Blackmagic Intensity

This is an interesting little product that showed up at IBC: the Blackmagic Intensity.

It’s an HDMI ingest board. They’re targeting at folks with newer HDV cameras with HDMI outs – the HDR-HC3 for example. The theory is that you get uncompressed video out the HDMI port, which is somehow higher quality.

This is… interesting.

I can only imagine this making a visual difference if you’re recording directly into the computer, not recording to tape and then ingesting later. So, I suppose if you want to haul your MacPro around with you, chained to your handycam, you’ll potentially get higher image quality. Assuming that the HDMI outs on these cameras come before all the subsampling and whatnot.

Otherwise, all this gives you is a way to get very high bandwidth data out of a very low bandwidth source. This would be the same as capturing the video in HDV and then doing a file->export to Uncompressed. Again, it’s nice that this saves the step, but it can’t magically improve the quality of the image that was compressed to tape. Just like capturing uncompressed 4:2:2 SDI off a DVCam tape. You may want to work in the larger color space for your post work, but the capture process itself won’t improve your image quality.

Furthermore (yes, I know this is turning into a rant), I must take issue with the Intensity Quality page. It’s primarily completely bogus. For example, they claim how much better it is to get the native 1920×1080 image instead of the 1440×1080 of HDV, and they assert that the reason HDV uses that resolution is because of the size of the tape and the speed of firewire. Hu? HDCam is 1440×1080 as well, and I’m pretty sure they’re not limited by their cassette size. Furthermore, I highly doubt that the CMOS sensor on the HC3 is natively 1920×1080 like they claim. I can’t find definitive CMOS specs one way or another, but seeing as nobody else is using native 1920 sensors, I doubt they are as well.

Their 4:2:2 versus 4:1:1 gradients are also a bit laughable. Somehow sampling the colors less often makes them look dull? The banding I might agree to, but come on.

Ok, enough ranting. I really like Blackmagic in general. I think they have great products. Which is why this is especially annoying. Sell it as a board to monitor your timeline on an HDMI monitor. It’s cheap ($249) so for that reason along I think it’d be worth it to most people. But don’t trump it up as if you’re going to make that $1200 HDV camcorder look like a CineAlta.

4 thoughts on “Blackmagic Intensity

  1. You got it wrong. It bypasses HDV compression, HDV tape, and goes directly to HDMI out. The lens and CCD are not as good as a CineAlta’s but those cameras can output a signal thats much better than what they would produce if taped to HDV.

  2. Yeah, assuming you want limited cable length, no machine control, and tethered input it is great. Oh yeah, I forgot that you have to have storage capable of 165MB/sec to handle uncompressed 4:2:2 1080i/29.97. Something tells me a card with no deck control and no timecode doing crash captures at $249 escapes the fact that you need one hell of an array with data protection to make this a viable pro product. And then lets assume that you are a professional, why the hell wouldn’t you be using a professional card with professional storage? And what professional does crash capture? And if you want to monitor via HDMI and you were a pro, why wouldn’t you use something like an AJA H15 with looping SDI so that you don’t waste bus bandwidth and don’t get a looping SDI out? This product is just stupid.

  3. The Blackmagic Intensity also ships with a very high-quality JPEG compression codec — so your throughput only needs to be around 15MB/sec (not 165) if you don’t have the system capable of capturing uncompressed.
    This card also offers an excellent solution for current AVCHD camera owners (who don’t have editing software available yet for the AVCHD format). They can capture directly from the HDMI output of their camera (either before or after storing to the camera’s hard-drive) and then edit in Premiere Pro, Final Cut, etc.
    You seem strangely biased against an excellent and very affordable product.
    Sure, there are better products, but not for $250.

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