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Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo

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CreativeCOW presents Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo -- Blackmagic Design Review


Orlando Florida USA
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Many newer users to our industry may ask, "Why do I need scopes?" Since the advent of HD video taking off, and the exorbitantly high prices of conventional HD monitoring equipment, many companies have found ways of working without referring to external HD waveform monitors and vectorscopes. Those that do, have had to make do with software based scopes that appeared in programs like Final Cut Pro or AVID Media Composer. These products are almost always inferior and inaccurate. Purchasing real external scopes was almost always over $6000 no matter what brand you chose. Blackmagic changed all of that with the introduction of the UltraScope.

But so many editors worked without scopes... and TV and Cable stations often rejected their delivered videos for incorrect or illegal levels. I would often see on Creative COW forums, "the picture looks too dark" or "everything looks too yellow", or "my audio sounds distorted", but there was no accurate way for these editors to accurately monitor what they were doing at a reasonable price. Well, now there is.

I was recently asked to demo the new Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo. As a long time Blackmagic UltraScope and Pocket UltraScope user, I was anxious to see this new product. Because of a lack of readily available "qualified" graphics cards for the UltraScope, and the disappearance of the NEC/Renesas USB3 chipset for the Pocket UltraScope, I was thrilled to find out that Blackmagic had released a stand-alone waveform monitor/vectorscope product.






I was able to install this new scope at Adrenaline Films, in Orlando, Florida, that already owed a Blackmagic Pocket UltraScope to make comparisons between the two products. The #1 thing that I liked about the new SmartScope Duo is the "user experience" in setting this product up. In the past, it was always an engineering struggle to find the right computer, the right graphics card, etc. to make the UltraScope work properly. Those days are over. Blackmagic has made it easy to get the SmartScope Duo working quickly, right out of the box.

You can use any Mac or Win 7 PC to setup the SmartScope Duo driver from the Blackmagic support page, run the installer, and the SmartScope Duo interface is ready to use. Plug in a standard USB "printer" cable (USB-A to USB-B, not included with the SmartScope Duo), and you can launch the software interface.

The SmartScope Duo is two independent units, with two sets of looping SDI BNC connectors, so you can either loop the two monitors together (for the conventional waveform monitor/vectorscope combo that we are all used to), or use them separately for completely independent applications. Like other SmartView products, the unit comes out of the box rack mountable. It's just ready to be screwed into your rack without mounting any hardware. There are looping Ethernet ports on the back of the SmartScope Duo, so if you have multiple Blackmagic scopes and/or monitors you want to control, all of this can be done by simply looping the Ethernet ports together from monitor to monitor, and control everything from one single USB cable back to your computer.

The SmartScope Duo will handle SD-SDI, HD-SDI and 2K video signals, including progressive frame rates like 1080p.

Having your SmartScope Duo's BNC inputs fed by your facility or truck router will instantly let you monitor anything you want, at the click of the mouse.






Once you are into the SmartScope Duo interface, you will find that it is very easy and intuitive to navigate. On your computer screen, you will see an image of the two monitors. You access either monitor by clicking on the left or right monitor on your computer screen in the SmartScope application. There is an "identify check box" which will allow you to activate the tally indication on the monitor, to make it easy to see which monitor you are about to adjust. Once you have selected your monitor, you can change the display of each monitor independently to be a standard "composite" luminance waveform monitor, a YPbPr Parade Waveform Monitor, a RGB waveform monitor, a Vectorscope (with selectable 75% or 100% levels), a histograph display, a standard HD video monitor (so you can see a picture), or two types of 16 channel audio meters, both with audio phase indication to see if your audio is out of phase. The two types of audio metering that is selectable is scaled as either dBFS (what you see on a Sony VTR) or dBVU, which is for the "techno-nerd" guys like me.

Once the scopes are setup, you don't have to keep your computer tied up for this application. Please don't think that you need a dedicated computer to run the SmartScope Duo. You don't. It's just for the utility function to change what type of display you need. You set it, and forget it.

So, what's wrong with this product? Well, there is nothing wrong with this product, but some "old guys" will complain about not having A-B input, and not having a "gain" control to expand out the vectorscope to see chrominance noise. The SmartScope Duo lacks rarely used features like being able to monitor individual lines of video (close captioning, etc.), eye pattern displays, or lightning displays. And it doesn't offer error logging which is a feature on the original Blackmagic UltraScope. But these advanced features appeal to only a small portion of the scope market, and will not be missed by 95% of the users out there that just need a scope so they can check their levels.

At the aggressive price point of $995 retail for a dual scope rack mounted product, there is no reason to say, "We can't afford to have HD scopes". Blackmagic has made it possible to get new high quality HD monitoring tools for production and post-production, cheaper than you could find used gear on eBay.











Comments

Re: Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo
by Joe Hill
Bob,
I am a newbie to this so forgive the possible ignorance of this question. I have 2 Sony cameras feeding a BMD Atem TVS. I cannot get the cameras to match exactly on their iris and colors. Will this product allow me to adjust the colors of these cameras individually from my control room where my TVS and multiview monitors are?
Re: Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo
by Andy Winter
hi bob,

thx for the review.

i am thinking of buying the new smartscope-duo 4k for my little grading suite. the form-factor as the price are very tempting.

the only thing that i would like to know in advance is:
is there a grid available on the vectorscope? i really am used to have a center-mark and lines going from the center to the primary and secondary colors.

i am just wondering because on every photo i found on the web there is no grid on the vectorscope :(

if you know, could you share this info?

thank you in advance,
andy
Re: Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo
by Bob Zelin
Hi Duncan -
I am going to make an aggressive response to you. I apologize in advance. I am sure that you are a very smart guy, and a nice guy, but I am trying to make a point here. So please take my aggression with a grain of salt, please .............

Duncan, you must live in a very isolated world. Almost 100% of modern editing suites and color grading rooms today DO NOT HAVE ANY SCOPES IN THEM. They use the horrible software scopes that are build into the programs. And if you try to beg, and reason with the facility owners, they simply cannot understand why they need scopes because 1) they cost too much money for a Tektronx, Leader, Hamlet, etc., and 2) their 27 year old editor/color grading person has no idea of what to even do with a scope. Now if you have the luxury of working with 40 + year old people that have background and training and are in a hi end facility, or perhaps TV station, then you are truly fortunate.

I have see the disappearance of scopes in edit rooms from the day that FCP 7 was originally released (and AJA and Blackmagic started making IO cards for them. And that problem has gotten worse, as the years went on - NO SCOPES (how come everything looks so red ?).

The fact that Blackmagic has released these scopes at this price point is an absolute miracle, and is the ONLY chance that the majority of modern facilities will ever start to use professional monitoring ever again !

As for "trucks not having computers" - absolutely EVERYTHING today is run on computers. First let me say that 95% of the users will never use the audio meters, picture monitor, and histograph. So you setup the scope for waveform monitor (composite or YPbPr) and Vectorscope, and never touch it ever again. But (since I build trucks), the Blackmagic routers require a computer, the Blackmagic ATEM switchers require a computer, the shared storage enviorment requires a computer, so there are LOTS of computers lying around in the truck for this. And even if there is not (which I don't believe if you are in a semi-modern truck), a Mac Mini is $599, and the Sonnet rack mount kit for this is $179, so you can add these two items to the $995 for the scope, and still be at a fraction of the price of any traditional waveform monitor/vectorscope. And if you now say "but you still need a computer monitor, and I don't have a computer monitor readily available in the truck" - well, I am not sure of what kind of facility or truck you are working in that doesn't have COUNTLESS computer monitors in them. The problem today is finding a monitor that ISN'T a computer monitor. IT is SO HARD to convince anyone to buy a REAL HD-SDI monitor (at least a Blackmagic SmartView, but certainly a real monitor from Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Flanders, TV Logic, Boland, etc.) but all the multiviewers, and monitors everywhere are COMPUTER MONITORS with HDMI or DVI ports on them (multiple ports), so please don't tell me that in 2013, you are flooded with professional HD-SDI monitors, but don't have a single input on a computer monitor available. This has not been the case anywhere since 10 years ago.

Lets just say that Blackmagic listened to you and put in a button panel for the Smart Scope DUO (hey I would like this on the SmartView monitors !) and they had to triple the price to $2995. It's still cheaper than anything on the market - PEOPLE WOULD STILL NOT BUY IT. It needs to be CHEAP to be appealing. The world has gotten used to having NO scopes, and the Smart Scope DUO is allowing to have SOME sort of QC re-entered back into our business.

Sorry for the RANT, but just like you, I am from a professional background. But I see the reality of where our business is headed, and it's not with $10,000 scopes or monitors.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com
Re: Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo
by Duncan Barnes
Looking forward to having a play with this at IBC but am surprised that the review makes no comment on the fact that it is not possible to control it without a computer.

Is this really not important to the 95% you talk about? I can't help feeling that BlackMagic should have produced a 1U button panel as an accessory to this. Ok in an edit suite you'll have a computer nearby but in a truck, comms room etc they're less likely to be so close, and it's not going to be as quick or convenient as a button and certainly on a truck if you wanted to use this for a racks/shading operator they're unlikely to have space for a computer (plus would likely want some of those never used features mentioned).

Admittedly it is aggressively priced and if I use them in the future I'll probably build my own button panel but would be an attractive thing for Blackmagic to offer.
+1
@Duncan Barne
by Bryce McKay
I absolutely agree about a button panel in an OB Truck environment - especially when the heat is on. Perhaps someone could sniff the ethernet packets for an Arduino or write an iOS app similar to Strata Pro on the ATEM...
Re: Bob Zelin Looks at the Blackmagic Design SmartScope Duo
by Sarah Jones
Hi Jason,

You should have just received an email from our US Support office addressing this issue. We can follow up there regarding the case. Louis and Dwaine are unfortunately with our DaVinci team and had to hand this off to our general support team which is better equipped to handle our non-DaVinci product inquiries and issues. Go ahead and reply to the email I've sent and we'll work to get this resolved.

Regards,

Sarah
Support Representative
Blackmagic Design Inc.
SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
I bought a SmartScope Duo after reading Bob's informative piece; however, there seems to be a quirk - While the drop-down menu lists SmartScope Duo as one of the four Products on BM's Support page, installing SmartView 2.0 gives me only the SmartView Duo utility. In other words, the app sees the device as a SmartView device, rather than a SmartScope Device. I've tried uninstalling and reinstalling SmartView 2.0 twice, to no avail.

Is the unit itself sending the utility incorrect information about which it is, or is the SmartScope component of the app just not coming up for some reason?

Any help would be appreciated!
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Bob Zelin
Hi Jason -
I assume that you downloaded the installer from the Blackmagic support site, and did not use the included DVD. Is that correct.
I had no trouble with my installation, but I downloaded the driver from the Blackmagic site.

http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/support/detail?sid=3961&pid=35745&leg=false...

May I suggest that you download again, and try it again. And just to cover all my bases here, I assume that you have both the Ethernet cable and the USB cable plugged into the scope.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
Aha! I do NOT have the Ethernet connection made to the computer - only the USB. Stand by ...

J
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
The manual seems to indicate that, unless one is managing more than one unit, a network connection shouldn't be necessary. Am I misreading this? We only have a single SmartScope device, so the USB connection should suffice, right?

"If you have a SmartScope Duo, you'll also want to connect a USB cable to your Mac or Windows computer and install the SmartView Utility software so you can select the desired scopes.
If you want to remotely adjust settings for multiple SmartView and SmartScope units from one computer, you can connect them together via Ethernet. This means you won't have to run around to each unit with a computer and USB cable each time you want to adjust settings."
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Bob Zelin
you are correct. Have you RE DOWNLOADED the driver, and tried doing the install again. All I can say is that it worked for me. Please do not assume that the DVD that was sent with the unit has the correct software on it. This applies to every manufacturer, not just Blackmagic.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
I have used the downloaded version only, reinstalling it three times now, and the application still regards the SmartScope Duo as a SmartView Duo. I got in touch with BM Support, and the guy that originally took the case, a Louis Wang, now says he's bumping it up to "USA Blackmagic" support, implying that they are now using an off-shore vendor for some of their support work. (?) That's news to me.

Anyway, hopefully Dwaine or somebody has a simpler solution than returning the unit to B&H, which means crossing the border, which is not going to happen ...

Thanks, Bob!
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Bob Zelin
I think I know the answer. No matter what it said on the box, you have a SmartView Duo monitor, not a Smart Scope. I know that you don't want to hear this, but I assume that if you put an HD signal into the BNC's on the back, you get a video image - correct ? The software for the SmartView and SmartScope are the same, and the casing for the two products looks the same. I think you unfortunately have the SmartView Duo monitor there, and NOT the Smart Scope. I bet you a dollar that that's the case.

Bob Zelin

Bob Zelin
Rescue 1, Inc.
maxavid@cfl.rr.com
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
Well, if you're right, that would be a minor issue if I lived in NYC, and is in fact a MAJOR issue because I live in Canada, and the unit has to cross the border again. Let's see what Blackmagic is willing to do to resolve this, and soon.

Thanks again, Mr. Z.
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
Just as a follow-up: Bob Z. was, per usual, correct in his assessment that what I had, despite the packaging and the nomenclature on the unit itself, was a SmartVIEW Duo, rather than a SmartSCOPE Duo.

The fact that the rear panel was mounted upsidedown should have clued me into something being amiss, but, you know, I thought maybe that was some wacko convention you broadcast people have for reasons that elude me - the back panel of rack-mounted gear is upsidedown for some reason ...!

To their enormous credit, Blackmagic very quickly rectified the mistake, and I now have a SmartScope Duo.
Re: SmartScope Duo App Inside SmartView 2.0?
by Jason Jones
One final consideration, to Bob or anybody at Blackmagic: because it;s a small enough screen as it is, is there any possibility, perhaps with a firmware update, to reduce the amount of real estate given to the zero-to-minus-300 portion of the Parade scope? I personally don't much deal with information that comes in at -250, for example, but I do spend a lot of time straining to see the 0 line, and what's just touching it ...

Cheers!

Jason


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