3 Weeks with the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro G2

By now everyone knows what the G2 is capable of specs wise and there is sure to be full review videos with tests either out there already or coming soon. For full specs and technical info you can check out the manual which is really handy for buying the extra bits of equipment needed such as the officially recommended ssd drives.

What I wanted to do with this post was give people an insight into what I’ve been shooting with this camera in the 3/4 weeks since picking it up. That way other videographers and small production teams can see what it’s like on actual jobs and read this alongside the more technical studio test videos. 

Shoot 1: Saracen Horse Feeds

The first job I shot on the G2 was a corporate styled video for a company that manufactures and sells horse feed. They are based in Surrey but ship orders worldwide. It was a really interesting shoot seeing the production line and a lot to cover in one day. I used the G2 handheld alongside 2 x Sony A7sii cameras with one mounted on a gimbal and one just shooting timelapses. 

There were a few deliverables for this and the videos had to be edited and signed off within two days of the shoot so it could coincide with a new business announcement in the Middle East. if you’re not into horse feed I doubt you will watch much of this past 30 seconds but here it is…. :-)

I edited this project in Davinci Resolve because I shot everything on the G2 in Blackmagic Raw and Resolve is the only editor that handles this file type. Because of the quick turnaround I didn’t have loads of time to spend on the colour grading but I absolutely loved learning and using Resolve. The client was really happy with the edits so I was happy too. 

The standout shots for me from the G2 are these frames, it looks super clean and detailed. I shot mainly in Braw 8:1 at 4K 50 and 100fps along with 1080 300fps for a few bits. The interviews I shot at 4K 25fps and used 2 x LED panels to light the subjects in the warehouse. The lens I am using on the Ursa at the moment is the Sigma Art 18-35 1.8 and I recorded everything via USB C to this SSD drive.  I don’t love having to mount the ssd drive onto the VLock battery but it works and is fine for now.

What I learnt from this shoot:

  • The G2 is heavy, especially with this V lock battery i use which will run the camera all day with no worries. 

  • It was solid to work with, there were no technical problems which is good for a new Blackmagic release :-)

  • The file sizes are big. Like really big. I shot around 350gb in raw and around 30gb on the Sony cameras. This is worth keeping in mind as this much data every shoot can rack up costs for backing up footage. I’ve invested in a bay RAID setup so I can just keep buying new drives for this and storing the old ones away rather than keep buying standalone external drives. 

  • Resolve is excellent to edit with even though I only scratched the surface. It is more powerful and allows more control over colour grading and FX than fcpx. 

Shoot 2: Stranger Things, Margate

The next job I shot was a few days later in Margate to capture some promotional content of an activation by Stranger Things / Netflix at a theme park called Dreamland. On paper this sounds like really cool #content and as a big fan of Stranger Things it was fun to work on this.

I was asked to shoot and transfer the footage on the day to the client via hard drive as we weren’t required to do any edits. Because of this I opted to shoot in Pro-Res on the G2 as a way to keep file sizes down and provide the editor with a file type that was easy to work with and accepted by all editing suites. Also the client wanted everything shot in 4K so having the G2 for this came in really handy for shooting higher frame rates and offering more creativity than being stuck at 4K 25fps on the Sonys. 

I also took an A7sii on a gimbal with me as I thought some gimbal shots would offer some production value and complement the hand held look of the G2. 

The theme was based around the now pretty iconic ‘Scoops Ahoy’ in Stranger things and the event attracted a lot of fans, Dreamland was also a really cool place to shoot. There isn’t a video edit for this but here are some frames from the G2 to give a feel for what it looked like. It was a really overcast bright grey sky but dull on the ground so exposing for this was hard but that’s the UK for you! 

What I learnt from this shoot 

  • The G2 has a good nice dynamic range for challenging scenes like an overcast sky

  • The G2 screen is only OK for monitoring shots outdoors (it supports loading on LUTs and false colour) but I do need to get a Small HD sdi version soon (I have a small HD Focus HDMI version but the G2 doesn’t not have HDMI out) 

  • The pro res files are still big but not as big as raw

Shoot 3 

The next shoot I did was for a personal project called The Taste Plug which is a food review show I do with a friend on Facebook. We go round eating food and filming for fun and free stuff basically. For this episode we went to a Kebab van in Gloucester because that’s just how we roll. 

I shot this entirely on the G2 and recorded the sound straight into the XLR input using a jack convertor and the wireless Rode Radio Lav setup. 

Food is something that I love to capture and I liked how natural the G2 colour science made the food look even if it was kebab meat. Again I didn’t spend ages colour grading this because we needed to get some content out there in a hurry.

It was nice to shoot without needing a second camera and not have to worry about bringing tons of kit. I didn’t use any lights so this was a run and gun setup which shows that the G2 can be used like this. 

IMG_8597.jpg

I filmed the cooking shots at 300fps and it produced a bad flicker because of the van light at this frame rate. It’s something to keep your eye on for sure if you’re using high frame rates. Thankfully Resolve has an incredible ‘Deflicker’ plugin and I have to say that this alone makes me kind of love this program. It is incredible.

What I learnt from this shoot  

  • The Taste Plug episodes normally take around 2 hours to film and produce roughly about 30 gigs of data on a Sony. This episode on the G2 produced around 350 gig, I shot mainly in Raw 8:1. It’s just a fact that shooting in raw is going to produce big files. I’m still getting used to this fact which is probably why I’m repeating this point! If like me you are used to shooting on consumer cameras it is a bit mind blowing making the step up to cinema.

  • Shooting in Raw in a run and gun situation is actually great for flexibility in post production. I’ve come accustomed to having to nail exposure bang on when using 8 bit 420 files on the A7Sii but there was one shot in particular that just wouldn’t have been possible had i not had raw flexibility in post. 

    This shot I have tracked and masked the window then bought the ISO up so that the exposure in this darker part of the scene is recovered and balances with the much brighter outside of the van. On a paid job this kind of flexibility can be worth a lot if it saves a shot that would be unusable. Again Blackmagic Raw with Resolve is amazing and there is literally no way of doing stuff like this in FCPX. 

kebab.jpg

Shoot 4: MAN Truck and Bus 

I’d say MAN are one of my biggest clients that I work for directly with no agencies in the middle. They are a multi national company with a big social media following as you would expect. They need polished, clean content to appeal to their customers in the haulage industry and the work I do for them is always a challenge that I enjoy as they have high standards.


For this job I had to shoot an interview with one of their clients in Avonmouth, Bristol with a presenter who is a known figure in the truck world. I miked both of them up with Lav mics and recorded the sound into a Zoom H4N. I could have went straight into the Blackmagic as it has 2 x XLR inputs but because I needed to move around with a different handheld camera I wouldn’t have been able to monitor sound at all times which is obviously key in these types of interview videos. 


The widest interview shot is from the URSA and I was really pleased with how the dynamic range and flexibility in post helped me balance the sky and the shadows created by the trucks.

This was a really challenging shoot in that the yard was busy with lots of trucks doing deliveries and loading so sound was hard to manage. Also because of it being a cloudy day I had to carefully monitor the exposure on all 3 cameras when the sun came in and out. Shooting in raw gave me peace of mind that I could recover highlights if there were any moments where it was close to clipping. 

Most of the cutaways are from the URSA with a few gimbal shots thrown in from the Sony too. The client loved the slow-motion driver shots as it just adds a level of cinematic quality which is something I try to add into my corporate work wherever possible. 

What I learnt from this shoot   

  • I should have booked a second person to work with me on this as I was running around like a mad man organising 3 angles and 2 audio tracks!

  • Having the option of shooting 300fps really came in handy when shooting the driver as it was very bumpy. Even at 120fps it just didn’t look smooth enough and was jarring because of the camera shake so the G2 was great for this. 

  • Matching multicam interview shots from different cameras is always pretty hard to do but Resolve has some great features for this

  • Because of the ever changing light levels it was nice to use the built in ND filters on the G2 for when it got super bright. It has changed the way I expose shots and it’s just a better way of doing things than using screw on lens NDs.

  • I try to keep my ISO at the native 800 even though ISO is just metadata when shooting raw because at least then I can bring it down or up in post if I need to. It makes no sense to me to keep iso low and expose at 200 ISO in camera as it leaves no head room to change. I’d like to know other people’s approach to ISO when shooting raw… 

To Conclude…

So there you have it, ramblings from a videographer who has been using the G2 on real jobs. I hope people who do similar work can learn from this info. Would I recommend the G2? Yes. Should you sell your Sony a7sii? No. You need both in my opinion. Having multiple camera shots and the option of using gimbal is a must.

As you can tell I have liked using the G2 a lot and I’m impressed with the overall look and colour. I’ve shot more jobs with the camera and plan to do separate blog posts about these too.

One of the jobs for a restaurant/lifestyle magazine is possibly my best looking work to date. I took the time to light scenes so it really shows off the G2 cinematic look a little better than this corporate work. Here is a quick selection of frames from that but i plan on doing a full post on this when it’s done and I’m excited to share it.

I also plan to upload some Blackmagic Raw and pro Res clips for people to download and have a play with, let me know if you would find this useful and get in touch if you have any specific questions

Thanks 

Barney 

IBC, Amsterdam

We have just got back from the International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam where we had an amazing time getting our hands on some brand new releases, learning about emerging cutting edge video techniques and exploring the beautiful city.

Check out our video highlights edit for a taste of what we got up to!

Top 3 Highlights

  1. Atomos Ninja V

The Atomos Ninja V

The Atomos Ninja V

The impressive specs for this bit of equipment are already out there but seeing it in the flesh was great to get a real feel for the monitor. The build quality was really nice, it feels sturdy when compared to the Small HD Focus and the hdmi input seemed to make a strong connection with the lead.

It was nice and bright even in the well-lit IBC conference environment, plus it was really easy to use and responsive (things that are to be expected from Atomos!)

2. Kinefinity Mavo LF

The full frame Mavo by Kinefinity is a much sought after camera, virtually impossible to get hold of at the moment so it was a great opportunity to use it and see what it was actually like.

The Mavo is actually pretty light and for a full frame cine camera with these kind of specs and would be OK on a gimbal such as the Crane 2.

We are seriously considering investing into this camera. The next step will be to rent one for a week and really get to grips with it in the field but the image quality looked amazing and the resolution and frame rates make it a really creative tool.

3. Using an Arri Steadicam

Using an Arri steadicam was something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time. We have been using gimbals since we had the old Glidecam style weighted ones (back in the day!) and then moved into the electronic gimbal era with Ronins and Zhiyun's being the gimbals of choice.

The electronic Gimbals are great, they are a major tool in what we do but to experience the quality of around £40,000 worth of Arri kit was a taste of how hollywood films are made and it was really fun.

See you next year

We are already looking forward to IBC next year and if schedules allow we will be back to keep up with the cutting edge of video production. We feel its important to be inspired and passionate enough about what you do to travel, see new things and learn in order to progress. Big thanks to everyone we met along the way too! See some more pics from IBC and the city below :-)