Nikon D800 Streaming HDMI Video
Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)
Keywords: nikon, d800, camera, bodies, atomos, ninja, howto, streaming
The Nikon D800 series of cameras (D800, D800E, D810 and the D850) are multi-format video cameras, in addition to creating beautiful still images. What do I mean by multi-format? The camera can record compressed H.264/MPEG 4 (AVC) video to either of its two internal memory cards for personal video creation, or, it can stream uncompressed, broadcast quality 4:2:2 1080p video out of its HDMI port for commercial video needs.
Editor's note: If you have a question regarding your Nikon camera and Video Streaming, we are answering a lot of questions on Nikon and Video in our Nikon Video Forum. You may also want to check out the Nikon D850 forum where all the D8xx series cameras are being discussed and questions answered in great detail.
This document is a little more technical than Mastering the Nikon D800, due to discussing deeper things like video standards, formats, and compression. However, I will try to keep things on an easy-to-understand level, while providing as much detail as possible. There are entire books devoted to the subject of video and they can be quite deep and hard to understand.
We will cover the important video information in this document, plus provide information on how to connect your camera to one of the best external video recorders available for your camera, the Atomos Ninja
Some important information from Mastering the Nikon D800 is included in this document to make it more complete for those reading it without the main book nearby.
First, let’s consider some of the basic information a person wanting to record streaming HDMI video needs to know. Then we will talk about how to actually stream the video to the Ninja device.
The Nikon D800 is capable of producing two types of video output:
H.264/MPEG-4 (AVC) 4:2:0 8-bit Compressed Video – This is the mode that records video to the memory cards in the camera. It is normally used for those times when you want to make a simple home video and are unconcerned about commercial video quality. The H.264 output is stored in a .MOV container (see the next main section Containers and Their Formats). This Apple format allows pretty much any computer that can use Apple QuickTime to play your videos, which is basically all home computers. A video frame in this format ends up looking like a very compressed JPEG still image, which means it has sufficient quality for home use and for displaying on websites like YouTube and Facebook, but may not be the best for serious commercial work. All video output from this type is recorded to the camera’s memory cards for later transfer to your computer. It is best to use at least Class 6 SDHC/SDXC cards to record the video. Slower cards may not be able to keep up with the video stream.
4:2:2 8-bit 1080p Uncompressed Video – Although the video stream coming out of the HDMI port on the D800 is called “uncompressed” by Nikon, it does in fact use a form of chroma subsampling, reducing the total colors output from the better 4:4:4 format to 4:2:2. This is not so much a compression of the video stream as it is a compression of the number of colors in the video stream. The human eye is much more sensitive to luminance (brightness) than it is to chrominance (color gradiants). That simply means the camera can reduce the range of color flowing out of the HDMI port without your being able to detect the change, as long as the same levels of brightness are maintained. This chrominance compression is similar to how a JPEG image compresses the color range and is quite effective, even for serious commercial use. The container format is controlled by the recording device for this video type. The Atomos Ninja can wrap the 4:2:2 video coming out of the camera into an Apple ProRes or Avid DNxHD format (see the next main section Containers and Their Formats). The ideal format for hardcore commerical use is 4:4:4. However, that format creates huge files that most people will have no interest in storing. The 4:2:2 format produces smaller files that are visually equivalent in quality to 4:4:4.
Remove the Memory Cards
In order for the camera to stream uncompressed video out of the HDMI port, you should remove the camera’s memory cards when you are connected to an external video recorder. This is a signal to the camera that you do not want to use the H.264/MPEG-4 compressed video subsystem, but instead, want to stream uncompressed 4:2:2 video out of the HDMI port.
If you want to stream 1080p progressive video to an external recording device, such as the Atomos Ninja, you should set the HDMI port to Auto, not any of the other progressive or interlaced settings (unless those sizes exactly match your needs).
Figure 1.0 shows how to set the Setup Menu > HDMI > Output resolution setting to Auto. The external recorder (Ninja-2) will record the 1080p video that results from the Auto setting.
Originally written on April 17, 2013
Last updated on October 31, 2022
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Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on October 31, 2022
For video questions not answered in this article, please post your question in our Nikon Video Forum: https://www.nikonians.org/forum/402/nikon-video
Antonio zollicoffer (Zolphotography) on October 26, 2022
which one of the recorder monitors work with windows system
Bo Stahlbrandt (bgs) on November 20, 2017
Hi Thomas, Pls post your question in the D800 forum https://www.nikonians.org/forum/430/nikon-d800
Thomas Johannessen (jojosamoht) on November 19, 2017
hi. IM struggling with my elgato to receive hd, it switch to 480. any ideas? I tried all this settings.
david berg (bergsli) on September 10, 2013
Yes! This is why I have a subscription to Nikonians! Just the information I was looking for and written in a manner that is clear and easy to understand! Thanks you very much for this article. DA Berg
Steve Lockwood (SteveLockwood) on May 15, 2013
Found my answer, yes it does.
Steve Lockwood (SteveLockwood) on May 14, 2013
If you use the Ninja2 does it overcome the 20 minute recording restriction for the D800?
Frederic Hore (voyageurfred) on April 25, 2013
Darrell - My compliments too on the superb article! As one who works as a tech in the broadcast milieu, I found this article to be very informative on the attributes and recording possibilities of the D800 I purchased recently. Just one word of caution. I would be very apprehensive about attaching any large objects to the hotshoe socket of the D800. If it were knocked, roughly handled or (horror) fell, I'm sure the hotshoe would get mangled or damaged, not to mention the device attached. A better solution is to have any external device, including an HD screen, attached on an aluminum extension bar to one side of the D800, secured to the tripod socket. I have made custom supports like this in the past... works like a charm! One last suggestion. It would be great if the "print" button incorporated the whole document, rather than just the page a person is reading, with its attached advertising. I ended up copying and pasting this into an 11 page word doc, to achieve a clean printout. Encore, une gros merci... a big thank you!
User on April 20, 2013
Great and thorough write up. I am a special fx supervisor and have used the d800/ninja2 combo for the past 6 months. One tip I can give people trying this out. Sometimes the Ninja2 will lose signal to the ninja when turning the camera back on. Best way to correct this that I have found is toggle out of live view and back I to it. This usually corrects the problem. I want to try one of the black magic drives soon because I have heard rumors that this will allow for 4x4x4 recording ... I was told that 4x2x2 was a limitation of the Ninja2 ... Not the D800 ... I could definitely be wrong here. I love my Ninja2 btw.