview shoot. Here are a few initial impressions and suggestions:

  1. Configuring the HyperDeck Shuttle requires that you install the utility software from Blackmagic. After installed, the HyperDeck Shuttle must be hooked up to your computer via USB. Then, using the utility software, you can select the recording format for the drive.
  2. I suggest getting the optional cheese plate from Blackmagic if you want to mount the recorder to your camera rig. The plate has several holes of varying diameter all over the surface, providing plenty of options for mounting the recorder to the camera. If you want to mount it directly to a rail system, there are several third-party mounts available too (Note that you will have to peel back the rubber mat on the bottom of the Shuttle to reveal the screws for mounting).
  3. The Shuttle does have an internal battery, but I recommend some kind of external battery to power the recorder, especially if you are out on location and AC power isn't readily available. For my test, I used the Shuttle on three sit-down interviews in a controlled location, and I still ran out of battery power.
  4. I selected Avid DNxHD as my recording format during the shoot. I also recorded directly to an SD card inside the camera. In comparing the raw footage, the Avid DNxHD codec has more latitude and a nice softness to the overall image. The AVCHD footage from the SD card, by comparison, had more contrast and looked a little harder. If you plan on heavy color grading or chroma key work, it might be best to shoot on the HyperDeck shuttle, which will give you a better bit rate and less compression.

Here are a couple of shots of the HyperDeck Shuttle, as I rigged it up on the AF-100 via the shoe mount. Note that I would not recommend mounting the recorder in this way. The recorder is not secure enough for the long-term. This was a quick rig I threw together just for my test.

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