Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media presents the short video, “SALON” in a production-style shoot using the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K EF. As a beta tester of the camera for Blackmagic Design, he has been granted permission to release this video for public viewing.
I’ve been lucky enough to be a beta tester of the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K. From the moment I got my grubby hands on it, I knew this camera (and more specifically, the 4.6K sensor) was something special. I’m not allowed to go into specifics into the performance of the camera and sensor just yet, since the camera is still technically under beta and I’m under NDA. But I can say this sensor is by far one of the easiest and best sensors I’ve ever worked with at any price level.
If you got a chance to read my very detailed article last year on the 4.6K sensor (and my social media comments), you may remember me saying how the sensor feels similar in nature to the ARRI Alexa sensor. Everything I felt about the sensor back then still holds true today. Without question, the 4.6K sensor is one of the easiest sensors I’ve ever lensed projects with. I feel as though the footage I bring into the computer to work with doesn’t require as much finessing to get the image dialed in. This includes both RAW and ProRes files. And even if you catch yourself under/over-exposed, there’s a ton of latitude to bring the image back where you need to. Likewise, the sensor is very forgiving because of its latitude, again, somewhat similar in nature to that of the ARRI Alexa sensor.
As I’ve said for many months now: this sensor is the real deal. It’s just so easy to work with and the latitude and detail is insane. To me, it’s not just about being a great sensor for a base camera starting at only $5k, it’s really about being a great sensor at any price.
Although I’ve been using the URSA Mini 4.6K on various real-world productions at this point (since late 2015), our video, “SALON” was a project that we shot on our own time where we could release the footage publically. In a mad rush to figure out a shooting concept, my co-director, Suzette Mariel, came up with the idea to shoot in a salon. I thought it was a fantastic idea because I knew I wanted to (A) shoot in an interior location using production lighting and (B) shoot something that could make use of overcranking at 60 FPS for conformed slow-motion. I will say that glamour photography is one of the more difficult types of productions to undergo, especial in motion picture where you have moving highlights and shadows in the areas of interest (like the face), but I felt we were up to the task! Thanks to our friend, Stacy Langon Monroe, she graciously allowed us to shoot her in her salon with model, Tamara Lawrance, all of which was completely last-minute, so a HUGE thank you to them.
Because we were shooting in a live environment with actual salon clients getting their hair styled/cut in our immediate proximity, we had to shoot this incredibly fast. In all, we shot within a 3-hour window of time, which meant we were moving extremely fast between takes for different angles and actions. Juan Ruiz was my 1st AC to help keep things moving along. In terms of the shooting crew, it really only consisted of Juan and myself to manage lighting and the camera. In short, this was an absolutely small crew on a small set, in what felt like run-and-gun fashion. There were some shots I wanted to add, but we just didn’t have enough time. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with the shots we got and I didn’t feel the camera lacked in performance at all, even though we were rushing. It was actually a good test to see how well both crew and camera could perform under stress and in the end, everything worked out great.
Although this type of shoot doesn’t look like there’s a lot of dynamic range going on in the shot, there was in fact a lot. I think the beauty of this sensor is that the overall range is so incredibly smooth that you don’t really see how powerful it’s doing the job. The highlight rolloff is so smooth that you easily miss it if you’re not looking for it. Even little things, like the candle tips have their own subtle smoothness about them. Most any other camera would clip at the candles (and if you exposed for the candles on a lower-DR camera, the shadows would undoubtedly suffer). Overall, there’s really no blotchy clipping you’d otherwise get with a normal-DR sensor. Even some of the mirrors on the walls in the shots have reflections from the exterior windows: something that would produce a big white blotchy mess on a low-DR sensor but not so with the 4.6K.
The 4.6K sensor is like having the best things about the BMD 2.5K sensor (DR) and the 4K sensor (resolution), but better and with even more DR, resolution, functionality and power. As mentioned in my article last year, there is no dreaded black hole sun spots, no FPN, and definitely no moiré or aliasing. The noise floor is clean and organic. There also doesn’t seem to be a color bias. Everything is just downright clean.
Post-production was performed in DaVinci Resolve from start to finish. I shot this in Cinema DNG 4:1 RAW to maximize IQ and DR while keeping file size to a minimum. It’s an awesome format: I have yet to see any compression artifacts (even when pushing the footage) and even at 60 FPS, the files record without a single skip or glitch. I brought a bunch of CFast 2 cards just in case, but ended up only using one Lexar 256GB card (my CFast 2 card of choice) and only partially full. And because this was done in Resolve, the files just pop right in and I immediately work between editing and grading with the 12-bit RAW footage; no proxies, no round-tripping, no wasted time. No question, this is one of the most powerful all-in-one solutions I’ve seen come along in the film/video industry. It’s just downright cool.
We used our Flanders Scientific monitors for this shoot; the BM 210 on a light stand for large viewing and a BM 090 on the URSA Mini itself. This monitor combo is truly fantastic and I love using them on set.
In some cases, I needed to ditch the AC power so I used our Switronix HyperCore 98 gold mount batteries and like always, they powered right through huge draw (powering the URSA Mini, the OLED EVF, the Wooden Camera C-Box, and the Flanders Scientific BM 090 simultaneously). I can’t say enough great things about these batteries (stay tuned for an upcoming review).
Well, I’ve already written more than I had planned for a quick “briefing” of the video. I’ll be writing added details once the camera is no longer in beta. Likewise, I’ll discuss details about the shoot itself, including behind-the-scenes, rigging, optics, and more.
And to answer the elephant in the room… I wish I knew when the 4.6K was going to be publicly released, but I just don’t have that information. But I will say this: It’s worth the wait!!!
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