Pocket Cinema Camera is like Black Magic

Me and Nikon are breaking up. Sort of. My Nikon glass will come in handy, for now. But I’m deeply in love with BMPCC. I could blame Matteo Bertoli. But actually I can’t believe I’m living in a time when I can get this quality of an image out of a camera I can afford. Unbelievable. It’s not an iPhone, it’s not a Red Epic, but it is somewhere in between, somewhere comfortable. Once you understand that BlackMagic took a 16mm film camera, made it digital and added a a viewfinder on the back, then you will understand what you’re buying. You don’t need 4K. You need exposure latitude and beautiful resolution. What it won’t do: record video you can upload directly to YouTube or Facebook.

You might have noticed the new photo and video gear button in our menu? Yes, we’ve gone camera crazy the last few weeks. Going back to our roots of WebTV. Full circle is what it feels. Watching this movie just made me think that Blackmagic is the Delorean of the film industry. Rugged, Raw, unorthodox, same black and metallic look and feel. If you’re keen to improve your color grading skills, this is the one.* Learning color grading, in my opinion, improves your cinematography. BlackMagic charges almost $30K for its pro color grader. The lite version is free for anyone. And it’s very pro. Believe it or not. It’s almost fully functional with HD as maximum export resolution Download here You still need a pretty beefy computer to run it on. If you’re not ready for a RAW workflow, the camera can also shoot in various flavors of ProRes 422 at bitrates as high as 220 mbps, which still captures plenty of data to play with in post.

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

The only question remaining after reading a final review on EOSHD? Seriously, where’s the new Pocket Cinema Camera? It’s 2017, not 2013! 4K, UltraHD Apple ProRes, 1080 up to 60fps and 15+ Stops. That would be gold!! Image stabilization would be a nice addition. For now, I’m going for the good old BMPCC and after one month of research, I still can’t find anything as good as this. Nearly bought a secondhand BMCC 2.5K as A-Camera. BUT… Editing RED Proxies and HD Blackmagic Pocket footage, is headache free in FCPX. Just cut and edit, finish then export xml for color. Then Color then export to 2k JPEG2000 for DCP creation for both. Voila, ready for the big screen. Now try that with 2.5k raw DNG files with four cameras with uncompressed footage!!! With the new firmware you can shoot all different flavors of ProRes (HQ, 422, LT, Proxy) as well as RAW. I do hope Blackmagic do a proper sequel to the Pocket Cinema Camera at some point. And make it easy to quickly change settings! Its interface is pretty simple but I wish there were dedicated buttons for ASA or shutter angle. Nothing is automatic, so it forces you to learn stuff you might have been content to leave to the camera. White balance, ISO, shutter angle…there is no aperture priority, no AWB… it will force you to be better. Requires all the lost skills of by-gone days of photography.

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

The BlackMagic Super 16mm sensor size works wonders when paired with the Metabones Speed Booster. The world is going large sensor, high frame rate crazy and 4K-ready but there’s still a lot of stories you can tell with 1080p on the Pocket Cinema Camera. However, it isn’t a substitute for a heavily rigged up camera you put on your shoulder. I would choose the BMCC for that instead. Having a small and light camera and making it big and heavy just seems pointless! If you’re going to hook up a huge battery and shoot hours and hours of footage in fact, why not just use the original BMCC 2.5K? In fact for hours of footage a compressed codec is handy. If you’re wanting to hold out for a system that shoots 2-4 k, I can honestly tell you it’s simply not worth it. I’ve already seen it used as a B cam to Red and Arri. The RAW is very large though, but you probably won’t need it unless you are doing heavy VFX or intense color color correction. For more flexible RAW footage shoot at ISO 800. One side note on the grain: it is best to ETTR, the shadowy areas can get a bit noisy at the native 800 ISO. It is limited to ISO 1600, but, with the Metabones speedbooster, it’s essentially ISO 5000 after the 1 and 2/3 stop increase in light. It could easily be cleaned up with a noise reduction plugin like NeatVideo. The noise/grain is more fine and similar looking to film grain, almost monochromatic, so very different from the awfulness of DSLR noise. The picture quality is the most compelling reason to use this camera. The raw image can be intercut with many of the more expensive cinema cameras costing 20x-40x the price.

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

Currently, the latest version offers on-screen frame guides, including 1.78:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. It also offers audio level meters, the ability to format the card in the camera (exFAT or HFS), as well as the ability to show how much time is remaining on the card. It also has ProRes HQ, 4:2:2, LT and Proxy recording.

Next, to add to the mix there’s the Zacuto Z-Finder (or the Kinotehnik) which gives you a much steadier way to handle the camera, whilst staying true to what the pocket form factor is all about – fuss free, lightweight shooting with no spidery arms and monitors attached. That makes the Pocket a very pure filmmaking tool, one that gets out of the way to an almost invisible degree, even so far as removing tripods from a set. With Warp Stabilizer or Lock and Load, you can control in post, just how much of a handheld feel you want. Lock and Load is so powerful, it’s able to mimic a tripod pan or tilt. The viewfinder adaptor from Kinotehnik fixes the “hand-held” issues and being able to see the screen in the sun. The focus peaking is bright green and easy to see, so pulling focus is a breeze. Zebra stripes work the same as the BMCC, so dialing in exposure is easy as well. The screen isn’t nearly so reflective as the BMCC, so even outdoors I’ve found an external monitor isn’t a necessity (although in some cases, certainly makes life on set easier). Auto focus does work somewhat and it comes in handy under sunlight. It is a bit slow but not a big deal as I shoot mostly in manual. Adding a clunky external monitor kind of defeats the purpose of a pocket-sized camera. This camera is great for shooting in stealth mode. It looks just like a little point and shoot cam, so you can get away with shooting in places not normally welcoming of big cinema cameras. On the outside the camera does not look professional and that’s the beauty of it.

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

Another innovation that will last a decade? The Sigma 18-35mm F1.8. The reason is simple. It is as good as using a set of three primes. There’s absolutely zero trade off for it being a zoom. The aperture is fast. It is constant. It is sharp. Incredibly sharp with Speed Booster. I’m talking Leica and Zeiss sharp wide open and Angenieux Optimo sharp when stopped down just slightly by half a stop. My advice is to avoid using active Micro Four Third lenses on this camera unless you’re prepared for some hassle. Try and use glass with manual aperture or Speed Booster with the lovely continuously variable Nikon aperture ring on it. Optical image stabilization is the main reason for using Panasonic lenses on this camera, even though I much prefer the look of the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 on Speed Booster than the 12-35mm F2.8. I’m not a huge fan of the rather clinical Lumix zooms with OIS. Some of the Panasonic primes like the 20mm F1.7 are pretty on the Pocket, whilst the 14mm F2.5 is a good cheap option. It’s just unfortunate these lack OIS. So why use them? You may as well go for the SLR Magic 12mm and Voigtlander 25mm F0.95 over the Lumix primes in that case, because they have a more cinematic character. Active MFT mount can be adapted to an assortment of lensing dating back to the beginning of photography and/or cinematography and to the latest!

If you are not powering the camera externally with a huge bulky battery and keeping it switched on for hours at a stretch you better get a notepad out so you can set the aperture to the same as the last shot before you powered off, to avoid inconsistent depth of field when shots are intercut later.

Let’s look at the fundamentals, that apply to any cinema camera. The codec is stronger than what Canon will give you for $15,000. The sensor is never ‘too small’ with Speed Booster, it’s much closer to Super 35mm giving you plenty of control over depth of field. Exposure is not a problem even in low light thanks to Speed Booster. Focus is rarely an issue with a peaking system that works far better than on DSLRs and the new loupes coming onto the market. A fast workflow is never a problem with ProRes and Film Convert. An endlessly creative and immersive workflow is also an option if you shoot raw and use Resolve to grade it.

Audio is the only major weakness of the camera. The internal pre-amps are poor, the circuits are noisy, monitoring it is tricky and there’s hardly any audio features. The missing functionality of no audio meters isn’t a deal breaker. it is a Cinema Camera so treat it as such: record audio separately with appropriate quality gear. I’ll record audio separately with a Zoom. (and use a Rode mic for scratch sound/reference). So the on-board microphone and audio quality is of little interest to me. (I will soon test recording sound on my iPhone and sync it in Final Cut or Davinci before I buy a Zoom.)

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

Raw on this camera is not quite the must-shoot that it is on the BMCC (to gain the 2.5K resolution). That you don’t really need to shoot raw on the Pocket camera is kind of a relief, especially for my hard drives. Note that the ProRes on the BMCC is beautiful. Sharp, flat as hell (very log-c alexa like) and way easier workflow than raw. So I will end up shooting in ProRes most of the time. The images that come out of this thing rival that of cameras costing 15 times as much. It produces the same crisp, smooth, high-dynamic range footage as the BMCC that is easily manipulated in post to create wonderful images. This camera is great for anyone trying to learn the finer points of color correction. It is as much a learning tool as it is a fully functional cinema camera. This camera begs you to get creative.

There doesn’t seem to be any good way to control shutter speed or Iris easily. To adjust f-stop while shooting you have to use digital stepping with menu buttons about 1/2-1/4 stop at a time. This is very irritating when you are doing hand held shots and transitioning from light to dark areas or indoor to outdoor. Like wise for shutter speed, it uses an angle of sensor adjustment which isn’t quite the same and doesn’t give full shutter speed control like capabilities. Also you have to actually enter the menu to adjust that setting so doing it live during a shot is not even an option. (you wouldn’t want to anyway because of the robotic increments). Great for planned scripted/storyboarded film applications. Less so for action/handheld applications. This camera isn’t for wedding filmmakers but anyone looking to do short films, indie films, music video, etc. this is hands down the best camera you can buy for the price.

Read more: http://www.eoshd.com/

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

BMPCC Final Shopping List:

I think the one most important purchase to accent this camera is the Metabones Speedbooster.Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera. And a Genus Eclipse ND Fader to shoot in the sun, especially if you want to get the blue sky in your shot. Aperture will not close enough to give proper exposure, even when you set the ASA to 200 on a sunny beach day. If you are going to shoot outdoors during the day either you will need to have a matte box with filter trays or attach ND filters directly to your lenses. The sensor has a “quirk” similar to the Leica M8… sensitivity to IR. The result of this is polyester black appears brownish/purplish and wool black is pure black. The solution, like the Leica, is a UV/IR Cut filter on the lens. The sensitivity is very good, and ASA 1600 is perfectly usable. The noise really isn’t that bad. It looks almost film-like, particularly when heavy noise reduction is applied.

The crop factor is significant though, so you may want to look into a Metabones Speedbooster if you need to go wide. Also, if you do any pro handheld work, a steady hand and a lens with optical stabilization and/or a rig will be necessary:

Beholder DS1 Gimbal or Benro Video MonoPod.
Tilta cage or Fotga/SmallRigg shoulder mount.
Or at least a budget Eimo DR-2/Andoer C500
Love the Wooden Camera BMPCC cage !!!
Arca swiss QR plate for Glidecam/Tripod

SanDisk 64GB Extreme Pro 95mb/s. BMPCC can not format them in-camera. You will only get approximately 40 min. recording on a 64gb card and to do so will require 4 to 5 Nikon EL-20 batteries. The 64 will provide about 20 minutes of RAW recording. The BMPCC runs happily on just about any 12v source… so all you need is a cable to connect them. A solution is the iKan battery plate for BMPCC LP-E6 and with that you can get about 2 hours of usage on one LP-E6 battery. You can swap batteries without stopping the recording using the iKan LP-E6 battery plate. If you plug it with the ac adaptor it will get very hot, so instead, try to use batteries. If you’re shooting for long periods in the hot sun, expect to go through batteries a lot more often. There’s no ability to review footage in camera (it’s like the old film days kids! Get a nice field monitor and have a crew to help monitor your shots. As you’re offloading footage on a laptop have a crew member analyze the shots).

Sigma 18-35 f1.8 (video)
+ Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art
(Cover 18-100mm at f1.8 with only two lenses Video)
Or … The SamYang Prime Kite (amazon.fr) ???

In combo with a studio tripod and LCD Screen a Manfrotto RC Clamp LANC Zoom/Focus Remote could be epic ? (In addition zoom and focus control, the RC Clamp features a record start/stop button, a camera power button, and an autofocus on/off button.) With a LANC handle and a sunhood or viewfinder and an OIS lens I feels like an old handheld 16mm. The 3.5″ screen is sharper than the BMCC’s 5″. The HDMI port needs extra support; something that firmly secures the cable and the camera body.

What’s disappointing is the rolling shutter. Use a shorter focal length i.e. more wide angle so you can lower pan speed while covering the same area during panning. Try to pan in the other direction (R2L). With current firmware update the histogram on screen works really well, and the extended shutter angles are also very good. These are definitely necessary to combat the rolling shutter jello effect. Thank goodness, the results from rolling shutter correction in post are really good.

The Sigma reminds me of cinema, as far as image characteristics go. Modern Cinema lenses, outside of shooting with a set of Zeiss lenses, that’s hard to find. The snobbery against shooting with zooms is funny. I like using all one series of lenses so that time spent in post matching everything up is minimal.

More options: https://kit.com/livethelifetv

blackmagic pocket cinema camera bmpcc

* You don’t have to be a colorist to take advantage of the black magic. If you don’t want to learn DaVinci, you can get plugins such as Filmconvert Pro and LUT Tools. I have these tools in Final Cut Pro and it helps me get the look I want without spending slot of time color grading. But I also love spending time in Davinci Resolve 12.5. If you don’t use Resolve, SpeedGrade or something similar, this may not be the camera for you. You should be using a color chart like an X-Rite or a Spyder/DataColor if you’re shooting with a camera like this. Align it in Resolve and click Match. Grading and correcting log footage by eye is a bitch. The camera has a steep learning curve, but if you are interested in filmmaking for real this is a fun camera! It’s color science is completely underrated, and is honestly awesome. Very filmic. Plan on purchasing Neutral Density Filters for any outside work. I love the incredible dynamic range latitude that this tiny camera can offer, the rendition of the imagery rivals that out of a RED minus the 4k. Grade it and blow it up to 4k or more (AE scales nicely) and project it…no one will know the difference, and certainly nobody will know the difference on a 4k 60″ TV from 6 feet away. There are plenty of quirks to this camera. Especially that all camera settings are reset after a reboot. But like I said, it’s a $30k image! Listen, it’s not going to kill the Alexa, but there really is no reason to ever deal with DSLR madness again. Oh, it does not take still photos, it is not designed for that. If I need a still shot, I just cut and use it during editing.

Granted we just got married but I’m deeply in love. Soon we’ll go out on our honeymoon. If you’re an old-school s16mm film fan, then she will give you that nostalgic feel when you look at the memories you collected and the experiences you shared. Perfect for a home cinema projector. Pure Magic.

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