Blackmagic Design not only announced two amazing updates to its core post-production software products, DaVinci Resolve and Fusion, but also a suite of new 4K image acquisition hardware in the form of some completely unexpected movie cameras and accessories. The Melbourne-based company keeps going from strength to strength.
Apologies in advance for the size and nature of this article. I was unable to attend NAB 2015 and so am working from press releases, press images, videos and articles created by others many of whom were on the trade show floor throughout.
I am writing this article because I believe it is important to understand the extent and nature of the change to our industry that this one company was wrought since its founding in 1984.
Major figures in movie post-production whom I respect have expressed their admiration for Blackmagic and Mr Petty. I am no hero-worshipper as heroes always have feet of clay, but the more I read about Blackmagic’s product innovations the more impressed I become.
One day I hope to be able to see the whole range of them, actually try them out and truly understand what is going on here. Until that day, I can only make deductions, operate on reasonable assumptions and try to guess what may be coming next.
Hardware & software in synergy
As Blackmagic Design’s production software continues to evolve hand over fist so do its 4K movie cameras large and small, their sensors and their accessories.
Each visit to the Blackmagic Design website makes me think of Apple and how crucial it is that their hardware and software work in such close harmony, such synergy. That is probably no coincidence given how Blackmagic founder/CEO Grant Petty is known to be such a fan of Apple’s computers.
When Blackmagic first released its groundbreaking cinema and production cameras, the skeleton of a camera system was in formation. Now that system is receiving its organs and its muscles.
The 15-stop 4.6K Super 35 digital film sensor for URSA cameras
The holy grail of digital cinema cameras is image capture quality rivaling 35mm film. Blackmagic Design may have achieved exactly that with this brand new sensors and its 15 stops of dynamic range, 120 frames per second maximum frame rate and 4608 x 2592 pixels sensor size.
Blackmagic Design future-proofed the original two URSA camera models, the EF and the PL, by making their sensors user-upgradeable. This is the upgrade and what an upgrade it is, even if it is only the first of them, from reading the specifications.
Press release: [www.blackmagicdesign.com/press/release/20150413-03] Available: June 2015 [bctt tweet=”NAB 2015: Blackmagic Design Announces Amazing New 4K Movie Cameras, Sensor, Viewfinder, Video Assist”]
The Super 35 handheld digital film camera, the 4.6K Blackmagic URSA Mini
Compact, lightweight and with a form factor clearly inspired by the legendary Aaton “cat-on-the-shoulder” motion picture camera, the URSA Mini can be tripod-mounted or handheld for day-long shooting.
It is available in four different models, with EF or PL lens mounts and 4K or 4.6K Super 35mm sensors, and all versions come with global and rolling shutter, 15 stops dynamic range, dual raw and ProRes recorders, a 50inch fold-out viewfinder and the option to attach Blackmagic’s URSA viewfinder.
The optional URSA Mini Shoulder Kit converts the basic tripod-mount configuration into a tripod or shoulder-mounted versatile workhorse. For me, this camera is, sorry for the cliché, a game-changer par excellence. And even better is that for an independent self-funded documentary moviemaker like me, it is affordable.
Press release: [www.blackmagicdesign.com/press/release/20150413-05] Available: July 2015
The Super 16 action specialist, the Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera
The need for a quality digital cinema action camera has been clear since camera drones became so popular they are now considered normal kit for all moviemakers. Enthusiast-level fixed fish-eye lens action cams no longer cut it, and Micro Four Thirds zoom, prime and dedicated ciné lenses have proven their quality in serious moviemaking and even better MFT optics just keep appearing.
As the press release states, this is “the smallest and most expandable digital film camera in the world” and is sure to become a near-overnight industry standard.
Press release: [www.blackmagicdesign.com/press/release/20150413-06] Available: July 2015
The tiny live UHD studio camera, the Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K
Like its sister the Micro Cinema Camera aka BMMCC, the Micro Studio Camera 4K is tiny in size and near giant-size in capability. It, too, takes MFT optics as well as third party adapters for other lens mounts and traditional broadcast lenses.
The press release again sums this camera up rather well as “the world’s smallest and most expandable professional studio camera” as well as an incredibly affordable one. So much so that productions can easily afford to use a number of them throughout a set, tripod or crane mounted or handheld in connection with a Blackmagic Video Assist.
Press release: [www.blackmagicdesign.com/press/release/20150413-07] Available: July 2015
The high-res finder for full-size and mini URSAs, the Blackmagic URSA viewfinder
That seemed to be the case for the original URSA camera when Blackmagic concentrated on big built-in screens. With the arrival of the eminently portable, URSA Mini, the perhaps understated demand from URSA owners was reinforced by the clear need for the even larger potential URSA Mini user base to have its own dedicated viewfinder. And here it is, for both URSA cameras.
Press release: [www.blackmagicdesign.com/press/release/20150413-04] Available: July 2015
The portable visualization & recording powerhouse, the Blackmagic Video Assist
The term ‘video assist’ originally applied to a small on-set device named the the ‘video tap’, installed in movie cameras to permit directors to see what the camera operator was seeing and nothing more. Now ‘video assist’ has evolved into a complex system consisting of crews, cables, monitors, recorders, transmitters and receivers often referred to as the ‘video village’.
Then along comes Blackmagic Design to restore ‘video assist’ to its original meaning but with a twist. The Blackmagic Video Assist is a 5-inch monitor/recorder that can be used with any HDMI or SDI camera from camcorders to DSLR and DSLM aka mirrorless hybrid movie/stills cameras.
Press release: [www.blackmagicdesign.com/press/release/20150413-08] Available: July 2015
(cover photo credit: snap from Blackmagic Design)