Tag Archives: production

Major Firmware Update For All Blackmagic Cinema Cameras

Blackmagic Design cinema camera
Blackmagic Design

In addition to releasing DaVinci Resolve 11, Blackmagic Design has also released major firmware upgrades for all of their cinema camera models. The new firmware (v. 1.8) features an all-new code base for the cameras, as well as new user interface, compressed RAW DNG for the 4K production camera, greater performance at higher ISO levels, better focus peaking, and enhanced lens control, among other things. The update can be downloaded from Blackmagic Design’s support page, which has also had a nice redesign.

Here is the press release in full:

Fremont, CA – 24 June, 2014 – Blackmagic Design today announced the release of Blackmagic Camera Update 1.8 software which includes updated features for all Blackmagic Design cameras. Blackmagic Camera Update 1.8 is available now for download free of charge for all existing Blackmagic Camera customers from the Blackmagic Design support page on the website.

The new Blackmagic Camera Update 1.8 software features a completely new code base for all Blackmagic digital film cameras so provides a foundation for new features. This update supports the original wide dynamic range 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K.

This all new code base also improves performance and includes a new modern user interface similar in design to the new URSA camera announced at NAB. This new user interface is included in all models of cameras available from Blackmagic Design, allowing a nice clean fresh look.

Blackmagic Camera 1.8 adds compressed RAW DNG support for the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K model, and this allows RAW recording in real time so all sensor data can be captured allowing more range and much higher image quality when doing post production and color grading. DaVinci Resolve 11, also available today, fully supports RAW grading and rendering to final output direct from the RAW camera original files. This means customers get incredible first generation masters, with a solution that edits RAW files as easily and as responsively as a normal video file.

New features in this update include enhanced lens control support for EF lens mount cameras such as the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF and the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K models. This means customers can now get auto focus when pushing the focus button on active EF based lenses and the cameras will mathematically analyze the center of the image and optimize the focus for maximum sharpness.

This is important with high resolution 4K cameras where images are so sharp that accurate focus is critical for the best results. Because this update uses the focus button for auto focus, the focus peaking feature is now enabled by double pressing the focus button.

This release also improves the focus peaking display allowing incredibly accurate and super sharp manual focus, critical when using cine lenses. The focus peaking is now green in color so it’s much easer to see, and the filters generating the edge peaking have been optimized allowing for better detection and display for maximum sharpness. In addition, the iris control has been changed, due to customer request, to hold its setting between record and playback.

This new Blackmagic Camera 1.8 also includes major improvements for the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera models including improved audio performance and a completely rewritten new higher quality de-bayer processor. This new de-bayer means when customers record to normal video files such as ProRes or DNxHD they will get sharper and cleaner looking images. This new de-bayer processing features algorithms that have been incorporated from DaVinci Resolve, which means that Blackmagic camera customers get the benefit of DaVinci Resolve’s research and development in image processing and its partnership with major Hollywood studios.

Other benefits for the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera includes enhancements to the cameras dynamic range when shooting at 1600 ISO. This means, with this new software update, customers will get even more dynamic range and image quality, free of charge, even if they purchased their camera 2 years ago.

Improvements for the Pocket Cinema Camera are also included in this update, including the modern updated interface, new focus peaking and improved de-bayer quality, plus additional active MFT lens support for lenses including Sigma and Lumix.

‘We have been working very hard to incorporate camera feature requests that customers have been sending us’ said Grant Petty CEO Blackmagic Design ‘There are major changes and improvements in this update and we are very excited to see the wonderful creative work done with the benefit of this software. Of course, we are working very hard on more features we want to add into our cameras and you will see more and more of what we have been working on in updates that will be release over the upcoming months.’

Blackmagic Does It Again: 4K Production Camera Ships at only US $2995

Blackmagic Design 4K Production Camera
Blackmagic Design 4K Production Camera

Blackmagic has yet again thrown a wrench in the budget cinema pricing machine. BMD announced that their 4K, 12-stop, RAW-recording, production camera (complete with global shutter) is now shipping, at US $2995, a price that is a thousand dollars less than it was previously.

BMD will be selling these things literally by the truckload. I personally own the BMPCC, and adore it. It’s the sharpest sensor of any camera I’ve ever used, and the 12-bit raw color is to die for. Now, with this news of the even cheaper 4K camera shipping, I think I know what my plan for the future will be. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on one. Here is BMD’s product page.

Day Four of Arose The Coward

Last weekend was full of intense shooting for “Arose The Coward” using the Panasonic AF100, of course. Sunday was a particularly long day. Since I started using the AJA Ki Pro Mini, there has been an ongoing problem with it; every so often, it would freak out and delete clips, or spontaneously rename them. I FINALLY figured out why it has been doing this, and corrected the problem.

I thought of the solution while I was driving to set on Sunday. I was thinking about what could possibly cause these issues, and it hit me. When I bought my Fuji X100 stills camera, there was a known issue regarding downloading images from the camera to an iPad. When the SD card was reinserted into the camera, it would cause the X100 to freak out and become unresponsive for about thirty seconds. This was due to the fact that Apple iOS was saving hidden files to the SD card when it was inserted into the iPad’s card reader. This is not a new issue; Mac OS has always saved hidden files to media that is mounted onto the system. However, the Fuji didn’t know what to make of them, and this caused problems.

Habitually, when I’ve used the Ki Pro Mini on set, instead of reformatting the card in the unit, I would simply delete the files and then empty the trash on my Macbook Pro, because it was a lot faster. It dawned on me this weekend that that was probably what was causing the Ki Pro Mini to freak out; hidden files left on the CF cards by Mac OS.

So, I made it a point to always reformat the card in the Ki Pro Mini after dumping clips, and sure enough, the problem hasn’t resurfaced. Yay me.

Here are some shots from last weekend’s shoot:

AF100 on the set of Arose The Coward
Arose The Coward director Buddy Calvo checks playback in the viewfinder of the Panasonic AF100.
Panasonic AF100 on the set of Arose The Coward starring Anthony Guajardo of Walking Dead
The Panasonic AF100 rigged to a hostess tray to capture lead actor Anthony Guajardo (of The Walking Dead) during an outdoor walking scene.
Rigging the Panasonic AF100 onto the hostess tray
First AC Kevin rigs the Panasonic AF100 onto the hostess tray to capture lead actor Anthony Guajardo (of Walking Dead) during an outdoor scene.

Another Use for a BlackMagic Design Hyperdeck Shuttle

Many of you already know about BlackMagic Design’s new SDI/HDMI recording device, the Hyperdeck Shuttle. If you don’t know, then the short of it is that the Hyperdeck Shuttle takes an incoming video feed from either SD/HD-SDI or HDMI, and transcodes it to 10-bit uncompressed Quicktime on the fly, and writes it to a 2.5″ SSD drive. There are several good products that do this, but none that do it so cheaply, at US $350.00. I think the closest competitor is the Atomos Ninja at $995.00. What makes the Hyperdeck Shuttle so cheap is that fact that it’s so simple. No display, no menus (unless you’re using the computer interface app). Just standard record/play deck buttons to worry about, and you’re off to the races. Plug your camera in, hit record, and go.

The only drawback to the Hyperdeck Shuttle, in my opinion, and the only reason why I won’t buy one yet, is the fact that you have to hit RECORD manually; the unit will NOT detect time code from the camera and start on its own. When BlackMagic fixes this issue, I’ll probably buy two of the things. My friend Ed, however, DID buy one, and last week, we found another great use for it: acting as a real-time record backup unit for a TriCaster.

BlackMagic Design Hyperdeck Shuttle
BlackMagic Design Hyperdeck Shuttle recording from a TriCaster

If you don’t know, a TriCaster is a miracle machine made by the folks at NewTek. It is, essentially, a TV studio in a box. It takes in multiple camera feeds and allows the operator to switch, add titles, graphics, transitions, etc. and output a ready-made show while simultaneously outputting to a live web stream if desired, and it’s only the size of a small desktop computer case. However, the TriCaster does have one very annoying trait (at least the model I have): Once your show is finished, instead of copying the final file off of the machine’s internal hard drive for delivery to the client, you have to actually PLAY the file out from SpeedEdit in whatever format the client wants, just like you were writing to — shudder — tape. You can’t copy the original AVI from the hard drive because it is written in some proprietary NewTek codec, and it can’t be played unless it’s on the TriCaster, or at least, taken into SpeedEDIT.

But, thanks to the Hyperdeck Shuttle, we have a workaround. Simply take the TriCaster’s HD-SDI out feed, plug it into the Hyperdeck Shuttle, and hit RECORD. While the show is in progress, the Hyperdeck Shuttle writes the program to a .mov file on the SSD, which you can then simply hand to your client when the production is over. Just bill the cost of the SSD into the job, and you’re golden. DON’T leave it up to your clients to supply the drive; they will inevitably cheap out and think that a slower drive is just as good, and you will end up with an SSD that isn’t fast enough. You should have a drive that can sustain a 250mb/sec write speed, especially if you are recording an HD feed.

On Set: AF100 Commercial Shoot

shooting in bright sun sucks.
I love shooting in bright sun </sarcasm>

I had a job last weekend, directing and shooting a commercial for a prominent local plastic surgeon. The client wanted a cinematic look, with models in various scenes shot in a fancy house. Check. With my 1AC, Dave Novak, and Supergrip Greg Ventura, we knocked it out in what ended up being a really fun day of shooting.

Since the client wanted a cine look, I of course used my Panasonic AF100 to shoot the spot, relying on Zeiss primes and a Canon 16-35/2.8 L II to refract the light for me. Footage was recorded via HD-SDI to an AJA Ki Pro Mini.

AJA Ki Pro Mini in action on a Panasonic AF100
AJA Ki Pro Mini, powered by an Anton Bauer Hytron 140 brick.

The client wanted everything to be in slow motion, so in order to get the footage onto the AJA recorder, I had to shoot in 720/60p and convert to 30p in post, as the Ki Pro Mini does not support variable frame rate mode… yet. Hopefully a firmware update will fix that problem soon, and yes, it is a problem. To be fair though, I don’t know of a recorder that does support 1080p/60 yet, although I think the Cinedeck might. At $10k though, I’m not even going to bother to go to their website to check.

Since I knew the client was going to want a significant amount of post processing, I wasn’t about to record to AVCHD; I had to go 4:2:2 out to the Ki Pro Mini.

The shoot went really well, and I’m very happy with the results. The best thing about this shoot is that this job allowed me to pull the trigger and order my copy of DaVinci Resolve, so I can finally update my color grading capabilities into the 21st century. It should arrive Friday. I can’t wait to try it out on this commercial!

BTW, I learned on this shoot that although they are of the finest glass, Schneider filters still won’t survive a fall onto a large rock. Take that wisdom with you into the future.

 

Panasonic AF100 on location in San Antonio
Panasonic AF100 on a Dana Dolly, on location in north San Antonio.
A rough frame grab from the shoot with the AF100. Lens: Zeiss ZE 50/1.4 Planar.
A rough frame grab from the shoot with the AF100. Lens: Zeiss ZE 50/1.4 Planar.

Directing a commercial shoot with the Panasonic AF100.Yours truly directing a commercial shoot with the Panasonic AF100.
Dropped Filter Blues
This is what a guy looks like when he's fuming about having just dropped his Schneider 4x4 Tru-Pol filter on a rock.