Grant Petty, CEO of Blackmagic Design, hosted a product update this week, introducing two new cameras, four new HyperDeck Recorders and several other interesting products that will be coming soon.
As a live streaming producer and partner in a live streaming company, I thought that Blackmagic Design’s product release announcement in late July was worth examining.
Regardless of where your job may fall in the production, you should be aware of what’s happening in live streaming, simply because, since the beginning of 2020, live streaming has soared in popularity and appears to be making inroads into the overall production landscape. After years of prognostication that TV and the internet were on their way to melding together into a new sort of media segmentation, the pandemic and subsequent quarantine worldwide seem to have been the nudge that was needed.
I’ll be upfront that I’m a great admirer of what Grant Petty and Blackmagic Design have done as a company over the past few years. Blackmagic Design isn’t a Sony, Canon or an Apple, they’re a unique amalgam of two or three different business models in one. They make very capable utility boxes that many in the industry use to change video formats and interface standards, they have also been building interesting, if quirky, cameras for quite a few years and to top all of that off, Blackmagic Design also created Resolve, an editing, color correction, sound and visual effects suite of products that have been ascending in popularity. Blackmagic Design has also introduced their own compressed RAW format, BRAW, which not so coincidentally functions very nicely within Resolve. None of their competition has nearly the product spread that Blackmagic has.
Blackmagic Design Live TV/Streaming Tools
A subset of Blackmagic Design’s digital cinema cameras like the Pocket 4K, Pocket 6K Pro, Ursa Mini Pro G2 and the Ursa Mini Pro 12k, Blackmagic has been selling live broadcast cameras for quite a while too. Two days ago, Grant Petty live streamed a new product update that was squarely centered on live TV/live streaming, introducing two new cameras, rear lens controls, a camera control unit (CCU) and four new HyperDeck Recorders as well as a new Web Presenter 4K. Since NAB has been delayed until October 2021, many manufacturers who have new products to release are forgoing introductions at NAB and releasing their new products when they see fit.
There were too many new products to devote a lot of space to each one, but I’ll make mentions of each new product and what I found notable and interesting about them. Many of these products replace current Blackmagic products with mostly new feature sets, although a few of the products controversially lack features that the current products have while adding new features which may or may not appeal to you. Let’s take a look at what Petty announced this week.
Blackmagic Design Studio Camera 4K Pro – $1,795
This new camera adds some refinements to the current Blackmagic cameras like carbon fiber reinforced body and an integrated 2,000 nit 7” touchscreen with a versatile sunshade/hood. Much like the current Studio camera, this new model still utilizes an M43 imager, although Blackmagic have tweaked the output to perform better in lower light than the old M43 sensor in the current generation cameras. The camera is also capable of recording Blackmagic RAW to an external SSD. All of these features come in at $1,795.
Here’s a laundry list of some of the other improvements:
- Carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate chassis.
- Up to 25,600 ISO for improved low light performance.
- Native 4K sensor with 13 stops of dynamic range.
- Compatible with a wide range of popular MFT lenses.
- Large 7-inch high brightness viewfinder.
- Includes 12G-SDI, HDMI and 10G Ethernet connections.
- Single 10G Ethernet allows SMPTE fiber style workflow.
- USB-C port allows recording directly to external disks.
- Features incredible quality Blackmagic RAW recording.
- Built-in stereo microphones with wide separation.
- Professional mini XLR inputs with 48-volt phantom power.
- Includes tripod mount for quick location setup.
- Powers by 12V or Ethernet connection.
- Includes Integrated Tripod and 15mm rail mount.
- Integrated large Tally Light System.
I’ve used the existing Blackmagic Design studio cameras. They have some nice features and this new version ups the game on many of those features, adding a very useful new feature set to the package. In my experience, the current generation cameras are poor performers in lower light, a fact that I attribute to the use of an M43 sensor.
I was disappointed that Blackmagic Design has decided to stick with the M43 sensor size, even though they have improved its low light capability, but I’d like to get a hold of one for testing to see how much it was improved. I’m a fan of S35 sensors, but integrating one into this design would have made the camera larger, even though it would likely have superior low-light capability. S35 would have also undoubtedly raised the cost significantly as well, and at $1,795, this camera is aimed squarely at budget users.
Blackmagic Design Studio Camera 4K Plus – $1,295
This camera retails for $500 less than the 4K Pro model by basically eliminating a lot of the more professional protocols and interfaces like SDI. This lower-end version also substitutes a lower-end monitor than the Pro with less brightness and resolution. All of these features come in at a mere $1,295.
Here’s a laundry list of some of the other specs that differentiate the 4K Plus from the Pro. The Plus is designed for those utilizing the HDMI input ATEM Mini models whereas the Pro seems to be aimed more at pro users who are utilizing a 12G SDI workflow:
- The 4K Plus only has HDMI output, no 12G SDI like the Pro.
- 5mm audio input, no XLR audio inputs like the Pro.
- The 4K Plus lacks the 10G Ethernet Video i/o.
The Blackmagic Design Studio Camera 4K Plus is basically a simplified version of the 4K Pro and will be perfect for those who are plugging their camera(s) into an ATEM Mini Pro switcher. If you’re live streaming/broadcasting in a higher-end professional environment like a TV studio, the Pro model will likely better suit your needs.
HyperDeck Recorder Lineup
Blackmagic’s HyperDeck recorders have always offered a lot of features for the money. They’re small, economical yet fully-featured full rack and less than half-rack units. The new units add some powerful new features but omit a few that current users may be used to, so read the specifications carefully if you’re updating from or adding a new model to your current configuration.
HyperDeck Studio Mini – $495
This unit totally updates the prior version with faster uploading, a timecode generator, a USB3 output for recording to flash drives, and the ability to stack multiple units for extended or ISO recording. It retains the reference generator, HD/SDI monitor outputs, and dual media slots of its predecessor but has 3G-SDI instead of 6G-SDI outputs.
HyperDeck Studio HD Plus – $695
Expanded to a 1/2 rack size (from 1/3 RU), the new HD Plus has a larger form with easier to use front panel controls, 6G-SDI input/output and an HDMI input compatible with the ATEM Mini and consumer-style cameras. The Studio Plus supports a new space-saving H.264 SDI format and can output up to UHD 4K30 in select file formats. Multiple units can be looped for control via the reference and timecode interfaces.
HyperDeck Studio HD Pro – $995
Designed as a replacement for both the HD Studio and Studio Pro models, the 6D-SDI HD Pro retains the dual SSD drives, dual SD card slots and dynamic recording light indicator of its predecessors. It adds new formats, onscreen overlays, faster internet, and new control options. It also sports a new search dial (control wheel) with a solid-feeling mass and a clutch that offers shuttle, jog and scroll modes for comfortable, precise footage and menu control.
HyperDeck Studio 4K Pro – $1,495
For top-of-the-line recording, go for the 4K Pro model. It’s identical to the HD Pro in form, but the 4K Pro ups the ante with 12G-SDI input and offers redundant AC power supplies plus a DC power input. The dual-link 12G outputs provide 4:4:4 playback capable of handling graphics overlays and H.264/H.265 file playback from computer inputs. A future software update will add 10G internet and faster USB Type-C interfaces.
At our studio, we already own and use the current HyperDeck Studio Mini, and it’s proven itself to be a useful tool that we mainly utilize for back recording for our live streams. A built-in TC generator and the capability to record to small SSD drives instead of only SD cards are both desirable new features. Moving up the line, the HD Plus seems like a winner for those who are dipping their foot into 4K workflows with the 6G SDI ability to support UHD at up to 30p. The HD Pro and 4K Pro go to the full rack-mount size but add new transport and visual indicator features, and the redundant powers supplies in the 4K Pro are intriguing.
If you’re in the market for an external recorder for almost any task, the HyperDecks all offer sophisticated capability at pretty low cost with some very handy features. The addition of headphone jacks and internal speakers make these invaluable tools for live stream or TV production monitoring as well.
What Do These New Products Bring To The Market?
Blackmagic Design has been an astute observer of market trends, and their product lineup reflects where they think the market is headed. If you compare these new products to what else is in the market, they really all are unique. Sony, Panasonic and Canon either don’t make products like these newly announced cameras and recorders or if they do, the big three only offer these tools in old-school broadcast configurations that cost many times the price points Blackmagic Design is hitting. The live streaming market has exploded in popularity, and these products are well positioned to capitalize on what the market is demanding.
I can nit-pick and say that the market for M43 sensor cameras definitely isn’t what it was a few years ago. The current market is very much demanding full frame and even larger sensors, but that’s mostly in the context of digital cinema cameras. These cameras are not digital cinema cameras, so the use of the M43 sensors probably isn’t as big of a deal to the audience who will buy them—live streamers, houses of worship, YouTubers and other users in this realm. The HyperDeck Recorders are useful in a wide variety as camera ISO recorders, master program out recorders, for playback, live signage and IMAG playback as well. Overall, Blackmagic seems to be redefining the live streaming/live TV space pretty well with these new products, and the big three should take note. It will be interesting to see if Sony, Canon and Panasonic just continue with business as usual or if they react to this new strategy Blackmagic Design appears to be addressing.