Working with the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K

The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K is an affordable cinema camera that raises high hopes among cameramen and filmmakers. Blackmagic Design’s attempt at creating a new custom made 4.6K sensor with a global shutter is said to deliver impressive qualities.

Our friend and fellow filmmaker Sebastian Wiegärtner had a chance to test the new Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K, shoot some crispy medieval footage and speak about his first impressions on the results. Like all other reviewers that were sent a 4.6K, unfortunately Wiegärtner was not allowed to share his observations about the camera itself. (Intro by S. Wöber)

The Maxima gimbal by FoMa with the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K

The Maxima gimbal by FoMa with the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K

One camera. One lens. One gimbal.

Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6KThis was the challenge for our Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K test shoot: I did not want to shoot another landscape video, so I decided to team up with my director Andreas Schultze and we developed a quick idea within a few hours.

Just two days later we had actors, costumes and everything we need for our improvised project. In two days we shot this little piece with zero budget, just two people behind the camera and three wild guys in front of the lens.

We had no artificial light, just the camera and a Carl Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 15mm. All the shots in the short trailer were done with the help of the Sachtler Artemis Maxima Gimbal, which I normally use for my feature film projects.

Size comparison: Red Dragon vs. Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K. The Ursa Mini is bigger, but it's a powerhorse.

Size comparison: Red Dragon vs. Blackmagic Ursa Mini 4.6K. The Ursa Mini is bigger, but it’s a powerhorse.

I can’t say too much about the camera right now, but we were all amazed after looking at the footage in the editing room. This camera seriously has some skills and working with it was a pleasure. It’s always great when you can’t feel the camera and you can focus on your project. We had no problems. The whole post production process was a joy and working with the new ProRes 4444 XQ codec gives you so much freedom.

For my next feature film project I’m using two ARRI Alexa Cameras for A and B camera and we always have a third camera for gimbal stuff with us. Guess which camera we are using this time? The Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K.

Shot on location in the Frankonian Swiss (Fränkische Schweiz – Heroldsbach, Bärenschlucht).

Director: Andreas Schultze
Director of Photography: Sebastian Wiegärtner
Music and Voice Recording: Martin Le Mar

YGGDRASIL starring Matthias Kellner, Jörg Martin, Chris Van Varenberg

 
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Bart van der Horst Reply
Bart van der Horst March 15, 2016

It is all great but since Arri, everything seems to look the same.

 Raffaele Di Nicola Reply
Raffaele Di Nicola March 15, 2016

That looks amazing! But still waiting for a release date…

Reply
Miderbin Isdurty March 15, 2016

This camera is horrible for gimbal use. The side LCD screen needs to be open to control settings and remove the CFast2.0 cards. The side of the gimbal camera cradle gets in the way so you’re lucky if you can open the door 45 degrees. You can’t rotate the LCD screen 180 degrees either. For heavier lenses you have to remove the rear battery plate and get creative as to where to place batteries.

Sebastian Wiegaertner Reply
Sebastian Wiegaertner March 15, 2016

This camera is perfect for gimbal use. We always use external monitoring solutions. Changing settings is something you are not doing very often. Probably you are changing ISO, that’s it. We had no problems with the Maxima Gimbal.

Martin Saer Larco Reply
Martin Saer Larco March 15, 2016

Excuse me, what other Gimbal works with the URSA mini…. the Maxima is nice but to much money.
thank…great video…just waiting for the release

Reply
John Brawley March 15, 2016

I’ve used it with a Movi M15.

JB

 Dan Henry Reply
Dan Henry March 17, 2016

Works with the Ronin-M no problem.

Reply
Tim Naylor Naylor March 15, 2016

Most people buying a Ursa Mini won’t be using a Maxima, but more likely a Ronin, Movi, Gremsy, etc. This is a big concern. Is there a way to adjust ISO, Shutter, FPS with out the LCD? For my uses which is a lot of gimbal work, this could be a deal breaker.

Sebastian Wiegaertner Reply
Sebastian Wiegaertner March 15, 2016

not possible so far. but to be honest: changing ISO, Shutter, FPS is something I do not very often during a project. On feature film projects for example I set the camera to ISO800 and light everything for 800. If I’m underexposed I light more and do not change ISO. But this is just my way of working. Of course documentary filmmaking is another story…Ronin should work with the URSA and a battery belt for example.

Reply
Luke P March 15, 2016

Amazing work Sebastian!Awesome mood and compositions. On a side note, it seems crazy that the gimbal is 3 times as expensive as the camera :D

Caleb Rasak Reply
Caleb Rasak March 15, 2016

Wow

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Tim Naylor Naylor March 15, 2016

There’s so much to like about this camera concerning codec, specs, color, etc. And there’re aspects that make me wonder what BMC is thinking. I wish they didn’t build in an LCD. Not only does it add more weight and bulk to the camera, but I see issues in being able to make adjustments and monitor battery, timecode, etc as well as swapping cards on a standard gimbal. It also seems like a candidate for some creative power solutions as well as it’ll probably be too long for V mount. Looks like velcro and lipos for this one.

Most cameramen, have their own on board monitors. I use a 702 or sometimes an F&V 4.3″ depending on the situation. The built in monitor seems so redundant and not upgradeable. Without it, it could be truly “mini”.

What I’m most curious about is how this stacks up against Kinefinity. Kinefinity seems to match and supersede its specs, has their own speed booster option, uses less expensive media, and no bullt in monitor. Definitely a more gimbal friendly option. Price wise they seem in the same ball park after you figure in media costs.

Reply
Giorgio Litt March 17, 2016

Let your media cost woes be banished. Clifton Stommel has created the Atoch digital bulk loader. It was crowd sourced in July, instantly funded, and they’re on version 2: https://cboxsystem.ecwid.com.

It’s a caddy built specifically for the Ursa Mini that has Cfast adapters going to two SSDs. For $600 for the box, and 2 1tb Samsung Drives at $420 each, try pricing out 2TB of storage in Cfast 2. O.o
He brought it out to LA for a demo and on the UM 4k it recorded 4.6k RAW uninterrupted to a single drive (rather than splitting) for hours.

He’ll be at NAB, check them out. It’s the real deal, even BMD has raised an eyebrow or two.

Reply
Tim Naylor Naylor March 18, 2016

Sorry, the but of that just takes away what makes the camera special. I’ll take the savings of a cheap body and put it into Cfast instead of having an appendage like that caddy. It’s probably great for tripod work, but I do so much gimbal work it’s a non-starter.

 Steven Guyot Reply
Steven Guyot March 15, 2016

Footage looked great but this camera was suppose to be released almost a year ago! Many people, myself included, purchased thousands of dollars worth of accessories that have been collecting dust. Blackmagic is offering no explanation for the delay and every month they just push back the release date another month and then another and then another. It’s been this way for months! I’m left sitting here losing money on my investment. Cinema5D does a great job looking out for the consumer, you called out Sony regarding issues with raw footage from the FS7 and they responded. Can you please help us out again and address the elephant in the room and try to find out why the delay and get a firm answer from Blackmagic on when the URSA mini 4.6K and Micro Cinema Camera will be released?

Reply
Tim Naylor Naylor March 15, 2016

Given BMC’s track record, I’d never put money down until it’s out selling for retail. The initial release of the URSA mini (non 4.6k) has been getting played at B&H reviews. Lot of bugs and noise issues. Perhaps this delay is working these things out.

 Steven Guyot Reply
Steven Guyot March 15, 2016

Which is understandable, I wouldn’t want a flawed camera but if that’s the case they should just come out and say that. They may lose a few customers because of it but at least they would build trust with the one’s who waited. But they haven’t addressed it all and they’re losing my trust.

David Peterson Reply
David Peterson March 16, 2016

Nah Tim, the issues with the URSA Mini 4K on the B&H reviews is just from people who were clueless in what they were getting into. And didn’t take notice of what had been done before with the BMPC4K (same sensor!). The 4K sensor should be treated as ISO 400 *only*.

Reply
Tim Naylor Naylor March 15, 2016

Can you say anything about the noise threshold in terms of ISO? The footage in the trailer seemed to give full color spectrum, and great contrast. What is it’s max useable ISO?

Sebastian Wiegaertner Reply
Sebastian Wiegaertner March 15, 2016

800 seems to be native ISO. 1600 is still usable, but would really prefer 800, which is good for me, because alexa has 800 too. way less numbers in head during lighting a scene… ;)

 Julian Arriens Reply
Julian Arriens March 16, 2016

Yes the ISO 800 thing certainly put me off buying this camera, I need something that will handle low light situations that can’t always be lit. But there are a lot of dark, moody shots in your piece that don’t appear to be struggling with grain or under exposure. So would you say it causes a significant issue?

Sebastian Wiegaertner Reply
Sebastian Wiegaertner March 16, 2016

nope, it will not. you always have to know what you can do and what you can’t do. but it’s a thing you have to remember with all the cameras out on the market. and it doesn’t make a difference if you are using an iphone or an alexa. if you know the issues of your camera – you can work against it and let it shine! ;)

Reply
Mel Feliciano March 15, 2016

Other than the Alexa, this is the most Organic look I’ve seen produced by any Digital Cinema Camera, including the Panasonic Varicam.

Reply
Malcolm Klock March 16, 2016

Footage looks amazing Sebastian. Did you notice any weird magenta color cast in the footage you shot? Heard some talk about that, but not sure if it’s true.

Reply
Satva Leung March 16, 2016

Nice work! I am willing to wait it out for footage like this.

Seb – were you able to power the camera off the gimbal vs v mount to save same weight?

Sebastian Wiegaertner Reply
Sebastian Wiegaertner March 16, 2016

we powered the complete setup with an anton bauer battery mounted on our gimbal.

Reply
Giorgio Litt March 17, 2016

Really great work. Looking to put UM4.6k on the glidecam 4000 with a Steadicam vest/arm, which might be close to the limit. That’s if BMD is still a company in May, should they decide to show up at NAB16 without a production UM4.6k. You think Trump’s people would riot at a contested convention? Watch out, there’s some angry BMD lemmings. They’ll burn it all down.

I have to say, your video, like two other I have in mind, have shown whats possible in a grade with this sub $5k body. Really well done.

 Ryan Davis Reply
Ryan Davis March 17, 2016

The five thousand dollar question for me is how is ISO 1600?

Reply
Virani Kenya March 18, 2016

I am not sure if its the skill of the team or the camera but DAMN the video feels completely like a Hollywood film in my lifetime I have never seen this from a camera setup below 15,000 US$. I don’t know if in a less equipped(accessories) scenario and less experienced handlers if the same type of look can be achieved. Just stunning.

Reply
Tim Naylor Naylor March 18, 2016

Sebastien, can you comment about the viewfinder? This to me seems like an amazing deal. How does it measure up to Alexa, Gratical, etc.?

Reply
AlexAdrian Adrian May 2, 2016

Brilliant cinematography. It all looks so clean. How do you manage to control the noise in the dark scenes??

Joy Elaine Watkins Reply
Joy Elaine Watkins May 22, 2016

I’ve heard a lot about this mini camera and I’m now really curious to try it. I might get it when I hire camera equipment in London http://www.aimimage.com/camera-equipment-hire-in-london-aimimage-has-you-covered/

Reply
William Lü June 11, 2016

I hard the global shutter and 120 fps filming capabilities have been eliminated from the 4.6k model. is this true?

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John Brawley June 11, 2016

There is no global shutter anymore. It does 120 FPS in window mode. The camera was never 120 FPS full sensor. JB

Reply
William Lü June 11, 2016

Sorry one last question :)
without the global shutter, do you think it is still much better than the 4k version?

Reply
John Brawley June 11, 2016

The RS in the 4.6K is currently very good, comparable to a C300 or the first RED camera. It depends a bit on how important that is for you. VFX users for example would care more. Personally I prefer the much higher DR and base ISO800 of the 4.6K over the 4K camera. JB

Reply
William Lü June 11, 2016

Thank you so much!