A Day with Blackmagic Design

on July 27, 2014

A Day with Blackmagic Design

I started off this blog as a way to concentrate on the hacks for DSLR-specifically Canon and Magic Lantern- but I have found in the last few weeks that there are great things coming out of Black magic Design.

Just last week they announced the HUGE price drop on their Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera. It outputs to RAW, takes SD cards, and is under $500.
Then they came out with an upgrade on their firmware- allowing the BMPCC to record in the smaller ProRes formats.
And of course, they also just released their Davinci Resolve 11 Beta 2. This is super stable- and if you’ve ever been interested in color grading, but a little intimidated by anything past the 3-way color corrector- let me tell you, Davinci couldn’t be more intuitive.
They held an event in LA (and in NY) where they had their commercial partners set up booths- as was expected. Then they had a day of seminars and workshops where they went over some of their stuff.

First off, let me say that they know how to do it right: fully catered, breakfast, craft tables, and lunches. I was expecting maybe coffee and water, and perhaps some small snacks, but they really went all out. It’s true what they say about Tech nerds being like herding cats; all you need is food.
But we weren’t there for the food.

Did I mention the food?

Did I mention the food?

The first session was all about the new editing features in Davinci Resolve 11. It’s all of the basic features of Final Cut X put in Resolve. Resolve works even more seamlessly with FCPX, and i have found that it has always been superb at talking to Premiere. The XML imports and exports keep a ton of data preserved, and round-tripping is no problem- IF you even want to.
Honestly, were it not for all the plug-ins I’ve already purchased in Premiere, I would just edit everything in Davinci.

The advantage is that you don’t need to worry about the round-trip process, or importing or exporting. You ingest, edit, grade, and deliver.
the ingest features also include a cloning feature with checksum verification. Basically it tells you that you made an EXACT copy of your source disk onto your hard drive. If you’ve ever had to transfer data on set, and turn a card around, you know how important it is to verify that you have everything copied before you format that card. This will get rid of that feeling in the pit of your stomach as you tentatively hit “Format”.
The editing tools are evry straight forward, and intuitive. the layout will take some getting used to, but I imagine less than a week will get you reaching for all the right shortcuts- that is if you don’t feel like programming them in.

Then they had a session about the cameras. Yes- the cameras are incredible. they are priced to move, and full featured. There are some shortcomings, but all cameras have them. I think the URSA will be incredible to use, and can’t wait to shoot with it. I have a friend on the list for the BMPCC, and the rest of their line-up fall in between. All great stuff that you’ve heard before, so we’ll save the camera stuff for another post.

Blackmagic as a studio Camera

Blackmagic as a studio Camera

It was in the color grading session that I was truly floored.
I love using LUTs. That’s what got me interested in color grading. The way it uses an algorithm in 3d space to adjust the way colors interact- it was breathtaking. all of a sudden, my shots just popped. but sometime- when using just LUT buddy- i noticed that i loved the colors- EXCPET for a certain portion. or i was shooting long into the day and the color temperature changed and i forgot to change my white balance, so now some of my LUTs look different. I would be forced to choose between matching skin tones, or matching white walls, and it was very frustrating.
I knew about making masks, but the idea of tracking masks, and adjust each layer for each shot seemed too daunting for the quick turnaround that was expected of these projects. I had messed with Davinci resolve before, but the layout was overwhelming, and although I had worked with color and post processing extensively as a photographer, the variety of controls had me a little confused as to how to manipulate the image.
Let me just say that this was completely unfounded.
An hour worth of tutorials will get you up and running. the basic gist of it is: the way you use layers in After effects, those are NODES in Resolve.
That’s about it.
The QUALIFIERS tool was amazing. Don’t like the skin tone? Just use the color picker and change it. Want to make the grass greener a la “O brother where art thou?” too simple.
Then they talked about the masks. Key framing a mask, and tracking a subject was always to much trouble, i thought.
But then they showed me the TRACKING feature. You can draw a mask around a subject, press a button, the just have the mask FOLLOW your subject for the entire shot/
You can then SAVE this adjustment and just copy and paste it to other shots, making minute adjustments.

Gorgeous images are at your disposal, and it makes it so easy.
Now am i ready to go into Resolve as my NLE for good? probably not just yet. But for editing RAW footage and going right to deliverables- I will definitely be using this on my next few projects to get friendly with the workflow.

Learing the commercial workflow

Learing the commercial workflow

The best part about it: one of the developers had mentioned that when Blackmagic bought he rights to Resolve a few years ago, it was only being used by the big studios. Then they did something groundbreaking: they made it free.
On a Friday, it was $500,000. The next monday it was free. For the lite version, at least. Now there are obviously things in the $1,000 version that are worthwhile (noise reductio being one) but for most peoples projects, the free version is more than robust.
I heartfelt bravo for the tea, at Blackmagic for delivering the goods. Nicely done.