SSD recording has become quite popular in the film and video community. This is probably due to the incredible success Atomos has had with their monitor-recorders, which have become commonplace mainly with the DSLR-shooting crowd. But while RED was pretty early to adopt SSDs (albeit proprietary ones) into their workflow, other manufacturers haven’t been following suit throughout their whole range of cameras. Blackmagic has released a recorder to take steps and change this (see announcement here). So is SSD recording on the URSA Mini now a thing?
Blackmagic has come a long way since the introduction of their first URSA-branded camera in 2014. Following the introduction of the URSA Mini 4K, the URSA Mini 4.6K and more recently the URSA Mini Pro and Broadcast have garnered a tremendous following, both, among professionals as well as enthusiasts and the short-film-low-budget-crowd.
Of course, this has partly been due to the more affordable price tag, compared to other offerings like the Canon C300Mk II, RED Raven and Canon C200, but also the ability to shoot CinemaDNG Raw in 12bit natively, without the need for an additional recorder. Yet, where the recently announced Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K offers the innovative ability to record to external SSDs via USB-C, the URSA cameras still have to rely on CFast 2.0 cards, which despite all price drops, still break the bank for more frugal filmmakers.
Although Blackmagic’s own recorder fits the URSA Mini nicely, the community’s reaction has been less than favorable – to say the least. The two main reasons seem to be:
- No support for 4.6k 60p Lossless Raw: The URSA Mini 4.6k and URSA Mini Pro use both CFast 2.0 cards simultaneously for this codec, alternating between both cards and writing one frame to each. Because even CFast 2.0 cards can’t take the full brunt of that codec – and a single SSD can’t either.
- Blocking of the rear SDI ports without passthrough: If you use the fabulous URSA Viewfinder (as you should) your front SDI-ports are blocked. The Blackmagic URSA Mini SSD Recorder will then block the rear SDI-ports. And since both devices don’t feature SDI-pass-through, the camera is effectively blocked for wireless transmission units, or a monitor for your focus puller.
Alternatives for SSD Recording on the URSA Mini
The market offers two readily available alternatives:
- The Atoch C2S recorder
- The CCTech Pro SSD Mount
Both recorders are similar, in that they use breakout adapter cables that are to be inserted into the CFast 2.0 slots, to effective bridge the gap to the SSDs. In contrast to the Blackmagic solution for SSD recording on the URSA Mini, they offer two SSD slots, making them capable of recording the 4.6k 60p Lossless Raw CinemaDNG, mentioned above, which the SDI connection utilised in Blackmagic’s solution isn’t capable of.
The main difference between the two off-brand products is, that the older Atoch C2S recorder needs external power via 12-24V DC (without any measures for securing the cable in place), while the CCTech is capable of using the same internal connection the Blackmagic Recorder uses.
Additionally, when the breakout cables aren’t in use, they can be neatly stowed away in the SSD slots, making the solution more travel friendly (surpassing even the Blackmagic cable brackets).
The downside of the CCTech is lacking support, being available only on Ebay (and Amazon in some places); the Atoch C2S on the other hand is sold by B&H.
Here’s a chart comparing the three solutions:
So, what do you think? Is the in-house support and the attractive price-tag of Blackmagic Design’s URSA Mini SSD Recorder worth losing the most demanding codec the camera is able to shoot, or would you be willing to try one of the after-market-solutions for SSD recording on the URSA Mini? Maybe, you would also still prefer using CFast 2.0, no matter the cost? Let us know in the comments.