URSA Mini Pro Prevents Panic! At the Disco with Blackmagic RAW Codec

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Music video specialist, director Brandon Dermer, shot a project for Panic! At The Disco titled 'Dancing’s Not A Crime'. The video, which became one of the world's fastest trending videos at the time of its release in mid-March 2019, supports the band's Pray for the Wicked world tour. The tour began in July 2018 and is scheduled to end in Rio de Janeiro in October 2019, and is their first world tour since 2011.

Puppet Documentary

The video stars a live action puppet, Beebo, a caricature of lead singer Brendon Urie that has already appeared in other Panic! At the Disco videos. He gains back stage access to a live concert, but misses his chance to interact with the band after partying too much. Brendon Urie developed the idea for the puppet and the concept for the video himself, and then contacted Brandon Dermer to take on the production.

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Brandon, working with cinematographer Wojciech Kielar, chose to shoot the project on the URSA Mini Pro camera and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, recording in the Blackmagic RAW codec. The camera crew used the URSA Mini Pro for rehearsed sequences, and the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K for unplanned, improvised shots. “For ‘Dancing’s Not A Crime’ we wanted to push Beebo into the real world. Having the Pocket 4K available for the cast's unexpected flashes of spontaneity was critical for the feeling we wanted,” he said.
The production relied heavily on documentary, not a cinematic style, despite the fact that working with a live puppet on set for nearly every shot added a level of complexity. Shooting with a documentary approach lent authenticity to a comical story. “Shooting with puppets is a special effect that most people forget is a special effect,” said Brandon. To make the most of Beebo, Wojciech and the crew took advantage of the Blackmagic cameras' flexibility.

Good-looking Codec

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“For me, the major attraction of the URSA Mini Pro specific to this project was its light weight combined with good-looking, consistent image quality,” said Wojciech. “The video was shot entirely hand held, in a ‘run and gun' manner typical of documentaries. Therefore, having a camera that can deliver 4K images with 15 stops of dynamic range and not wear out my arm was very helpful.”
Having chosen to shoot in Blackmagic RAW, the crew were were pleased with the results. “The dynamic range was extremely wide,” said Brandon. “Even though we were shooting at a concert space where at times it was very dark or very bright, the camera was able to hold it all together.” Using this file format also allowed the crew to shoot longer without changing gear to suit the changing conditions, a key element of keeping up with the action during a live event.
In post production, colourist Ryan McNeal used DaVinci Resolve Studio to finish the project. He noted  a couple of differences between the Blackmagic RAW codec and Cinema DNG. “Two factors stood out for me right away,” Ryan said.

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“First, the colourspace - Blackmagic RAW employs a non-destructive 12-bit non-linear colourspace - was good to work with and gave us access to some of the camera raw settings for the grading session. They helped both to make adjustments and to facilitate discussion between me and DP Wojciech Kielar. Second, the efficiency of the codec was the most important factor for me. It is more efficient compared to other similar codecs, and makes the playback smooth.”

No Panic, Pure Process

Wojciech and Brandon enjoyed working on the colour for the project as well, both because of the image quality from the Blackmagic cameras as well as the chance to work with Ryan McNeal. Wojciech said, “Digital film has made the colour process a direct extension of cinematography.

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“Having a true artist like Ryan, who has also gathered a lot of technical knowledge and experience with modern tools, is important now because he can influence the images in ways I didn't even know were possible. I try to give colourists the best images I can to work from, so hearing his positive feedback on the Blackmagic RAW images from URSA Mini Pro made me happy.”
Brandon attributes the success of the video, which released on 18 March, to a great song, a compelling character like Beebo and, ultimately, the attractive imagery. For him, the most fun was in directing a music video with a great band, but also being able to achieve an engaging story by working with a puppet in a pure, fly-on-the-wall documentary format. “It was very satisfying and cool to watch fans interact with Beebo while we lived in his world, in his element, at a Panic! show,” he said.  www.blackmagicdesign.com

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