Finalist 2021

Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K Sensor

Blackmagic Design

The world’s first 12K video image sensor designed specifically for Hollywood films, episodic television and IMAX.

The Blackmagic Design 12K Sensor is the world’s first 12K video image sensor designed specifically for Hollywood films, episodic television and IMAX. Developed in Australia by Blackmagic Design and leveraging proprietary Blackmagic RAW and Generation 5 colour science, it possesses an unprecedented 12,288x6480 resolution and 14 stops of dynamic range.

Design Brief

Overcome the technical challenges of extremely high resolution professional video imaging. Consider processing time, storage costs and post-production workflows

Challenge the norms of traditional sensor architectures to create better, more effective pixels and maximise the potential of the underlying sensor.

Address the challenges associated with shooting in various resolutions to maintain creative intent and prevent lost image data.

Ensure the sensor remains affordable, carefully managing manufacturing processes to reduce production costs.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Informed by years of research and engineered from the ground-up, the Blackmagic Design 12K sensor is a Super 35 sensor with a native resolution of 12,288 x 6480 (80 megapixels) per frame.

Possessing an expansive 14 stops of dynamic range and native ISO of 800 for exceptional low-light performance, its unique architecture features equal amounts of red, green and blue pixels, and is optimized for shooting at multiple resolutions without cropping field of view (FOV).

Developed in close parallel with proprietary Blackmagic RAW codec, it produces extreme resolution, film-like images that are efficient and flexible to work with in post-production.

Design Excellence

The Blackmagic Design 12K sensor addresses the imbalance of an RGB Bayer filter by leveraging a unique, cutting-edge RGBW filter array with an equal number of red, green and blue photosites in addition to clear or ‘white’ photosites governing luminosity, without any colour at all.

Unlike typical 2 x 2 RGB Bayer CFAs, the Blackmagic 12K sensor has a 6 x 6 pixel grid with six red, six green, six blue and 18 white photosites. This balanced architecture greatly improves light sensitivity and dynamic range, allowing an exceptional breadth of detail to be captured in high contrast and low-light scenes.

With a dramatically smaller 2.2 micron pixel pitch, an equal number of photosites for each colour channel and light sensitive white photosites the Blackmagic Design 12K sensor achieves:

  • Greatly improved dynamic range.
  • No loss of light sensitivity due to the addition of W photosites, for a native ISO of 800.
  • The highest resolution of any Super 35 Image sensor.
  • Faithful, life-like reproduction of colour that rivals cameras costing ten times as much.
  • A film-like clarity of light and a nuanced subtleness to skin tone rendering.

The Blackmagic Design 12K sensor and BRAW were designed together to make 12 bit RAW workflows in 12K effortless. The world’s fastest RAW codec, BRAW requires less processing power and storage space, enabling users to shoot 12K and edit directly on a laptop; a capability that isn’t possible with other codecs.

The massive resolution of the sensor allows shots to be reframed in post for delivery in 8K and 4K, while the advanced design of the sensor and BRAW allows users to immediately work in any resolution in post-production, without time-consuming rendering, while retaining the sensor’s full colour accuracy.

Design Innovation

While the Blackmagic Design 12K sensor captures native 12K DCI, full FOV images up to 60fps it can, using BRAW, also shoot 8K and 4K super-sampled, full FOV RAW images up to 120fps.

If required, 6K files can be shot at a Super 16 crop at up to 120fps, while 4K Super 16 can go to an incredible 240fps for immersive, ultra-slow motion footage ideal for high-end sports broadcasts.

Ultimately this offers filmmakers and broadcasters almost unlimited creative freedom to tailor their composition to their specific needs, confident their creative intent will be faithfully retained from shooting through to post-production.

Improved Sensitivity to Light and Colour
The Blackmagic Design Sensor’s innovative 6x6 RGBW Colour Filter Array (CFA) has an equal ratio of six red, six green and six blue pixels balanced with eighteen white pixels to control luminosity. This greatly improves light sensitivity and dynamic range, allowing an exceptional breadth of detail to be captured in high contrast and low-light scenes.

Optimized for Fast Flexible Post Production
Shooting RAW in 12K preserves the deepest control of detail, exposure and colour in post-production. Paired with Blackmagic RAW, The Blackmagic Design 12K Sensor enables shooting of cinema-quality, 12-bit, 12K at up to 60 fps.

When working in 8K or 4K, innovative in-sensor scaling enables it to work twice as fast, doubling the frame rate to 120 fps without cropping or altering the field of view.

Blackmagic RAW Image Capture
Depending on the workflow, users can prioritise constant quality levels, where compression adapts to match a scene’s detail. Alternatively, constant bitrate encoding produces the best possible images with predictable and consistent file sizes.

RAW files can be recorded simultaneously to two cards simultaneously so you can shoot 12K or 8K to either CFast or UHS II cards, even at high frame rates.

Design Impact

The Blackmagic Design 12K sensor is the first sensor to be completely designed by Blackmagic Design from the ground up. The culmination of a strategy that unifies a multiple technology developments, it leverages extensive IP and design, and represents a revolutionary advancement in the cinematography and broadcast industry.

The Blackmagic Design 12K image sensor is a ground-breaking example of Australian design and manufacturing ingenuity, and represents a massive leap forward in the global video technology industry. For less than $10,000 cinematographers can leverage the very cutting edge of cinema camera technology for a tenth of the price of typical high-end alternatives.

Blackmagic Generation 5 Colour Science features a new film curve designed to make full use of the massive amount of colour data from the new URSA Mini Pro 12K sensor. This delivers even better colour response for more pleasing skin tones, and better rendering of highly saturated colours such as neon signs and car tail lights in high contrast scenes. Generation 5 Colour Science informs complex Blackmagic RAW image processing, with colour and dynamic range data from the sensor preserved via metadata for use in post-production.

A major factor in the cost of image sensor development is manufacturing yield. Essentially made up of rows and columns of pixels, traditional image sensor planes are highly sensitive and susceptible to obvious and fatal flaws like pattern noise and other undesirable artefacts. Just one malfunctioning pixel could render an entire column dead, leading to high reject rates, low yields and subsequently excessive manufacturing costs.

To ensure this ground-breaking technology could be released at a reasonable cost, image sensor architecture was completely reconfigured to minimise the impact of pixel defects, improving yields and reducing manufacturing costs significantly.

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

Through a careful rationalisation of sensor architecture and manufacturing processes, traditionally high reject rates have been dramatically reduced, increasing yields and minimising waste during production.

With an unprecedented resolution and numerous image quality and productivity benefits, the Blackmagic Design 12K sensor is a future-proof design that will continue to be used in high end productions long into the foreseeable future.

Further enhancing its longevity and minimising its impact on the environment, on-going enhancements to Blackmagic RAW will guarantee its relevance long after many inferior cameras have been disposed of.

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