Why the new ProRes update for the Blackmagic cameras is going to change everything for users of the Blackmagic pocket camera and open possibilities to new users who thought it might be out of reach for them too!
A recent article on the Blackmagic pocket camera had one reader lamenting about the limited range of SD cards that will work with the camera and how expensive they are. I replied to suggest that now that there was a unified firmware across the cameras, we might see updates more quickly and things like support for other flavours of ProRes might surface. Well even I didn’t expect that such an update would arrive so soon but here it is already!
This new feature is handy on the Blackmagic cameras that use SSD’s because it allows the use of slower SSD’s, or it allows you to save costs by maximising the use of existing SSD’s or perhaps more takes and / or greater running time. However it is the little Blackmagic pocket for which this is going to be a huge breakthrough. Because it is the cheapest camera in the Blackmagic range, the cost of media is more of an issue in relation to the camera and there is a very limited range of SD cards that can be used with the it even in the ProRes mode which requires a much lower data rate than when shooting raw.
Until now the Blackmagic cameras were only able to record in what was (before the recent advent of ProRes XQ) the highest quality flavour of ProRes. ProRes HQ. The new update brings the following new modes to the cameras: ProRes 422, 422 LT, and 422 Proxy and each of these modes brings significant savings in bitrate and thus lowers the speed of card required to work with the camera. ProRes 422 LT at 82Mbit/s is more than half the data rate that the Blackmagic cameras required when recording ProRes until now, so it seems like it might provide a very good compromise between quality and speed of card. ProRes Proxy might be going a bit too far as it drops the bitrate all the way down to 36Mbit/s which might be a bit low for a loosely compressed editing codec like ProRes, we will have to wait and see what it looks like in practice but then again it’s great to have these options there, perhaps it will be just what you need in some situation. In the Proxy mode you should be able to get as much as 4 hours on a 64gb card for example and around 2 hours on a 64gb card in ProRes 422 LT.
In the past, an update like this that expands the capability of the camera to this extent would be a paid upgrade or possibly even a third party hack! It shows how much the industry has changed that the ProRes update (Version 1.82) is a completely free update from Blackmagic which you can just download from their website.
With the recent price drop announced for the Blackmagic Pocket, this update couldn’t have come at a better moment. Not only is the camera now available for the silly cheap price of $495 but it’s now been opened up to the possibility of cheaper media at the same time as longer running times. The little cameras are going to be flying off the shelves!
A fellow called Alexander Schrott has already shot a YouTube video on the Blackmagic pocket cinema camera using each of the new ProRes modes. Check it out below: