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Blackmagic Video Assist Review


Andrew Reid
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How do you like the PIX-E5?

 

I like it very much. No doubt I would have given the same answer if I had choosen the VA or the Q7+ as it's my first recorder ever. They all record 10 bit prores  up to HQ and beyond (E5/E7 (4444XQ), 7Q+(raw)). I'm planning to combine my footage with my 3D work, hence I choose for a recorder that can deliver 4K in 10 bit Prores ...but for anything else I would be happy with the 'UHD Down Convert' from the GH4 ...it's that good and saves a lot of space . Talking about space I really like the concept of the mSata speed drives on the Pix-E's, they are great, no hassle what so ever, just like a normal usb thumb drive, only faster.

Oh and you don't have to use the monitor, you can just use it as a recorder. The Pix-E's let you create and save profiles. I made one with a black screen. Attache a luggage strap to one of the mounts and hang it around your neck/shoulder like a bag. HDMI cable to the camera and no one notices the differences ...for low profile shooting.

Btw 1080 straight from the GH4 to any recorder is not a good idea, very soft compared to 4K or UHD DownConvert.

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I like it very much. No doubt I would have given the same answer if I had choosen the VA or the Q7+ as it's my first recorder ever. They all record 10 bit prores  up to HQ and beyond (E5/E7 (4444XQ), 7Q+(raw)). I'm planning to combine my footage with my 3D work, hence I choose for a recorder that can deliver 4K in 10 bit Prores ...but for anything else I would be happy with the 'UHD Down Convert' from the GH4 ...it's that good and saves a lot of space . Talking about space I really like the concept of the mSata speed drives on the Pix-E's, they are great, no hassle what so ever, just like a normal usb thumb drive, only faster.

Oh and you don't have to use the monitor, you can just use it as a recorder. The Pix-E's let you create and save profiles. I made one with a black screen. Attache a luggage strap to one of the mounts and hang it around your neck/shoulder like a bag. HDMI cable to the camera and no one notices the differences ...for low profile shooting.

Btw 1080 straight from the GH4 to any recorder is not a good idea, very soft compared to 4K or UHD DownConvert.

I just finished a feature in which we used the Pix E5 extensively. For our main cams we had Fs7's with Speedboosters. But we wanted to use a Steadicam Tango which has a weight limit of 5 lbs. So we paired an A7s at the end of the Tango and Pix E5 as the operator's monitor. In short, the Pix E5 is bullet proof. In prep we tested Shoguns but found them too fiddly and power hungry. With the E5 we'd get a couple hours use with (2) NP 970 batteries. Also, their media system is well thought out. Pop out drive, stick it in computer, no intermediate interface. Also, noteworthy, it's at least a stop brighter than the Shogun which helped for brightly lit locations. The downside, no 60p. The interface is pretty simple. Buttons and touch screen. As a reference monitor, it'll take LUTs, display Histo, Waveform, Vectorscope, etc. 

Who should buy this? doesnt seem a very appealing product to me.

I bet it becomes a standard "director's" monitor on movie and TV sets as they'll be able to review and que takes without having to summon the VTR guy and do it privately without everyone else watching. The union is going to hate this one. 

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The Tango? I remember seeing the following video for the first time, I was blown away by it! Cool guy too.

 Sounds like some nice production work going there! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the PIX-E5, I think it's the monitor/recorder that I'm interested in the most.

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Can the BMD Video Assist be calibrated like the Atomos Ninja Blade? Atomos advertises the Ninja Blade as a “Director Quality Monitor” that can be calibrated with the optional Spyder. I know the Video Assist is higher resolution than the Ninja Blade, but Is the screen also an IPS?

 

Generally on-set monitors are calibrated with bars and blue-only; or when you get into LUTs it's another story. It doesn't seem to me that Spyders and so on are used on-set. Serious calibration is done in grading suites, but they're using very pricey monitors in those setups. Could be wrong, but it seems like a spyder-calibrated monitor is more of a gimmick than something that would be used in a normal shooting workflow.

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It looks like a great device but there is one thing that annoys me a lot. It is how the cables leave the devise. just one battery and all connectors on middle of the back panel  leaving sideways would be much better. Anyway I will probably get it and need to find some cables with 90 degree angle connectors...

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It looks like a great device but there is one thing that annoys me a lot. It is how the cables leave the devise. just one battery and all connectors on middle of the back panel  leaving sideways would be much better. Anyway I will probably get it and need to find some cables with 90 degree angle connectors...

Dual batteries are a pretty good idea for an external recorder, seeing how one of the benefits is being able to run for, say, an entire stage show or music set. These kind of devices are battery hungry, and being able to swap and not lose a single frame is worth a little extra space.

I do like my Marshall, which has a full-szied HDMI coming straight out the back. But angled cables and adapters have been around since we first started plugging HDMI into cameras.

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I thought someone said the second battery is only a battery holder? Maybe I understood wrong. Does the VA come with 2 batteries, can the battery be hot swapped? Does it use both batteries at the same time?

The angled connector is only partial solution, and it is pain to find a good one that leaves to right direction and is right length. The VA has the power in also, I am thinking powering VA, camera and gimbal from the same battery.

 

Edit, the product page says "space for two rechargeable batteries which are hot swappable so you always have a battery to keep the shoot going." so that is ok

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Actually the NX1 nicely downscales the 4K internally to 1080p for the HDMI output. I've tried recording that with the Video Assist and it is pretty decent quality. Better than the internal 1080p!

So get the Video Assist if you need better quality 1080p from your NX1 and can't be bothered with 4K or H.265.

Also the 1D C's 4K downscaled in-camera to feed the clean HDMI output is rather lovely.

1.3x crop of sensor like the 4K, but without the massive file sizes or MJPEG to contend with

Video Assist good for capturing that. It is VERY sharp and clean with very little weirdness going on. Gradients are very smooth too. Looks like 10bit luma.

I also have a Nikon D5500 at the moment but not sure about that, it may have to go back because the HDMI seems stuck at 29.97p or needs pulldown from interlaced signal. Can't get native 24p or 25p out of it.

Review of the D5500 is in the works by the way, aside from that issue it is rather nice for a cheap 1080p camera. Very small and light for a DSLR.

The NX1 does not offer a clean output to 1080p, with the amount of trials I had to try and get it to work on the Ninja Blade I should know. Are you sure that it's not doing downconversion through the HDMI as well? Or can you only moniter the video in 1080p mode and it doesn't need a clean signal like the Blade?

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DSC00037.thumb.jpg.e2eecf97573fd6a44325f

Don't know about the Ninja but it does do a clean 1080p HDMI output.

Here it is on my Odyssey 7Q+

The clean 4K works as well.

This is NX1 firmware v1.4

First you need a card in the slot. For some strange reason.

Then you need to set HDMI to 1080p in the menu.

Then you need to press the disp. key to get rid of the icons.

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But it offers waveform, peaking, false color, zebras, histogam, punch in, and record triggering. None of which the Video Assist offers. I'd take that over 60p any day.

That is my logic too for why I went for a Samurai Blade over a Video Assist!!

But I might pick up a BMD VA as well anyway in 2016 if I see a price drop, or it takes a leap forward in firmware updates.

Also it only takes SSDs. Doesn't record to your existing camera SDXC cards. So factor a few of them into the price.

That can go either way, some people can prefer the very cheap price and large size of an SSD, while others will prefer SDXC

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Is this the only 1080P 5" monitor that records to prores that inputs and outputs both SDI and HDMI and (I assume) cross converts between the two? I believe so.

No, it isn't the only monitor. The Video Devices PIX-E5 does that as well, but it costs two or even three times as much.

 

 

I actually got my hands on one of these and an URSA Mini not long ago and knew right away how BMD has the potential, if they stay focused, to push the competition very hard in (affordable by the masses) digital cinema in the next 36 months.  Its not always how well developed a product is at release, but how it effects the market and this release is actually petty important in that way because it puts the competition on notice to stay competitive or loose out.



The pushing the competition to stay competitive is already happening as I'm very glad to see! (and I have taken advantage of with my purchase of a Samurai Blade ;-) )

As Atomos announced the steep price drop on their HD recorders back at IBC.

Might just maybe lead to a knock on effect of Convergent Design's offerings getting cheaper as well? (or even RED and their monitors getting cheap too? lol, maybe)

Wonder if this might even lead to BMD shaving a hundred bucks or more off the price of their HyperDeck Shuttle 2?? As at their current pricing it makes almost no sense why a person could pick that over a BMD Video Assist. 

Dang. That sucks about the HDMI out with the D5500, I love what I have seen of that flat profile and thought it would be great with a recorder. But from everything I've seen, it seems like it's a good dslr that shoots good video... I assume it's better than the rebel line or the eos-m?

Yup, Nikon's D5200/D5300/D5500 is absolutely heaps better than Canon's APS-C offerings. 

http://www.eoshd.com/2013/02/nikon-d5200-vs-canon-5d-mark-iii/

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Thanks for the clarification.  If I want to record on my EOS-M, I would have to otherwise go on Magic Lantern, which I may, or get a Sony a6000.

It is against the laws of science to be able to record it without a clean HDMI! (as you'd end up recording the overlays as well, obviously)
Sony A6000 or Nikon D5200 are both good choices instead, better than the EOS-M.

I just finished a feature in which we used the Pix E5 extensively. For our main cams we had Fs7's with Speedboosters. But we wanted to use a Steadicam Tango which has a weight limit of 5 lbs. So we paired an A7s at the end of the Tango and Pix E5 as the operator's monitor. In short, the Pix E5 is bullet proof. In prep we tested Shoguns but found them too fiddly and power hungry. With the E5 we'd get a couple hours use with (2) NP 970 batteries. Also, their media system is well thought out. Pop out drive, stick it in computer, no intermediate interface. Also, noteworthy, it's at least a stop brighter than the Shogun which helped for brightly lit locations. The downside, no 60p. The interface is pretty simple. Buttons and touch screen. As a reference monitor, it'll take LUTs, display Histo, Waveform, Vectorscope, etc. 

Curious why you went for the Tango? Thought they'd be on the way out with gimbals being so common place now.

I bet it becomes a standard "director's" monitor on movie and TV sets as they'll be able to review and que takes without having to summon the VTR guy and do it privately without everyone else watching. The union is going to hate this one. 

Ha!! Wonderful :-D :-D

 

 

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VA just got much better 

 

What's new in Blackmagic Video Assist 1.1

  • Adds Focus Peaking indication
  • Adds Zebra indication for setting iris
  • Adds central Zoom to aid focus
  • Adds timecode over HDMI
  • Improved battery information
  • Performance and stability updates
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Hey guys, 

Can anyone help here. I am running the black magic video assist with the 5D Mark iii. I had a little play for the first time today and was not able to monitor Audio on the video assist. I could see the audio meters on the camera but nothing coming out of the video assist. Any help would be great. 

 

Thanks

Alex

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Sounds like a very big updates and it adds a lot for a preview monitor only

http://www.newsshooter.com/2015/11/10/blackmagic-design-video-assist-with-firmware-version-1-1-reviewed-a-495-recorder-for-the-masses/

Andrew, can you let us know about the brightness? angle of view? (Compare to a Shogun for example)

As they point it out:

Potentially even more of an issue is the fact that there’s no way for the Video Assist to do a 3:2 or 2:2 pulldown on the interlaced output from cameras like the Sony a7s. Even though some (mostly Sony) cameras are set to shoot progressive, they output the image in an interlaced signal over HDMI. Recorders from Atomos and Convergent Design deal with this by applying a pulldown to the signal, converting it back to progressive before recording. The Blackmagic doesn’t do this so you will likely need to configure your edit software to handle it. If you’re shooting to edit yourself this isn’t the end of the world, although it does add another step to the post production process. It’s something to bear in mind if you’re handing over footage to be edited by someone else though – you’ll have to make sure whoever’s supervising the editorial process knows they’re receiving progressive footage recorded in an interlaced form.

So, it's not a recorder you can compare to a Atomos or PIX for now.
 

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