Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K field report

Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro
Neal Romanek
User Report
August 11th 2017 at 12:55PM : By Neal Romanek

Italian production company LMC Vision gives their take on Blackmagic's Ursa Mini Pro 4.6K

LMC Vision was founded by three partners, Junior Lucano, Alessandro Mattiolo and Vito Custodero. Initially getting their start in local broadcasting, they, like many others, have embraced the digital revolution, constantly adapting and evolving their working practices to incorporate the latest technological developments into their day-to-day. 

Vito Custodero, LMC’s lead on broadcast, shares his thoughts on Blackmagic’s URSA Mini Pro, and offers some real world insights of the camera in action from a recent ENG job for SKY TG24 HD during the general election in Italy. 

Taking the plunge

“Over the last eight years or so we’ve worked across almost every segment of the creative video space imaginable, and, at one point or another, with most camera solutions currently available in the market today. Typically we’d use RED and ARRI for high-end production and Sony for broadcast projects. Recently, however, we had capital available to invest in a new camera solution, and we decided to take a chance on one that was brand new to us - the URSA Mini Pro.

It is a highly versatile piece of hardware and doesn’t require much in the way of rigging or third party accessories to make it a usable camera

We’ve always been satisfied with the products we’ve used from Blackmagic Design, whether it was their I/O cards, or the Video Assist 4K for off board monitoring and recording. And yet we’ve been hesitant until now to invest in their cameras. 

The decision to invest in the URSA Mini Pro was however ultimately driven by our desire to raise the overall quality of our productions and to do so without breaking the bank. That and the fact we realised just how versatile the URSA Mini Pro is, adaptable to the needs of a business which encompasses film and television, commercials and even ENG broadcast work. 

Three-in-one

It’s an incredibly mature camera from a technical point of view. You can readily modify the URSA Mini Pro for broadcast ENG work by using the B4 mount option, or switch to an EF/PL with zoom lenses for cine based work in ProRes. For shorts and commercial based work you have UHD in RAW 3:1 with an EF mount, or lossless film raw with a PL mount. And you can even control the camera remotely via Bluetooth, which is especially useful for users like us who frequently operate cameras on gimbals, cranes and steadicams. 

Comparing the camera with the likes of the C300 MKII, FS7 or Red Dragon we felt the dynamic range was truly exceptional, and the RAW files are incredibly robust. And while it may struggle in some lighting scenarios for ENG, it does indeed win in almost every other department when you factor in the price point. 

One aspect of the camera that has impressed us, in particular, is the visually lossless 3:1 raw

As I’ve already mentioned, it is a highly versatile piece of hardware and doesn’t require much in the way of rigging or third party accessories to make it a usable camera. That is always a consideration for us when we look at investing in a camera as you don’t want to have to spend thousands more to make a camera workable. 

The URSA Mini Pro is a nicely balanced piece of kit with the simple addition of Blackmagic’s shoulder kit and the URSA OLED viewfinder. The addition of external controls on the URSA Mini Pro also means core functionality is more readily accessible, which makes for a much better shooting experience. And when you remove all of the accessories, it’s very light at 2kg, which is a must if you want to use on a gimbal or Steadicam crane. 

One aspect of the camera that has impressed us, in particular, is the visually lossless 3:1 raw, especially when filming outdoors with high levels of light. The way it preserves highlight detail is awe-inspiring. But perhaps best of all is just how simple and easy to use the camera’s UI is - it’s clean, and features aren’t buried behind lots of sub-menus.

Field report

Recently we used the URSA Mini Pro on an ENG gig for SKY TG24 HD, providing regional coverage of the general election here in Italy. Paired with a Comrex uplink backpack, we shot in 1920 x 1080p50 and then converted to 50i output for live transmission (TX) via a 4G streaming bridge. 

We tested the cameras two different colour spaces: the first being film mode with an output LUT and some sharpening applied. We were impressed; however, we ultimately felt film mode was a little too soft for broadcast work in Italy, and so we went with video mode instead. The final image stood head and shoulders above anything else we saw that night on Sky's election coverage.

The LUT we created using DaVinci Resolve and a MacBook Pro following a few internal camera tests ahead of the broadcast. I would, however, love to have the ability to simply tweak LUTs in-camera, like fine tuning contrast or gamma levels for example. 

Our initial plan had been to monitor audio in-camera using a set of headphones connected to the via the URSA Mini Pro’s XLR inputs. Unfortunately, we encountered a small delay between the video and audio signals. It wasn’t much, but enough that we decided to mount a Video Assist 4K and monitored audio from our recorded output instead. It is still early days, but we’ve certainly been impressed by what we’ve seen in the latest camera offering from Blackmagic Design.”