Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K is a groundbreaking camera in features and in price

The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K is a groundbreaking camera in features and in price.

Is The Future About More Than Just Cameras?

I recently attended the webinar that Blackmagic Design held to make four new products announcements. I have to admit that I didn’t know what Blackmagic Design was planning on introducing, so I went into the webinar with a clean slate without any pre-conceived notions about what they were going to intro. The rumor sites and grapevine had been basically silent about much new coming from Blackmagic Design, so this webinar was looking to be quite interesting. I wasn’t wrong; the announcements were significant and kind of covered a wide swath of product categories, both in hardware as well as software.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
Announcing a 6K camera for $2,495, Blackmagic took a page out of the playbook known as a preemptive strike against competitor Panasonic with their $4,000 S1H 6K camera that won’t even be available until the fall of 2019.

A Preemptive Panasonic Strike?

As you’re probably aware, the big buzz from Cine Gear 2019 was Panasonic’s announcement of the S1H, a 6K FF mirrorless camera that will be available in the fall of this year. It will utilize Panasonic’s relatively new L lens mount, it’s 6K and has a lot of other tricks up its sleeve. The excitement was that the S1H looked to be the first native 6K camera in the $4,000 price range. Impressive, right? It looks as if Blackmagic Design CEO Grant Petty and company figured out a way to steal a lot of Panasonic’s thunder with the announcement of the new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K. It will sell for, wait for it…$2,495! Wow, kudos to Blackmagic Design, that’s a pretty impressive headline just for including the words Cinema, 6K and $2,495 in one breath. The other bullet points are:

  • 6144 x 3456 S35 Image Sensor.
  • 13 Stops Dynamic Range.
  • EF Lens Mount.
  • Dual Native ISO up to 25,600.
  • 5” LCD Touchscreen.
  • Internal Prores recording up to 4K.
  • 12-bit Blackmagic RAW in all formats up to 6K.
  • Built-in CFast and SD UHS-II card recorders.
  • USB C for recording to external SSDs.
  • Full-size HDMI for HDR and 10-bit output.
  • Mini XLR w 48v Phantom power.
Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K a 5” integrated LCD screen. Nope, it’s not a flippy screen.

A bit more about the rest of those 6K imager specs, it will shoot up to 50 fps at 6144×3456 16:9 or 60 fps at 6144×2560 2.4:1 and 60 fps at 5744×3024 17:9. For higher frame rates, you can shoot up to 120 fps at 2.8K 2868×1512 17:9. You can even work in true anamorphic 6:5 using anamorphic lenses in 3.7K 60 fps at 3728 x 3104.

Best of all, the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema 6K Camera is available now. Kudos to Blackmagic Design for announcing a shipping camera.

On to the next product announcement.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
A lot of the new features in Resolve 16.1 are in the Edit page.

They’ve Updated Resolve Again?

Blackmagic Design also announced DaVinci Resolve 16.1. The new features are focused mostly on the new cut page, which Blackmagic Design is continuing to work on in their goal to make it the world’s fastest editor, which as a FCP X user, I think they have their work cut out for them to claim that title as currently FCP X is by far the fastest editor on the market, followed closely by Resolve and AVID Media Composer with Premiere at the back of the pack as far as sheer editing speed.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
Resolve has always been a world a class color correction and grading tool and continues that tradition in version 16.1.

So What Did They Change?

Changes in the bin now allow customers to place media in various folders and isolate clips from being used when viewing clips in the source tape, sync bin or sync window. Clips will be seen in all folders below the current level, and as customers navigate around the levels in the bin, the source tape will reconfigure in real-time. There’s even a menu for directly selecting folders in a customer’s project.

DaVinci Resolve 16.1 Features:

  • New public beta allows us to continue development.
  • New updates allow editors to improve sorting of media.
  • Smart Indicator adds UI feedback for intelligent edit features.
  • New cut clip tool allows instant cutting of clips in the timeline.
  • New button changes on DaVinci Resolve Editor Keyboard.
  • Boring Detector shows areas of the timeline that lack interest.
  • New Sync Bin organizes and displays sync media for easy shot selection.
  • Close up edit mode now includes face recognition to better frame shots.
  • New sync window allows manual syncing of clips or audio-based sync.
  • Multiple other improvements in editing, color, Fusion and Fairlight audio pages.
Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
Resolve 16.1 is included free of charge with the purchase of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K Camera. See what Blackmagic design is doing there? Brilliant!

I personally can’t wait to put the “Boring Detector” through its paces. DaVinci Resolve 16.1 public beta is available now for download from the Blackmagic Design website.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
The Blackmagic Ultrastudio 4K Mini has a clean, simple front panel with a handy integrated LCD screen.

What Exactly Is An UltraStudio 4K Mini?

As you may or may not know, Blackmagic Design has a long history in building all kinds of cool, interesting and useful video convertor boxes of various types that do all kinds of cool, interesting useful things if you need to interface with, you know, real video tools like switchers for live television, projectors, recorders and other hardware.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
Available in three different configurations, the Blackmagic Ultrastudio 4K Mini will be useful in many different live and streaming workflows.

At $995, the UltraStudio 4K Mini is essentially a tool that gives you hardware connections to the outside world for editing, archiving from legacy old broadcast video decks (do you ever need to access HDCAM or formats like DVCPro or Digital Betacam?), outputting broadcast graphics to a switcher or even, most relevant for 2019, live streaming for webisodes, webcasts, Facebook Live and other streaming kinds of things. What has enabled all of this input/output power has been the advent and almost standardization of Thunderbolt 3.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
The Blackmagic Ultrastudio 4K Mini rear panel features a plethora of inputs and outputs.

Some key features of the UltraStudio 4K Mini:

  • Analog connections.
  • Broadcast quality 8- and 10-bit high dynamic range capture in all formats up to 4K DCI at 60p, and 12-bit high dynamic range capture in all formats up to 4K DCI at 30p.
  • Push Button Controls.
  • Built-in LCD for monitoring signal and setup.
  • XLR Mic input.
  • ¼” headphone output.
  • USB input for keyboard and mouse.
  • Built-in SD card reader.
  • Thunderbolt 3 interface for 40 Gb/s capture and playback.
  • 3 models available with both portable and rack mount options.
  • Ideal for edit monitoring, live graphics, archive and streaming.
  • 12G‑SDI, HDMI 2.0, YUV/NTSC/PAL video and balanced audio.
  • Supports 45W trickle charging to a connected computer.
  • Supports all SD, 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 2160p and 4K DCI formats.
  • Front panel with LCD, mic input, headphone and SD card slot.
  • Compatible with DaVinci Resolve for editing, color, VFX and audio.
  • Supports DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut Pro, Avid and more.
  • Includes support for Mac, Windows and Linux.

All in all, it seems like a pretty useful box that many users will find appealing for doing all kinds of different and unusual video workflows.

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
The Blackmagic RAW Speed Test will come in handy for many users. Yes, after years and years, it’s finally been updated!

The Finally Updated Blackmagic Design Speed Test?

Blackmagic Speed Test has been an industry-standard tool that many of us have counted on to check system data throughput for years. If you set up a new RAID and want to benchmark, the Blackmagic Design Speed Test has been an invaluable testing tool to get a real-world measurement so you know your new RAID’s speed capability.   

Blackmagic RAW Speed Test is a CPU and GPU benchmarking tool that users can use to test the speed of decoding full resolution Blackmagic RAW frames on their system. Multiple CPU cores and GPUs are automatically detected and used during the test so that customers get accurate and realistic results. Simply select Blackmagic RAW constant bitrate 3:1, 5:1, 8:1 or 12:1 and the desired resolution to perform the test. Although Blackmagic RAW Speed Test will run multiple resolution and frame rate tests on their system, customers can also select a specific test resolution to run on the main meters and the test will continue to run constantly, allowing stress testing of host computers.

Blackmagic RAW Speed Test Features:

  • Tests system performance of both CPUs and GPUs using Blackmagic RAW.
  • Blackmagic RAW based testing ensures more accurate performance results.

While not a huge new product innovation, the new Blackmagic Speed Test is a welcome new version that updates the older version with new tools and new capability. Also, it’s free on the Blackmagic Design website, which is very cool—who doesn’t like free?

Blackmagic Design: It’s All About Infrastructure
It’s difficult to know where our industry is going. Blackmagic Design definitely has an innovative business plan for how they’ll not only survive but also thrive in the new reality of video/digital cinema production.

What Does This All Mean For The Production Industry?

I don’t claim to be the Oracle of the video industry, but these new product announcements seem to indicate a few new ideas that occur to me about Blackmagic Design and their role within the industry. It’s 2019, and we have to acknowledge that video production is going through a lot of change right now. As predicted for the past few years, today we have amazingly sophisticated and capable products available that can do things that were inconceivable just a few short years ago.

What’s astounding is that we’re not only able to choose from all of these very capable products from dozens of different companies, we’re able to buy them for next to nothing. Products like the new Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema 6K camera must be giving the strategists and designers at Canon, Sony and Panasonic a lot of sleepless nights. I’d seriously question if it’s even worth introducing as many new cameras as these companies have in the past when the price floor is going so low for such high-end features. Sure, it doesn’t have built-in NDs and TC i/o exactly (although it does work with external TC generators like the Tentacle Sync Es!), but each new camera seems to include more and more professional-level features, so much so that the lines are blurring between consumer/producer and professional cameras quite a bit.

Time Travel

If you’d have told the average person in production that the hottest cinema camera in 2019 was a 6K capable, tiny, lightweight removable lens body that could record Prores at up to 4K and Blackmagic RAW at up to 6K, nobody would have believed that was possible. When you’d have told them that all of this could be had for a mere $2,495, they’d have shaken their heads. That’s significantly less money than a camera back accessory cost for your average cinema camera sold in 2010; for that money, you get the entire camera, add battery, lens and a media card and you’re shooting. It’s amazing.

The Bigger Picture

The other thing that I see Blackmagic Design doing is taking a page from the Apple playback of yore—they’re not becoming a camera company, and they’re becoming a system solution provider. Think about it, what other company in pro video/digital cinema makes the camera you shoot with, the editing software suite you edit with, the hardware interface that lets the editing program communicate with, ingest and playback almost any video format for live production, streaming and webcasting. They even make the benchmark software you use to optimize your GPU, CPU and drives/RAIDs. As far as I can think of, there’s no other company out there doing this, it’s smart, clever and makes great business sense. For the user, it’s a great benefit, Blackmagic Design is integrating their own version of RAW that works in their editing suite and there are several new features in Resolve that are specifically targeted to make it appealing to shoot with their new 6K, inexpensive camera.

It’s difficult to say what happens next in our business, but Blackmagic Design is making some bold moves that will put them into a powerful position against their competition. While I haven’t had my hands on the new Pocket Cinema 6K camera yet, I look forward to giving it a try and seeing what it can do for my own production pipeline. I’ve already been spending time in Resolve, so I look forward to trying out V16.1 too. Video production and digital cinema are headed into uncharted waters as far as the economic model, rates are down, production budgets are down, although the volume of production is up. Blackmagic Design has given users some valuable, affordable new tools to use in the reality of what’s happening in production.