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

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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

Related Posts

  1. Need a Black-and-White Digital Cinema Camera? Ikonoskop Announces the A-Cam dII Panchromatic
  2. First Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera Footage Released, Same Look as the BMCC in a Smaller Package
  3. Blackmagic Cinema Camera Review Part 2: Rule Boston Camera Learning Lab

COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 165 COMMENTS

  • Reading about the building of this system is even cooler!

    http://blackbettycameras.com/building-betty-2/

  • How much the black betty costs? Please email me .

    Lou

  • FWIW, given the global trend toward the miniaturization of electronics, one should be able to get an All-in-One, sans on outboard monitor/recorder, type of a rig fairly soon. Sony took a major step with RX-1, when they squeezed a full frame sensor camera into a compact “point&shoot” body. RX-1 weighs one pound, a half of 5D MK III. The Black Magic Pocket Cam weighs even less, at 12.5 oz (355 g) clean. The lens and the kit obviously add size and weight but the overall trend is fairly clear.

  • Why not a KickStarter campaign to make the full 50 units or so and see where it goes from there?

  • Roald Christesen on 08.30.13 @ 6:01AM

    Congratulations for the excellent integration of the components in a very practical looking housing. I startet a very similar development and my opinion to the topic is:
    The components are excellent … but they are not optimal in combination. For example is a Mac mini a good all in one small computer, but it consumes to much power as a cpu in a camera. The cpu will get used to the limits at higher resolutions, it is not as reliable as an well developed FPGA solution.
    But the camera is great … and i hope their will be good movie cameras like this one in the future. All the best for the team behind it.

  • emilio murillo on 08.30.13 @ 6:42AM

    put the battery in the back and kit will work from both sides

  • Very similar concept:http: http://vimeo.com/73306600

  • Wonder why they didn’t go for this more shoulder-friendly shape:

    http://blackbettycameras.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/cardboard.jpg

  • It looks like an antique 16mm movie camera? Is this deliberate?

  • trackofalljades on 08.31.13 @ 6:44PM

    Seems like a pretty much all-inclusive digital era version of the Lumiere Cinematograph, in terms of shooting and “processing” and projecting all in one (just add HDMI cable to projector, right?). Good show. Would love to see more attempts at this, for the notebook-or-less lightweight filmmaking crowd.

  • http://www.ptgreystore.com/zebra2-28-mp-color-gige-hd-sdi

    OK, machine vision camera with HD-SDI output. Global Shutter CCD, max res of 1080p at 26fps, costs $1500.

  • Anyone knows, will SI-2K mini work with Raspberry Pi? Since Mac mini is sort of cumbersome.

  • So what happened to the Ikonskope DII? It did not sell enough at $7k to keep the company going, and it was a much nicer looking camera than this one. Do I really want an OS in my camera? to crash, to take forever to boot up? 16mm lenses, the Ikonskope was designed for that format, and most people use a ENG camera for the amazing lenses for a 2/3″ chip, about the same size. The real innovation is S35 and larger sensors in a very small package, IE DSLR’s and other cameras. The 16mm market is well served by 2/3″ ENG cameras.

    M

  • The SI2k could always do all those things, it runs on Windows after all – and it’s original body (designed by P+S Technik) is a much better and more functional design than the Black Betty.

    So what’s the innovation here?

    http://www.siliconimaging.com/DigitalCinema/SI_2K_key_features.html

  • Really amazing converging of technology. I do not see the need to edit “in camera” as someone who works in studio post production. What would be more amazing is if the system had Cortex or Scratch or Color Front (Cortex is the best in my opinion) that would scan and see when ever a new shot was taken. Take the new shot and transcode right away to a specific template of deliverables (h.264 for viewing, DNX36 or ProRes for editorial etc) which then was transfering them to a server. No need for a DIT, just an ae who is seeing foldes update.

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