Blackmagic URSA Mini Test Part 3: Day ISO/Finding Native
- December 23, 2016
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Welcome to PART 3 of 9 of our Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K Film Test series. So far, we have covered underexposure and overexposure of skin tones in a tungsten light interior environment. Today, we’ll see how this camera performs at different ISOs in a Day Exterior environment using natural light. We’ll also find out what the URSA Mini’s native ISO is.
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Coming up, Parts 4-9 will each cover advanced techniques in color grading with these color spaces—which can be difficult to master. My colorist and DIT, Derek Johnson, will take you through our process, explain short cuts, and starting points that will put you on the right track. We will also discuss how you can get the best out of your camera’s sensor during both day and night shoots, along with the accessories it will take to achieve a clean, professional image.
Let’s get started!
DAY ISO NOISE TEST
We are going to find this camera’s soul and take it to its breaking point. And where I start all of my tests is day ISO noise. I do this in the beginning of the day and I want to find out where that noise is. When working with day exteriors, you can really see the noise in all the illuminated spaces, and while you’re dealing with night ISO testing, you’re able to crush that down and make the noise go away.
Let’s look at our specs. We have our Blackmagic URSA Mini at 4.6K, we’re at 23.98 fps, our resolution is 4.6K RAW Lossless, our lens is a Xeen 50mm, our camera color temperature is 5600 Kelvin, and our sun color temperature is also 5600 Kelvin. Now this type of test is not so much of a creative process. We have to be very methodical and very specific.
Alright, let’s scrub to our first image. You’re going to see this footage ungraded and then we’ll put a grade on it. So this first image is ISO 200 and the second is the same image with the grade from an ISO 800 image slammed onto it.
Now, right off the bat, what I’m seeing with the ISO 200 is that it’s crunchy; it’s got really good, very saturated color. The blacks are much deeper and the image really pops. This is a lower ISO so it’s very clean and we’re getting some very nice attributes, but we’re definitely losing detail on the blacks.
Now, this is something I did on Need for Speed—I shot the Alexa at ISO 320. By going in that direction, you actually lose some detail on the blacks. I was loving that for day exteriors. There’s sometimes so much fill that’s coming around whether it’s bouncing off the ground or the sky or wherever, so I really like to use a lower ISO to help in that process and to snap the image up. Now I think 200 might be just a little bit too much. Let’s look at the 400 to see how that responds and performs.
I chose to have Monette and Chelsea on this test so we could get our darker skin tones as well as lighter skin tones and dark hair vs. light hair, so we could see our clip factor and really take the camera to its breaking point.
Alright, here’s our ISO 400 both ungraded and graded. With ISO 400, I was able to open those shadow areas up a little bit. For this lighting setup I have a 12×12 Ultra MatthBounce which is pushing in and keying Monette and Chelsea’s faces, and then I have 2 12×12 solids on the left side of camera that are creating a negative fill.
Looking at this, I really like that ISO for day exteriors. I’m seeing enough into the shadow areas, it has nice colors, and it’s not so chroma and crunched. The fill side still has just enough detail to pull out and it’s a very nicely balanced image.
Now we’re going to come up on our 800 ISO. With this image there’s a very nice grade and you’re seeing even more detail in the shadows, so if you have those extreme scenarios where you’re dealing with a lot of backlight, I would recommend going to 800 ISO to gain a little more in the overexposure as well as the underexposure.
This is a fairly balanced image. The colors aren’t so saturated but because I’m seeing more in the shadow areas, the image is a little flatter. You can also see that the blacks are a little bit grayer. What I’ve found is that 800 ISO is the true native on this camera. It seemed like it gave me the most range in each direction.
Now we’re going to go to ISO 1600. For our ISO day noise test, this is where we want to start to look for that fixed pattern noise. Right off the bat, I’m seeing it in all of the glass in the background. I’m seeing noise under Chelsea’s chin and while it seems like you’re getting more detail in the shadows, in actuality, the image all of a sudden has a gauze caused by the noise lifting them. Is 1600 a nice texture for your project if you’re going for a little more of that noise? Absolutely. But you can see how clean 200 is compared to 1600. It snaps and has a great 3-dimensional, balanced quality to it.
The downside for 200 is that it’s may be just a bit too saturated, so that’s why I thought 400 fell in very beautifully for daylight ISO. If I were using the URSA Mini for day exteriors and I didn’t have to deal with extremes on an overcast day like when we did this test, I would use 400. We weren’t able to do our backlit test because the sun was going in and out from behind clouds creating a very flat environment. We shaped it with our negative fill at ISO 400, and we were able to crunch the fill level and clamp the contrast down more. If sun is out and I have a blazing backlight, I’m definitely going to the camera’s native ISO 800. The real benefit of these tests isn’t just finding out what this camera can and cannot do while being pushed to its limits, it’s finding unique looks that you can use to assist you in your own storytelling.
What Have We Learned?
So now we’ve gone over how the Blackmagic URSA Mini captures images at ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, and ISO 1600. We’ve covered a lot of ground so let’s have a quick recap of what we’ve learned.
- ISO 200
- Great color and contrast, subject really pops from the background
- Great for shooting day exteriors when extreme sun and lights are not a factor
- Great detail but can be a bit too saturated at times
- ISO 400
- Richer detail in shadows
- Great for shooting day exteriors when extreme sun and lights are not a factor
- ISO 800
- The camera’s native ISO
- Ideal for shooting in bright sun or with blazing backlights
- Less saturated colors but grayer blacks
- ISO 1600
- Creates a “gauze” on the image
- Very noticeable increase in noise which is not necessarily a bad thing if your project calls for it
This concludes PART 3 of our Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K Film Test. Let’s have a brief recap of what we’ve covered so far:
In PART 3: We tested DAY ISO and finding the URSA Mini’s native ISO
The Blackmagic URSA Mini is definitely a compelling camera that puts out a great image at an affordable price. And best of all, we’re just getting started, baby! We’re going to continue to review and analyze what this camera is made of. We’re going to break this thing apart and find out what makes it tick.
By the time we’re done with this series, you’re going to have a master education in the Blackmagic URSA Mini. Please, as always, share your questions and concerns in the comment section below.
Next up on our list is PART 4 of our 9 PART series! Be on the lookout for PART 4 coming soon in early 2017! For a more in depth analysis of all these PARTS, as well as tons of other resources that will elevate your career as a filmmaker, become a member of Shane’s Inner Circle today!
Shane Hurlbut, ASC
This concludes our film test section. Sign up for Shane’s Inner Circle for access to full articles like these. Don’t miss out!
Now, let’s take a look at our table of contents to see what we’ve covered and where we’re heading:
PART ONE TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 1 HOURS 20 MINUTES
- Overexposure at ISO 800 – Runtime 9 minutes 35 seconds
- Overexposure at ISO 800 Shane’s Review – Runtime 16 minutes 14 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Overexposure at ISO 1600 – Runtime 8 minutes 21 seconds
- Overexposure at ISO 1600 Shane’s Review – Runtime 17 minutes 1 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Overexposure at ISO 800 vs. ISO 1600 – Runtime 13 minutes 46 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Overexposure at ISO 800 vs. ISO 1600 Shane’s Review – 16 mins 2 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
PART TWO TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 1 HOUR 21 MINUTES
- Underexposure at ISO 800 – Runtime 10 minutes 11 seconds.
- Underexposure at ISO 800 Shane’s Review – Runtime 18 minutes 50 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Underexposure at ISO 1600 – Runtime 10 minutes 47 seconds
- Underexposure at ISO 1600 Shane’s Review – Runtime 12 minutes 34 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Underexposure ISO 800 vs. ISO 1600 – Runtime 15 minutes 50 Seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Underexposure ISO 800 vs. ISO 1600 Shane’s Review – Runtime 13 minutes 34 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
Part 3: Day ISO/Finding Native
PART THREE TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 58 MINUTES 24 SECONDS
- Day ISO Noise Test – Runtime 3 minutes 59 seconds
- Day ISO Noise Test Shane’s Review – Runtime 13 minutes 55 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Day ISO Noise Test Compared Against ISO 400 – Runtime 4 minutes 3 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Day ISO Noise Test Compared Against ISO 400 Shane’s Review – Runtime 7 minutes 32 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Day ISO Noise Test Compared Against ISO 800 – Runtime 4 minutes 5 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Day ISO Noise Test Compared Against ISO 800 Shane’s Review – Runtime 13 minutes 18 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Day ISO Noise Test Compared Against ISO 1600 – Runtime 4 minutes 2 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Day ISO Noise Test Compared Against ISO 1600 Shane’s Review – Runtime 7 minutes 30 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
Here’s a look at what’s to come in Shane’s Inner Circle for Parts 1 – 3:
PART FOUR TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 7 MINUTES 13 SECONDS
- Color Grading Day Exteriors with DaVinci Resolve – Runtime 7 minutes 13 seconds
Part 5: Color Correcting Your Blackmagic URSA Mini 2
PART FIVE TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 8 MINUTES 34 SECONDS
- Color Grading without a LUT Under Tungsten Lighting – 5 minutes 14 seconds
- Color Grading under Mixed Color Temp Sources – 3 minutes 20 seconds
PART SIX TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 51 MINUTES 01 SECONDS
- IR Pollution Test with Straight ND – Runtime 6 minutes 46 seconds
- IR Pollution Test with Straight ND Shane’s Review – Runtime 19 minutes 25 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- IR Pollution Test with Tiffen IR ND – Runtime 6 minutes 44 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- IR Pollution Test with Tiffen IR ND Shane’s Review – Runtime 18 minutes 06 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
PART SEVEN TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 45 MINUTES 32 SECONDS
- IR Pollution Test with True ND – Runtime 6 minutes 29 seconds
- IR Pollution Test with True ND Shane’s Review – Runtime 16 minutes 01 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- IR Pollution Test ND Battle Royale – Runtime 4 minutes 55 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- IR Pollution Test ND Battle Royale Shane’s Review – Runtime 18 minutes 07 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
PART EIGHT TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 19 MINUTES 49 SECONDS
- Night ISO Noise Test with Chelsea – Runtime 3 minutes 04 seconds
- Night ISO Noise Test with Chelsea Shane’s Review – Runtime 5 minutes 46 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Night ISO Noise Test with Mason – Runtime 2 minutes 33 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Night ISO Noise Test with Mason Shane’s Review – Runtime 3 minutes 18 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Night ISO Noise Test with Chelsea vs. Mason – Runtime 5 minutes 08 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
PART NINE TOTAL VIDEO CONTENT: 8 MINUTES 06 SECONDS
- Rolling Shutter Test with Car – Runtime 1 minutes 41 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)
- Rolling Shutter Test with Car Shane’s Review – Runtime 6 minutes 25 seconds (SIC EXCLUSIVE)