If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times—the days of specialized roles on film sets are dwindling, and a new age of shooters, producers, and editors is on the rise. We don’t make the rules, we just report them.

It’s always awesome to get to chat with an up-and-coming videographer who isn’t afraid to wear several hats at once—and has even built a pretty darn good business operating as a one-man band.

All that being said, being a one-man band still isn’t easy. It takes a strong understanding of your filmmaking principles, as well as a solid camera that can serve you well in a myriad of situations, at a high level, and without too much hassle.

As part of our coverage of NAB 2022, we chatted with video expert Levi Whitney about his thoughts on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 12K and how he’s found it for his projects and shoots.


No Film School: What originally got you into filmmaking and video production?

Levi Whitney: When I was younger, I used to play with my grandmother's old Super 8 camera.  My brothers and I would make stop-motion films using legos and X-men toys. Then later in my life, I was a competitive mogul skier and really into photography.

While I was in the freestyle world, I was exposed to higher-end cameras, and I fell deeper in love with filmmaking. As time and technology progressed, and with the rise of the DSLR, I quickly transitioned from photography to full-time filmmaking. 

NFS: What do you look for in a digital video camera these days?

Whitney: I have to have an image that looks good, and looks right. Naturally pleasing skin tones are huge for me. 

I love having internal NDs and internal XLRs. I shot a ton of docs and corporate work. So having a camera that I don't have to build out, but just works is a must. Internal RAW is huge, as I haven't not shot RAW in years. Ergonomics and an easy-to-use menu system are also nice. I mean, we really only use and have full of features at all times, so being able to get to those features easily is a huge bonus.   

I also want to have a good amount of frame rate options.

NFS: Were there any specific features that attracted you to the Blackmagic URSA Mini 12K for your projects as a one-man-band operation?

Whitney: Yes!  When I saw the footage that John Brawley ACS shot for the launch video, I was sold. The skin tones were so nice. I didn't even care so much about the other features.  But then, you get 12K at 60fps, 8K at 120fps, a fantastic RAW codec BRAW, internal NDs, full-size XLRs, and you can throw it on your shoulder. All at a dang good price. I mean, come on! 

NFS: Did you use any other BMD products on set (or work with DaVinci Resolve as part of your workflow)?

Whitney: Yes.  That was another reason for me getting the Ursa Mini 12K. I have been using DaVinci Resolve for color grading for years and switched to DaVinci Resolve for my main NLE about two years before I got my 12K. So having a full Blackmagic Design workflow is amazing. 


NFS: Where do you see the future of camera technology heading?

Whitney: That's a good question. Because we have so much right now, right at our fingertips. But we can't deny some trends. Full frame and even larger sensors are for sure here to stay. I'm hoping to see 32bit flat audio in the camera. 

I also think we are going to see high-speed cameras become more attainable. Gone will be the days of 60K super 35 cameras for 1000fps. I think we will see more affordable robot arm options and of course virtual sets. I'm sure it's a great time to be a filmmaker. 

NFS: If you could give one piece of advice for up-and-coming filmmakers or cinematographers today, what would that be?

LW:  Shoot a ton! Film anything and everything, and eventually, you'll find the stuff that fits. So don't quit! 

Learn composition and what makes a good look. Make sure you know how to light with minimal gear. I've found freedom not having 100 lights in a grip truck. 

Last but not least, keep trying and don't compare. Nowadays, we have so many voices and platforms to show our work, which I'm very grateful for. But sometimes it can make us feel like we are never going to be as good as so and so on Instagram. So give them a "like," and keep pushing forward. Go film that narrative, corporate commercial, brand video, documentary, spec ad, etc. Just keep moving forward, have fun, and film.


The Blackmagic URSA Mini 12K

If you're interested in learning more about Blackmagic's URSA Mini 12K, here are the full specs and price.

  • 12K Super35 HDR CMOS Sensor
  • 12K 17:9 to 60 fps/12K 2.4:1 to 75 fps
  • DCI 8K to 120 fps/14 Stops Dynamic Range
  • User-Changeable PL Lens Mount
  • 4K Super16 up to 220 fps
  • 80MP/frame Blackmagic Raw
  • Dual CFast 2.0 or SD Card Recording
  • USB Type-C Recording to Disk/SSD

Price: $5,995.00


No Film School's complete coverage of NAB 2022 is brought to you by Blackmagic DesignAtomos, and Creative Solutions (makers of TeradekWooden Camera, and SmallHD).