The art (well Technology anyway) of Blackmagic Design!

Blackmagic Design have been known for lots of things over the years, and chances are you may have even used a plethora of their products without even realising it was made by them. SDI/HDSI cards TICK, signal converters TICK, vision mixers TICK, DaVinci Resolve TICK, and, well, you get the picture. But at NAB in 2012 Blackmagic Design entered the camera market with the launch of the original Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera. I remember it well. The buzz that Blackmagic’ created at NAB was incredible and it was all anyone could talk about then. The reaction was a mixture of “Wow!” and “What’s the point?” but, regardless of the view of all those who first saw what is now a breakthrough camera, they had a reaction! I remember it very well as it was actually my first NAB and almost directly opposite the Blackmagic Design stand was the AJA stand showcasing their almost simultaneous entry into the camera Market with the AJA CION. So, what made the Blackmagic cameras succeed (along with the URSA and subsequent models) as well as they have? Price for one, yes that goes without saying. Good codec options too of course but was it more than that? Well yes it was. They appealed to the generation that was just coming out of using the Canon 5D and were looking for something meaty, usable and affordable. My knowledge of the German language ‘aint great but I believe Zeitgeist is what Blackmagic offered and continue to do so! No one can argue that Blackmagic have a wonderful footing in the market and BTL was lucky enough to catch up with Stuart Ashton, director, Blackmagic Design EMEA to talk about Ursa’s and beyond!

What made Blackmagic Design want to go into the camera market in the first place when you were so well known for other utilities such as DaVinci, switchers, converters etc?Since the beginning, our ethos has always been about empowering creatives; making sure that they have access to the very best tools that can help them to produce stunning video. It was that principle that underpinned our early capture and playback cards, and the same is still true today.

And it was that ethos which saw us take the leap into camera manufacturing. We wanted to create something that made RAW workflows, with wide dynamic range capabilities a more affordable choice for all creatives. With more than a decade’s experience developing solutions for the post-market, we were in a unique position to achieve what no other manufacturer had.

How has the camera range developed?

We spend a considerable amount of time listening to customers from all walks of life; not just filmmaking, but live events, studio teams and broadcasters, and these conversations have been vital in our product development. This insight has allowed us to develop a range of digital film and broadcast cameras which deliver exceptional results in a variety of environments. The URSA Mini Pro is a perfect example. It combines stunning image quality and wide dynamic range, combined with professional broadcast controls, which allows it to be used by filmmakers, broadcasters or live events. For those wanting to deploy broadcast lenses, the URSA Broadcast allows news teams, live sports and broadcasters to have an affordable and effective camera chain that delivers ENG, field and programming work in Ultra HD. Our latest addition to the range, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K was launched at NAB 2018 and is the handheld camera that our customers have been asking for. As well as the wide dynamic range and MFT mount that its predecessor offered, the 4K version also features dual native ISO with up to 25,600 ISO for incredible low light performance. The BMPCC 4K also has the latest Blackmagic color science, which allows customers to shoot stunning images from a compact, handheld unit.

Where are the cameras being used?

Blackmagic Design cameras have been deployed a wide variety of feature productions, from this summer’s sci-fi thriller ‘The Darkest Minds’ and Siberia’ starring Keanu Reeves. In Germany, Sat 1’s late night talk show ‘Dinner Party’ is an URSA Mini Pro multicam production, and in the UK, BBC One dramas ‘Moving On’ and ‘Broken’ were both filmed with our digital film cameras. In terms of live events, the URSA Broadcast has already been deployed on major live music events, such as the X-Factor’s latest UK tour, and many of this summer’s festivals and concerts will feature URSA Broadcast camera chains to deliver high-quality big screen content at venues around Europe.A great example of the range’s flexibility is Mediahaus, based in Austria, who’ve invested in a multicam solution comprising 15 URSA Broadcast, URSA Mini Pro and Micro Studio Camera 4K. They work across all aspects of video production from live OBs to corporate events, and our camera range allows them to be more flexible and adapt to the varying needs, whether that’s an ENG B4 lens setup or a more traditional box lens configuration. Leonadis Sports Gala in Salzburg and the European Snow Volleyball Championships are two big jobs they’ve undertaken this year already.

What about accessories such as the Video Assist?

The Video Assist HD and 4K recorders have been very popular, across both consumer and professional customers. The combination of a bright display screen, combined with professional focus and exposure tools mean that users can accurately monitor their video footage, whether that’s with one of our digital film cameras or a DSLR.  We’ve continued to add features to the Video Assist range, including 3D LUTs and a wide range of recording formats, which allow the files to be ready for editing and grading in a variety of post-production software, making it an extremely functional and high-quality product within our camera range.