Blackmagic URSA, can we trust the company to not drop the ball again?

blackmagic-ursaAt NAB this year, Blackmagic Design announced the release of the Blackmagic URSA.  From what I can tell from the initial info, they may have finally matured and created a camera that not only produces great looking imagery but also takes into consideration the ergonomics and other requirements for a true production camera.  Set at a starting price of $5995 for the EF mount version and $6495 for the PL mount version, its set to be a solid competitor to other cinema series cameras from other manufacturers.  Hopefully Blackmagic has matured a bit with their release strategy and haven’t over promised this time around because I’m honestly excited by what they have promised with the Blackmagic URSA.


Where is Blackmagic Cinema Camera series going and are they worth the investment?

Within the past couple of months I have had a few projects that I have shot on the Black Magic Cinema Camera and can honestly say I’ve been very happy with the quality.  The workflow is simple, the sensor performs well and the overall “look” is rock solid except the “Black Spot” that is the sun or any overblown highlight.  In all honesty, this is probably the number one of two reasons I haven’t purchased one of these yet.  The second reason is the ergonomic design of the cameras.  They are honestly just a pain to shoot with unless you trick it out with every gadget imaginable.  But that leads us back to the URSA, I think they may have gotten a lot right with this release but there are a few issues I want to really look into before committing to purchasing.

Blackmagic URSA - recording


 Media Choice for the Blackmagic URSA

A short term concern I have due to cost is the choice of using CFast 2.0 as the recording media.  Currently, a 120 GB SanDisk CFast 2.0 card is going for $1,199.99 at B & H.  I’m sure the cost will quickly decrease but that is a substantial cost per GB considering that the storage rates are approximately 880 Mbps using Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) at 3840 x 2160 or approximately 220 Mbps using Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) at 1920 x 1080.


 Compartmentalized Design on the Blackmagic URSA

Blackmagic URSAThis is the first time that I remember a company giving consideration to the functions and access that each person within the production crew requires.  In a lot of ways I think they’ve done a great job of compartmentalizing the access especially for the AC and Sound department.  Also, they have reversed course on the ergonomic disaster that the two earlier Blackmagic cinema cameras presented.  But as a DP, I’m concerned about the ability to operate that camera handheld considering the enormous 10″ monitor and how it seems to limit the access to the menu controls if you were to opt to use an EVF or small monitor in handheld situations.  Often, I’ve found myself making adjustments while the camera still sits on my shoulder.  It appears from the NAB presentation that access from the Operator side of the camera is dependent on the monitor to be open and since Blackmagic is saying that the monitor is essentially a “passive” client/DP monitor with no control ability, I feel like this could be a major handicap for the Blackmagic URSA.  I think it’s great that there is a large monitor there to “impress” the client but this may be the single most regrettable addition to the design of the camera.


Audio – The bastard step-child of Cinema Cameras gets noticed

screensAs indie films get more and more streamlined, there is more of a need in certain situations to run audio direct to camera for convenience, speed and simplicity.  Also, to gain any edge in the TV production environment, it’s a necessity to have direct access to professional quality audio and it seems that the BlackMagic URSA has taken these concerns into consideration with the design and focus on an audio section of the hardware design.  The fact that they haven’t hidden the audio controls deep within the GUI is great. Positioning it in the back portion of the camera away from the other areas of concern for the camera crew is also well thought out.  I’ll be curious to hear what all the audio guys have to say about it.  Hopefully Blackmagic has implemented good quality components and software to backup their commitment to audio.


Blackmagic URSA First Look Videos


Blackmagic URSA Specs:

qualityEffective Sensor Size

21.12mm x 11.88mm (Super 35)

Effective Resolution

3840 x 2160

Shooting Resolutions

3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080

Frame Rates

3840 x 2160p23.98, 3840 x 2160p24, 3840 x 2160p25, 3840 x 2160p29.97, 3840 x 2160p30, 3840 x 2160p50, 3840 x 2160p60, 1920 x 1080p23.98, 1920 x 1080p24, 1920 x 1080p25, 1920 x 1080p29.97, 1920 x 1080p30, 1920 x 1080p50, 1920 x 1080p59.94, 1920 x 1080p60, 1920 x 1080i50, 1920 x 1080i59.94 and 1920 x 1080i60

Sensor frame rate support

Up to 60 fps

Dynamic Range

12 stops

Lens Mount

PL Mount, EF, Broadcast, HDMI Hybrid

Screen Dimensions

1 x 10.1” – 1920 x 1200
2 x 5” – 800 x 480

Screen Type

10.1” – TFT-LCD
5” – Integrated LCD capacitive touchscreen

Metadata Support

Automatic camera data and user data such as shot number, filenames and keywords.

Controls

Touch screen menus on 5” screen. Push button controls for navigating menus.

Microphone

Integrated mono microphone

Speaker

Integrated mono speaker

Mounting Options

Multiple 1/4”-20 UNC thread mounting on top of camera and on handle bar. Rosette on bottom. Integrated rods mounts compatible with 15mm Light Weight Support standard.

For more tech specs on the Blackmagic URSA, visit: http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/blackmagicursa/techspecs