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May 30, 2012

RAW 1080p is Coming with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, but Can You Afford the Hard Drives?

By now many of you may be familiar with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera - it made a splash at this year's NAB show in Las Vegas. There wasn't a person I talked to that wasn't excited to know more about this tiny little RAW-shooting 1080p camera. Thankfully, the camera shoots more than RAW video, as it can also shoot slightly compressed DNxHD and ProRes -- but what if you do want to shoot RAW? Just like with DSLRs, most of the RAW video available in higher-end cameras is slightly compressed, as bitrates can exceed bandwidth. To keep costs down, the RAW in the BMCC is completely uncompressed RAW video, which means, you're getting bit for bit everything that is coming out of the A/D convertor (which takes the information from the sensor and translates it into digital values). We've talked a bit about increased disk space requirements, but rarely about affordability. The trend for most technology is to get cheaper over the long term -- but that's not exactly happening with hard drives for a number of reasons.

The floods in Thailand last year destroyed the manufacturing plants for a number of major manufacturers, and as a consequence, prices rose dramatically. That is certainly to be expected, but as manufacturing normalizes or shifts to other places, we should start to see prices coming down -- or will we? ExtremeTech has been following the situation and has come to some interesting conclusions regarding prices. First, check out the chart they made below:

Prices for some products have come down, but for the most part, they are up across the board. Now you might say, what's another $20, $30, $50 for a single hard drive? Well, not much, of course, but we're not storing our footage on one hard drive if we're smart -- we're putting that data on multiple drives. Let's take for example, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, which will record RAW files (full resolution in RAW mode is 2432 x 1366) at approximately 114 Megabytes per second. That comes to 6.8 Gigabytes per minute, and 410.6 Gigabytes per hour. Storage requirements add up - that Caviar Black hard drive that originally cost $150 is now $210. That's $180 more over the cost of three drives (for two backups), and if you're trying to shoot a 2 hour feature, say at a 15:1 shooting ratio, you'll need 12.3 Terabytes, and if you want that backed up twice, just about 37 Terabytes total. Those 19 2-Terabyte drives that you'll need for that footage would have cost you $2,850 last year, but with the costs rising, would now cost you just about $4,000.

It only gets worse for bigger projects, and as people move up to higher resolutions like 4K, 5K, and 6K, storage requirements get vastly more expensive. Regardless of the reason for the increase in prices (the other article points to profit motives), it's still something we've got to deal with. SSDs have come a long way, but they are still mostly $1 a Gigabyte or more, so it will be a long, long time before they are a viable substitute for spinning disks.

Should people stay away from RAW? Absolutely not -- in fact it's remarkable that you will now be able to get RAW video in a camera that costs only $3,000. The concern comes with shooting styles and project considerations. Not every project will need RAW, in fact most will not. But with longer projects comes different considerations for costs. Just because you can shoot something doesn't mean you have the money to back up that footage, and as resolutions increase, so do the storage requirements. It's not a "hidden cost," as some might say, but it's simply a fact of increased file sizes, and we as independent filmmakers know: every single dollar counts.

[via ExtremeTech]

Your Comment

99 Comments

RAW isn't that big of a deal for me. I know that isn't the popular thing to say.

May 30, 2012

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I personally agree. I do small projects, that will end up on youtube/vimeo. Most of which never even get watched in HD. Everything in life is situational though. If you are in the realm of needing something so perfect, and amazing quality is in high demand and absolutely needed, then you're most likely going to be able to afford 2-4k on HDD's..I know that most people actually factor the price of HDD's into their budgets as part of the customers price.

May 30, 2012

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Exactly. Unless your stuff is going to be viewed theatrically and/or will undergo extensive special effects work, RAW is downright ludicrous and a waste of space.

June 1, 2012

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Hummer

Funny, because I work in a small town at a computer repair/low budget web design company, and what we have to keep telling our customers who are wanting custom built PC's, that HDD prices went up because of this same reason. I never even THOUGHT that increased resolution/file size was going to eat up my pocket like that!!!

Unfortunately I don't think there's anything we can do in the "long run"...Unless somehow they start developing a new format of recording that will drastically decrease size, which isn't likely. Nor will HDD Prices drop so far that we can pick them up for cheap enough to compensate...I think this is just a section of film making that we're going to be stuck in more, and more over the next decade.

May 30, 2012

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I loved this post- really helped put things into perspective and was something I've been thinking about all morning. I work with a lot of musicians on music videos and live concert shoots. I think for me It will have to come down to what the client wants; explain to them what RAW is, how it could benefit the project I'm working on for them and if that's something they'd like to see, pass on the cost to them as an upcharge. There are some musicians I work with that make a decent amount of money and would be looking for that, and others that it would simply be cost-prohibitive to do so. Same thought process for me would go into short/feature films to be shot on raw. If you have the budget, do it! If not no sweat, nothing wrong with HD ProRes files (especially if you remind yourself how things were 10 years ago).

May 30, 2012

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Austin Mace

Yeah I agree, same goes for shooting commercial spots. If after explaining the pros and cons (storage) of shooting RAW to the client they opt for it, then the extra storage can be built into the budget. That scenario isn't necessarily applicable if you shooting a feature or even a short, but I'd still rather be given a RAW workflow and be able to compress to taste from there. And with 13 stops of DR, ProRes and DBxHD will suffice 90% of the time.

May 30, 2012

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Scott

we are all using the word RAW but i feel many are forgetting about the 13 stops of dynamic range, that filmic look that is sought after by many independent filmmakers, any video that is going to be distributed online, broadcast, or theaters needs a professional look.

May 30, 2012

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alguti

That is sobering information. I was going to build a new storage array *right* before the flood in Thailand. Once the floods came I realized I couldn't afford it until I noticed that external drives (including USB3 and eSATA) have been available at a lower price than internal drives. What I have done is create a new Windows Storage server using 1TB drives in a Raid5 and the external drives as backups. For just about $300 I have created a 6TB server.
I am interested in the Design Cinema camera but by your calculations I will not have enough storage for raw recordings. Forget weddings and concerts in raw. BUT even the compressed video will be great.

May 30, 2012

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I'm hopeful that like Atomos, they'll allow you to, either out of the box or through a firmware update, to use cheaper spindle based notebook drives to capture ProRes/DNxHD. Obviously these don't have the throughput to capture RAW, and they're more prone to shock-based damage, but in a studio or more control environment where RAW might be unnecessary (or frankly just to make ends meet by using cheaper drives) you could really benefit from this.

May 30, 2012

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I don't think that will happen, as it hasn't happened for their other SSD products. What you could do is record out of the HD-SDI of the camera, which will be identical to the footage going to the hard drive in 1080p mode.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Very true. A clean output with a slightly higher initial investment in an Atomos Ninja will yield very good results. Sure your kit just got bigger but it really seems those damn external recorders are a necessity in a lot of setups. I know for myself I'd be more than happy keeping a ProRes "negative" since I'm already doing that with my DSLR.

May 30, 2012

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Why not shoot raw but backup the files either using a raw compression or prores or something? Sure conversion times would take a while but it would be quick enough to batch process and let it go all night. Or is it normal to keep all the original raw files? im not sure im just a noob

May 30, 2012

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mike

If you need the resolution but not everything else, you can convert the RAW stills to a movie using ProRes 4444, ProRes HQ, or some other flavour, at native size. You will throw away some information in doing so, but you'll massively reduce the data rate and still allow high-quality zooming. The sticky point is going to be interpreting the CinemaDNG files with any decent fidelity. Ideally all our favourite NLEs will get native support sooner or later.

I've got a 28 second timelapse movie here in ProRes 422 and the odd resolution of 2592x1728; it's just over 1GB and plays back very smoothly in FCP X. Something like the workflow here should work, but you'll have to use Motion to create the movie instead of QuickTime Player. Motion can read a sequence of DNG files, but QuickTime Player can't.

http://www.macprovideo.com/hub/final-cut/advanced-time-lapse-with-final-...

May 31, 2012

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Blah blah blah... I wonder how mxf/prores will effect the 13 stop dynamic range. Thats the main factor for me.

May 30, 2012

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Carlos

I'd imagine recording in Log would handle it fine, just like ProRes LogC on the Alexa, or putting out RedLogFlim from Red files.

May 30, 2012

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Kevin Marshall

If it's 10 bit it should be fine. I've watched way too many VFX tutorials from people working on projects with way bigger budgets and higher quality demands than my own, talking about how they deal with ProRes 444 as their production footage. If it's good enough for them it's good enough for me.

May 30, 2012

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Small correction, at the risk of being pedantic. It's not RAW 1080p - it's RAW 2.5K. 1080p is only in the compressed modes. I don't know if this factored into your bit rate calculations, or if it was just for simplicity's sake.

May 30, 2012

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Kevin Marshall

Yes it was for simplicity's sake, and the full RAW resolution of 2432 x 1366 was factored in. Here's the equation you can use for any of these numbers if anyone is curious:

RAW Video Data Rate: (Horizontal Resolution) X (Vertical Resolution) X (Frame Rate) X (Bit-depth) / 8 / 1024 / 1024 = Data Rate

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I haven't been able to find a straight answer on this, so maybe someone here can help me out.

Is the RAW 2.5k actually 2432 x 1366 pixels in frame size once imported into NLE, or is it scaled down to 1080p and the 2.5k just translates to a higher pixel density. I've read contradictory accounts, one talking about the 2.5k giving you extra room for stabilization and reframing (which would be great) and the other stating your usable frame size is still only 1920x1080.

Anybody know for sure?

May 30, 2012

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Scott

The Cinema DNG files coming out of the camera are 2432 x 1366. That's what you can bring into an editor that supports it if you so choose.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Thanks Joe.

May 30, 2012

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Scott

There's alot of talk on BMCUser.com about transcoding to CineformRAW just to save on storage requirements. Although not a perfect workflow, IMHO, it will allow smaller RAW file sizes comparable to ProRes and DNxHD. You still have to shoot RAW first but the transcode is very fast.

May 30, 2012

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Better still would be to record to it in camera. GoPro's CTO and CineForm's developer David Newman thinks that if the camera can do ProRes or DNxHD, it could probably do CineForm RAW. The added benefits include virtually all of those afforde by CinemaDNG -- full sensor resolution, 12-bit encoding, greatest color-grading flexibility -- plus greater recording times and, potentially, with the reduced per-frame data requirement, higher frame rates.

June 4, 2012

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Tzedekh

The main turn off for me about the BMCC is its disgusting 2.4x crop factor.

Sigh, just give us an interchangeable lens mount super 35 prores 422 camera for 3k and be done with it

May 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

Too expensive. I've looked into what it costs to build a S35mm camera with basically off-the-shelf parts and it's just impossible at that price. Best you could do is probably $7K-$9K with no profit margin.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

And that's why I have no problem with what you get for 3,000 dollars, for the most part :)

May 30, 2012

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Jason

sigh, I figured. I'll just wait; I am tempted at getting the camera though, I am going to rent it for sure and see how I feel about it. Probably can't use anything other than a duclos/tokina 11-16 and lenses wider than 35mm though right?

May 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

I'd love to read an article onwhat cameras actually cost, just so we can get a good perspective on what our money is actually capable of buying...eg a s16 sensor is cheap while the s35 sensor is too expensive and why

May 30, 2012

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It'd be tough to do a price analysis for video cameras because many of the parts are proprietary, especially the sensors. Blackmagic is purchasing an off-the-shelf sensor, so it might be a little easier to do a breakdown, but for the most part, all of the companies design their own sensors and they don't sell those designs to third-parties. Sensors, just like CPU processors, are made from big wafers, and the smaller the sensor, the more of them you can cut from the wafer. So even if you had the same technology inside, a S35mm sized sensor will cost more than a S16mm sensor for that reason. Wafers also don't make perfect sensors, and many of them have defects, so the larger the sensor, the more chance there is for defects - thereby increasing cost.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I think this is just temporary.
So you're out of luck if you need the drives immediately.
But drives are starting to come down in price.
And SSDs are half what they cost last year.

http://camelcamelcamel.com/Western-Digital-Caviar-Internal-Desktop/produ...

http://camelcamelcamel.com/Crucial-2-5-Inch-Solid-State-CT256M4SSD2/prod...

May 30, 2012

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mike

It's worth noting that this is less of a problem with Redcode RAW, due to the available compression ratios. I've had good results at 8:1 which is about 30GB per hour at 2K, 24p. ProRes 4444 would be about 4 times the size, and even 244 would be about twice the size. ProRes is absolutely fine for most uses, but will show it's limits in more extreme grading, especially if the color settings/lighting was off during the shoot. (full disclosure - I own a Scarlet, but I've shot with other systems, and I'm pretty brand agnostic - they're all just tools at the end of the day etc..)

May 30, 2012

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...Or you could just back everything up with one of the many affordable cloud backup services that have no storage limits?

May 30, 2012

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How long would it take to back up one terabyte online over the average broadband connection? A month? Not feasible for anything other than the final output file, IMO.

May 30, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

My school's internet is pretty fast. I bet I could back up a terabyte in less than a day; that is if I don't get throttled lol

May 30, 2012

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john jeffreys

If the alternative is paying $4,000 for hard drives, wouldn't it be more economical just to pay for a non-average (i.e., really fast) broadband connection?

May 30, 2012

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...and pay through the ass for Enterprise upload speeds? No thanks.

May 30, 2012

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Tom

Is that going to cost more than the $4,000 it would cost for tons of 2 TB hard drives?

May 30, 2012

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I think shooting drives and editing raids are going to be different devices. You may purchase 2 SSD's for this camera, but then offload them to a high capacity raid. And offload fast with thunderbolt.

That chart above are only showing moving drives—no solid state shown. OWC 240GN SSD's are around $270. That's a fraction of what a red drive or sony SxS card costs. I think people that have preordered need to make sure they have enough capacity and a good backup system. Mine will be:

1-2 SSD recording drives ($270 each)
1 main 6 to 12TB raid with thunderbolt (Promise Pegasus or G-raid) ($1200-$2200 depending)
1 backup drive at equal capacity, but could be FW800 or USB2 ($800-1000)

May 30, 2012

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David

LTO tape for backup, cheaper than hard drives per TB, the initial outlay for the drive is high, the media costs are low. I thought I was finally going "tape less" and for production and post I have, but with hard drives not coming down in price I may have to go back to tape for backup and long term storage.

Something to think about.

M

May 30, 2012

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Is the Bolex D16 a better option as it has a dual CF card slot. For a regular shooter wouldn't that bring the costs down a lot.

May 30, 2012

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Craig C

The cost that I'm referring to is mostly in backup. Uncompressed RAW is always going to be expensive for backup because of the sheer amount of data that you've got to deal with. The Digital Bolex, however, just like this camera, have compressed modes that will be helpful when you don't want or need RAW. Digital Bolex will do JPEG sequences and the Blackmagic Cinema Camera will do ProRes and DNxHD.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

For features, producers should look into backing up raw footage to LTO tapes at post houses. Not only will that give you a solid magnetic tape back up of your data that will last a hundred years but it will free up the need to buy so many expensive hard drives. You still need, on each day of the shoot, 3 hard drive back ups of your dailies but once one of those drives has been backed up to an LTO tape you can erase two of the back ups (once you the post house has verified all your dailies are present). LTO tapes are relatively inexpensive as they are an older technology but very solid. Hard drives need to spin, tapes can simply sit on a shelf.

May 30, 2012

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Just wondering - how much would the warehouse cost to store this much film?

May 30, 2012

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Rich

You could theoretically store it in an indoor storage place as long as it was somewhat climate and humidity controlled. But let's do the math anyway - 30 hours of footage in 35mm would equal 162,000 feet, or 162 1000 foot loads. 30 hours of 16mm would be 64,800 feet, or 162 400 foot loads. You'll get more footage with both Super 35 and Super 16, but those numbers are for standards gates. Ideally, you don't shoot this much film if you're an indie, you'd probably try to do a 5:1 on a small indie feature. I did a short film on Super 16mm that was a 5:1 ratio, basically 1 take for most shots, 2 if we had film to spare. But I've also said this before about digital, that more care needs to be taken the higher your data rates.

But yeah, the costs are high to properly store a negative for a feature, and if you don't store it properly, you're negating the reason why you needed it archived on film in the first place. Film has gotten better, but an independent filmmaker isn't going to store a film properly most of the time. I don't know if they still do this now, but the proper way to store a film for a longer period of time was to have three separate reels of B&W film that corresponded to Red/Green/Blue. This way you wouldn't have to worry about color fading, which was inevitable.

Even with the issues surrounding storing all of this media, I'm still a big proponent of digital storage versus film. Sure, your film print might physically last decades, but when you open it back up, how much work will it take to restore it should something happen to your digital files? Restoring film is no small task, and personally I'd rather have the headache of dealing with a perfect copy than dealing with one that will need to be rescanned and restored anyway.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

www.undergroundvaults.com

Just send you negs here, to the Kansas Underground Salt Mine for long term storage. Don't store them in grandma's basement or attic, pls. BTW, this is also a great place to to store data tapes and magnetic tapes.

June 4, 2012

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Jorge

I'm not trying to slam the Black Magic camera but, after reading this, the thought occurs to me that it really may be a "camera without a country".
The chip is too small for cinema. Maybe it's good for documentaries but, do you really need raw for documentary work? If you gotta have raw, and have the where-with-all to deal with that workflow, you're, probably, not going to shoot your film on a $3000 small chip cam. I think it's a very cool concept but, I think it packs it's punch in the wrong places and I don't really see a market for it. I think I would be pretty happy with a 2.5K super35, recording 10 bit ProRes.

OK, I'm ready for my beating now...

May 30, 2012

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dixter

There is a gigantic market for it, because for $3,000, there isn’t another camera on the market that can do not only RAW, but ProRes Log with 13 stops of dynamic range. To get that type of quality in-camera you’ve got to step up to a RED Scarlet, but even then, you’re stuck with RAW, you’ll need an external recorder or you’ll have to convert in post.

Anyway, my biggest problem is the lens mount, if they’d put a Micro 4/3s mount, we’d have a lot easier time adapting lenses, but as it is, there are definitely options with the Canon mount – for example, you could get a 11-16mm 2.8, 24mm 1.4 or 24mm 1.8, and 35mm 1.4. In terms of a full frame 35mm sensor like the 5D, these would equal 25mm-36mm, 55mm, and 80mm – which happen to be right around the focal lengths I usually use. In terms of depth of field, most feature films with Super 35mm sensors are shot at f/2.8-f/5.6, with many choosing f/4. Unless you're shooting in the dark, the shallowest you might go in a professional situation with a camera like the RED Epic is f/2.8 (I know there are exceptions, but most Super 35mm stuff is around 2.8-5.6). In terms of angle of view, a 24mm lens on the BMCC will compare to a 40mm lens on a RED Epic (16x9 mode). So let's compare depth of field if we are shooting in a standard higher end production scenario with the RED Epic, which might stick to around 2.8, to the BMCC shot wide open. Length is the distance to the subject.

RED Epic 40mm f/2.8 20-feet 10.5 feet

BMCC 24mm f/1.4 20-feet 9.42 feet

RED Epic 40mm f/2.8 10-feet 2.48 feet

BMCC 24mm f/1.4 10-feet 2.26 feet

RED Epic 40mm f/2.8 5-feet 0.61 feet

BMCC 24mm f/1.4 5-feet 0.55 feet

I understand the reasons why shooting open can be a bad thing (resolution, etc.), but what this means is that you can shoot wide open at the equivalent FOV and have the same depth of field as many Hollywood movies. We’ve gotten so used to very shallow depth of field, but there really isn’t a huge advantage to shooting a 50mm 1.4 wide open on a 5D Mark II at 1 foot. This camera is much shallower than 2/3″ or even 1/3″, so I don’t think that’s a problem. To me, latitude plays a far bigger part in defining a film look – and the only cameras that can approach 13 stops are at least five times as expensive.

You basically have what you’re looking for in a Sony F3 with some sort of external recorder, but again, you’ll need a recorder capable of dealing with S-Log if you want all that dynamic range. There’s just nothing in this budget range that will give you remotely the same quality image. Do I wish there were other lens mounts possible? Absolutely, but I would rather shoot 10-bit Log ProRes with this camera over a 5D Mark II or Mark III if I’m shooting outdoors or if I can actually light properly.

May 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Exactly. The crop factor is basically no problem besides choosing the right lenses. A lot of feature films have been shot on Super 16mm film which is even smaller. Buttery, excessively shallow depth of field is rarely used in films. Shallow, yes, full frame at 1.4... NO!

May 30, 2012

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Well... OK then. Good breakdown, Joe. Guess I didn't realize you can get proper (cinema-like) DOF with the right glass. I do believe, as some others do, that excessively shallow depth is not something you see much in real movies. Excessively shallow DOF is and will be 'the mark of the amateur'.

May 31, 2012

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dixter

The "right lenses" for the Blackmagic CC would need to be lenses in the range of 6mm to 10mm focal lengths. Can someone pls line up those for me with Canon mount? Thanks!

A 6mm optic mounted on the BCC will give you the equivalent horizontal angular field of view (i.e. perspective) of what a 14 or 15mm optic would give you in FF 135 terms. Ultra wide angle bordering on fisheye, in other words. So good, so helpful is no many shooting scenarios.

And a 10mm focal length optic would give you the equivalent perspective of a 24mm standard WA lens (in FF 135 terms).

Now, if all you would ever need to shoot are normal perspectives, telephoto, and super telephoto, BCC is your camera, for sure. It's an ideal birder's cam, since a 100mm lens will give you a 240mm telephoto look right off the bat.

June 4, 2012

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Jorge

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