Review: BlackMagic Intensity Extreme Thunderbolt HD Capture Device

Earlier this week I released a video showing the NEW Photoshop Touch for iPad 2. The video was recorded using the iPad Digital AV Adapter that allows you to connect an iPad 2 to an HDTV via HDMI and a BlackMagic Intensity Pro that is installed in my Mac Pro tower. While the Intensity Pro card works well it means that any videos that I want to produce directly from my iPad 2 have to be done on that computer. A few months back BlackMagic announced a new external verison, the Intensity Extreme! The difference is is that the Intensity Extreme is an external capture device that connects to your Mac via the super fast Thunderbolt connector. As a matter of fact this is my 1st Thunderbolt device. While Apple has been equipping their new Macs with Thunderbolt ports, the actual 3rd party Thunderbolt equipped devices and peripherals have been slow coming to market.

How does it work?

Before I could even get started I had to go get a Thunderbolt cable from the Apple Store, as it’s not included. As far as I can tell Apple is currently the only company shipping a Thuderbolt cable ($49). While I’m totally against overpriced cables, the Thunderbolt cable is more than just wire and connectors. The cable actually has some chips/processors in it. However, I expect that competition will bring the price. down.

Once I got back with the cable I installed the BlackMagic software/driver, connected the box and to my pleasant surprise the Intensity Extreme is bus powered via the Thunderbolt port. NO POWER BRICK! I was already used to the software as it’s the exact same software that the Intensity Pro uses. Once I set my preferences, the iPad 2 showed up in the capture window and I was ready to go (record)!

What about audio?

While HDMI does carry both video and audio, the problem is that I want the audio from my voice to be recorded along with the demo. There are a couple of options. The Intensity Pro also supports a breakout set of analog cables and even supplies all the female connections (pictured above). Just plug in your audio gear and you should be good. However, just like on my Intensity Pro, I don’t use this set of connections. The reason is I’m also going to want to be on camera and may integrate things/software demos from my computer too. In this case I record both my talking head image, whatever I’m doing on my computer and my audio simultaneously into Screenflow while I’m doing the demo on the iPad 2, which is being recorded into the Intensity Extreme. I put the two videos together in post using Adobe Premiere Pro CS 5.5 as well as adding the iPad “frame” as a Photoshop file on a layer below.

The Bottom Line

This new Intensity Extreme is a winner on all counts. While it took longer than expected to actually ship it, they got it right. It’s small enough to travel with and produces FANTASTIC uncompressed HD results so that you’re starting with the cleanest HD video possible!

UPDATE: this also works the exact same way with the iPhone 4s. You use the same Apple AV Adapter and plug it in and you can record video out from your iPhone 4s as well. Thanks blog reader “RF” for the tip!

You can get the BlackMagic Intensity Extreme here for about $285. You also get your Thunderbolt cable on the same order here.


The Video I Recording Using the Intensity Pro

35 Replies to “Review: BlackMagic Intensity Extreme Thunderbolt HD Capture Device”

    1. As long as the D800 is outputting video via its HDMI port the Intensity Extreme should see it and capture it. As far as your MBP 13″ keeping up, that would depend on your processor, RAM and Drive speed as well as how high you go on the frame rate and size (720p vs 1080p).

  1. Looks great!

    Curious how you’re getting the ‘red dot’ effect on touch points on the screen? Is that something you added in post?

    Also, wondering how it might work with an ipad with a retina display? Guessing it shouldn’t matter since it’s capturing the DV output stream. Be interested in hearing your thoughts.


    1. 1. the red dot is via PS Touch’s “presentation mode”
      2. The retina display shouldn’t matter one way or the other as it’s the video signal coming out that matters.

      1. Thanks for the reply. Went ahead and ordered an Extreme.

        I’ve tried various options with capturing VGA or composite out to shooting a video off a device screen but they all looked pretty bad. This looks like it might be the closest to getting something decent for demos.

        FWIW, it looks like the iPhone 4S also has a video mirroring capability and Apple says it’ll do 1080p out with the Digital AV adapter. The iPad, iPhone 4, and 4th-gen iPod Touch, however, only go up to 720p.

  2. Mine arrived two days ago, but I’m dumbstruck to realize that I have nowhere to attach it – with a Thunderbolt chain that comes out of the TB Display, loops through the LaCie RAID and terminates in the Sonnet Tech Cardbus adaptor, which has only one Thunderbolt port, I have nowhere to plug this into, and am now faced with yet another wait for a Thunderbolt hub! AGH! Why the hell aren’t there hubs yet?!

  3. Thanks for the review. Intensity Extreme not recognized on my MBP Thunderbolt (dual boot SL/Lion). Did all the usual troubleshooting stuff. BMD tech support is aware of this issue affecting likely first generation MBP with TB. Works great on iMac Quad!

  4. I have been experimenting with The intensity extreme and the quality and speed is excellent. I did experience an issue though: The TB cable got very hot and eventually just stoped functioning. Soon afterwards my replacement cable also expired!

    I was using the BM Intensity to capture the output from a macbook air running keynote into Module8…

    Any similar issues, anyone?

  5. I got my box, and it’s been working well for game capture. However, I haven’t been able to get my iPad 2 to work with it. Can I ask what settings you used on the Black MAgic system preferences, and the Media Express preferences?

    Also, is there any setting I need to enable on the iPad?


  6. Thanks for the review. I just got mine but now have to wait for the cable. I ordered it to capture iPad DPS content, but I have since discovered another solution that may work as well and is very simple. I use an app called reflection –

    This allows you to Airplay your iPhone or iPad on your Mac therefore allowing you to capture with Screenflow like any other app. Granted its probably not quite as smooth as with the intensity extreme but pretty darn good for its simplicity.

    One question for you Terry. Is there a “presentation mode” for the Adobe DPS viewer to show the touch input?

    Also have you tried connecting an external monitor for editing with Premiere Pro 5.5? Does the intensity extreme actually perform any processing that would improve playback for unrendered footage on a Thunderbolt Macbook Pro? I know it will enable display on external monitor but I am hoping it will also improve overall playback.

    Thanks again,


    1. Reflection is great (as long as the network is not over crowded) and I’m impressed with the results. As far as using with a PR Pro CS 5.5 external monitor, I haven’t tried it but it should work.
      My plan is to use Reflection for live presentations and I’ll probably use the BM Intensity Extreme when recording especially where a high frame rate is needed.

  7. Quick question… I just got this card but doesn’t seem to work or have any input since I get a blackscreen all the time.
    Do I need to have a particular HDMI cable or does it work with any?
    I got the black one “silver” from apple “not gold plated” and not sure where if the cable could be the issue. Not sure if I should spend more money to experiment with different cables. Should work. Card is detected in MediaExpress, drivers installed, etc..

    Let me know if you know any issues or suggestions.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Provided you are plugged into the video in, if you’re not seeing your source then 9 times out of 10 you have incompatible video capture settings set. For example, with iPad I use 720p 60. If I try to use other settings nothing shows up.

  8. I got on 03/02/2011 the i Thunderbold Intensity Extreme installed on a new MacMini 2011 with the fast Intel dual core 2,7Ghz processor i7, 8Gbyte Ram and SSDrive 250Gbyte, operating system Mac OS X Lion 10.7.3 (11D50d), this hardware is 100%.
    First the capture from a video source connected on the Intensity Extreme, composite, component or HDMI under BlackMagic Desktop Video installer 9.1 did not work, bud after the update to de last version the BlackMagic Desktop Video installer 9.2 the capture form composite Audio-Video works (30 min Composite at 12Bit-(Color)-YUV = 50Gbyte), capture by composite en HDMI not, the MediaExpress video-monitor window stays black under HDMI and a distorted (grey-scale, mal sync) signal under Component”. The sources are 100% free off rights, they are self-made video’s and connected (played) through a Panasonic DVD/HDD player with HDMI, Component en Composite out. Other sources like the signal from a CableTelevisionReceiver, this is standard television signal unprotected by HDCP also dous not work.
    Its even so that for capture (recording) from HDMI at 720p (@60, @59,94, @50) (or 1080i) the maximum quality is QuickTime Uncompressed 8Bit-(Color)-YUV, 10Bit is not one selectable option (for analog video like PAL there is a 8bit or 10bit option). Blackmagic Supports replay on this: “The issue with 8bit YUV is down to the internal architecture of the Extreme, which is 8bit throughout. It will replay a 10bit file but only at 8 bit resolution”. This is a blow in the face, there is a great color quality difference between a 8bit and 10bit color codex.
    The playback by Intensity Extreme over HDMI or Component works.
    The Apple-system and SSDrive the connection seems ok because the capture from Composite
    video works well (tested 30min =50Gbyte), so we can conclude “The problem lays at the
    Intensity HDMI en Component Capture function (possible Media Express) or the hardware component & HDMI inputs are not connecting correctly”.
    After 10 emails to the Blackmagic Technical Support Consultant the result stays: capture from HDMI or Component video dous not work. Can you report this at the Blackmagic Direction Please. Its important that the people knows the combination MacMini 2011 and Blackmagic Intensity Extreme fails.
    Please feedback
    Marc, at Belgium (Antwerp)

  9. Hello Terry, i have a Canon vivid HF 11 camera, i sit compatible with that and with Final Cut X? also can you tell me does the software have the chroma key effect? Thank you.

  10. I just installed the Intensity Extreme external box to my Macbook Pro 13”, Mac OSX 10.7.3, 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7. and connected an iPad 2 exactly as per your photo with the original Apple HDMI out cable and Apple HDMI to HDMI cable.

    I have downloaded and installed the latest Black Magic Desktop Video Design Extension 9.2 and MediaExpress 3.1 and all I get is a black window. I shows the INTENSITY UNIT als installed under the remote menu but I can’t capture the iPad 2 screen.

    I don’t know what to do….please help…. my skype is uli.kaiser … thanks a lot in advance for your help!!!

  11. Terry:

    Thank you for the great review. I’m also thinking of buying the Blackmagic Intensity Thunderbolt to screen capture from my iPad 3, into my MacBook Pro. Same as you’re doing.

    Question: Do I need to worry about my hard disk speed? The Blackmagic Speed test utility says my disk isn’t fast enough to capture the uncompressed HD video. BUT… If the intensity will simply display the iPad’s image (like a monitor), I’d be happy if I could capture that with Screenflow. In other words, I’d only use the Intensity to display the iPad image, not capture video files from it.

    Does that work? If I’m wrong, how do you get around disk speed issues?

  12. Hi Terry.
    I want to capture the HDMI output of my iPad 3 (retina display) with a intensity pro in my Early 2008 mac pro.
    I ask Blackmagic Spain seller (I live in Barcelona) and they said it’s not possible. Have you tested an iPad 3 with a intensity pro? I see videos on internet showing the rig working, but the “official” response of blackmagic makes me doubt…

  13. Hmm…the review looks great btw, but after reading the comments section it sounds as if this products ‘compatibility’ range is still hit-n-miss. Maybe it’s a product that’s not yet ready for prime time (to work on all TB-mac configurations) – oh well it looked like a promising hardware addition to my setup.
    I don’t mind waiting until the issues are resolved – and thanks for all of the beta testers out there and for your valuable comments, your bravery is appreciated and welcome.


  14. I have an iPad3 (or iPad HD or whatever Apple calls it) and I am only able to capture video on the Blackmagic Intsenity Extreme using the following settings:

    HD 1080i 60

    However, note this is only HALF of the iPad 3 resolution. Therefore, it’s is relatively useless for what I purchased it for. Unless there is a way to down-scale the iPad HDMI output (which would defeat the purpose of the retina display to begin with) then you will not be able to capture full-screen video.

    I am looking into solutions and will post here if I find any.

    1. A quick follow-up, I found after some tinkering two key components to making this work with an iPad 3 (iPad HD etc)

      1) Make sure you have the video settings in Media Express set to 1080p 30! Chosing 1080/60 will result in non-full resolution video and image capturing. 1080p/30 works perfectly!

      2) Make sure you have one of the newer AV cables (the copyright on the package will show a 2012 date) and the product model is: MD098ZM/A

      Happy video capturing!

  15. Question: Does the device show up as availble in all mac apps? Ie- FaceTime, ichat, messages and iMovie? I am trying to use this to screencast my ipad3 via webex. Webex will only recogize usb webcams, isight and firewire inputs so far as I can tell but this is really the first thunderbolt solution that could do this. Thank you!

  16. Question: this gadget could connect a HD cable TV set-top-box to my iMac 21.5″ (mid 2011) from HDMI through Thunderbolt port? I want to see TV on my iMac…

  17. Hi Terry,

    thanks for sharing your awesome inspirational setup.
    I´m wondering how you get this nice red dots showing when you tap the iPad.
    Is it a built-in iPad feature?

      1. allright, thanks 🙂
        I`m trying right now to preview my iPad 4 on Media Express using the Intensity Pro but the screen remains black 🙁
        Input: 1080p 30

  18. Hi Terry,

    I would like to use Intensity extreme in another way, and I’m wondering if it coud do the job. Let me explain : For a theatre play, I work with a video input (analog resolution), and I need it to input in Isadora (real-time media manipulation software) and then output directly to a beamer. At this time, I do the job with a Matrox MX02 to capture (connected to my Thunderbolt port), and output with an adapter USB-VGA (because I have only one Thunderbolt).

    The question is : can the Blackmagic intensity extreme at the same time capture and playback (with the hdmi out) ? Thanks a lot for your answer.

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