The Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera Journey and Troy Ramey Music Videos
Updated on May 11, 2016, 12:37 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
There are two simultaneous stories I want to go into over the course of this posting: 1) the story of the two Troy Ramey music videos, and 2) all about the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera evolution. The two go well together because each was shot with a different camera in the evolution of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera Lineup. The first music video utilized the first Blackmagic Camera, which was the 2.5K Cinema Camera EF, and the second utilized the latest camera in the lineup: the URSA Mini 4.6K EF. The two music videos were shot within a two-year span of time.
The 4K sensor Blackmagic Design Production Camera was out during the time when Rosary was shot. It was the Spring of 2014, and the devastation left over from Hurricane Irene (2011) was available for a portion of the rest of that year. Visiting many of the locations would reveal that the land has been cleaned up. I had been using the 2.5K for months leading into Rosary, and Andrew William Ralph (Director) had spoken to me about the idea of a story about the father and son for it where we would use that left over devastation to make a desolate The Road (2009) type of video. The honest truth is that at that time the 2.5K required a lot of third party accessories that made up the rig on the entire shoot. The images we got were amazing in the RAW format. The 13 stops of dynamic range did it all. I treated everything like I would have Super 16mm Film because the sensor size of the 2.5K was equivalent.
The other element of Rosary was time. We took three days to shoot half-day shoots to work around the young boy's schedule. We chose various locations across the state of Vermont. The 2.5K went through various different environments and settings that put it through it's limits. It performed wonderfully. The entire shoot consisted of more footage than the Owl City music video we did later that year. We edited it quickly within Premiere Pro with proxies, and had the pleasure to work with Ashley Neuhof as an editor on the project. When you watch it below keep in mind that this was the first camera made by Blackmagic Design.
Andrew and I were talking about doing another music video for Troy several months leading up to shooting Song Man. Before we knew what kind of winter it was going to be we talked about shooting with Troy playing the guitar in the woods with snow coming down around him. Sadly, it rained a ton this last winter and that did not occur to be possible. We spoke about alternatives to figure out what we wanted to do for the video, and right around the time I recieved the URSA Mini 4.6K to beta test, when we settled on making it a song about a last dance between our old teachers from the High School we attended. This is interestingly enough my 10-Year mark from graduating High School. A decade ago I only dreamed about shooting film, and digital was often knocked. The video came together with all WUHS Alumni contributing to the work.
Song Man became different in the form of limited time giving us a certain window to shoot the entire concept. We planned out our light scheme in the bar, ran out to catch the scheduled train at the hour we knew it would be coming through. It was late, by the way… sigh. We grabbed the opening shot with a single Dracast 500 LED light off to the side of Troy. We had one shot to get the shot. We nailed it, and drove back to the Tavern where we had shot the rest of the video. There we used 4 CHAUVET COLORdash Par Quad-18 lights to create the RED and BLUE light throughout the tavern, and 1 Source 4 up in the rafters pointing at Troy. The camera was shoulder-mounted for two speed settings of a single angle set up. The camera moved to slider shots and back to shoulder-mount shots as we moved quickly from one set to the next. We captured the whole video in a short span of time, and only took up about 360 GB of hard-drive space using RAW 4:1 compression.
RAW 4:1 was easy to work with in Resolve 12 Studio, and final export of the YouTube video happened with the Resolve 12.5 Studio Beta that came out after the music video was completed. Although, proxies files were made for Andrew to edit the video in Premiere Pro, the entire video was completed using Resolve for color and exports. The entire grade was done using the new 4.6K Color Space inside Resolve, and then the node structure allowed some paralell nodes to completely give the video a fine detailed grade. The 4.6K sensor gave a fantastic starting place, and that 15 stops of dynamic range worked wonders. There's even two 1600 ISO shots thrown in if you can spot them. Check out the video below…
The journey between the cameras...
The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K was the proper evolution from the original 2.5K design. It's big brother (URSA) was a great start for Blackmagic Design to answer a lot of requests, and it remains a great studio option. For portability the URSA Mini 4.6K is beyond easy to transport with as little as a backpack of gear. When compared to the 2.5K and all it's third party gear we had on Rosary the URSA Mini 4.6K would have been a dream camera to have because it's compact design is intelligently built to work with the Blackmagic Shoulder Pad Kit and the URSA Viewfinder. A design that is essential to making it ideal. I climbed up the side of a ski hill with a cinebag of gear, and a tripod to grab some of the shots in the following Beta Test videos. When I think of how far the sensor technology has come since Rosary, it becomes obvious that Blackmagic is on the correct path.
There's more coming to the camera thanks to 4.0 Firmware for the URSA Mini 4.6K, and it packs a whole lot of punch. If the original 2.5K had been built with the body of the URSA Mini it would have been fatastic with the current firmware. To have the 4.6K sensor and the 4.0 Firmware inside powering the extremely well crafted design of the URSA Mini means that the camera is a serious competitor in this market. I'm excited for where the future of the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera Lineup will go.
Using the new Resolve 12.5 Studio Beta has been a pleasure as well, and a lot of the Beta Test videos above were edited in Resolve 12 Studio and Resolve 12.5 Studio Beta. Shooting on Blackmagic Cameras and moving over to a Resolve editing platform is so natural now thanks to the 12.5 update. As Blackmagic Design continues to take the editing features forward the color grading tools remain the best in the business. However, the new color page improvements in 12.5 made the grading process even better. On Summit Dogs I played around with the compound nodes fuctionality and the node switching, and found it incredibly useful. The most difficult thing to still correct in Resolve is a flaw in the footage that is a lens flaw and not a sensor flaw. Chromatic Aberration showed up in the Summit Dog video, and shows up in many videos with lenses that don't correct for it.
I put the camera through it's paces during my beta testing phase. I took it out in tough to shoot Winter Weather, and it worked far better than the human counterpart can. The -17°F tests I did one night were of people walking into bars or back into a hotel in all natural light. The footage looks fine, but it ended up being nothing special to edit into because it doesn't have a good structure to go off of like the above videos. I didn't bother wasting hard drive space with it because what I did with obtaining the footage was the real test; to see how it performed in real freezing weather. It does better than humans.
The Gaper Day video was the first video I shot exclusively in UHD PRORES HQ. Grading that footage was a breeze, and it too was edited in Resolve 12 Studio. With all the extra flavors of PRORES at multiple resolutions and the coming DNxHR codec Firmware 4.0 should prove to be entirely everything we have all dreamed about for this camera. Working with the PRORES footage in any program is wonderful, and UHD at full sensor still looks fantastic even at 422 HQ. Since so many projects are so often shot in PRORES it makes going to RAW a special occassion. And working in RAW is the best possible option on this camera.
The journey that has been taken with Blackmagic Design products over the last two years has been incredible. From Rosary to Song Man, the evolution of the camera, and along with it DaVinci Resolve, has been truly inspired. It's an awesome time to be working in digital filmmaking.
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