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Cloud Imperium Games Relies on Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini 4.6K and DaVinci Resolve Studio for Weekly Broadcasts and Livestreams

Developing video content is a key component for CIG, and that video content must reflect the company's high visual standards across its geographies

Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) is an independent game developer studio, as well as the company behind the highly anticipated space sim game Star Citizen. Though completely crowdfunded, Star Citizen still delivers Hollywood-caliber visuals. Moreover, the game’s success is being driven by a hugely impassioned community, which is not only testing and playing the game on a regular basis, but also providing valuable feedback to the development team.

“As a crowdfunded company, CIG spends a lot of effort producing a considerable amount of video content, both to keep our fans engaged in the development process and to attract new fans,” explained DP JJ La Britt, who works on CIG’s Global Video Production team. “My role is to create visually appealing looks for our various YouTube and live Twitch shows and featurettes across our four studios in Los Angeles, CA, Austin, TX, Manchester, England, and Frankfurt, Germany.”

As La Britt notes, developing video content is a key component for CIG, and that video content must reflect the company’s high visual standards across its geographies. “We currently have a Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K camera at each of our four studios, and I run DaVinci Resolve Studio in the L.A. office to develop LUTs and for all our color grading needs,” he added. “We also recently added two Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4Ks and two Video Assist 4Ks, one each for L.A. and Austin, and will be adding the same to our Manchester office as well.”

Raising the Production Value

CIG produces a variety of web shows that promote various aspects of its project every week. On a particularly engaging month, the studio can publish nearly 20 individual YouTube videos featuring its developers and their continuing work on Star Citizen.

“For several years, these videos were shot almost entirely on DSLRs, but these failed to reflect the cutting-edge nature and expectation-shattering progress of Star Citizen,” said La Britt. “To this end, we upgraded to a video production workflow with Blackmagic Design cameras in 2016, which allowed us to raise the production value of our video content in a manner that best reflected the professional quality of our game.”

With the recent additions of the Micro Studio Camera 4Ks and Video Assist 4Ks, CIG has been able to further up its production value. CIG’s Community Content Manager Jared Huckaby explained, “We’ve begun to upgrade our shoots to a multi-camera workflow, which has improved the production value of our livestreams. Because we are a crowdfunded studio, we have a far more open development than most video game developers. To that end, for the last couple of years, we’ve produced upwards of 18 videos every single month detailing a variety of behind-the-scenes aspects related to the production of our game, including a weekly livestream. We switched to Blackmagic Design last year and have adored them since.”

La Britt added, “As a crowdfunded company, fiscal prudence and responsibility are paramount. Blackmagic Design has an established history of high-quality gear that lasts and is available at costs that suit our budget. I personally have shot with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and Pocket Cinema Camera since their introductions to the market and am extremely pleased with both the color science and overall workflow of Blackmagic Design equipment.”

Flexibility Creates New Opportunities

La Britt and his team use the URSA Mini 4.6Ks, Micro Studio Camera 4Ks, Video Assist 4Ks and DaVinci Resolve Studio for regular broadcasts, including “Around the Verse,” CIG’s flagship weekly broadcast that looks at the continuing development of Star Citizen; “Loremakers Guide to the Galaxy,” during which members of the CIG Lore Team explore a different system within the Star Citizen universe; “Bugsmashers,”a behind-the-scenes look at the process of identifying and correcting the bugs that occur throughout game development; and “Happy Hour Friday,” a live broadcast where members of the CIG Community Team chat with the development team and the community. They also produce a variety of one-off videos and livestreams throughout the year, including round-table discussions with development teams, direct Q&A with CIG’s Chairman and live content reveals for major releases.

“Shows such as ‘Loremakers,’ ‘Bugsmashers’ and ‘Happy Hour’ demand Blackmagic Design products. These shows are shot ‘webcam-style’ with a camera on top of a computer monitor and an image on the lower third. We can now rig the Micro Studio Camera 4Ks to the top of the developers’ monitors, allowing us to keep a high-quality look across all our shows,” noted La Britt. “Another example would be multi-camera interviews. We often shoot interviews at the developers’ desks where there’s typically limited space. Because of the cameras’ small size, we have more real estate to properly light, as well as use a fully built URSA Mini 4.6K setup. The Micro Studio Camera 4Ks give us a second angle to our interviews, allowing us to be more flexible in post.”

He continued, “The great thing about our many shows and featurettes is that the looks vary depending on the story we want to tell. For ‘Around the Verse,’ we like a well-balanced shot. However, we recently did a ‘Ship Shape’ segment for our Cutlass Black ship as if it was in the Star Citizen lore. The interviews were low-key with a 16:1 lighting ratio and warm feel. Both looks were easy to achieve with the URSA Mini 4.6K and DaVinci Resolve Studio.”

La Britt also noted that the URSA Mini 4.6K’s dynamic range is fantastic for their interviews. “Since our featurette interviews take place in our four studios around the world with limited light control, I can match the looks in DaVinci Resolve Studio,” he said.

Maintaining a Unified Look in Post

“Using the same cameras, lenses, and LUTs across our studios can only get us so far. The tools that best help us keep a unified look throughout our studios and natural light changes are DaVinci Resolve Studio’s qualifier and curves. The ability to make changes to hue and saturation in specific colors is perfect for our quick turnarounds,” La Britt explained.

He concluded, “When we are able to take our time color grading, my favorite tools are noise reduction and vignettes. DaVinci Resolve Studio is a very optimized, quality program that has many tools for the different workflows and looks we need to achieve. We are able to easily and quickly create LUTs and change looks on the fly, even when the airtime is just around the corner.”