Blackmagicdesign Hits Home With Hot New Gear

Yesterday, one of the spearheads of democratization of video production, Blackmagicdesign from Australia, released a host of new products in their livestream on camera gear and Davinci Resolve. The hot stuff we’re talking about is two new grading panels, called the DaVinci Resolve Micro and Mini panel, plus an updated version of the URSA Mini, called the URSA Mini Pro. It’s exciting to see Blackmagic advancing their palette of affordable products that enable even more people to produce high-quality video content.

The Micro Panel

With two new budget color grading panels, Blackmagicdesign enters the market for budget grading panels that was previously dominated by competitors Avid (with the Avid Artist Color) and Tangent (who fielded the low-priced, barebone Ripple controller last year). The monstrous DaVinci Resolve panel with the ultra-premium price tag of about 33.000€ now becomes the “Advanced panel”, with two smaller panels below it. The smallest and least-expensive is the “Resolve Micro Panel”. It comes with the standard set of three trackballs and dials for default three-way color grading. Furthermore, it has a host of transport and look management controls as well as twelve “precision machined control knobs for accessing all essential primary color correction tools”. Among those are nifty Y-channel-only lift gamma gain controls (“LGG” as Dale Grahn puts it in his interesting interview at The Colorist Podcast). Also, with the new DaVinci panels comes a feature not before seen in the Advanced Panel. Customizable key mappings. While, certainly, the Advanced Panel has enough keys for most any function, with the more restricted number of control surfaces on these smaller panels, allowing for personal key mapping seems a worthwhile new feature.

The Micro Panel, as well as its two larger siblings, is made of aluminum and is described by Graham in the webcast as heavy compared to competition panels. My personal experience with Avid Artist Color is that the cheapo plastic feel actually detracts from that panel’s user experience in a significant manner. Considering the price point of USD 995$ for the Micro Panel compared to the about 1400$ you have to pay for the Avid Artist Color, it remains to be seen which of the two competitors feels better.

The Micro Panel is powered via USB and can thus be run off a laptop on set, no extra power cables required. That is certainly a neat feature for a DIT setting.

The Mini Panel

This middle-of-the-line new grading panel is probably most comparable to the Tangent Wave. It looks like the LGG controls and knobs are actually similar to the Micro Panel. However, the Mini panel comes with two “bright full-color displays allowing full control over the massive creative toolset built into DaVinci Resolve”. Each display appears to have four knobs and buttons associated with it to manipulate in detail various functions of Resolve. And that’s pretty much it. The Mini Panel comes at a price point of USD 2995$, roughly three times the price of the Micro. And that’s pretty much it.

Except for the added displays and controls, the only other significant difference seems to be the connections and power supply options: you have a choice of running the panel via USB power, via 4-pin XLR 12V camera-style connection, a standard IEC320 cold-device plug or ethernet PoE. Speaking of ethernet, compared to the Micro Panel, the Mini also supports connection via ethernet, enabling you to hook it up to your production facility network.

The URSA Mini Pro

I don’t want to dive deep into the specs here before we see any tests, it looks, however, as if Blackmagicdesign have heard the cries of camera folk all over the world and added back in buttons for things such as white balance, ISO, audio routing, audio levels and more. Many of such features were previously obscurely placed in the touchscreen menu. Last September at Photokina in Cologne, it took me a few minutes to change the white balance on the URSA Mini and I actually had to go and get the help of one of the lovely Australian sales reps to do it. Let’s hope that this is different on the Pro.

Other new features include a built in ND-filter (ND .3, .6 and .9) and a new LCD display on the operator side displaying vital camera information such as timecode, FPS, shutter angle, ISO, white balance, iris, memory card info, audio levels, and battery status. The Pro comes with a 4.6k sensor advertised at over 15 stops of dynamic range shooting up to 60 FPS. The Pro will record on SD or CFast2 cards and also come with a host of accessories, much like the URSA Mini. And that’s it about the new Blackmagicdesign camera. It’s going to be interesting to see the first tests coming out soon.

Other Gadgets and Tools Fresh Off The Shelves

Earlier in 2017, Blackmagicdesign had already held a press conference presenting new gear on the live-production side of things. With my current job working in postproduction for a German online TV series, we’ve had to do live streams as well to promote our show. Two products that were released recently came to my attention and I honestly believe these solve real problems for the growing world of low-budget live-streaming productions.

First, the Blackmagic Web Presenter is a tool so smart it is baffling. It is essentially an interface, but, one that pretends to be a USB webcam to your computer, while taking SDI & HDMI video inputs as well as XLR and cinch audio inputs. It comes at USD 495$ with the option to order the USD 85$ Teranex Mini Smart Panel, which basically makes it a two-channel live video switcher. All in one small, affordable box. With a USB cable. That works like a webcam. Sweet! I know how we’ll do web streaming from now on.

The final product I want to briefly talk about is the new ATEM Television Studio HD. This is similar to the ATEM switcher in that it takes multiple SDI sources and enables you to cut live between them by pressing the associated buttons on the front of the device. Basically a rack video mixer with haptics that doesn’t require (but can operate with) a dedicated control panel. It has various modes of operation, does all the expected things such as tally, syncing and has a little program monitor on the front panel, too. If we’d do multi-cam streaming, this would be our way to do it in the future.

That’s it for now

I’ve not posted in a while. This is mainly due to the workload we have in post production for our show. And while I’m super glad to have gotten a job straight out of uni, it can be tiring to churn out shows at the speed we are going at. Regardless, 2017 is shaping up to be an amazing year: in January I was happy to DP for a friend on his amazing short film, which I’m also scheduled to grade in a few weeks. Plus, two more grading projects are around the corner, both shot on ARRI ALEXA and also some 16-mm footage, which I’m super excited for. Basically, in the next few months, I’ll have plenty of stuff to talk about. Thanks for turning up again :)

Images courtesy of Blackmagic Design Pty. Ltd. 2017 and their media images.

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