Art and Experience: The new Video Assist firmware enables the use of 3D LUTs for image customization, making it easier to preview final looks.

The Blackmagic Video Assist line of monitor/recorders comes in at a healthy discount compared to similar competitors from Atomos and Convergent Design, but has long lacked many of the features that have made those popular choices worth the cost. With the release of firmware 2.3, one major feature that has been desperately needed is finally here: up to six 3D LUTs can be loaded to enable the end user to preview various looks and not be forced into viewing flat log or raw footage.

With some cameras, shooting in a raw or log format leads to an exceptionally flat video preview, and while experienced filmmakers can get used to imagining what it will look like after a color grade brings it to full life, it can be frustrating to spend all day looking at an image that doesn’t reflect what the final result will look like. Applying a LUT in monitor can fix that problem by allowing you to preview what a final grade might look like, while simultaneously recording the full log or raw image and preserving the full spectrum of information to have it available for you in the color grade. By allowing users to upload up to six LUTs, Blackmagic is giving filmmakers the option to have several different “looks” to choose from, so for instance if you want to have a different look for flashbacks than for present-day scenes, you could upload a LUT for each and change the preview on set.

These monitors also have had some report of a very slight green cast, so if you are building custom LUTs for the monitor, we would encourage you to do so with the monitor itself as your reference. Ideally, you would connect the Video Assist to a machine running Resolve and build your LUT in Resolve using a combination of test patterns and test footage to make sure that the image on the monitor truly represents the look you are going for. If you wanted to use a pre-built LUT as a base, you could load that into Resolve and add additional nodes to correct for the specificity of the monitor before outputting the LUT.

This update also brings some features from the 7″ Video Assist over to the 5″ model, including false color exposure tools to help with evaluating exposure decisions on the 5″ monitor. Additionally, MXF DNxHD recording has been enabled, speeding up workflows for Avid editors working in Windows.

The firmware update is a free download from the Blackmagic site. The 7″ 4K Video Assist is $895 at B&H.

Tech Specs:
  • 6 x 3D LUTs
  • False Color
  • 1920 x 1200 Touchscreen LCD (4k model)
  • Records UHD 4K/HD Up to 30 fps (4k model)
  • 10-Bit, 4:2:2 ProRes Codecs
  • HDMI and 6G-SDI Video Inputs
  • Dual SD Media Card Slots Supports UHS-II
  • Two Mini XLR Inputs with Phantom Power
  • On-Screen Histogram and Audio Levels
  • Focus Peaking & Zebra
  • Dual LP-E6 Hot-Swappable Battery Slots
  • AC Adapter Included