That Old Blackmagic


A few days ago I tested out the Elgato Cam Link as a way to stream video from my G7. I loved the idea of the Cam Link, but it’s implementation was buggy. My video froze while streaming, and most of the configuration was handled without user input through Elgato’s software 1. I submitted a support request after I had my first issues with the device, and never heard back, so I decided to return the Cam Link and pick up a device I knew worked The Blackmagic Design UltraStudio Mini Recorder 2. This device arrived Sunday morning 3 and I got it working on both my MacBook Pro and my son’s iMac 4. I had to set the iMac’s security settings to allow the Mini Record to be seen on the iMac, but Blackmagic’s forums are very good and I figured out the issue in no time at all 5. The only other hiccup I encountered was the result of my running an outdated version of Blackmagic’s Desktop Video package on my MacBook, prompting an auto reconfiguration of the mini recorder every time I switched computers 6. Once I got the iMac and MacBook running the same version this issue went away.

So why didn’t I go for the Mini Recorder from the start? Four reasons.

First was the cost. I picked up the Cam Link on sale for under $100, and that’s quite a steal for a name brand electronic. The Mini Recorder Is going for $145 on Amazon, and doesn’t come with a Thunderbolt 2 cable to connect the device to a computer 7.

Second was the connection. The Cam Link is USB 3 and runs on a generic usb video driver. Which means it is, in theory, compatible with any computer. I could have even run it on Linux if I wanted to. The Mini Recorder, by contrast, connects via the older Thunderbolt 2 standard. It’s Mac only, and keeping it running in the USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 future will require adapters.

Third was output. The Ultra Studio’s maximum resolution is 1080i, while the Cam Link can do 1080p. Progressive video looks more pristine, especially on large screens.

Fourth was familiarity. I use the Ultra Studio up at ABCNJ and thought it would be nice to check out a new toy by way of comparison.

In the end I decided to go back to what I knew worked. The Elgato was nice, and I’m sure I could have gotten it functional, but the Blackmagic doesn’t leave me wondering if it’s going to freeze up at some point. When I’m setting up for video the last thing I want to wonder about is if my devices might fail in the middle of a session.

  1. A “feature” which Elgato failed to mention in any setup documents. 
  2. The name just rolls off the tongue. 
  3. Too late for worship, which was a bummer. 
  4. He will borrow it on occasion for streaming. I picked this up so I can stream worship at Central. 
  5. Whereas my struggles with the Cam Link were only solved when I read through Amazon reviews. 
  6. It seems the firmware on the Mini Recorder needs to match the Blackmagic Desktop Video version. 
  7. That’s a bit of bad form there, I must admit.