Capturing 360 Video with the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K

This is Part 1 of a two part series that chronicles how I built a workflow with this camera to capture and produce extremely high quality monoscopic 360 video. Here we’ll talk about the camera itself, while part 2 talks in depth about the post production pipeline. If you are considering purchasing or renting this system to use on a project, I strongly recommend reading both and understanding exactly what this camera is and is not capable of before diving in.

Will 12K be enough for immersive capture with this lens?

Why I Chose This Camera

In October 2020, I directed a series of videos that we shot with a Sony Venice and Entaniya HAL 250 lens. Throughout the post production process I really enjoyed the speed and ease at which we were working, as well as the tremendous quality of the image and colors captured by that camera. After spending a few years working with stereoscopic footage, I found that I didn’t really miss the 3D depth, which was always difficult to get right anyway and often sacrificed a lot of sharpness. Furthermore, being able to render such high dynamic range and beautiful colors left me with an image that felt so cinematic and beautiful to look at.

I used this chart while comparing various sensor sizes to figure out which lens would be the right fit. Thanks Freedom360 for helping me out!
Expect a little over 30 minutes of record time at maximum quality 12K on a 2TB SSD. That’s a lot of data!

Production

We went out to film some test footage at Vasquez Rocks here in Southern California. Being a nodal rig, this camera is not good for every kind of filming. If I wanted to film crowds and large amounts of moving objects in an uncontrolled environment, it’s just going to be difficult. It also is a fairly large rig with a lot of components. A single operator is not going to be able to run and gun this rig around and get great results. It demands precision and expertise. That’s ok! The results that can be achieved in my opinion are far worth the effort. Usually I’d use this rig in studio shoots, so filming outdoors was definitely a challenge.

Out in the field with Robert Watts and John Calabrese. Super fun (and staying safe!)
  • Always check critical focus.
  • I think the sweet spot of sharpness and depth of field with this lens is f5.6.
  • Make sure the camera is level when flipping around. Otherwise you could be introducing another axis of potential parallax.

Some “Gotchas”

After I had a chance to review the footage in post, a few downsides became obvious.

Ignoring the focus issue (the filter changes the backfocus and I didn’t bother to reset it), you can see the left is with the filter, and the right is without.

Conclusion

I’m really happy. I know as I continue to work with it, I’ll be able to really dial in. There are a ton of small things that continue to impress me. I love having SDI connections. I love that you can trigger and set all the camera settings via Bluetooth. I love that I can jam timecode and make syncing sound a lot easier. I also love that I can swap out lenses and use it for 2D work. But most of all, I love the quality of the image and how much more cinematic our content shot with this setup will look.

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