November 4, 2019

Why we left RED cinema cameras for the BMD Ursa Mini Pro G2 and the BMPCC 6k



In 2008 we purchased two JVC HD111E camcorders for around $14,500 AUD. They shot 1280x720p video at around 20mbps… on DV tape. Less than two years later we sold one of them for $2500 and purchased a 5D Mark II – a revolutionary full frame DSLR capable of 1080p video recording at approx 38mbps data rate.

At the end of 2012 we picked up a barely used RED Scarlet-MX. A 4k capable Super 35 compressed raw cinema camera. From an image quality perspective that camera blew the socks off the 5D. Where the 5D Mark II was prone to moire and aliasing and had a very soft image, the RED was incredibly detailed without feeling too sharp (and videoy). We discovered the power of compressed raw for color correction and grading and generally fell in love with the image and the workflow.

In 2017 we upgraded to the Red Scarlet-w. A DSMC2 (2nd generation body) camera capable of shooting 5k raw at up to 50fps and 4k raw up to 120 fps. The Scarlet-w housed the Dragon sensor used to shoot shows like Stranger Things and movies including Gone Girl. It heralded an obvious increase in latitude (dynamic range) particularly in the highlights. This was the Scarlet we knew and loved, on steroids and cranked up to 11.

I’ve shot with both cameras in rain, cold, INTENSE heat and humidity for days on end with zero reliability issues (other than a couple of minor buggy firmware updates). Red Digital Cinema make AWESOME cameras.

However, with the announcement of the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 6k and the improvements that have come with the Ursa Mini Pro G2, we felt that RED was no longer the best fit for our needs.

Whilst they remain outstanding cameras for narrative work – shorts, features,TVC’s and music videos a few of their weaknesses were certainly apparent. Slow boot times, often audible fan noise, not great in low light, poor internal audio and no internal ND’s make them less than ideal for documentary, corporate and event work. All key areas we work in on top of narrative projects.

But we’ve been spoiled in the image quality department by RED cameras. We really wanted to keep with a raw workflow. We’d played with Canon’s raw lite on the C200, but those files are still WAY larger than is practical on many projects. (4:1 compression)

Blackmagic Design really made us take notice with the announcement of BRAW with multiple compression ratios (similar to R3D) with 3:1, 5:1, 8:1 and 12:1 hard compression ratios. As well as two varying quality settings Q0 and Q5.

We wanted better internal audio and desperately wanted internal ND’s. But we knew we needed/wanted 100 – 120fps slowmotion at 4k or above. When BMD released the Ursa Mini Pro G2 (even though we weren’t seriously looking yet) they’d made the camera we were looking for.

It was the announcement of the BMPCC 6k that got our attention and made us really look hard at their cameras as alternatives. The BMPCC 6k (6k resolution at up to 50fps with the same compression raw options) is an outstanding B cam.

RESOLUTION: 5120 x 2700
SENSOR SIZE: 25.6mm x 13.5mm
DYNAMIC RANGE: 16.5 stops (According to RED)
LENS MOUNT: EF or PL (+ more)
HIGH FRAME RATES: 5k 50 fps, 4k 120fps 11:1
FORMATS: R3D + Pro Res (422 standard in 4k, 422HQ in 2k)
RECORDING MEDIA: Red Mini Mags (expensive)
RESOLUTION: 4608 x 2592
SENSOR SIZE: 25.34 x 14.25mm
DYNAMIC RANGE: 15 stops (According to BMD)
LENS MOUNT: EF or PL (+ more)
ND FILTERS: IR Cut clear, 2, 4, 6 stops
HIGH FRAME RATES: 4.6k 120fps 8:1 compression
FORMATS: BRAW + Pro Res 444 and 422

Below are some of the big ticket items that the Ursa Mini Pro G2 in particular is ticking (against the Scarlet-w).

Faster boot times

Larger capacity, cheaper recording media

Internal ND filters (Ursa Mini Pro G2 only)

Competent internal audio recording with XLR inputs (Ursa Mini Pro G2 only)

Faster compressed raw (easier on the computer to process, faster rendering and playback)

120 fps 8:1 compressed raw recording at full sensor 4.6k (higher resolution, lower compression and without the crop that the Scarlet-w has for 4k 120fps

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