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Ursa upgrade question

ursa blackmagic 4k sensor upgrade

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#1 Philip Kral

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 11:19 PM

This is perhaps a stupid question, but I'm not an electrical engineer nor a computer programmer so I was hoping perhaps someone on here can shine some light on this. The new Black Magic Ursa's selling point is that it's going to be upgradable so it will (theoretically) never go obsolete. I know the sensor can be changed out. For example, if some day 6K becomes the next "big thing", many people assume you're just going to be able to purchase a 6k sensor for an upgrade.

 

But is it really that simple? I would imagine if you upgrade the sensor, you would have to upgrade the processing power for the upgraded resolution and I see nothing mentioned about that. Any thoughts? It sounds too good to be true, as It reminds me of another company that promised a modular upgrade system that never ended up that way.


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#2 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 11 April 2014 - 11:29 PM

I am no camera expert, by any means, but I am involved in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering so I hope that qualifies me to speak on the subject :D

 

Using a modular approach, there should be no reason why the design wouldn't work. The key to it though is making sure you design the parts in such a way that they are completely independent (although they obviously are inter-dependent on each other to work)

 

It sounds contradictory, but if they isolate the parts that are needed for a specific sensor form the rest of it, which is generic, then it is a win design. Most software these days is made by using preexisting libraries that had nothing to do with their current uses but since they were made generically enough, they are adaptable. This enables faster development times since you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Even microphones can be made like this...Audix has been doing this for a bit. You can buy capsules to mics and swap out the base with different screw on capsules. If you want the SCX1/LC for example, you can screw the capsule onto the base and now you have a Hyper cardioid. Or you can screw on a UEm-81 and now you have a shotgun...etc.

 

I think BM will be much more respectable than that other company. I wouldn't worry about it.


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#3 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 01:41 AM

I would assume one would swap the sensor and/or the data processors, either together or independantly. think of it this way, let's say they make a 6K sensor, and it has within it a 6K throughput and a 4K throughput.  If you throw it on the "4K" back you already own, you have a 4K Downsample from the new 6K sensor, if you swap both, then you get the full 6K. sure it's possible to keep it "fresh" forever, but the camera is literally a few days old now, and none of the hows have yet to be let out. However, were I you, I would wait for awhile before even thinking of getting it. BM, while making good products for a good price, is often a little scattershot on delivery.


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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 03:48 AM

I imagine you can take the RED One as an example of this, you can do it but soon newer models begin to attract the attention.


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#5 Philip Kral

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 11:42 AM

I guess I should have added that with my question: there's nothing mentioned about being able to upgrade the processor. If you need both the sensor and the processing upgrade, well it says nothing about being able to do anything in the future with processing power.  Which what worries me, if you need both then there doesn't seem to be a way to upgrade one over the other.

 

The RED one is the example about that "other company" I was referring too, although you can trade in cameras for a discount and although the Epic could be upgraded to a Dragon- many people had to ditch their RED ones for the newer models.

 

I agree with what you are all saying, I have no interest in buying a BM camera as of yet because of how they treat their customer base and the fear that they'll just bring out a new camera altogether next year. But if it look like the camera delivers what it says, I would seriously consider it... just time will tell.  


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#6 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 11:56 AM

 

 

I agree with what you are all saying, I have no interest in buying a BM camera as of yet because of how they treat their customer base and the fear that they'll just bring out a new camera altogether next year. But if it look like the camera delivers what it says, I would seriously consider it... just time will tell.  

 

I understand the fear of not getting your order for a long time. What I don't understand is the fear of them bringing out a new camera. Are you concerned with making good images with a nice tool in your toolbox with an affordable price or are you concerned with keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak? If it is the later then you should NEVER ever own a camera in life.


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#7 Philip Kral

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Posted 12 April 2014 - 12:14 PM

I should have been more specific, they will always bring out new cameras when it comes to digital. (Oddly, although now it's more of a niche market- my Super16 camera has been the only thing "keeping up," I love the format and it always seems to rival the digital headaches I get now a day. Something to be said about a long term investment.) 

 

   Although with the Ursa, not only is the company implying that this one camera will indeed "keep up with the Joneses", but there's a lot.. and I mean a lot of unhappy BM customers who never got their firmware updates or many other things promised because the company quickly releases another camera in less then the time it takes to finally ship a camera out (Many customers literally got their cameras within 6 months of when the new ones are announced with what seems to be a drop in support for the ones they just bought).

   

    I'm just discussing if anyone thinks this camera will deliver what it claims: to be the last camera body you'll have to buy for awhile.  Just talking shop, that's all. Although I'm going to have to buy a new digital camera again sometime ;) 


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#8 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 12:28 AM

It's also important to recall that people often only want the newest and best cameras-- and once a newer and better camera comes out-- well that's what they want, even if they don't need it. With other companies-- red, arri, sony, on their higher end, they don't iterate products as quickly so you can in fact turn a pretty good profit on them over time. BM is a little odd since it's so cheap, my pocket has been profitable since the 2nd shoot I did, since the first was a test for a friend on the cheap, but at the same time, you have a limited attention-span window on it which can be a PITA for some people.


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#9 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 01:48 AM

Adrian, slightly off topic, but how is the Pocket working out? That was the digi-cam I was considering for shooting a feature on. I may have to consider it again since my deal with the guy on craigslist went pear-shaped and I am going to get my money back from paypal. 

 

Are there any quirks or cons I should be aware of?


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#10 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 01:53 AM


    I'm just discussing if anyone thinks this camera will deliver what it claims: to be the last camera body you'll have to buy for awhile.  Just talking shop, that's all. Although I'm going to have to buy a new digital camera again sometime ;)

 

It depends on what you mean "for awhile", you may get three years out of it, perhaps longer. How long depends on the demands of of your local market, I know places still using Sony Z1s. However, it won't last as long as a film camera, with the updates coming from Kodak.


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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 13 April 2014 - 08:28 AM

Pocket is rather nice. Biggest issue is the purple grid in flares, but that is fixable in post with a quick pixel offset when it comes up (and you can normally catch it in monitor anyway).
Camera is holding up pretty well and I'm pretty happy with it; but one really does need to build out a whole kit for it, ya know? By the end of it it'll cost me about 2.5X the price of the little camera to get it to a place that one can actually bring it outside to play-- and that's on top of me already owning a lot of accessories from other cameras.


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#12 Will Montgomery

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 10:14 AM

I think the idea of just switching out the sensor is a little over simplified and really a marketing gimmick.

 

Blackmagic will be making and selling the "upgrade" which will undoubtedly require a software update (good luck with BM updating software). It won't be like plugging in a new processor in a PC motherboard. Even if they sell a new sensor for $1700, that's still $1700 that could go to a new camera with a faster processor, newer features and an updated processor. And what happens to your old sensor? Who's going to by the stock one? Trade in for $100 maybe?

 

The URSA may turn out to be an great platform and if that's so then the upgrade path will probably make sense but my gut says by the time a new sensor is tested, software written, and available from Blackmagic there may very well be another great camera out there worth considering for not that much more money.


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#13 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 11:08 AM

I think the idea of just switching out the sensor is a little over simplified and really a marketing gimmick.

 

Blackmagic will be making and selling the "upgrade" which will undoubtedly require a software update (good luck with BM updating software). It won't be like plugging in a new processor in a PC motherboard. Even if they sell a new sensor for $1700, that's still $1700 that could go to a new camera with a faster processor, newer features and an updated processor. And what happens to your old sensor? Who's going to by the stock one? Trade in for $100 maybe?

 

The URSA may turn out to be an great platform and if that's so then the upgrade path will probably make sense but my gut says by the time a new sensor is tested, software written, and available from Blackmagic there may very well be another great camera out there worth considering for not that much more money.

 

Will, the technology is possible...hell, it is possible for a computer as well. The point is...is it really worthwhile? Because, as you said, once the sensors improve, the pipeline must improve otherwise lag will be fierce. So once upgrading the sensor and the pipeline, what are you really left with? Ports and power supplies maybe?


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#14 Freya Black

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 11:31 AM

 

Will, the technology is possible...hell, it is possible for a computer as well. The point is...is it really worthwhile? Because, as you said, once the sensors improve, the pipeline must improve otherwise lag will be fierce. So once upgrading the sensor and the pipeline, what are you really left with? Ports and power supplies maybe?

 

It's even been done before by Red. I think what Will means tho is it isn't as straightforward to drop in a new sensor as a faster CPU can sometimes be on a computer. The problem is that the new sensor will generally need some kind of new colour science type tools to be written for it as we are seeing with the Red Dragon at the moment. Also if there are new higher framerates there will need to be support for that. Blackmagic are saying they will be able to support faster speeds by writing data to both card slots alternately. Might need special software to transcode the results of that too let alone to support doing that.

 

On the positive side the pipeline is a bit less of an issue as Blackmagic have apparently put in a lot of support for running the system faster than at present. The camera features liquid cooling and obviously being bigger there is more room for ventilation and heatsinks and suchlike than on their smaller cameras. Presumably there will be a limit to how far you can go however. Having said that if you aren't going with higher resolutions or higher frame rates but updating the sensor for better colour or dynamic range or low light sensitivity or something then you may find you don't need any extra processing power especially.

 

It would probably be possible to upgrade the Red One to the dragon sensor but only at the current resolutions etc. The current MX sensor is capable of shooting 5K on the Epic but on the Red One it tops out at 4.5K widescreen because the camera can't keep up at the higher res. Of course there is no motivation to provide a dragon upgrade for the Red One as people are now focused on the newer cameras instead.

 

Freya


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#15 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 11:43 AM

 

It's even been done before by Red. I think what Will means tho is it isn't as straightforward to drop in a new sensor as a faster CPU can sometimes be on a computer. The problem is that the new sensor will generally need some kind of new colour science type tools to be written for it as we are seeing with the Red Dragon at the moment. 

Even on a computer, there is a small amount of leeway that things can be upgraded before you must change the chipset. Hence why there have been so many socket changes throughout the years. The bus speeds must change to effectively change the clock speed and throughput.

 

You might be right about Black Magic not having to worry about the pipeline since we have effectively hit a ceiling on raw clock speed these days. Most of the tricks to make a computer run faster are more in line with parallel computing and large bandwidth transfers of data more so than actual speed. And optimizing the software algorithms used can go a long way toward improvement. Hell, I would argue that many of the "obsolete" cameras could probably get a whole new life if they had better algorithms written for them.


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#16 Freya Black

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Posted 14 April 2014 - 11:58 AM

You might be right about Black Magic not having to worry about the pipeline since we have effectively hit a ceiling on raw clock speed these days. Most of the tricks to make a computer run faster are more in line with parallel computing and large bandwidth transfers of data more so than actual speed. And optimizing the software algorithms used can go a long way toward improvement. Hell, I would argue that many of the "obsolete" cameras could probably get a whole new life if they had better algorithms written for them.

 

I'm just saying they won't have to worry about it in the short term as they have built in a certain amount of leeway with more cooling and power than the camera needs at present but who knows what is coming down the line.

 

Certainly it's true that older cameras could be updated by software if there was motivation. Just look at the Magic Lantern project which has even bought a camera considered obsolete back into the running. I don't think you would even need any special optimisation, just new software to support the new features.

 

My little Kodak ZX1 pocket camera even has a 120fps mode in the firmware that had been disabled, so often cameras are capable of more than they are allowed to do.

 

Freya


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#17 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 11:09 AM

My take on the URSA (I'm not a fan):

 

URSA: 3 monitors? Seriously?


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#18 Peter J DeCrescenzo

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Posted 15 April 2014 - 11:11 AM

... by the time a new [URSA] sensor is tested, software written, and available from Blackmagic there may very well be another great camera out there worth considering for not that much more money.

 

And ironically, that new, less-expensive, more-capable (on paper) camera is likely to be announced by BMD!


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#19 Rakesh Malik

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 11:17 AM

 

I understand the fear of not getting your order for a long time. What I don't understand is the fear of them bringing out a new camera. Are you concerned with making good images with a nice tool in your toolbox with an affordable price or are you concerned with keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak? If it is the later then you should NEVER ever own a camera in life.

 

The concern isn't really the fact that BMD keeps releasing new cameras, as much as the fact that they appear to be ignoring bugs and firmware limitations (specifically missing functionality, as well as in some cases genuine bugs) because they're working on new cameras.


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#20 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 16 April 2014 - 11:28 AM

I can't speak for the BMCC but the pocket has been getting nothing but praise from everyone I have seen talk about it. For the money, it seems like a no-brainer if this is the price bracket one is in.


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