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August 29, 2013

Black Betty: the First Cinema Camera That Can Shoot, Edit, & Post Footage Completely Internally

Black Betty camopside

The brand new camera design is in the open (You guys are good!). Black Betty is much more than a camera. It's a complete cinema solution utilizing an Apple Mac Mini computer with a Silicon Imaging SI-2K Mini for the imager. It also happens to be the first single unit camera in existence capable of shooting, editing, and posting footage online, without the need for any other hardware.

Black Betty camdumbside

Black Betty weighs in at a little under 10 lbs. (16.4 when it's built up completely), but it is the most balanced camera I've ever used in this price range. When you put it on your shoulder, it immediately calls to mind the small film cameras that became one with their operators. This camera is a handholders dream size and weight to keep things steady -- and with a handle, you're good to go. That's why it was created, to completely get out of your way and let you use the wide range of 16mm and Super 16mm lenses out there. This was a passion project to create a camera that would utilize as many off-the-shelf parts as possible, while creating a completely new housing from a solid block of aluminum, which also happens to have more tapped holes for accessories than anything on the market.

Black Betty camhero

The SI-2K Mini (used extensively in movies like Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) is a 2048 x 1152 2/3" CMOS sensor that records DCI 2K/1080p up to 30fps, with higher frame rates at lower resolutions. It has at least 11 stops of dynamic range and operates comfortably from around ISO 160-500. The SI-2K Mini is more or less just a sensor in a small housing, and it uses Gigabit Ethernet tethered to some sort of device -- like a laptop -- that will then be used as the recorder. In this case, the internal Mac Mini (which also uses its own SSD) is running the Silicon Imaging software to record CineForm compressed RAW files in many different ratios, ensuring that you can save space when you need it and shoot less compressed when you want the highest fidelity. Here's the unfinished front housing of the camera along with the lens mount, a P+S Technik IMS mount capable of taking almost anything in existence, including PL, Nikon, and more:

SI-2K smileycamhead

The 720p touchscreen drives the Silicon Imaging software (the camera only has start/stop and on/off). Simplicity is the name of the game here. Shoot RAW, expose properly, and get beautiful shots. You can also see the standard 2.5" SSD drive slot used for recording media in the back:

Black Betty camopsiderunning

Check out some footage from the camera. This is a teaser from Jeff Stern's The Morning of Everything, shot on the Cooke 9-50mm zoom and Zeiss Speeds:

Here is a little bit from our exclusive interview with the creators of the project, Adam Van Voorhis, a Cinematographer and Equipment Manager at Rule Boston Camera, and Mike Szegedi, an experimental filmmaker and Senior Manufacturing Engineer at Bluefin Robotics:

NFS: So this thing actually runs a full operating system?

Adam: It boots Mac OS and Windows, and that opens the door to a lot of creative, fun stuff. The Mac Mini that's in here is just an old Core 2 Duo, because we wanted to butcher something old first, before buying something new. But you could conceivably put a new Core i7 Mac Mini in here, boot up into Mac OS, load your footage into DaVinici Resolve, and hook up another monitor to it. Then load that up into Final Cut X, edit away, and grade your footage -- all off the camera if you wanted to.

NFS: Does the footage play in real-time on the system?

Adam: Yeah, it's not a heavyweight codec. If you wanted to you could do everything with it including surfing the internet and Chromecasting your files to your television in your living room. It can do all of that. And that's something that is exciting, as computing technology changes, so can the camera. Even if the computer changed form factor, we could just make it fit into the housing. Because we know that wouldn't get bigger.

Mike: I don't know of any other camera in the world that can do that right now. I'm not saying we're the first, but we might be -- even though it's a DIY thing. We might be the first camera that has all of these capabilities built-in, without having to hook up a laptop. [Editor's note: This is the first cinema camera that can do all of these things in one housing.]

Adam: ...And obviously it's not super practical to use the camera as your editor, grading station, or to review all your footage, but if you didn't have another choice or you don't have the resources, why not take advantage of something like that? Why not share your frame grabs over WiFi. Say I'm in the field and I need to get a still frame, or I need to get my footage off, and I have nothing. Sure, just upload it.

NFS: Theoretically you could upload your footage wirelessly.

Adam: You could. It would be slow, but there's nothing stopping you from doing anything like that. There's nothing stopping you from taking Bluetooth keyboards and Bluetooth mice, and using them to do things like trigger the camera remotely. I've triggered the camera from hundreds of feet away with a Bluetooth mouse and it works, and that's damn cool.

Mike: Since it's an Apple device, you could probably use Apple devices to trigger it.

Adam: Sure. Anything that you can do with a Mac Mini, you can do with the camera. It's simple.

Mike: ..but powerful.

***

Right now Betty is being positioned as a rental camera, and you'll be able to get it from Rule Boston Camera. We'll have more from Mike and Adam, so stay tuned, and if you've got questions, it might not be a bad idea to hold off and ask them once the full interview has been posted, as there will likely be more than a few questions answered.

Link: Black Betty Cameras

Your Comment

133 Comments

Props for innovation!

August 29, 2013

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^Exactly. I would never ever use this but I LOVE when the small guys go toe-to-toe with the big guys. Everyone wins from new ideas. Except for the small guys with terrible loans who can't afford rent.

August 29, 2013

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Josh

What an interesting, interesting camera. I would definitely try this out. And the footage looks beautiful!

August 29, 2013

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Tal

Great innovation. When the 35mm sensor version hit the market I'll be interested.

August 29, 2013

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Jeremie

Meh.

August 29, 2013

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Louie

Awesome. I gotta admit, just recently I was watching Miami Vice and thinking about how cool that movie looks. I went and looked it up, found out it was shot with a 2/3 sensor (Viper). I realized that a some of my favorite 2000-era films are marked by that 2/3 look... Miami Vice, Zodiac, Public Enemies, Speed Racer. So excited to find out a new camera being released with that sensor size.

August 29, 2013

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drew

Don't forget Collateral :)

August 29, 2013

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Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer
28

Collateral rocked!

August 29, 2013

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drew

I think both those movies looked terrible.

August 29, 2013

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derkiki

Mann started playing with a 360° shutter which gives his more recent films a 'video' look with all the motion blur.

ZODIAC wasn't shot entirely on the Viper, but my goodness, does that film look incredible. We lost Savides far too early.

August 29, 2013

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Yo Joe, Zodiac was all Viper. Before the Red, Fincher totally dug the Viper imagery, shooting Zodiac and Benjamin Button (which was mixed with a little 35mm and F23)

AmericanCinematographer's Benjamin Button article
http://www.theasc.com/ac_magazine/January2009/BenjaminButton/page1.php

August 30, 2013

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drew

Michael mann one of the best directors and MIAMI VICE was one of most underated movies

viper looked great in that movie

August 29, 2013

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jay clout

wasn't zodiac shot with a panavision genesis which is super35 size censor?

August 29, 2013

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Jerome (also..b...

Nawls, Zodiac was all Viper.

IMDB tech specs:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443706/technical?ref_=tt_ql_dt_7

american cinematographer article on shooting Zodiac
http://www.theasc.com/ac_magazine/April2007/Zodiac/page1.php

August 30, 2013

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drew

Speaking for all indie film makers, the question on all our lips is:

- How much will it cost?
- Will it be cheaper than the BMCC?
- When will it be released?

August 29, 2013

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cinematographer1

The article says it's likely rental only right now. That aside, if it were to be sold, I *highly* doubt it would be cheaper than a BMC. The SI-2K Mini alone would probably go for more than a BMC, let alone the Mac Mini inside, the custom housing, and the labor involved in making it (especially since it's essentially a bespoke camera, not mass-produced in any way).

August 29, 2013

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Kevin Marshall

EOS HD recently had a piece on some guy in Germany who put together his own camera. But it looked definitely like a one-off. This one should be capable of a lot of mods and upgrades.

August 29, 2013

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DLD

Funny I was trying to look that up during the first post. I'd like to see how far that guy is now, looked interesting indeed.

August 29, 2013

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Anthony Marino

Just looking at some of the features, I see some pros and cons with this camera.

The footage is beautiful, the design of the camera looks comfortable, and the concept of having a mac mini behind the sensor is awesome.

The dynamic range isn't very great, only getting up to 30fps at 2k/1080p, and the cropped 16mm(?) sensor which most competitors seem to have these days.

Although this isn't a camera I'll be getting, it will be interesting to see how well it does compared to the Blackmagic cameras, the Digital Bolex, and DSLRs. I hope similar looking cameras come from this though.

August 29, 2013

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David

That's one of the goals really. These guys want to raise awareness, that cinema cameras don't have to be made like camcorders or DSLRs. This size and shape is something a lot of people desire (and more may desire once they put it on their shoulders.)

August 29, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director
161

Well, she ain't much of a looker but definitely one of the more interesting cameras that's come about in awhile. Was hoping for a higher res/super 35mm but that's what I get for building up a mystery cam in my imagination. Definitely interested in this one. Will probably be moreso once a price is announced.

August 29, 2013

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Coty

"It also happens to be the first single unit camera in existence capable of shooting, editing, and posting footage online, without the need for any other hardware."

They may need to get legal protection on that idea. Looks like a steal-able concept. And yeah, if it can be stolen pretty likely it will be. Got a good lawyer?

August 29, 2013

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Gene

The idea of zero upload time to a computer is nice!

August 29, 2013

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Gene

I really need XLR inputs on any of these (visually) awesome cameras. Please?

August 29, 2013

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Ryan

Only 11 stops? Ouch.

August 29, 2013

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Thom

"It also happens to be the first single unit camera in existence capable of shooting, editing, and posting footage online, without the need for any other hardware."
uhhhh you forgot about the billions of iphones........

August 29, 2013

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pat

None of which are RAW-shooting cinema cameras with interchangeable lenses.

August 29, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director
161

Just you wait until the iPhone 8 comes out ;-)

August 29, 2013

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This so cool! I love this project not only because I am a frequent customer at rule and live in boston. But this is an extremely cool and interesting camera. I will be renting this ASAP! Follow me on Facebook, I should be doing a review and some testing.

Caleb Camera

August 29, 2013

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Caleb

Seems like a hackers camera to me. It sound cool in practice, but I dont really see the need to cut inside the camera, and even color grading is a stretch (even as a last resort). Props for innovation, but it seems rather unecessary and more than likely not worth the price of admission. If i want a cinema camera I can spend a couple grand for a rig and a couple more for the a bmcc and for around $5k have a kickass cinema camera. Not to mention that it won't be mass produced by a big company so it might be hard to support it properly since its so DIY, if something go wrong then what. And the IQ at this point, is a little behind the times. But I applaud the effort in developing something like this, and would love to see a more throughly devloped s35 or ff version of this maybe based around a dslr sensor with 13-14 stops, and with a fully developed interface. having a computer inside the camera might make this feasible and very powerful. And the form factor is of course a plus for some situations.

August 29, 2013

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Diego RB

How does this thing fit comfortably on the shoulder?

August 29, 2013

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Mike C

Because the balance is exceptional. Having a pad or a towel can't hurt for long periods, but it just sits there nicely.

August 29, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director
161

Well-balanced or not, 7.5kgs is a lot of weight to have on your shoulder all day...

August 29, 2013

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Sorry but this isn't a 'new camera'...the designers say it themselves. Editing in camera? Who is going to want to lug around that camera to edit? Most shoots dump&go w/ perhaps some basic cuts from the editing bay/laptop, not edit then shoot more.

August 29, 2013

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MIke C

I don't really understand how the SI-2K Mini works. Without this set up how does it traditionally capture? i.e could you hook one up to a Ninja? I'm not sure how this camera is any better or worse compared to any existing way of using the censor. Does it give a different image? Record for longer? What are the USB ports for? Is there a mic?

August 29, 2013

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Billy C

So, if SI decides to put out a 4K camera, one could almost change the front end? Alexa has a modular (Alexa M) piece but it's hefty $140K. There's Modula, a German company. The new Sony Honami smartphone is modular. I wonder if one could rig those two pieces together.

August 29, 2013

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DLD

Someone already has put out a 4K camera, and one with a "10 Gb/s computer connection so you can capture the camera’s output." Mac Mini accepts Thunderbolt :) It would take some figuring out, for sure.

August 29, 2013

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Dave Kendricken
Writer
Freelancer
28

Well, initially, my thought was that the secret sauce was in their software (and it still may be) but, as been pointed out by Elle, a similar rig with the Mac Mini has been done before. I assume there's a difference somewhere along the way but (@Ben Prater, et al), if they had made it open source, then pretty much a lot of folks could put this together and the BB ROI would come to a solid nil.
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BTW, as I was perusing the net, there have been other modular systems recently beside the soon-to-be announced Sony. (I know this is not news to many of you) There's been a Ricoh, a South Korean and the German projects, etc. A more daring attempt here, IMO, would have been to take apart an off-the-shelf $500 dollar camera like D5200 or a58 and write a clever codec to turn it into a 4K cam for the extra cost of a Mac Mini.
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PS. As to an exoskeleton type mounting - check this out. And the guy has an iPad live recording too!
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[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzC87VSk7pw]

My take is that soon there'll be a fairly autonomic robot-like rig (won't be cheap, obviously) that could do pretty much everything a human operator could do without getting tired of logging a 30 lb rig all day. The director and the DP would then control him via a joystick pad and Google Glass.

August 29, 2013

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DLD

This is amazing and has redefined my idea of what a camera can be. I would use this right now if I could. God damn. Gimme.

August 29, 2013

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Chris

More like Hipst-a-Matic.

August 29, 2013

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Natt

You are adorable. At this point everyone is a hipster and it's a silly and overused word.

August 29, 2013

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director
161

+1

August 29, 2013

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hansd

I think the SI2kM is about $20k all by itself, so this may not be a low-cost option. The concept is interesting though. At some point somebody will Frankenstein some great parts together like this with zero unique components -- a complete off-the-shelf bolt-up -- and then all kinds of innovation will occur. It will be like building a PC from scratch. Who wouldn't want to have an entire Mac available? It does not mean you need to run everything on it. The BMCC guys would kill just to see how much space is left on an SSD -- that is not a problem with a Mac as the brain.

August 29, 2013

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MD

Seriously though, if they put in something like CMOSIS Super35 sensor and give it a little more old Aaton look - I'm in. Fun.

August 29, 2013

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Natt

I'm glad you like it Joe.
I hope this camera works out for them. Having worked extensively with the SI2K I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy so perhaps they've straightened that part out (I owned one for exactly 10 weeks). When the original SI2K was launched it was supposed to be a game changer. Not so much. It ended up being a niche camera, and the ones Radiant Images have rehoused are fantastic for certain things.
As to the form, I loved my old CP, and my SR2, but do I want a new digital cinema camera in that shape? Hell no.
I LOVE the DSLR form factor (which took 60 years to evolve), and after seeing what Bloom achieved with the Pocket and an old Angenieux lens, I know I'll be even happier with that. I'm not an ENG guy. A camera on a tripod is essentially just a box. If I need handheld we put cameras on rigs and we do just fine. I want SMALL. Portable. Powerful.
While I respect their effort, and the images look ok, there's an element of those old phone handles in funky colors that people plug into their iphones in this. I don't want the tech I went to war with 20 years ago - I want the new tiny gun that is 100 times more powerful.
To me, the best thing along these lines would be something like the Pocket, that you then inserted somehow inside a shoulder mount exoskeleton that you printed out yourself at home on a 3D printer, with a couple rosettes and a V Mount battaery as ballast. In fact it just occurred to me we should try doing exactly that. :-)

August 29, 2013

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marklondon

> "While I respect their effort, and the images look ok, there’s an element of those old phone handles in funky colors that people plug into their iphones in this."

Ha, this is exactly how I feel about it!

Very interesting indeed this post is on NFS, but not for me. Small ftw.

August 29, 2013

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First I thought, it is a joke.

We should applaud these guys for their idea. Hire their camera and support them so that they can further refine it with a version 2.0

August 29, 2013

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Don't miss the story on how this camera was created, pretty interesting: http://blackbettycameras.com/building-betty-2/

As a filmmaking and a software programmer, I'd love to have access to the data coming from an image sensor. This camera does this, sorta -- it's a sensor piped into the common Windows OS on the Apple Mini. The RAW hacks on the Canon series are for super bright hackers. However, if someone would design a camera and give average programmers easy access to the data, they might come up with something interesting things. This project might inspire someone.

Here's a simple example: I'd like to write software that would allow me to put a 2-second delay on the sensor feed to the HDMI output. Then I can act in front of camera, turn to the monitor and immediately watch the "replay" to see if I got what I wanted.

August 29, 2013

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Ben Prater

" It also happens to be the first single unit camera in existence capable of shooting, editing, and posting footage online, without the need for any other hardware. "
Except the iPhone...

August 29, 2013

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Tulio

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