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Blackmagic Debuts URSA Mini Pro, New DaVinci Control Panels

Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty announced a digital film camera with broadcast camera features and two new control panels for DaVinci Resolve on Thursday, March 2.

Kicking off the busy season of technology announcements leading up to April’s NAB Show, Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty announced the 4.6K URSA Mini Pro, which he described as a digital film camera with the ergonomics and features of a traditional broadcast camera. Those features include a 4.6K sensor, user-changeable lens mounts, 15 stops of dynamic range, built-in ND filters and dual CFAST 2.0 and dual SD/UHS-II card recorders. It also has the capacity to record to a Blackmagic SSD recorder that will be available later in the year.

In addition to this wide dynamic range digital film camera, Petty showcased two new control panels for DaVinci Resolve—DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel and DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel—that support both editing and color correction features of DaVinci Resolve software.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro

Petty made these announcements on March 2 via a livestream on YouTube, his second streamed press conference in as many months. (On Feb. 6 he demonstrated new live production and broadcast products from Blackmagic Design.)

Making Filmic Imagery Accessible to All
Petty set the stage by describing Blackmagic’s goal with its original cameras as a means of increasing access to high-end, filmic imagery. “Our original camera design was in some ways more about doing a camera for color correction,” he said. Video cameras of the time didn’t provide enough detail and dynamic range for extensive color correction.

“The issue we had is we couldn’t pull enough detail out of the video. Video cameras clip the below-black and the above-whites. What we found is video cameras were very limited in the range you had, and it meant that it was very difficult to get a lot out of them. Also video cameras couldn’t do raw recording, or even ProRes. We felt that high-quality file formats and more standard file formats were really a big issue too. So in some ways we couldn’t really do great color correction with video. Video just looked like video. We wanted to bring film looks to everything.

“DaVinci Resolve really needs digital film to get the best out of it,” he added. Digital film cameras, with their wider dynamic range and higher resolution, “capture a lot more of the scene. You just grab more of the scene and bring it back with you. So digital film is what we really want to use when we’re color correcting because it’s what makes film look like film. Obviously, of course, great photography and lighting matter a lot too, but to get the best out of color correction, you need that wide range.”

Color correction “is like adding an emotion track to imagery,” Petty noted. “That’s why our cameras are designed to be wide dynamic range, for the best color correction.”

He said, however, that the time had come to create a new camera design with a new perspective.

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro
URSA Mini Pro has a 4.6K sensor with 15 stops of dynamic range. But it is more than just a camera with wide dynamic range. “In many ways it’s three cameras in one. It’s a digital film camera, but it’s also a broadcast camera and a studio camera. Like the URSA Mini, it’s a true digital film camera with 15 stops of dynamic range, but it also has the ergonomics and features of a traditional broadcast camera. It has camera control through the SDI and it does talkback and tally, so you can use it as a studio camera as well.”

Features include built-in optical ND filters, an interchangeable lens mount, and dual CFAST 2.0 and dual SD/UHS-II card recorders. The camera includes tactile control buttons, switches and dials that let shooters operate the camera by touch while looking through the viewfinder. Further, every control on the camera is redundant, including the power. URSA Mini Pro 4.6K is available now for $5,995.

The camera is built around a custom 4.6K image sensor that captures up to 4608 x 2592 pixels with 15 stops of dynamic range and a super wide color gamut. It offers support for CinemaDNG 4.6K raw files and ProRes 4444 XQ, ProRes 4444, ProRes 422 HQ, ProRes 422, ProRes 422 LT, ProRes 422 Proxy recording at Ultra HD and HD resolutions. It supports up to 60 fps 4.6K resolution capture in raw.

URSA Mini Pro features neutral density (ND) filters with IR compensation. The 2-, 4- and 6-stop filters are specifically designed to match the colorimetry of the camera and provide additional latitude, even under harsh lighting conditions. That means customers can use different combinations of aperture and shutter angle to achieve shallower depth of field, or specific levels of motion blur, in a wider range of situations. The IR filters evenly compensate for both far red and infrared wavelengths to eliminate IR contamination.

The broadcast camera ergonomics of URSA Mini Pro put tactile control buttons, switches, knobs and dials on the outside of the camera, giving customers direct access to the most important camera settings. The controls are laid out in a logical order that makes them easy to remember so cinematographers can operate the camera without having to look at the buttons, hunt through menus, or take their eye off of the action.

URSA Mini Pro features a high-visibility status screen that displays important information such as timecode, shutter and lens settings, battery, recording status and audio levels. The status display features a backlight and is designed to be clearly visible in both dimly lit studios and outside in direct sunlight.

The camera’s interchangeable lens mount makes it compatible with virtually all professional lenses, so customers can choose the appropriate lens for the job. The PL mount ($245) is capable of lens communication, and the B4 broadcast lens mount ($385) includes optics to scale the image properly. The camera ships with an EF mount. Later this year Blackmagic will release an F mount with mechanical iris control for Nikon lenses.

With both dual C-Fast 2.0 recorders and dual SD/UHS-II card recorders, customers can choose the media that works best for their projects. C-Fast cards are ideal for full-resolution raw recording, while inexpensive UHS-II SD cards are suitable for ProRes Ultra HD files or raw HD files. With dual slots for each media type, the camera switches to the next media card when the first is full.

URSA Mini Pro ships with DaVinci Resolve color grading and editing software, giving customers a complete postproduction solution.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel

DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel and DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel

The addition of editing functionality to DaVinci Resolve has changed the relationship people have with it. “The editing workflow has really changed how color is done. It’s created new workflows,” Petty said. “More people are editing now on DaVinci than actually doing color correction.”

While dedicated color correction suites at postproduction facilities will continue to be well served with the DaVinci Resolve Advanced Panel, Blackmagic’s focus with the March 2 announcement is in accommodating users who switch between editing and color correction tasks, or do both simultaneously.

The DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel, Petty explained, is a portable hardware control panel designed for a simultaneous editing and color workflow. The Resolve Micro Panel is small enough to fit next to a keyboard to allow simultaneous editing and color grading. Fully powered over USB, it can be run directly from a laptop in the field, making it ideal for on-set grading. It is made of sturdy die-cast aluminum for stability and strength, and it features three high-resolution trackballs and 12 control knobs for accessing all essential primary color correction tools. Above the center trackball are keys for switching between log and offset color correction, as well as a key to display DaVinci Resolve’s full-screen viewer. Eighteen dedicated keys on the right side provide access to the most commonly used grading features and playback controls.

The DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel is available for $995.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel

Next, for workstations that switch between editing and color work, Petty unveiled the DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel, which is larger and more powerful than the Micro offering. Like the Micro Panel, the Mini Panel has three professional trackballs and a variety of buttons for switching tools, adding color correctors and navigating node trees. It also features two 5-inch color LCD screens that display menus, controls and parameter settings for the selected tool, along with direct access buttons that navigate to menus for specific DaVinci features. This makes the panel more suitable for workstations that switch between editing and color correction, but it is still portable enough to be moved between workstations around a facility.

The DaVinci Resolve Mini Panel is $2,995.

Both panels, which are shipping now, require DaVinci Resolve 12.5.5, which is also available today.

Blackmagic Camera and DaVinci Resolve Press Conference, March 2, 2017