Third-party vendors made a great show at the Blackmagic Design Meet this year. Many vendors displayed existing technology, but there were a few newer and exciting products.
LaCie exhibited their Thunderbolt 2 products. The new 5big Thunderbolt 2 runs at 1050 MB/s and includes a RAID 5 controller. This makes the 5big both safe and fast. The 8big Thunderbolt 2 was not present at the show and has temporarily stopped shipping due to production issues. Once back on the market, the 8big will bring speeds of up to 1330 MB/s with six separate RAID configurations in a rack mountable unit.
Also of interest is LaCie’s Little Big Disk, which they claim is the fastest external drive in the world. It clocks in at 1375 MB/s. The Little Big Disk is fitted with two PCIe SSDs preconfigured in RAID 0. LaCie claims the Little Big Disk could be faster, but Thunderbolt 2 holds it back.
Corning’s long-distance Thunderbolt optical cables were at a few booths. A single cable will work with both Thunderbolt and Thunderbolt 2 hosts. The cable is water resistant, can be tied in knots, and does not emit toxic fumes if lit on fire. So how do they get an optic cable to work with non-optic connectivity? Each connector has a custom built circuit to encode and decode an optic signal.
All three big Non-Linear Editors made a showing. Apple showed off new ProRes 4444 XQ footage from the Arri Amira in Final Cut Pro X. I never made it to the Premier booth. The gentleman at the Avid booth demonstrated how to handle native media in Media Composer 8.
Grant Petty is a big third-party advocate, which was made apparent at this year’s meet.
Many new and exciting technologies were demoed at this year’s Blackmagic Design meet. While definitely not a mainstream product, my favorite item at the show was the Cintel Film Scanner. If you ask me, it could not have come at a better time.
Film based production has decreased over the last few years. A lot of brick and mortar post houses have stopped developing and scanning film. However, there are still people who are in love with the look of film and enjoy the process. The Cintel Film Scanner is a revolutionary product at a great price. Coming in at $30,000, the Cintel Film Scanner could be a great solution for smaller post houses, film labs, film schools, or boutique production houses.
The Cintel Film Scanner can scan either 16mm or 35mm film to UltraHD in real time. Using Thunderbolt 2 connectivity, an 11 minute reel of film can be scanned in 11 minutes. Film can be scanned to either ProRes or Cinema DNG formats. Color adjustments can be made on the fly, including light color.
There are a few drawbacks. For one, it is using a CMOS sensor and only works in a 4:2:2 color space. The sensor is likely similar to that used in the URSA and Production 4K cameras, so the full latitude of the film is unlikely to be fully preserved. However, film already compresses the contrast of a scene during capture. Therefore, the image rendered through the Cintel could potentially retain detail in highlights and shadows more effectively than the Production 4K camera.
Despite a few drawbacks, the Cintel Film Scanner is perfect for the independent film market. It is a great value for post houses that want to provide film scanning services without a huge upfront investment.
The Blackmagic Meet in Burbank, CA was much busier this year than last year. That’s probably because of the URSA. While Blackmagic has been making cameras for a few years now, the URSA is the first to have most of the bells and whistles required for day to day production. I had the chance to play with the URSA for a good five to ten minutes. While there were a few things missing in the current build of the firmware, the URSA seems to be a huge improvement for Blackmagic. The ability to swap batteries is a godsend. The three monitors are also quite exciting.
Another attendee and I worked on separate sides of the camera for a bit. To my surprise, changes to the touchscreen menu on his side updated in real time on my side. Being on the Camera Assistant side, I was glad to see that I could use Peaking on my monitor without affecting the Camera Operator’s monitor.
There are a few opportunities for the URSA to be better. For one, none of the existing monitors are going to be great in the sun. It really needs an electronic viewfinder. While these can be purchased from third-parties, they are not cheap. Another issue with monitoring is control over the SDI send. Currently, to change between Film and Video gammas on an SDI connected monitor, one has to change the recording gamma. There is a separate display gamma setting for the three monitors on the camera. Hopefully a future version of the firmware will allow separate adjustments for the SDI out.
Brand new at the Blackmagic Meet was the Blackmagic Camera 1.9 firmware update. The update brought a screen histogram, time remaining indicator, audio meters, and improved sensor calibration to the Production 4K camera. One of the Blackmagic representatives assured me that, while the firmware for the other two cameras was not ready for the show, it is coming soon.
One Blackmagic representative mentioned that the turnout for the meet was much greater than they had expected. There was always a line around the URSA camera. In the lecture hall, every seat was filled and many were standing the majority of the day. Growing crowds prove that the Blackmagic brand is gaining prominence among small and mid-size production teams.