Episode 223 — Blackmagic Design

 

Episode 223 — Blackmagic Design

Hello, everyone!

I’m Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 223! I’m chatting with Bob Caniglia, the Director of Sales Operations for the Americas for Blackmagic Design. I’m really excited about this one. Blackmagic is a major cinema company that manufactures cameras, as well as DaVinci Resolve. I have a few Blackmagic cameras and I use a lot of their equipment. So I’m excited to sit down and chat about all that!

Let’s dive in!

FIRST THINGS FIRST:

[00:42] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!

[1:01:11] I have a free class at www.VFXCourse.com. It’s only available for a short time. It’s 10+ hours of high end training shot on Blackmagic cameras. The training is available at www.VFXCourse.com.

[1:01:43] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!

INTERVIEW WITH BLACKMAGIC DESIGN

Blackmagic Design is an Australian digital cinema company and manufacturer. It designs and manufactures broadcast and cinema hardware, most notably digital movie cameras, as well as develops video editing software such as the DaVinci Resolve application. The company has grown rapidly to become one of the world’s leading innovators and manufacturers of creative video technology.

The company was founded in 2001 by Grant Petty and it produced its first product in 2002: the DeckLink capture card. In 2005 the company released several products, including the Multibridge family of PCIe bi-directional converters and the FrameLink family of DPX-based software. In 2006 the company released Blackmagic On-Air television production software.

At the 2012 NAB Show, Blackmagic announced their first Cinema Camera. In 2018, the company also partnered with Apple to create the Blackmagic eGPU, followed by the Blackmagic eGPU Pro.

As a company dedicated to quality and stability and focusing on where it’s needed most, Blackmagic Design has created some of the most talked about products in the industry. World famous for their unbeatable codecs, Blackmagic envisioned truly affordable high-end quality editing workstations built upon Blackmagic software and hardware.

In this Podcast, Allan McKay interviews Bob Caniglia, the Director of Sales Operations for the Americas for Blackmagic Design, about the company’s history and its growth into one of the world’s leading innovators and manufacturers of creative video technology.

Blackmagic YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCufB8sMVyP9JEScMjLz74YA
Blackmagic on Twitter: @Blackmagic_News
Blackmagic Design: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/

 

[03:33] Allan: Thanks again for taking the time to chat! I really appreciate it. Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?

Bob: Sure, I’m Bob Caniglia. I’m the Director of Sales Operations for the Americas for Blackmagic Design.

[03:44] Allan: Cool! That’s awesome. Before we dive in, I thought it would be cool to talk about your history. Obviously, you’ve been tied to compositing and a lot of these products for a while. What’s your background?

Bob: Sure! I was actually living in Los Angeles in the late 80s – early 90s. I worked at a post-house called 525 Productions.

[04:10] Allan: That sounds familiar.

Bob: Yeah. I worked there for a few years. Then I got married and we moved back East, and I worked at Broadway Video for a couple of years. And then one day, I demoed a product at the NAB Show in 1993 (and I haven’t missed one yet), and I’ve been working for manufacturers since. I went through different places, including Quantel which made high end products back in the day. I was working at DaVinci for about 4-5 years. And then Blackmagic bought them, and I went from being the youngest guy at DaVinci — to the oldest guy at Blackmagic. Here I am, almost 10 year later, and Blackmagic and it’s been great!

[04:57] Allan: Cool! I’m curious, with Blackmagic, can you talk about their history? Obviously, they’ve been around for a long time. How did they get started and grow into the industry giant that they are today?

Bob: Yeah, you know, it’s funny! Grant Petty is the Founder and the CEO of Blackmagic. He was a an Engineer working in Singapore. One of the things he was trying to figure out is how to get SDI into a Mac. He essentially founded Blackmagic (with a couple of other guys) out of a garage and continued from there. By the time they came to look at DaVinci, they had some products, routers, things like that — but not a lot of post products (other than the hardware). But with acquisition of DaVinci, things started to expand. It gave them the ability to buy several other companies over the course of 7-8 years, too, that put them into several other places: heavy into post-production, heavy into live production.

Around about 2012, we launched the first camera. It was a homegrown product. People didn’t understand why we would get into it. The reason we were seeing the process of shooting production into post-production, and some of the juggernauts that occur with file formats. What if we could capture the file format the we could take straight into post? That’s where the camera started to go. That’s when we started to get more attention throughout the industry. First, we had the cinema cameras. Then we had the studio cameras. Then, pocket cameras. With that, the product lines expanded. I used to be a TD, I did a lot of commercials when I started. A lot of the things they were doing were interesting to me. It’s great to still play with their tools these days and see how they all fit. So it’s a funny way to see how the company expanded. It’s like a runaway train!

[08:43] Allan: That’s a good thing, right? And what was the first Blackmagic camera that came out? And what was the reception? Was there any resistance? It makes perfect sense: You, guys, have been developing a lot of the software and you know it inside and out. You know exactly what customers want.

Bob: With the first camera, what we tried to do was: We saw that a lot of the workflow was coming from people who were using DSLR’s to capture video (even though those are primarily still cameras). Those files were heavily compressed, they weren’t easy to use. All we were trying to do was say: What if we had a camera in a shape of a box? It was a unique camera. It shot at 2.5 K and you could maneuver for finishing in HD. We could record raw and we could record pro res too. With those two file formats we covered what people could use straight away. It had an EF mount. A lot of the DSLR’s at the time were Canon. It had a monitor and built-in recording. The idea was to shoot with this thing, with the same lens you were using for your DSLR. It became pretty obvious pretty quickly that we were onto something.

We did pretty well with that original; then we had a couple of different versions of it, different lens mounts. Then we had the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K version of it which was very exciting because it had a global shutter. It didn’t have any rolling shutter issues. From there, we just kept building onto it. We could see what people were doing with it: They were building these Frankenstein rigs, with different view finders and attachments. As we moved forward, we were trying to build cameras that had monitors built in and we build our own EF. And we were also trying to build cameras that were affordable for everyone. A lot of the time, in Hollywood, people rent cameras because they were expensive. We were building cameras that people could buy and own then, and use them in big-budget productions. So between DP’s buying their own cameras and schools trying to buy several Pocket Cinema Camera 4K cameras for their classes — that really helped! And then, at the core of all this, you have DaVinci Resolve with those cameras. That really helped have more people use Resolve. It has really become the core of our product line. Resolve ties all it together. When I started with DaVinci, if there 200 people using Resolve back then — I’d say, it was a lot. Today, I’d say, there are millions! So that’s pretty exciting!

[12:59] Allan: I love that! That’s so cool! At the same time, I always found with Blackmagic, for people who want to go from lossless file format, it’s non-destructive, that was the initial attraction for me. I come from visual effects background and people always ask what the best camera to get is. People often lean toward DSLR’s thinking it’s their only option. If you go into film, people think it’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It’s very easy to get into 5-6 figure budgets. But hands down, there is nothing that compares to the quality of the Blackmagic cameras when it comes to quality and affordability too. What you pay for is a steal. It still blows my mind. It’s really impressive what you’ve been doing.

Bob: The key is that we’re trying to put out a product that can compete against anything in terms of the output and the ability to shoot. And a Blackmagic RAW, which is almost a year old now, that raw format is even better because it’s almost like 2 in 1. It’s lightweight enough to be used with a laptop for editing, but serious enough to be used for grading by removing the built in LUT and going back to the raw files. It eliminates the need to have multiple copies of files. In the old days, you would have to create a proxy version to edit and relink later. The Blackmagic RAW is starting to catch on. A lot of people have gotten into that workflow; and it works really well in DaVinci, for Resolve editing. It turned into keep-it-in-the-family workflow out of pure ease of work, and it’s been exciting to watch. It’s a workflow that we’ve been trying to create all along: to make it easy, so you spend less time copying files and spend more time making great edits.

[16:15] Allan: That’s great! I love having a non-destructive workflow where you can bring things in and if you need to bring it back, you roll back in the pipeline and re-source everything. Again, I think that has such a huge impact! To shift to the Blackmagic Cinema 4K to 6K, when you, guys, announced the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K camera, what was the reaction? Again, I couldn’t not find everyone going nuts about the 4K! From your perspective, by having your finger on the pulse of the industry, what has the reaction been to this camera?

Bob: Well, the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K was the sequel to the original pocket camera we’ve made. We kept the name because show after show, people would ask, “When is the 4K version of the pocket camera coming out?” Eventually, when we decided to build the product that we did, it was larger than the original pocket camera. As I’ve said, the first one was the skinny jeans version. This one was more of a cargo pants version. But it was a small one nonetheless. People were impressed that this version improved on so many of the original items. It showed that we listened. It had a full HDMI output, it had a large touch screen, it recorded on SD card, as well as CFast2 card. Then there is a USB C-port. It had the MFT mount that the original one had; and that was because we knew people invested in lenses and adapters. It had the Blackmagic RAW which is a nice bonus. The price range was pretty good, and it included the DaVinci Resolve which the original pocket camera did not (mostly because at the time, the original pocket camera was $995 and so was the Resolve). You weren’t going to get a free camera with the purchase of Resolve. So overtime, the price of Resolve went down to $295, but still it was $1,295 for a camera with a touch screen. People were blown away by the price point and the features (and it could work in low light). So we were inundated with orders. We didn’t start shipping it until September / October. But the demand was massive. And that was really cool!

But at the same time, there was the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K version being developed, behind the scenes. Sometimes, if you have development and it’s almost ready — and the parts between the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and the 6K are very similar — you just have to wait for a good amount of them to be built. So that at the launch of the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K, we were able to ship a lot of them right away. That was interesting to me! We launched, let’s say on a Thursday; and then the following Wednesday, I was at a user group to talk about the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and URSA Mini Pro 4.6K G2. Once we announced the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K and I was able to bring it to the meeting, and I thought it would get a good reception. But as soon as I walked in, there was a guy there saying, “I already have the camera!” Wow! That’s cool! That’s different! Now we have these two cameras but they sort of fit two different spaces. There is budget / price difference. One of the things people asked was, “EF mount and a super 35 censor?” This product did both! It’s a super 35 censor that does up to 6K in resolution. It was great to see the reaction and to see people respond positively! You know you’ve captured the intel and are able to put it into the product. So that part is hugely exciting!

[22:15] Allan: I think that’s one huge advantage that you, guys, have. You’ve managed to continue updating the firmware. With cameras being more advanced these days, it can shift the entire strength and purpose of the camera. You’ve rolled out a lot of updates that made it even better. A lot of the older cameras with the firmware updates, there weren’t features added. I think it’s been really impressive. They’ve leveled up what the camera can do.

Bob: Well, you know, originally the Pocket 4K didn’t have the Blackmagic RAW. It was added later. At this launch, we’ve announced some new features for the 4K and Grant played up its features and then [mentioned], “And by the way, here is a 6K camera”. And he also hinted about the future updates to the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and 6K. We’re going to put a multi-language support and there is this new horizon censor level (basically some markers on the camera to let you know you’re level). Those will be added to both cameras in the future. We wanted to let people know we aren’t finished and we’ll continue adding features, and we are! You want to feel we’re taking care of the customers. In this case, the cameras are newer and with the computers, it’s faster. And of course, with Resolve, if you bought a copy in 2010, you’re still getting free upgrades. So that’s pretty good!

[24:45] Allan: That’s amazing! Going back to the original camera not shipping with Resolve, but then the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (which is $1,200) having Resolve already: Have you heard any stories of people saying, “We need to get 3 more comp seats. Go buy some cameras right now!” (Instead of buying Resolve directly?)

Bob: Well, I know some guys who bought multiple cameras and they gave their seats to other people, or sold them. And that’s fine! If you have the license, it will run on two different computers and the intention is that: You buy a camera and you have a bigger workstation at home but you also have a laptop you take on the road. That way you can share the license between the two. There was a guy years ago who wanted to buy Resolve which was $995 at the time. But I told him, “If you buy this $2,000 camera, you get a camera and Resolve! If you don’t love the camera, you can sell it!” Overtime, the pricing has changed.

[26:15] Allan: Just to talk a little bit about Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and 6K. I’m one of the many who marinates after a product is announced, waiting anxiously. “When is going to be available?!” What was the reaction with Pocket Cinema Camera 6K being readily available?

Bob: It was a funny reaction to everyone, including the resellers. When they found out that they were on their way, they were saying, “This is amazing!” And the customers who were quick enough to get in there and get those first batches, they couldn’t believe they were getting them that fast. So that was kind of fun too! It was satisfying especially when we went to the user group — and people already had them — it’s obviously a difficult thing to pull off. We got the reaction we hoped for! And we hit some of the points people wanted. It’s like anything, we still need to build a lot of cameras. But we got the first wave of them out there.

[28:44] Allan: That’s so great! I want to talk about Fusion and Resolve soon. But if you were to compare the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and the 6K, what are some of the difference between the two? And which camera would be right for which user?

Bob: Right! At the very base level, the lens mount, with the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K being an MFT and the 6K being an EF. Depending on what their investment in the lens is, that’s a big factor in that decision there. The rest of it: The Pocket Cinema Camera 6K has the larger file sizes obviously, but for the most part, they do have the same core essence. You still have the ability to record to the external SSD; you still have the Blackmagic RAW and those things. We tried to make them have as many features as we could based on the hardware. Since a lot of the hardware is similar, it’s easier since a lot of it is well matched. I’ve seen some people say, “I don’t need 6K!” and that’s all fine. And at that price point, you could buy two of the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K’s if you wanted to. They’re two different cameras aimed at two different people who want to use the EF lenses or get higher than 4K resolution for VFX plates or whatever they’re doing. And the Blackmagic RAW helps with all of that because they can reduce file sizes. The Blackmagic RAW helped with a lot of the data wrangling and management. You know, it all goes to where your lens investment is and people have different takes on that. Of course, as soon as you do one, then people say, “What about that other one?”

[31:17] Allan: I don’t think I’ve seen a single video of the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K on YouTube that wasn’t using the speed boost to convert it back to EF. I think in general, so many of us invest in the glass! Micro four thirds isn’t an elegant lens and it makes sense for that size camera. But having the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K support the EF lenses was really exciting to hear about! I was curious, with the comparison of the URSA and the Blackmagic Cinema family, what would be the main advantages and disadvantages of both? What are the types of people that they target?

Bob: The URSA Mini Pro, especially now that we have the Generation 2. That one has the ability to shoot 120 frames per second in 4K but also has the ND filters built in. The 2 also has the SSD Dock. The thing about the URSA Mini Pro body is that they’re designed for more than one person on set. The Pockets are designed to be able to run in and out, [which is] great for small spaces. They still shoot big when you need them so they’ll match up with the rest of them. They can accompany any manufacturer in terms of grading. But the URSA Mini Pro definitely has some user functionality you wouldn’t get in the Pocket when you can shoot in EVF and put it on a shoulder mount. You can do news stuff production. That think that I like is that it can be a studio camera if you need it to be. It has the SDI in and out so you can actually run it as a studio camera and shade it through our live production ATEM Switchers and camera controllers. But after the newscast is over, you can go out and shoot a documentary or something more cinematic. So it’s a hybrid and you can do both. But the Pocket is a cinema camera and it’s not really a live production camera. It’s not designed to be a hybrid. With the exception of the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, most of the others don’t replace anything. They just augment the product line. The price point is a separator as well. The URSA Mini Pro body is $6,000, and it has some interchangeable mounts. But I find that all of our cameras are complimentary. People who own multiples end up using them all, in different ways. With Resolve, they can make them match better in post. It’s better to shoot more than one angle.

[35:44] Allan: Let’s shift to talking more about Fusion and Resolve. You came from working with DaVinci and Fusion was originally owned by IO. What’s the history about those?

Bob: It’s interesting! I know that the company Blackmagic had approached the guys at IO about buying Fusion even before they bought DaVinci. They originally kept them as two separate software packages. There’s still a separate version of Fusion. But overtime, they’ve realized they could put Fusion into Resolve as a tab, to make it easier for the round tripping. If a VFX house is using Fusion, it will make it a lot easier to move VFX plates and things like that; to the edit house, or the color grading house, or even the Fusion audio places. That part has expanded our world in terms of who’s using the product and for what. That part has been exciting and I think it will continue to evolve. We have two different edit pages now. Eventually, there may be some gentle pocking and prodding to use Resolve [for other things]. Which is great for everyone! You can spend less time converting files back and forth — and do the work — and it will show up looking the way it’s supposed to, to the next person.

[38:20] Allan: Who are some of your biggest clients, in the Fusion world? I’m sure you have an amazing array of customers.

Bob: All the software is used by more people than we know about. There is one company, they use every bit of Resolve. They’re called C&I Studios and they’re based in Florida. They have offices in LA and NY. When they do a project, they get everyone involved in the office. It takes it to the level we’re trying to do. They did an article with us and they told us: They did a project on which the editor was in Florida, the colorist was in New York City, the audio guy was in LA. They were doing some Fusion stuff in two other cities. But they were able to migrate stuff between everyone in a quick fashion. They were trying to take advantage of our workflow. In general, some of the larger companies like Company 3 and Technicolor, and those guys, they were really heavy in DaVinci Resolve for color correction, they keep playing around with Fusion. Muse VFX in Hollywood (they’ve worked on shows like Madam Secretary, Charmed, NCIS) find that it’s better if they can work in Fusion studio to get to the houses that use Resolve for grading. That way you’re spending more time doing the real work as opposed to worrying if you sent the right version.

[41:21] Allan: I think it is great to have Fusion be built into it. That’s the thing I’ve noticed over the last few years. You used to use Resolve to grade all your stuff. Bit by bit, I’m seeing it be used as the primary tool for editing, compositing, grading. It’s a one solution package. You can still go into Fusion to take advantage of some of its tools, but it makes it more seamless.

Bob: Because it’s in the app like that, we find that people who use Resolve for some grading, suddenly they slip into the Fusion to do some stabilization work. “Let me give this a try!” Now that it’s all in software version, it’s easier to click on a tab. The way the software works today — especially in large post houses — you can let the system play around a bit. It’s a big help! And if you’re working in between two houses, that’s the best case scenario.

[43:59] Allan: I’ve been working in VFX for a while but mostly from home. Early in my career, when I was 18, I worked for a big studio in Australia. You would see a lot of the Quantel operators running around doing their thing. It was interesting at the time! When desktop compositing became a thing, you could jump on a box and do your thing. Even for people who aren’t compositors, it gave you that freedom. The only disconnect I found was when a studio moved to Mac and it suddenly became so expensive. In general, having the open workflow encourages everyone do their own work or help out. It opens the door for everyone to participate in that workflow.

Bob: Right! There is an editor Alan Bell who used Fusion Studio on some of the editing of the Red Sparrow. It was one of those things where he was able to leverage his editing background but use other tools to get what he was looking for, result wise. Those things you see more and more of. Even if you’re a specialist, if you have some familiarity with what the tools do, you’ll have a better conversation with the VFX guy. Rather than putting your hands up in the air (with sound effects), you would have a better way to communicate. Having some knowledge will help people communicate overall. I think that would help. We do a lot of training videos to get started. People would learn the buzz words. That kind of familiarity will help everyone, but at least you’re speaking the same language.

[47:07] Allan: You’ve put together a really robust system of resources and training material. Can you shed some light on where people can go to find it?

Bob: We definitely have some great tools on our site in the Support Area: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/support/. It’s important that people understand the tools and we don’t want people be baffled. At the DaVinci Resolve Page, you can take a look at some of the videos: https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/davinciresolve/.
You can even reach out to some of the training companies.

[48:12] Allan: Just to talk more about the latest features in Resolve, what are some of the key things you’re proud of the most?

Bob: We added so many features to Resolve in 16.0! We just launched it in beta. We added this new cut page designed to do some quick editing, more in line for short form editing for commercials and things like that. Between the two pages, we got some good feedback. It really had us all take a look at editing and how we can help improve the workflow for editors. At the same time, there were some add-ons: the Fusion VFX stuff continues to grow. We’ve maintained that standalone version because some of the companies had some challenges moving into DaVinci Resolve. Even though some people may think we don’t pay attention to color, that is not true! There are so many more things on the color page: dust busting and shared nodes, these kinds of things! I remember one year at NAB, the developers went to the top customers to ask for feedback. At NAB, we rolled out everything they’ve asked for plus a hundred more things on top of that. It blew everyone’s minds!

[51:35] Allan: One of the other features you’re starting to implement into workflow is AI. How does that work for day to day work? Do you see that as something people will start to rely more and more on?

Bob: Where there is AI, when you’re in the cut page and you want to add a transition to cut, if you’re close to the beginning of the cut and you go drop it in, it knows to put it to the front. The AI is trying to prevent mistakes if you’re not on the right frame. That’s just learning how the operator works and trying to predict where they would go next. That’s kind of cool! It’s not something that feel like it’s taking over. It’s almost like an assistant editor. The AI is trying to get you to go to the place you want to go to. One of the things the guys are working on is trying to get the software to predict what you want to do and help you do it. (Rather than wait for you to hit a wall.) That’s where I see where AI is going to help. We even added this new feature that reviews the editing [as] the boring detector. It’s this concept that if you’re on an edit for a long time, it flags it. Those are the tools that you can have AI intelligence to them, but they wouldn’t be taking over.

[54:41] Allan: Yeah, I think it’s so cool! You’re right, a feature like that could be useful. I’ll have a couple of reminders on my phone to remind me if I’m working. If you’re tweaking that one thing for hours, you have to check yourself; so that you’re working on things that will actually make an impact. And obviously like vlogging has become big. YouTube is YouTube, but it sparked inspiration in a lot of people to pick up a camera. Vloggers can get their stuff out there and the AI can help cut out the boring bits or the silent ones.

Bob: It’s a double-edged sword: You want to help people who need help, but still give the tools to the people who know what they’re doing. Not every feature is going to be for every person. But ultimately, you’re trying to create tools that work across a wide spectrum of ability. So you want to make sure you’re meeting the needs of different people. When you have that cross-section of an audience, you have to pay attention — but still be on the cutting edge. I think we’ve done a great job: to have feedback and implement it across a wide range.

[57:13] Allan: I have one last question tied back to the AI. Do you see that as an area that cameras would benefit from? I feel like when you’re shooting on a production schedule, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times. Maybe it would be a great assist!

Bob: We have features that pay attention, like Focus Assist, False Color. But I hear what you’re saying. Could it be that the camera alerts the user if they aren’t in that menu? “Are you aware that you’ve blown out all the highlights?” It’s an interesting use case. It would be interesting to see what the guys do with that. If you’re able to turn on or off features, or to adjust them, they can work for a lot of people. Of course you want to turn off the client monitor.

[59:12] Allan: I love that you can turn off for the client monitor, a lot of the information. This has been so great! I really appreciate your time and being able to nerd out about the Blackmagic family. There is a need for these cameras and you’ve been filling that void. You’ve pulled that off successfully! So congratulations!

Bob: Thanks so much! It’s always great to have a chat about what we do, especially with someone who knows what we’re talking about.

[1:00:25] Allan: Well, thanks again!

Bob: Thanks again!

I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Bob for taking the time to chat. Please share this Episode around. That would mean the world to me!

I will be back next week, talking about building your personal brand.

Until then —

Rock on!

 

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