In recent years, no trip to NAB is complete without a visit to the Blackmagic Design booth. Each NAB Grant Petty always has something new and truly useful to show, and as a bonus, the products usually very reasonably priced. This year’s lineup is no different, with no less than three product announcements worth mentioning.
The first is Blackmagic Design’s foray into the increasingly crowded Standalone Video Recorder (or corder) market, the Hyperdeck Shuttle. While other manufacturers have been frantically adding features to their corder offerings to make them stand out, Blackmagic has gone the opposite way and stripped the recording unit to its bare essentials. The Hyperdeck Shuttle is really an HDMI/HDSDI interface, playback controls, and a dock for an SSD drive, that’s it.
Eschewing both Apple ProRes, and Avid’s DNxHD, Blackmagic has decided to record in Uncompressed Quicktime for compatibility and probably licensing reasons. While uncompressed video on its surface sounds great, (I mean there is no higher quality), the reality is that with a whopping 1,380 Mb/s for 10 bit 4:2:2 HD video, you’re looking at 500 gigs per hour of video. Whereas with ProRes 422, or DNxHD you’re more in the 50-60 gigs per hour range, an almost 10x space savings. There is always an argument to be made for size versus quality, but in this case both ProRes and DNxHD are such well designed codecs, that I doubt anyone could tell the difference between Uncompressed and these new codecs even with a scope. So you don’t necessarily gain any appreciable quality for the huge amount of space Uncompressed takes. This becomes an even bigger issue when you realize the Hyperdeck Shuttle records to off the shelf SSD drives. SSD is used for it’s super fast bandwidth, but they are much more limited in capacity than normal notebook hard disks, and they’re much more expensive. One final feature worth mentioning, is that the unit is powered by its own internal battery, as well as an optional DC jack, which means you don’t have to carry extra batteries just for your recorder.
The Hyperdeck Shuttle will be on sale in May for $345. However if you want to add an 512 gig SSD to that for one hour of recording, that will run you an additional $1,200 or so. Still SSD drives will only get cheaper, and of higher capacity, in the meantime you’re going to need a lot of fast hard disk space in your edit system to get the most out of the Hyperdeck Shuttle.
The next big announcement is the UltraStudio 3D. This is Blackmagic’s newest take on the video i/o solutions they’ve been famous for for years. This model adds support for Apple and Intel’s new Thunderbolt technology. Essentially it allows HDSDI, HDMI, and a whole host of analog connectors, for decks and video devices to be digitized into your thunderbolt compatible computer. It also functions as an output device to view your computer footage on video monitors and decks including 3D. It supports playback of anything up to 2k video in size, and even can edit DPX files in realtime for film work, if your drives are fast enough.Video in and video out. As simple as that. It costs $995 and ships in July.
The last big announcement came as a bit of a shock to me to be honest. While I had expected an upgrade to DaVinci Resolve for 2011, I never thought they could lower the price any further. A DaVinci system used to cost $300,000, and last year Blackmagic made headlines at NAB by bringing out a Mac version for $1,000. This year they made it free. DaVinci Resolve Lite will be released in July as a free download. Of course you don’t get all the bells and whistles of the full version but looking at their site, its certainly not crippled either:
The free DaVinci Resolve Lite includes the same high quality processing as the full DaVinci Resolve, however it limits projects to SD and HD resolutions, two color correction nodes, a single processing GPU and a single RED rocket card. Stereoscopic 3D features, 2K, noise reduction, power mastering, remote grading and sharing projects with an external database server are features only offered in the full DaVinci Resolve and are not included in this free DaVinci Resolve Lite edition.
This is a bold move by Blackmagic designed to put Resolve firmly forward as THE standard for color correction software. The Photoshop, as it were, of color correction. By allowing anyone to download the program, learn the interface, and do real meaningful work with it, Blackmagic is setting itself up to expand the user base of Resolve by magnitudes over the former high-priesthood of colorists who used the $300,000 version. Some of these people will upgrade to the paid versions over time, all of them will feel much more comfortable getting their color correction done at post houses using DaVinci. For our film school, I can already see us putting the free version on all of our workstations and teaching labs for instruction, and then having one or two “real” systems to do their actual work on. It’s a great model, and I hope it works out for them.