Blackmagic Ultrastudio 3D review

Blackmagic’s Ultrastudio 3D is a 3G/HD-SDI video capture and playback device, which as one of the few devices currently incorporating support for Thunderbolt, offers data transfer rates up to 10GB/s. It has enough bandwidth for capture and playback of 10bit video up to 2K 4:4:4 RGB, can handle two streams of full resolution 1080p HD for stereoscopic work, as well as providing full SD and HD broadcast format support.

The unit is well designed, compact and made of one piece of aluminium, with a rubber base supporting the unit and providing access to ventilation, though it’s not the coolest or most silent device when running. It features dual-link SDI/HD-SDI and 3Gb/s SDI inputs and outputs for connecting to compatible broadcast quality video decks, routers and monitor, as well as a breakout connection and cable for other standard broadcast connections.

The physical setup entails connecting the devices, then simply plugging the Thunderbolt cable from the Ultrastudio 3D to the Mac or Thunderbolt drive array. 3D-capable HDMI 1.4a IN/OUT is also on board for video capture and monitoring - you can use a domestic TV as an output, for example. With an update applied to the bundled Desktop Video software it’s also possible to use the broadcast monitoring feature of Final Cut Pro X (10.0.3 and above) to output your video, or extend your FCP desktop onto the monitor if no media is being played.

A wide range of plug-ins for creative software (Apple, Adobe and Avid are well supported) meant that we could carry out video I/O tasks in Photoshop CS5.5 or real-time RAM previews in After Effects, as well as general postproduction work. The bundled Media Express utility made capturing, organising and playback of footage quick and easy, with the bonus ability to import Final Cut Pro 7 and FCP X XML files. A Blackmagic System Preference pane oversees the all-important video and audio connections for input and output, but be sure to get this spot-on as the software is pretty unforgiving otherwise.

Thunderbolt’s high transfer speeds and 3D capabilities in themselves make the UltraStudio 3D an attractive box of tricks.

OUR VERDICT

It’s unforgiving of mismatched setups, can run hot and a bit noisy - and the software needs regular updates, but this is a very useful box of tricks. With a top transfer rate of 10GB/s, Thunderbolt ensures real-time video processing tasks, while the ability to handle dual 1080p HD video streams makes the Ultrastudio 3D ideal for getting into stereoscopic workflows.

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