A Weekend With URSA / by Guy Fiorita

I’m not a reviewer and I don’t usually (ever) do stuff like this but no one else has posted anything.  If you’re like I was before I got the URSA, you would take info you could get from any idiot out there.  Well, I’m your idiot. 

Here's the footage, just a quick color correct using Hook's Basic LUT (thanks Hook!)


I’m a director and I DP occasionally.  I bought the URSA because I wanted to have something on hand that produced a great image for a reasonable price.  I’ll rent different cameras for different jobs and will continue to do that when the job/budget calls for it.  The URSA is something I can use for some jobs and my personal stuff.  But the most important reason I bought it?  I like new toys.  

I’ve shot with both the cinema camera and the production cam, I was about to get the BMPC but thought I would wait for NAB.  When there URSA was announce I preordered it immediately.  I know some people like the freedom of rigging their cameras with this and that but I prefer the opposite - the more stuff built in, the better.  The weight factor didn’t bother me so much. I remember beta cams, the f900, the Varicam - all of them were heavy but you dealt with it.  I’m also much more stable handheld with a heavy camera on my shoulder.  I wasn’t worried about c fast cards, media is usually expensive on the first go round.  When P2 cards were introduced they weren’t cheap, same with SxS (and still aren’t).  The price will come down and until it does, wait for it . . . I’ll just rent the cards I need for a job!! Also, it pales in comparison to what people used to spend on tape and still do spend on film.  Its got same sensor as the BMPC which has some issues BUT its still damn good and its UPGRADEABLE- WHAAAAT???? On paper, this camera is a major win.  The day it was announced I clicked refresh on B&H’s site incessantly until I was able to pre-order which is probably why I got it last Wednesday! 

Unboxing

The packaging is cool but it smells weird, its a smell I’m unfamiliar with . . URSA smell.  That’s not really important but I would be interested to know if anyone else noticed this.  Maybe they put a little bear musk in there to enhance the experience?  

 Mmmm, bear. 

Mmmm, bear. 

Power

Getting the camera powered up was a bit more of a challenge than I anticipated.  The AC adapter worked just fine but the v mount adapter was a different story.  To access the cameras v mount connector you need a Torx (T6) screwdriver, which luckily I had.  However, behind that plate is a molex 51353-1200 connector. 

It looks like a power connector for a hard drive.  I’m sure it works well and looks very secure but unfortunately, no one makes a v mount to 12 pin molex connector.  The work around was to get a p tap to 4 pin xlr and use the plates p tap connection to power the camera via xlr. After I got up and running the IDX 88wh batteries lasted around 2 hours.  The might last a little less if you are shooting constantly but I was using the monitor for a majority of that time.  

 The Molex Connector

The Molex Connector

Ergonomics 

The camera seems very well balanced.  I didn’t have it on my shoulder for very long as I don’t have a shoulder pad for it but it felt pretty good.  I love the handle and its nice that it can be removed.  I carried it around all weekend and it wasn’t a bother, especially compared to the tripod that was constantly digging into my shoulder.  The quick release mount is also a great addition and almost a necessity on a large body camera.  The adapter plate you need to get to mount the camera via QR to your tripod is a Sony VCT-U14. Its a very well designed camera.    

 How I roll. 

How I roll. 

Monitor/Focusing 

Don’t knock that monitor until you’ve tried it.  Sure it looks like an Ipad but you can see sooo much more detail than a typical field monitor.  I found myself shooting things I might have otherwise overlooked with a smaller monitor or EVF.  If you want to get the most out of 4k you really need a monitor like this.  I think after using the Ursa, people are going to have a hard time going back to a smaller monitor - I know I will.  Focusing on that thing is a dream.  I don’t know if its because the peaking has improved on new firmware or its just the extra pixels in the monitor (probably a combination of both) but wow.  I have severe soft focus anxiety and it was alleviated by the monitor and peaking combo.  I didn’t use a follow focus and I’ve never had an easier time pulling focus.  It is a bit reflective but was never a problem, even in full sun.   I’ll probably get an anti-glare Ipad skin for it or something to protect it.  One downside, prepare to have lots of people lurking behind you trying to see what you’re shooting.  

 Doesn't look so big now does it? 

Doesn't look so big now does it? 

Exposure 

I used a combination of the histogram and zebras which worked really well.  Its nice to have the histogram on the second monitor.  That big monitor is just for composing images, it feels so luxurious.  We already know that sensor is not the best in low light but I think it did ok.  I definitely tried to see what I could get away with for future reference.  Some of the stuff I was worried about actually looked alright.   Its not perfect but no camera is and eventually there will be a new sensor.  I didn’t go above 400 ASA and I recommend you don’t, I’m just going to pretend 800 doesn’t exist.  

Media 

I used the sandisk 120 gig cards.  You get about 9 minutes of 60fps 4k Prores HQ per card and I didn’t have any issues.  When I was at the skate park I rolled an entire card without stopping and had no problems.  It also spanned the cards without missing a frame. I switched from raw to prores and back again on the same card and it created no issues.  One benefit of c fast is you can dump the 120 gig card in 4 minutes if you are using an SSD.  I would fill up the cards and go back to my car, dump them in a few minutes and go right back to shooting. 

 This is what I was hauling around all weekend.  

This is what I was hauling around all weekend.  

I love what I’ve seen so far and I can’t wait to use it on a project.  The camera is like a really fancy hotel room.  Lots of room to spread out, double vanity, separate room for the toilet and shower so when one person is showering the other can . . . you get the idea.