Only two days ago was I inside the Blackmagic show truck at BVE complaining to Glenn the sales rep about how it has been impossible to get hold of a PL version of the URSA Mini 4.6k without just purchasing one. His eyes half sympathetically rolled around in his head as I went on at him about how it would be great to have the possibility of an anamorphic crop sensor at such a good price point for rental.
Alas, Glenn must have been instructed to keep his lips sealed tighter than a camel’s arse in a sandstorm, because low and behold I open my laptop this morning and what do I see? Blackmagic announce the URSA Mini 4.6K Pro with interchangeable mounts and built in IR ND filters.
At this point I’d like to publicly apologise for my badgering of Glenn. I guess there wasn’t really anything he could do to soothe my frustrations without breaching an NDA and being fired…
BUT FOR GOD SAKES BLACK MAGIC WHY WOULDN’T YOU JUST ANNOUNCE THE DAMN CAMERA AT BVE!!??
For ages now I’ve been battling with the thought of using the URSA Mini 4.6K. It’s damn cheap and has a variety of key features that make it really attractive. A Super35 sensor that captures 15 stops of dynamic range, a native ISO of 800, anamorphic crop recording, a great (B&W) EVF, a clear UI, SDI connection and RAW recording to name a few. It did however have a few hiccups and caveats which have kept it at arm’s length for me. No ND built in, the unavailability of the PL version to rent, that damn magenta shift issue on release and the fact that Blackmagic has taken some heat from users in the past for ‘testing’ their cameras on the adopters after they’ve purchased the release model, which as you can imagine is a bit worrying.
The Pro upgrade to the URSA Mini claims to address a lot of consumer issues from the standard Mini, with a whole host of new features and updates to the previous model, and if you’ve made it this far, you can probably understand why I’m pretty excited about this release. Here are my thoughts anyway, in order of significance:
Has Christmas come early? Is there a God? Has it been hearing my prayers? At long last my pilgrimage for the PL version of this camera may well be coming to an end. The ability to shoot anamorphic with real anamorphic lenses on a budget in any kind of practical way would be an absolute game changer. So many branded content clients are really buying into that truly cinematic documentary style recently and I’ve been grappling with ways of bringing that look to the table without having to worry about double focusing on conversion lenses or hacking a Canon DSLR.
Built-in Adjustable IR ND Filters
(2,4 and 6 stop) mean that I don’t have to get a matte box involved at the get go. This means it’ll be more commercially viable across the range budgets I get given for shoots.
ProRes 4444 XQ
ProRes 4444 XQ across the whole range of frame rates and resolutions means that I don’t have to worry about a heavier compression on my higher resolution images or higher frame rates. This will make things a hell of a lot more predictable in the grade and give me more confidence in the footage on set.
RAW 4.6K for under $6000
This is just insanity. You also get a copy of Resolve with the camera. No other manufacturer can offer this many features at this price point.
Digital Slate System
This means that you can log location, lens, date, time of day as well as all the usual stuff straight into the metadata. Obviously an analogue slate is useful for colour charts and as a fail safe, but the ability to just load the footage into Resolve and group clips according to the data set you choose is a really valuable tool.
Colour OLED EVF
I really liked the B&W model that came with the Mini, but if I had the option to have that in colour, boy would I.
Now, me complaining alone to rental houses and Glenn from Blackmagic isn’t going to make them take orders of the camera or get it into more houses. I understand that the price point of this camera means that they might not be able to charge the margins they’d want to for rental, and would also (and this may be even more influential) run the risk of undercutting and taking business away from ARRI and RED rental packages, especially for online content and indie productions. There’s no doubt that ARRI or RED have a certain level of influence in terms of the credibility and reputation that rental houses gain from stocking and loaning their cameras. If they were to suddenly say that they’d stop supplying certain houses that stocked the URSA Mini, I’m sure we’d see the URSA Mini rapidly vanish from these houses. I sincerely hope that’ll never be the case!
What I’m saying is that it is us, the users that ultimately have the responsibility of letting the rental houses know what we expect and what we want from them. After all, they’re there to serve our needs. From my experience they are more than happy to sit and listen to the opinions of even the small production teams and freelancers, because after all, even the largest companies had to start somewhere. Things will only change if we all make an effort to tell those who can start the wheels in motion, so start now!
There you have it. This could really be a remarkable leap forwards for Blackmagic, and something to really get the attention of RED and ARRI. All they need to do now is have this release go off without a hitch and get some big productions and user tests under their belt and they’ll be biting at the heels of the traditional big boys.
Sorry again, Glenn.