Blackmagic Meet 2014 – The URSA Experience

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.

IZ7C2204Another 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.