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Review: Blackmagic Design URSA Broadcast

If you can get past the unimpressive low-light sensitivity, the Blackmagic URSA Broadcast 4K is a low-cost and capable video camera that can be configured for ENG or Studio work with natively mounted, powered, and controlled B4 lenses.

ATEM Workflow

If you were just looking at the URSA Broadcast 4K as a standalone video camera in isolation for use in a legacy workflow, you would appreciate it for having the lowest cost for a UHD or even HD B4 mount video camera. But you would be missing out on the additional workflow benefits you gain when connecting an URSA camera to other Blackmagic hardware, such as an ATEM video switcher.

I have already discussed the tally, talkback, and B4 lens controls that are possible when connected to an ATEM switcher. Other features include the ability to perform color shading with an interface that is the same as DaVinci Resolve’s primary color corrector with powerful lift, gamma, and gain controls. For more advanced audio controls of the camera or external audio, the ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K ($2,995) also has a built-in Fairlight audio mixer that includes a 6-band parametric EQ, compressor, limiter, expander/noise gate, pan, audio channel split to dual mono, stereo simulator on analog and mic inputs, and an audio delay on analog inputs.

Connecting URSA Broadcast to an ATEM switcher is typically done via HD-SDI cables but you will want to consult a video distance chart to determine how long you can safely run a specific cable in your chosen video resolution. Typically, an HD-SDI cable that is rated for 300’ at 3G-SDI is only rated for 200’ at 6G-SDI and 150’ 12G-SDI. If you need longer runs you can re-clock the HD-SDI signal by connecting your two cables to a powered HD-SDI distribution amplifier.

The other alternative that can give you up to two KM of cable length is to mount the Blackmagic Camera Fiber Converter ($2,995) to the back of the URSA Broadcast 4K and connect it with SMPTE fiber to a Blackmagic Studio Fiber Converter ($2,995, Figure 3, below). Adding the Fiber converter adds 2 channels of standard 5-pin taklback connections, 3 return video feeds, 2 extra audio inputs, and connections for PTZ and trackers. The URSA Broadcast can even be powered from the SMPTE Fiber connection so the camera doesn’t need its own power supply.

Figure 3. The Blackmagic Studio Fiber Converter

Touchscreen Controls

Operating the URSA Broadcast 4K is refreshingly straightforward, thanks to the easy-to-use and navigate menu system that you can access via the touchscreen LCD (Figure 4, below). Settings are organized into 6 tabs: Record, monitor, audio, setup, presets, and LUTs.

Figure 4. The Blackmagic URSA touchscreen LCD

In the record tab there are three dynamic range options. Video is a standard REC 709 range, Film uses a log curve, and Extended Video is a balance between video and film, and has a wider dynamic range, but still can be used ungraded.

The Monitor settings allow you to independently control the feed to each of the LCD, Front SDI, and Main SDI. You can choose between a clean feed or displaying with a 3D LUT, zebras, frame guide, grid, false color, and focus assist. Familiar filming aids like zebra, focus assist, false color, combined with the ability to load LUTs, ensure that there are no unwanted surprises when you view the footage in post. I appreciate that the audio meter is large and has both numerical and green, yellow, and red color values and that you can check focus by simply double tapping on the LCD screen where you want the image to be magnified.

My favorite feature in the menu system is the ability to create presets and give them custom names. While some cameras allow you to access and recall picture profiles for color settings, the BMD presets save all of the camera settings, which is useful to set up multiple cameras in a multicam shoot or when you film a variety of different types of content and find that you frequently change your settings depending on the application.

Getting to know a video camera inside and out can be challenging, especially when so many instruction manuals are weak on details, explanations, and examples of how your camera interfaces with other equipment in a production workflow. The Blackmagic URSA Broadcast 4K manual is very well written and features hundreds, if not thousands, of color images and diagrams. The first 240 pages in the PDF manual are in English and there are 8 additional language versions. Not only does the manual cover in detail how to operate the camera but it goes into detail on items like understanding third-party B4 lens options and how to connect and operate Blackmagic hardware and software that would typically be used in a live workflow.

Conclusion

If you can get past the unimpressive low-light sensitivity, the Blackmagic URSA Broadcast 4K is a low-cost and capable video camera that can be configured for ENG or Studio work with natively mounted, powered, and controlled B4 lenses. On its own it offers an impressive feature set and amazing value proposition, but it really shines when used in a Blackmagic ATEM workflow.

Related Articles
In this tutorial I'll look at two new cameras from Blackmagic Design: the URSA Broadcast, a 4K camera; and the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K, which is an update to the previous URSA Mini 4.6K.
Streaming Media Producer's Shawn Lam and Blackmagic Design's Dan May discuss Blackmagic new Television Studio Pro 4K switcher at NAB 2018.
Testing the Blackmagic Design Video Assist 4K in a variety of shooting situation at a succession of four trade conferences
If you're currently dealing with a two-piece system with an external recorder, or looking at a DSLR solution but find long-GoP MPEG recording to be too heavy-handed with the compression, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K deserves your attention.