RAW Black Magic Ursa Footage / by Matt Mahoney

**Note: RAW in this case means un-graded Pro Res 422 (HQ)

I mentioned that I was given an Ursa to test out two weeks ago. My job was to stress the camera to see where the image breaks so that the studio heads knew it's limitations should they decide to invest in three of these cameras. Again, this isn't a scientific test.

I took the camera outside and shot in the situations we routinely find ourselves in; high contrast sunlight, shooting directly into the sun (should our subjects move that way), and on sets where we're either prohibited to move or turn off practicals, or we want to use practicals as part of the aesthetic. So below is some footage I shot outside at 200 ASA at 24fps and 60fps with a Canon 70-200 L lens, no matte box, no filters.

Also included in the back 1/3rd of this video is the raw interview footage I posted about earlier so you can see the raw skin tones the Ursa delivers at 400 and 800 ASA.

I also shot some footage in the studio directly at practicals, light bounced off of a reflector, and the ceiling lights. All of this was on purpose to find the limitations of the camera. And what you'll see is a lot of purple blobs. You'll see them on the reflective surfaces of cars, directly into the sun, open face fresnels, and 65 watt frosted flood bulbs (In said studio footage).

It can be argued that this test is over-the-top, and that cinematographers and DP's won't find themselves in these situations without utilizing some light control. That's totally fair. I was asked to "See where the image breaks" and this kind of stress test does that. The point of doing this was to see what happens should you end up in a situation like this. Maybe you want to shoot a music video with bare practicals and studio lights in the frame like this:


*Sorry for the poor quality, couldn't find an HD version. 

I see music videos utilizing lights like that pretty often, and even with low-watt bulbs or the with the use of a dimmer board, the filament in the bulb still burns pretty bright.

Another example: Recently I shot a few members of the US Army All-American Band on a football field, during sunset, in the direction of the setting sun. The light was really nice.

 Un-Graded 5D III frame grab.

Un-Graded 5D III frame grab.

  Un-Graded 5D III frame grab.

Un-Graded 5D III frame grab.


Considering the suns' position in this situation I wonder about the Ursa's ability to render a usable image, or I guess I should say a purple blob-less image. Unfortunately I don't know exactly how it would have performed but that's what I find limiting about the camera at the moment. I have no doubt the hard-working people at BlackMagic are trying to conquer this problem and I'm just sharing what I found from my own very brief experience with the camera. I've seen other Ursa footage on the web that looks nice and there's no doubt that the Ursa can produce wonderful images.

I'm getting a Sony FS7 to test very soon, and I'll do my best to share what I find with that camera as well. Hopefully I'll have more time with it.