The “Real” Reasons Behind BMD’s 12K Camera

Posted on by Larry

Last week, Blackmagic Design released a new version of the URSA Mini camera that shoots 12K video frames called the URSA Mini 12K. 12K – REALLY?? Why?

NOTE: Here’s the link to Blackmagic’s Press Release.

As many of you know, I am not a fan of ever-larger frame sizes; or the massively huge files these formats generate. However, Simon Wyndham, writing for Red Shark News,  wrote a thoughtful analysis of the thinking behind this camera.

The entire article is worth reading, including a discussion of why the camera supports Blackmagic RAW, but not ProRes or ProRes RAW, and the new, proprietary way it uses to record raw sensor data that bypasses deBayering. Like I said, an article well worth reading.

NOTE: Here’s the article link.


However, the key behind Simon’s analysis for me was his thinking about 12 K images. Here’s an excerpt:

“Blackmagic Design didn’t really make the camera with the resolution it has so that you can film in 12K. You can do this perfectly easily of course if you want to, but the real reason why it exists is so that you can shoot exceptional 8K and 4K.

“It was famously said that the perfect resolution for a camera is 100MP (14K). Why? Because the human eye consists of 100 million rods and cones. The 80MP of the 12K URSA Mini is well on the way towards that ideal. At resolutions as high as this pixels become pretty much irrelevant. It becomes a point at which digital, for all intents and purposes, becomes analogue.

“Noise structure becomes incredibly fine, and with oversampled lower resolutions it becomes averaged out further. Subtly of detail and texture structure is picked up that you simply do not achieve with a native 4K or even 8K camera. At this sort of resolution, while aliasing technically still exists, it is visually reduced to nothing. It’s just too fine to see. High frequency edges become naturally smooth.

“Even on a 4K television, and in some instances an 8K one it is possible to see the edge structure on something like sharp white text on a dark background depending on the distance you sit. At ultra high resolutions these high frequency edges are totally smooth. And as we’ve mentioned many times before on RedShark, higher resolutions are not necessarily about more detail, but much more about edge smoothness.

“So primarily the 12K URSA Mini is not about actually filming 12K on a daily basis, but it is about filming extremely high quality oversampled lower resolutions.

“Do you need the extra resolution? No, you can work perfectly well with your existing 4K camera. But, and it’s a big but (no Shrek reference intended), we are in the business of producing the best pictures possible. And while high resolution isn’t the only arbiter of picture quality, it is an indisputable fact that it is most certainly an important one.”

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