The Atomos Spyder is a calibration tool targeting users of Atomos Ninja Blade and Samurai Blade users. The Spyder calibration accessory is made up of an Atomos branded Datacolor Spyder colorimeter and a special cable that interfaces with the LANC connector on the Ninja Blade or Samurai Blade video recorder/monitor. The Spyder calibration system will probably also be usable with the new Atomos Shogun.
Using the Spyder accessory is quite easy. You plug in the Spyder into your computer’s USB port, the LANC interface in the Ninja/Samurai on one end and the USB connector in another free USB port on your Mac, fire up the Ninja/Samurai and the specially developed calibration app.
Atomos created a software app for the Mac with which to control the calibration process. The app is very simple: you get three buttons, a status message, and a curve. With the buttons you activate the Spyder and start the calibration process. The curve represents the calibration results. There’s a second screen showing the calibration results in deltaE values.
Calibration is to Rec. 709 (ITU-R Recommendation BT.709, more commonly known by the abbreviations Rec. 709 or BT.709, standardises the format of high-definition television). There is no option to use a different colour space. In many (if not most) cases though, the colour space used by the Spyder will be what you want. Calibration results in resetting the screen as closely as possible to a value for a number of pre-defined greyscale values. No screen, no matter how high its manufacturing quality, can be calibrated to exactly the values of any colour space definition. There are always manufacturing deviations from the standard, even from one unit to another.
The difference between the Rec. 709 values and the values recorded by the Spyder unit are expressed in a value called deltaE (dE). In colour management an acceptable deltaE must not be higher than 3. DeltaE 3 defines the boundary at which the human eye can still discern colour differences. Anything below is invisible to us, anything above will show colour hues that deviate from the actually recorded colours and is therefore unacceptable.
I first tested the Spyder system with my own Spyder colorimeter, which I still had from a review of Datacolor’s colour management system. The results were erratic, especially in the red channel. This turned out to be a problem with this particular Spyder unit. When I repeated the calibration with the Atomos branded Spyder unit that comes with their system, the results were what they should have been: a nice, almost perfectly straight curve for all three colours. In fact, I was able to calibrate the Ninja Blade screen for all grey values to a value of deltaE 3 or less.
From my initial tests it is of course impossible to tell how often you need to recalibrate the Ninja or Samurai Blade. However, the Spyder system is so simple and fast to use that you can recalibrate your monitor as often as you like — without losing too much time over it. The whole process didn’t take more than 4 minutes. This allows you to recalibrate as often you wish and always have a colour accurate monitor screen. My guess is that you best recalibrate your Ninja or Samurai Blade at least every 2 to 3 months.