Blackmagic Keeps Conjuring

I’ve been watching Blackmagic Design for a few years now, they are an amazing company. I’ve bought quite a few of their products and used even more. At NAB 2012 they continued to surprise, what could the future possibly hold? And what’s the deal with this crazy new camera?

It was clear going into NAB 2012 that the big buzz this year was going to be 4K. Canon, Sony and Panasonic all had 4K camera announcements, but the surprise stand out from the show was a less-than-4K camera from an established company with no history in cameras – Blackmagic’s “2.5K” camera possibly became the most talked about announcement at NAB. Why – why was is the big standout, and why did it come from Blackmagic?

Amazingly it seems this camera was a complete surprise – I saw no leaks about it ahead of time, and heard no rumours. I guess no one was looking at Blackmagic for a camera. They are a company that deals mostly with post-production. It started with a range of I/O cards and has grown, both by development and acquisition, ever since. Now Blackmagic offer products to address various demands in all stages of production. They support acquisition with their HyperDeck recorders and ATEM camera converters, they support engineering with their routers and converters, they support production with their vision mixers and recorders, and they support post-production with their large range of I/O products and more recently as the company behind DaVinci.

Blackmagic are also a disruptive company who are clearly focused on low cost high volume products rather than high cost low volume products as has been the norm in professional video production in the past. A Decklink I/O card can cost as little as $300 yet support HD-SDI connections, and DaVinci Resolve, previously tens-of-thousands, is now available in a very functional free version, or only $1,000 for a full version.

And now this new camera takes them right to the beginning of the chain by directly tackling the acquisition. It should be no surprise also that the pricing destroys established expectations. The headline is 2.5K raw video for $3,000. It’s a camera that meets price points and demands that have been established by recently empowered DSLR users while also accounting for the specific needs of video production.

It’s not the perfect camera, of course – there is no such thing – but it ticks of many boxes for a large number of users. Interchangeable lenses, raw recording (or compressed edit-ready recording), large sensor, professional connections, metadata…. It’s all there. There are also some things that are not there – a larger sensor and higher framerates would be high on many people’s lists, while genlock and timecode in are important for others. There’s also the ergonomics to consider.

But regardless of all that this camera is one thing above all others – a sign. It’s a sign that Blackmagic now sees cameras as an area of interest, so even if this camera doesn’t suit us now, it seems likely to be just the beginning.

Blackmagic is one of the companies I’m watching most closely. They are clearly committed to continuing to innovate and push the industry and it’s just about impossible to predict what might be next.