'Stage Mums' Gets a Good Look with URSA Mini 4.6K and DaVinci Resolve

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Airing on Network TEN in Australia and available on the network's Tenplay multiple platform catch up TV portal, 'Stage Mums' started life as a web series three seasons ago. It was created by a local actress - writer, director and producer Anna Waters-Massey - and is shot on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Season 1 in 2014 was recorded entirely in existing locations at the producer's house with no formal budget.  

For Season 3 in 2018, however, the situation changed. TEN selected the show and gave it a first broadcast season, which finished recently, with a cast and crew of 100 local staff. Pure comedy, the series follows the lives of two stage mothers who will go to any lengths to give their daughters opportunities to show off their amazing talents, most of which don’t work out exactly as planned.

Under the Sun

In spite of humble beginnings and low budget at the start, 'Stage Mums' has a distinctive look and feel, like all television series. The look is highly stylised to enhance the extreme comedy, and combines a fast-paced, flat reality show look with the bright, hot feeling that comes from shooting under the Gold Coast sunlight. This season's DP Andrew Condor and one of the producers Amie Casey, who also worked as a production manager, decided to use the Blackmagic Design URSA Mini 4.6K as the main camera in order to define and capture the look more clearly.

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“We definitely wanted ‘Stage Mums’ to be bright, colourful and related to the style of Australian television generally. We wanted Australians to recognise and feel it was their show, but also have a chance to gain an international following,” Amie said. “As a producer, what I liked about working with Blackmagic Design cameras was their portability. Our production days were fast paced and largely location based, and working with such easily manoeuvrable cameras without having to compromise on quality was the best of both worlds.”

DP Andrew Condor used an URSA Mini 4.6K as the A and B camera and a Pocket Cinema Camera for behind-the-scenes shots and as a second unit insert and pick up camera. Both cameras made use of a conventional Rec 709 LUT and were used in multiple locations, involving a variety of different natural and artificial lighting situations.

On Set with Ursa Mini 4.6K

“The Ursa Mini 4.6K is a great choice for quality in a lightweight, compact body,” said Andrew. “It worked especially well for ‘Stage Mums’ because I wanted a smaller camera package for a run-and-gun feel, but still wanted to record high quality images. We often found ourselves in very small shooting locations, but its compact size allowed us to get shots where bigger cameras just would not have fit. We were always able to fit both cameras to keep the style of the show consistent.”

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The 15 stops of dynamic range and low light capabilities were also reassuring and convenient when trying to work within the tight schedule and even tighter lighting budget. Those scheduling and budget constraints also made Andrew want to work with a smaller team of people around the cameras.

“The URSA Mini 4.6K comes into its own in such situations,”he said. “My excellent B camera operator Colin Larsen and I were able to control everything in an instant and keep the flow of the show going. We had a few slow-mo shots, and being able to shoot up to 120fps without quality loss was fantastic. We also had several locations where we were constantly dealing with different levels of illumination, but the quality of the built-in ND filters was such that we didn't need to worry about filtration in front of the lens.”

Multiple Deliverables for Multiple Platforms

Post production for the series was completed at Sound Vision Studio by post producer Roberot Merlini, who worked on the DaVinci Resolve Studio system. He could use the one system for colour correction, audio and video editing and final HD and UHD delivery for the various channels, which at this stage include Channel 10 Peach, Tenplay and US platform Seeka TV.

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“We especially benefited from DaVinci Resolve Studio's relatively starightforward, uncomplicated processes for preparing final deliverables. On the Deliver page, we could batch compile and process the file in all of our delivery file formats. DaVinci Resolve Studio made this simple. To be able to deliver to the broadcaster exactly to their specification was actually the best way forward for us,” he commented.

“DaVinci Resolve Studio was a great choice for the overall look and feel of the show. Given the variable shooting conditions, its colour tools helped tremendously, all the way through to our final product. I also used the Fairlight audio editing page for the the sound mix. The functional mix capabilities that helped create the final sound were really impressive.” www.blackmagicdesign.com