Exclusive Look at Blackmagic's Studio Camera, URSA & Resolve 11

Spotlight on Blackmagic Design

Published on in Miscellaneous

So far this year, Blackmagic has come out with some pretty innovative products quickly making buzz in our industry. Get an inside look at their stunning studio camera, the URSA & Resolve 11, from Blackmagic's Prez, Dan May.

* What features does the Blackmagic Studio Camera have compared to other cameras on the market?

Blackmagic Studio Camera is one of the most advanced broadcast cameras because it’s specifically designed for live production and includes features targeted at the requirements of live production workflows. Currently, live production professionals often have to use cameras designed for general video production for live work, meaning they’re lacking the features that live production demands, such as a large viewfinder, talkback, tally, optical fiber and a strong metal design. The Blackmagic Studio Camera is incredibly small, but features a very large 10-inch viewfinder, long duration four hour battery, talkback, tally indicators, active Micro Four Thirds lens mount, up to 30 and 60fps, phantom powered microphone connections and built in optical fiber and SDI connections that let you connect to a live production switcher with a single cable. All this comes in an incredibly tough and lightweight magnesium alloy body at an affordable $1,995 for the Blackmagic Studio Camera HD and $2,995 for the Blackmagic Studio Camera 4K.

* Can you tell us where the idea to create the URSA came from, along with its features?

When we first came out with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, we intended it as a small form factor or handheld camera that provides film-like images at an affordable price. What we didn't anticipate was that users would go out and put thousands of dollars worth of equipment around the camera, effectively rigging it up to a full-size camera. As great as that was to see the enthusiasm around using the Blackmagic Cinema Camera for that purpose, we also realized that we had the opportunity to create a full sized production camera, hence Blackmagic URSA. With Blackmagic URSA, we still wanted to maintain a true professional digital film camera with a high resolution 4K Super 35 mm sized sensor, global shutter, up to 30 and 60fps and a wide 12 stops of dynamic range.

What sets Blackmagic URSA apart is how it’s designed for on-set workflows. Built to handle both the ergonomics of large film crews as well as single person use, URSA has multiple accessories built in, including a massive 10-inch fold out LCD monitor, two 5-inch touch screen LCD monitors for settings, camera status and scopes for exposure, focus and audio levels and dual CFast recorders that record to Apple ProRes and compressed CinemaDNG 12 bit RAW. Blackmagic URSA also features all standard connections, including dual XLR mic/line audio inputs with phantom power, 6G-SDI output for monitoring with camera status graphic overlay and separate XLR 4 pin power output for viewfinder power, 6G-SDI monitoring input, headphone jack, LANC remote control, standard 4-pin 12V DC power connection and built in stereo microphones for recording sound.

What also makes Blackmagic URSA unique is that the sensor and lens mount are user upgradable. At present, users can choose between EF or PL lens mounts, or down the road, even a broadcast video sensor with B4 mount, then upgrade the sensor and lens mount in the future. The camera features a liquid cooling system that allows for higher frame rates when future sensors support this feature. The URSA HDMI model has no sensor and its lens mount is replaced by a “cheese plate” of mounting points and a HDMI input, allowing any third party camera to get the benefit of the URSA camera body features. The Blackmagic URSA EF model will retail for $5,995 and the PL model will retail for $6,495.

* Blackmagic Design came out with the Resolve 11, what does Resolve 11 have compared to the past versions?

We are really proud of DaVinci Resolve and how far it has come. DaVinci Resolve 11 is a major upgrade with more than 100 new features, 70 of which are new editing features. Editors now have dual monitor support and familiar professional tools, such as dynamic JKL trimming, audio crossfades and fully customizable keyboard shortcuts for faster editing. Trimming tools are context sensitive, which means DaVinci Resolve automatically knows whether editors want to ripple, roll, slip, slide, extend or shorten edits based on the position of the mouse. Time is not wasted switching tools and clips can be trimmed on multiple tracks simultaneously in the same direction or asymmetrically. DaVinci Resolve 11 features a new spline curve keyframe editor integrated into the edit timeline that positions keyframes directly under each clip and in context with the clip. Editors can now also add and animate open FX plug ins directly in the timeline as well as use plug ins for transitions.

DaVinci Resolve 11’s new collaborative workflow tools allow an editor and up to two colorists to work on different workstations, sharing the same timeline, seeing the timeline update and working in tandem as they complete shots. As they are all working on the same job at the same time, they are able to save time and increase efficiency. Another seamless application in DaVinci Resolve 11 is the dramatically better round trip collaboration with Apple Final Cut Pro X due to more of each application’s features being compatible so projects can be moved back and forward easily.

On the color side, DaVinci Resolve 11 includes:
- All new RAW image and color grading controls designed for photographers who are moving into cinematography. The new camera RAW palette features highlight and shadow recovery, mid tone detail, color boost, saturation, lift, gain and contrast. DaVinci Resolve 11 solves the single frame limitations of photo enhancement systems and gives photographers advanced control over RAW images so they can pull the maximum detail from high dynamic range footage in real time.
For on set tools, DaVinci Resolve 11 can now securely back up and save digital camera files. The new DaVinci Resolve clone tool copies media drives, memory cards and camera packs to multiple destinations simultaneously. All copies are checksum verified, which means users get exact bit for bit digital copies of their source media.
- A unique automatic color chart color balancing tool that works on all types of footage including video, RAW and even film. The new color match tool automatically gives a primary base grade by analyzing shots containing standard color chip charts even if they were shot in different lighting conditions with different exposure and color temperatures.
Optimizations to OpenCL image processing, which allows improved rendering speeds on the new Apple MacPro systems. The MacPro features dual GPU’s so is the ideal solution for customers looking for an “off the shelf” solution that easily handles the high processing speeds when working on Ultra HD work in the deepest YRGB 32 bit float processing quality.

* Why do you feel Blackmagic Design is such a successful company? 

For us it’s all about empowering the end user, whether that be a film student who is just starting out or an experienced Hollywood DP, with open and flexible workflows. We work hard to make sure our products have professional features and future proof technology but are still flexible, affordable, easy to use and accessible to the masses as opposed to a select few.

* What industry trends in broadcast/digital media do you see on the horizon, besides 4K?

How content is delivered and received is going to become an even bigger trend for both the broadcast and digital media spaces. Content has never been more accessible, and with new delivery platforms and new ways for viewers to acquire it, the need and want will only increase. We are not only going to see a demand for content, but also a trend around how that demand is met. I think we will start to see the trend of turning to the past to fill the needs of the present and future. Many people don’t realize that there is a large amount of untapped content that has been generated over the 100 years as 35mm film. 35mm film also happens to be natively 4K, meaning there is a plethora of content and an easy way to generate Ultra HD feature films and television. It’s why we acquired Cintel and are in the process of developing the new Cintel Film Scanner. It’s the perfect way to fill a gap in the market, as well as give new life to classic content.

Content and images courtesy of Blackmagic Design

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