Everyone Needs a Little Assist…. BlackMagic Video Assist 4K
By Holland Davis
We recently did a field test featuring Blackmagic Design products with a view to put together the most cost effective video capturing system for broadcast quality video and web streaming in a portable church context. One of the products that completely blew me away was the Blackmagic Video Assist 4K.
The Video Assist 4K is a high resolution monitoring and Ultra HD recording device. It’s ideal as an additional monitoring device for cameras making it easier to accurately set focus and frame shots. But it also serves as a professional high quality field recorder for video with audio. This device is a must have in a portable video production set up for portable churches, and it’s also a great piece of gear for churches that have older equipment and want to upgrade their existing equipment without replacing it. As long as your older equipment has an HDMI or SDI output, the Video Assist 4K can add some incredible modern features.
First let me talk about the structure. The Video Assist 4K has a 7” high resolution monitor, and is great as a stand-alone monitor for the Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K. With it, you can monitor your feed and access the menu system to adjust your camera. It has both 6G SDI and HDMI ins and outs. The Video Assist 4K has a major advantage over the Video Assist in that it also has two analog audio inputs with 48V Phantom power, which makes this an incredible audio / video recording device. It also records in 4K Ultra High Definition. There is a headphone jack that allows you to monitor the audio feed or you can use the built in speakers that come with the Video Assist 4K. I personally like to use headphones as sometimes the speakers can cause a feedback loop. There is also a LANC port for remote control.
The Video Assist 4K is extremely well made and durable. The frame is a metal aluminum frame, so it’s light weight and built to last. I didn’t feel like I needed to treat it with kid gloves. It also has two high speed UHS-II SDHC card slots that can record one after another. The unit is extremely quiet, making it ideal for high quality audio recording. You can power the device using a standard 12V DC power cable or use two Canon LP-E6 batteries which are hot swappable so you never have to worry about power. This unit is portable and easy to manage.
The menu system is highly intuitive, easy to use and easy to access on the LCD touch screens. You can monitor audio, access transport controls, view time code, histogram, battery status, current frame rate and display camera information. You can also change your camera settings. We didn’t experience any learning curve whatsoever in using this device. One thing we did notice; however, is the device records whatever you see on the screen. If you use the screen as a multi-view monitoring device and hit record, that’s the view you will get. If you are using it as a recording device for a video shoot, make sure you take the signal from the program out, not the multi-view out. Recording times depend on the quality of video you are shooting. If you are recording 1080p, you record nearly eight hours on a 256 GB SD Memory Card. ProRes 422 is nearly 2.5 hours, and ProRes 422 HQ is around 1.5 hours. If you are recording 4K you can record around three hours on a 256 GB high performance UHSII SD card, and ProRes 322 is nearly one hour. ProRess 422 HQ is around 30 minutes. Remember this device records at ten bit 4:2:2 ProRes and DNxHD quality.
This unit rocks with the Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K, but can work with any camera that has an HDMI connection. We used a consumer-grade HD cam, but you can also use any DSLR Camera, like the Canon EOS 5D for example. The benefit of using the Video Assist 4K instead of just recording directly to your camera is three-fold. First, you have an exact idea of what you are shooting. The image you see is exactly what you will get in your finished product. Second, you can monitor audio to make sure you’re getting a great signal. It’s a real drag to shoot an event only to discover the audio didn’t come through. Third, you can record continuously, unlike many consumer grade or DSLR’s that split the video fille at smaller intervals. The unit has a builtin kick stand to serve as a stand-alone table unit, or you can use one of the 6 standard sized mounting points located on the top and the bottom of the device. This unit is designed to fit into a variety of rigging applications.
As far as applications, you can use the Video Assist 4K as a single camera monitor/recording device, which could give you a broadcast quality single shot view for video streaming. You can also use the Video Assist 4K in conjunction with a switcher like the ATEM Television Studio to record a multi-cam shoot in Ultra HD video. Either way, you’re going to find this product a must have item.
HOLLAND DAVIS IS A TEACHING PASTOR, VETERAN WORSHIP LEADER, COMPOSER AND THE AUTHOR. HE IS THE SENIOR PASTOR OF CALVARY CHAPEL SAN CLEMENTE AND CEO OF WORSHIPSONG.COM. YOU CAN FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER OR INSTAGRAM@HOLLANDDAVIS