Blackmagic 4K URSA Tests Part 2
- January 7, 2015
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Part 2: Going Inside the New
Blackmagic 4K URSA for Cinematic Capture
Part one of this test set you up to understand that the Blackmagic 4k URSA camera does not have a strong OLPF (Optical Low Pass Filter). It is required to use IR filtration with this camera to bring out all of its best attributes. We also learned that the camera only boasts about eleven stops of useable latitude. Now let’s really get in there and see how you will be using it, with low light noise levels, skin tones and slow motion.
Noise levels during the Day & Night
First off let’s examine the noise. The noise doesn’t look filmic; it looks like video pixels, square in fact and dancing around in the blacks. Not loving how this camera looks at 200 or 800 ISO, but its Native at 400 ISO looks really good; it looks clean and delivers nice skin tones and looks very natural and filmic, which is a big deal. The camera does NOT look like VIDEO. It looks very filmic, but it requires you to shoot this baby in its sweet spot and this is what these tests will help you educate yourself to do.
Test No. 1 Day Noise
200 ISO was clean but gave me a strange added contrast to the skin. I know I hit this color grade a little too hard here, but I did not like the 200 ISO overall. I could not hold the detail in the clouds like I could with the native ISO 400.
At 400 ISO this camera shines bright. Her skin looks beautiful; it handles the highlights well and retains all sky detail. This was an extreme condition and with some added Kino Flo Celeb 400s we were able to bring her face up to a level that looked balanced and natural to the ambient light. It was an overcast day in San Fernando, which can be very difficult without negative fill, which you see me using on the camera right side of the frame to shape the light on Eli. Then the Celebs are off camera right to help bring up the level on Eli’s face.
At ISO 800 you quickly see the noise come into the image in her dark jacket. It exhibits a square pixel type of noise, which is not like the grain that you get from a RED Dragon, Canon C300 or Canon C500, which feel very round in structure and more like a texture that is very appealing to me, but not with this noise.
Here is the video for the Day ISO Noise test:
Here is our Day ISO test for the Canon C500 vs Arri Alexa:
Test No. 2 Night Noise
I love these tests because you quickly see that even at 1.3 on the lens, 800 ISO is not enough to bring the existing street lights to a level that feel like they would light a scene. I chose to shoot at 2500 ISO at a 2.5 f-stop on Need for Speed because this is where I felt the streets came alive. Working with existing street lights, I was able to illuminate 5.5 miles of night racing without light condors and large Musco moon sources.
At night 400 ISO works but the background suffers without depth and dimension because the light levels on the street are not bright enough. It is an acceptable noise level but not what I would like to work at. I feel what I would do with this camera would be to light at 800 ISO. Expose your scene with this ISO and then when you go to shoot, set the camera at 400 ISO without changing any lights. Later bring it up in post. It seems to feel better doing this, rather than taxing the sensor at 800 ISO and embedding all of that noise into your image.
At 800 ISO the noise is really crawling in the street and sidewalk. Definite noise reduction tools will be required if you are shooting here. Interesting look for a more raw look, very Super 16 feeling.
Here is the video for the Night ISO Noise test:
Test No. 3 Going High Speed
I wanted to see 60FPS and the new 80FPS addition to the URSA at 3:1 compression. What I found was that the slo-mo looked very organic and the motion blur felt very realistic and cinematic.
With Eli running like the T 2000 actress in T3, we take you on a journey of 60FPS and 80FPS.
Here is the video for the 60FPS test:
Here is the video for the 80FPS test:
Test No. 4 Skin Tones and Fill Ratio
I love this test because it really shows how your camera reacts to skin as well as the contrast levels on a face and how far you like to take it. We go from -2 stops down on the fill and go in 1/2 stop increments so that you can see the reduction in the fill on her left side, our camera right side.
I really loved 3.5 stops down on the fill with Eli’s face. It brought out a nice feel and I love the way the skin tones look on this camera. Skin tones really resolve well and have great depth in color. You can really see the 12 BIT nature of this camera. When I shot 12 BIT versus 10 BIT on the C500, there was absolutely no difference other than a huge file to deal with, but with the URSA it really brings out the best in the skin.
Here is the video for the Fill Ratio test:
Shooting Location:Revolution Cinema Rentals