The single most surprising piece of news at NAB 2012 came early in the morning on the first day of the show when Blackmagic Design
unveiled...a camera. The company well known for its array of powerful and cost effective nuts-and-bolts video technology products (production switchers, video processing, capture cards, converters, encoders) startled everyone with the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera.
And it got better. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera features a 2.5K image sensor with 13 stops of dynamic range, a built-in SSD recorder, a range of open standard uncompressed RAW and compressed file formats, compatibility with quality EF and ZE mount lenses, LCD touchscreen monitoring and metadata entry. Oh, and the price? $2,995 which includes a DaVinci Resolve color corrector software license that ordinarily goes for $995.
Our COWs have been in the field, writing about this camera
so I needn't go once again over the details. But I can tell you that I led a group of professors from the University Film and Video Association
(UFVA) on a tour of NAB, and I could hardly tear them away from the camera.
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera features a 2.5K image sensor with 13 stops of dynamic range, a built-in SSD recorder, a range of open standard uncompressed RAW and compressed file formats, compatibility with quality EF and ZE mount lenses, LCD touchscreen monitoring and metadata entry.
A couple of days later, still at NAB 2012, I sat down with Blackmagic Design President Dan May to talk about the camera as well as other news from the company. By then, I'd had a chance to hear the thoughts of many industry professionals who had seen or at least heard about the camera -- mostly excitement and delight, but also a few who scratched their heads as to why Blackmagic Design would even want to get into the highly competitive camera business.
Blackmagic Design President Dan May
That's exactly the question I posed to Dan May. "We've been discussing building a camera for a couple of years," he said. The turning point came a year ago, he said, when they found the sensor "an off-the-shelf, open source-able component." "We worked with them on de-Bayering, so it was some work," said May, who declined to name the source. "But we do all our own manufacturing, and the camera was completely designed and manufactured by Blackmagic Design." To face the daunting challenge of creating its first camera, numerous existing product teams came together. "It used so much of the brain trust at Blackmagic," said May.
He admitted that he understood why a camera from Blackmagic Design would be shocking to some if not most people, but he explained the rationale. "There's a spot in the market for a DSLR-like camera that has cinema qualities," he said. "We were free of any [legacy] baggage so we could make the best decisions."
"We looked at the design, workflow, functions in that light," he continued. "We were creating a tool and we built it to be open." Thunderbolt high dynamic range, a flip screen were all ideas that evolved, as well as the form factor. Adding Resolve was a no-brainer, said May, since Blackmagic wants "to expand the Resolve footprint."
"We want to amaze and empower people and innovate," said May. "Blackmagic Design has always been driven by those goals." Part of that is to see the Blackmagic Cinema Camera not as a leap away from the company's core competencies but rather part of the greater whole. "We've been plugging into cameras for years," said May. "We know about cameras. People get caught up in thinking this device is for pre-production, this one for production or post. It's an ecosystem."
The idea that products exist in an ecosystem is actually a trend that played out across the NAB 2012 exhibit floor. Although Blackmagic Design's introduction of a camera was perhaps the most audacious example of filling in the missing parts of an ecosystem, May said it's business-as-usual for the company. "Blackmagic Design is not known for leaving well enough alone," he said.
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera garnered so much attention that it was easy to forget that the company actually debuted a host of new products and upgrades. Da Vinci Resolve 9 is a major new software update featuring a "completely overhauled" user interface and optimization for workflow speed. It will be available in July as a free update for all current Resolve customers..
The company also introduced Teranex 2D and Teranex 3D Processors, a new family of high-end broadcast standards converter processors featuring Thunderbolt I/O technology capture and playback features. Both processors start at $1,995. Blackmagic Design acquired Teranex in December 2011, highlighting the rapidity with which the company moved to produce its own (more cost-effective) products.
Teranex 3D and Teranex 2D Processors. Click on image for larger view.
With regard to openness, Blackmagic Design also released a Desktop Video 9.5 software update with support for Adobe
Premiere Pro CS6 video software using Blackmagic Design's DeckLink, UltraStudio and Intensity capture and playback products on both Mac OS X and Windows 7.
These are just a handful of updates that Blackmagic Design debuted at the show. NAB 2012 was a banner year for the company, and that says a lot for a company that has been thriving for so many years. With Blackmagic Design's entry into the camera market pay off? Creative COW and the Twittersphere are alive with commentary, almost all of it positive. Although the outside viewer might assume it's a matter of big risk, big reward, Dan May would argue that the Blackmagic Design is just doing what it does best: amaze, empower, innovate. I'm inclined to agree.