....and with that mouthful of a title out of the way... Lets take a look at one of the most anticipated monitor / recorders that's come to market
Ahhh Blackmagic, the creator of delicious hardware, and it's almost nowhere to be found...Until today!
I rate Blackmagic products highly. When it comes to the URSA, there's a lot in there to like. Well built, lovely image, free resolve, and the inclusion of probably one of the most important things that's set to hit this year. Blackmagic Raw.
Unfortunately, for most in the production world, there are people who shoot in many different form factors and formats, but the race for 'best raw' codec is becoming a thing - and it'll come between 3 main players. Red, Apple and Blackmagic.
The lure of this video assist, is not only it's ridiculously bright screen, Prores recording, HDMI / SDI compatibility, and it's monitoring options. It's to introduce Blackmagic RAW to new manufacturers. Namely, the Canon C300.ii and the Panasonic EVA1 (sorry Sony, you'll get no love here)
You could then however, imagine my excitement when this monitor arrives on my desk on a relatively free Saturday afternoon.
....It was quickly destroyed however, but a description in the manual reading:
'Blackmagic Raw is unavailable at this time'
Sorry to lead you down a garden path there, but there's a lot to be desired in the monitor so I thought i'd explain that straight away and then go onto the hands on and shoot I've done to get a feel for the device.
There's no unboxing video or the like here - I was more focused on getting out and having a play.
The entirety of the hands on was shot on a Panasonic EVA-1.
There are pros, cons and a lot of comparisons between this and the Atomos Ninja V, which offers a lot of the same, just a little bit differently.
Both are pretty stomping little devices and if you're thinking of upping your workflow to get prores (or, in my case, a usable LCD on your camera...Sorry Panasonic) then both of these are monitors to seriously consider.
Build and I/O:
This particular flavour of the monitor is a 5 inch variety. Which offers the same UI as the 7inch, just with a few of hardware tweaks, the first comes with obviously a smaller screen than it's bigger 7 inch brother, the second comes in the form of Micro BNC vs a full fat BNC, and the final tweak comes in the form of SD card slots - the 5inch has 1, the 7 inch has 2 - Keep that in mind if you want to hot-swap SD media when filming.
Both monitors include an IN and OUT for both HDMI and SDI, perfect if you're on a rig and you want to loop in and out with waveforms with this rather than display a picture. Or if you're on a bigger set and you want to feed an images to someone else.
There's a headphone jack, 12v power and an amazing USB-C connector (for attaching SSD drives, much like how you can do with the BM Pocket 4k / 6k).
Build-wise , it's a lot more compact than the Ninja V, offers dual-batteries (Sony NPF) and has 3 mounting screws in the top and the bottom of the device.
I headed over to a shoot my good friend Andy Hoang (@andyhoangphotography) was busy setting up a shoot with a model for some portraits.
Once I'd set up, there wasn't much more, the thing was light and adaptable enough to mount comfortably with just one magic arm. The EVA is quite adaptable, so I didn't really have any problems. Inputting data like Reel, file name prefixes, loading LUTS, selecting formats and formatting cards took all of a few minutes, nice and simple.
- Panasonic EVA1
- AngelBird V90 128gb SD cards
- Sigma 18.35 f/1.8
- One Magic arm
- One HDMI
- 1x Large NPF 8800mAh battery
Internal on EVA-1 - 3840x2160, All-i recording - 25p & 50p
External on BMM - 3840x2160, Prores 422, SDI - 25p & 50p
I shot Prores and got about 35 odd minutes from the card. . The overall way you select formats and all that is typical Blackmagic, very easy to understand and use.
I also have a 512gb SSD (from Ninja V) - which I could plug into the usb-c (via adapter) which worked perfectly fine.
I didn't notice the thing get particularly loud, mind you, I wasn't really paying attention and we had music on. So I can't really make a case for physical noise.
EVA1 Setup with Blackmagic monitor.
The first rather disconcerting thing I noticed when matching the images up is a very strange orange colour cast.
If you take a look in this image here, you'll notice that the colour is way off. Almost unbelievably so.
Having gotten myself into a worry, I then loaded up the 'Nicest-709' LUT from Panasonic, and this seemed to disappear.
There was a great plug-n-play feel from the Ninja V - everything was super accurate out of the box. Which was very nice and very simple. I will note that there wasn't any of this alleged colour cast on the footage (I tested, and checked) so footage is safe, and although from a mild heart attack I'd just spend near enough £800 on a tool that may have ended up useless, I was a little relieved.
Admittedly (sorry EVA1 owners) the LCD that the EVA1 has isn't the best. In fact, it's pretty bad to cut a long story short, so I couldn't really tell if it was the EVA1's LCD or the monitor...
Annoyingly, on my unit at least, there was a very weird blue line running down the left hand side of the screen. I presume this is some sort of backlight bleed? I can't say I've seen anything like it before. It's worth noting that it didn't hinder the performance of the monitor, and to be honest it's not intrusive - and very, very easy to ignore.
So, there's a quick menu on the top right, which allows you to toggle peaking, false colour, zebras, and screen brightness. There's ANOTHER one to toggle waveform, vector, histogram and parades. It's a bit fiddly at first, I prefer the Ninjas menu where you can swipe at the bottom. It's not particularly counter-intuitive, but for me at least, there was a bit of muscle memory needed for certain tools.
In saying that, the user tools are amazing. The waveform can be overlaid onto the footage with no background, so I had a semi-translucent waveform over my footage. Not how I thought I'd shoot, but absolutely the most useful way (for me) to shoot - right there on the screen I could keep an eye on how exposed skin was and if I was clipping on a data level in real-time.
Swiping up or down on the screen also hides the UI, which took me longer than acceptable to realise - having not worked with these monitors before I feel like it's forgivable.
loading LUTs is as easy as you think it'd be, but for some reason toggling LUTS isn't in the quick menu. You must physically go into the settings to the tools menu and choose to toggle LUTS OR a clean feed on or off. I can't quite understand why they're not in one of those quick menus (maybe this is different on the 7 inch thanks to the screen real estate?)
I loaded in the Nicest-709 Varicam LUT - and looking at the image on that vs. the image that came out in Resolve on my editor, things were super, super accurate. No nasty surprises. I know the Ninja does some sort of 'legal range' stuff when shooting Prores - but to be honest I have no idea about what that actually is. But Things looked pretty dead on with this.
All images shot in Prores 422 from BM monitor.
The one battery I had (8800mAh) lasted 3 hours with on and off recording at 850 / 1600 & 2500 nit brightness (battery seemed to drain significantly faster when at 2500...who would have guessed) - mind you having 2 battery slots is extremely handy for those who film events - as I know hot swapping isn't an option on the Ninja.
I think even with another chunky 8800mAh battery, the thing still would have been light enough for it not to start causing problems with weight and balance.
All in all, I'm very happy with how the test shoot went. Having been involved with the larger budget shoots where there's OLEDS and Livegrade suites aplenty, the BM offers a smaller obviously lower budget, portable alternative that I'm pretty happy to use.
However, where the hell is my Blackmagic RAW?
For those interested, I decided to make my last 4 shots vertical to test the waters with things like IGTV, and just general content consumption on mobile phones - take a look at the video below:
Those eagle eyed viewers will ask 'but those screenshots above were all 16:9!' - yup, they definitely were, but having 4 shots and 30 seconds worth of footage, this ultimately took less time to make.