BlackmagicDesign UltraStudio 3D Thunderbolt on Windows 7 Bootcamp
This short article will describe the challenges and their solutions I faced when installing and configuring a BlackmagicDesign UltraStudio 3D with Thunderbolt connection on a Mac Mini with Boot camped Windows 7. First a little introduction to the UltraStudio 3D. It’s an awesome do-it-all video interface box packed in an Apple like aluminum housing. Double SDI in/outputs, HDMI in/out and a breakout cable equipped with every imaginable analog video format, complemented with balanced stereo in- and outputs. It’s possible to use it for live conversion as well. For example to connect a composite source to a SDI monitor. The double SDI inputs enable you to record stereoscopic video. Fun, but I’m not a big fan of 3D. It’s a nice ‘effect’ but takes away from the crisp, smooth and sharp images we’ve gotten used to with progressive 1080 video. But that’s another story. The analog video capture quality, compared with a Canopus ADVC-110, is excellent and digital capture is perfect. I’m a big fan!
We use the Ultrastudio (US 3D from now on) at work for both recording and streaming purposes. We’ve got a dedicated capture system in the form of a 2011 Mac Mini with Thunderbolt connection. Recording/capturing can of course be done in a variety of programs, preferably Mac OS X based, because Thunderbolt is not yet properly supported in Windows. But here’s the thing. Like many larger companies, our entire infrastructure is Microsoft based. As is the video server used for broadcasting a stream to a larger audience. Windows Media Video (WMV) is the only format we can trust the server can handle and is supported on workstations across the company. So Windows it is. Getting it all to function properly wasn’t as easy as it was with Mac OS X, but we got there in the end.
1. Windows won’t start with the Ultrastudio 3D connected
First issue, Windows would not complete the boot procedure when I connected the US 3D to the Mac Mini for the first time, but would boot up just fine once I disconnected it again. It would hang at the Windows logo screen. The trick for me was to connect the US 3D with the Mac Mini turned off, boot to Mac OS X (Mountain Lion in my case) and restart to Windows again. This time, Windows booted as it should. Why that did the trick? Not really shure, but there’s probably some hardware handshaking going on that Windows just can’t take care of. Once OS X sets the defaults, Windows can work with them.
2. Installation & the Ultrastudio 3D is not detected as a capture device afterwards
The US 3D comes with an installation disc containing both Mac OS X and Windows software. The package ‘Desktop Video’ will install the drivers, a control panel item for input selection/settings and a basic capture environment. Version 9.0 was provided but I like to be up-to-date and download the latest drivers. But on BlackmagicDesign’s website there was nothing to download when selecting Windows OS and the Ultrastudio 3D as the device. Not even the current 9.0. Using the provided disc was the only option.
After what seemed a successful installation, the US 3D wasn’t detected as a video capture device. Not in Microsoft Expression nor Blackmagic’s control panel settings. Windows device manager also showed a multimedia device with the dreaded orange triangle. There was no way I could get it to work. Restart, reinstall, you name it. Finally, I decided to have another look at Blackmagic’s online support section. This time I chose the Ultrastudio Pro as my device and suddenly Desktop Video 9.6.1 popped up. Worth a shot. Installation was problem free, new drivers were installed and the US 3D was detected and working as it should. Wether it’s a fluke on the website or Blackmagic doesn’t deem the Windows version worthy for the US 3D yet, I don’t know, but problem solved.
3. Windows can’t find the Ultrastudio 3D
One major drawback of using Thunderbolt on Windows is its lack of hot-swap-support. If the US 3D (or other Thunderbolt device) disconnects by e.g. loosing power or changing cables, you MUST restart Windows with the device plugged in and powered on to get it to work again.
4. Can’t change the input
I’m writing this bit with a last bit of shame. I was not in any way able to get a picture on another input besides SDI. The Desktop Video software let me change resolutions and refresh rates but not the actual input. Some kind of faulty autodetect with priority came to mind but was a bit far fetched. After a few hours I finally discovered the Blackmagic Design’s Control Panel item with all the settings you could wish for. Input, output, how to handle 23,976 Hz, even fan speed!