Streaming Media

Streaming Media on Facebook Streaming Media on Twitter Streaming Media on LinkedIn

Review: Blackmagic Design Video Assist 4K

Testing the Blackmagic Design Video Assist 4K in a variety of shooting situations at a succession of four trade conferences

On-Camera Monitoring and Recording

Another area in which the Video Assist proved invaluable on-site was in capturing B-roll and testimonials at the conferences. For most of this work, I use my long-in-the-tooth Sony NEX-VG20 which has kept its place in my traveling kit thanks only to an f/1.8 50mm E-Mount prime lens with a nice, shallow depth of field that works well for the B-roll and testimonials I capture at these conferences.

When working with a shallow prime, moving quickly through crowded rooms with wildly uneven lighting, on a camera with a not-particularly-revealing LCD, a good on-camera monitor is absolutely essential to get these shots right. Although the Video Assist felt like a lot of (maybe even too much) monitor when mounted on the VG20, it provided invaluable assistance in getting usable shots--thanks in particular to the focus peaking and false color features--and the ability to record to ProRes instead of AVCHD will certainly pay dividends later on in the promotional videos for upcoming conferences that are built around this footage.

At times, the weight of the Video Assist mounted on the spindly VG20 on top of a Benro monopod, along with a multi-shoe adapter RODE wireless receiver, made the entire rig difficult to balance and hold together in crowded exhibit halls. The 5” version of the Video Assist is almost certainly a better match for smaller cameras and run-and-gun applications, although it lacks the 2160p30 recording capability.

Confidence Monitor for Live Streaming

The Video Assist 4K also proved indispensable when used in tandem with the Epiphan Webcaster X2 as both a confidence monitor and screen for navigating the X2’s unusual UI when I was shooting and streaming two days of booth interviews at Streaming Media East. (For more detail on this application, see my Webcaster X2 review). In this case, the real value of the Video Assist derived not from its advanced features or 4K recording support but from its HDMI input, 1920x1200 resolution, and generous screen real estate (Figure 4, below). A webcaster would be hard-pressed to leverage all of the functionality of a device like the X2 with a smaller screen, and the Video Assist’s compact form factor is also an advantage over, say, a desktop monitor in a tight webcasting environment.

Figure 4. Using the Blackmagic Video Assist 4K in a webcast to Facebook Live with the Epiphan Webcaster X2. (Note: The Video Assist 4K is not a webcasting device.)

In the end, I didn’t find I had a whole lot of opportunities to create pristine 4K ProRes recordings to streamline post-production as I’d intended when I requested a Video Assist 4K for review, which would have been a wonderful luxury. But that’s only because the Video Assist made itself so indispensable in so many other situations.

Related Articles
In this review, we'll look at Blackmagic Design's 7" 12G Video Assist. Like the 5" and 3G models in the Video Assist line, this compact monitor-recorder is designed to go out into the field and attach to the camera, rig, or tripod. It allows you to see your shot better than a small viewfinder or pop-out LCD that's rarely larger than three four inches on most pro camcorders. The Video Assist also enables you to record your footage in high-quality ProRes or HD|NX at resolutions up to 4Kp60.
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.
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.
Testing the Epiphan Webcaster X2 compact encoder on a packed schedule of interviews streamed to Facebook Live from the show floor at Streaming Media East 2018
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.
This review is an introduction and an overview of the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Advanced Panel and the Television Studio HD. The Advanced Panel is accessible enough for rookies to not be intimidating, but it's also advanced and customizable enough for veteran directors.