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Blackmagic President Dan May Talks About a Possible Super 35mm Cinema Camera

07.20.12 @ 11:15AM Tags : , , , ,

Blackmagic is putting the finishing touches on the Cinema Camera for a late July/early August release, but some still have lingering questions about the design of the camera and the origins of the project. John Hess, who has made a number of tutorial videos and runs the site FilmmakerIQ, recently had a conversation with Dan May, president of Blackmagic Design.

They talked a bit about extended frame rate possibilities:

[IQ] Let’s talk about frame rates. What frame rate possibilities will this camera ship with:


[BMD] The camera as it is at lauch will be a 30P and lower camera. You’re talking all progressive 30, 29.97, 25, 23.94 – these are the frame rates we knew we could get out the door and they would support but traditional cinematic frame reates. Obviously the number one request we have is to do things like 60p. Kind of goes back to that same discussion as we have to get a camera out the door but we know we can do there are several challenges of doing higher frame rate like 60p such as heating and can you do RAW DNG to an SSD and do you have the throughput necessary to do that at 2.5k. Could you do it at a lower resolution? Perhaps. Could you do it in compressed only? Perhaps. But again heating is obviously always a challenge on cameras. This camera itself has the molded aluminum body to dissipate heat as well as a fan as well as a refrigeration unit on the sensor but you know the more processing and more data you’re jamming through there the more critical heat is going to be. Back to that water cooler discussion about could we do we do it or does it have to be a different device… as it is, out the door 30p and under.

It’s interesting that the company did not contact sensor manufacturers directly to keep the project secret. Clearly Blackmagic understood that not showing their hand was important, and the amount of secrecy surrounding the project proves that the showing at NAB really was a surprise to other camera makers.

Dan May on the sensor and possibility for a Super 35mm sensor in the future:

And the sensor we eventually found was just an off the shelf part and we got most of what we wanted on there to build you know kind of incredible camera that we have there. So one of the things we hear a lot of is could you do a full size sensor or a 2/3rds sensor… certainly we could if we could find that one discreetly that would be less than ten thousand dollars and do higher than HD resolution and high dynamic range with a large degree of stops – that would have been great. Would have been a 25 grand camera maybe…Now that the cat’s out of the bag once this camera ships and we can do updates or tweaks into this camera we can really figure out where we go from there.

Personally I’m glad they went with the sensor they did and the design they did to keep the cost down. This camera could easily have cost a lot more than it does, and the technology isn’t quite there yet to do what they needed a Super 35mm sensor to do at a reasonable price.

What do you guys think? Would you have been interested in a $25,000 Super 35mm sensor camera with the same specs as the Blackmagic Cinema Camera?

[via FilmmakerIQ]


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Description image 71 COMMENTS

  • I actually read an article before you posted it, for a change. lol Yeah, definitely wouldn’t be interested. The camera is groundbreaking mainly (not only, but MAINLY) because of its price point. If it had been a Super 35mm sensor for around $25k, it wouldn’t have necessarily been very different from the other camera manufacturers. I’m very excited about this camera and what it will do to the camera market. Side note: I see so much about it being a good and/or bad replacement for dslr shooters. I consider it to be an awesome companion to my 7Ds! I don’t see it as a dslr killer, but as a dslr companion that can take on difficult shots that you know your dslr can’t handle.

    • Absolutely, it’s a companion camera, not a do everything camera. It does what it does very well, but it can’t, and shouldn’t, do everything.

      • These are my thoughts exactly. Different tools for different jobs.

      • What don’t you think it will do well?

        • Low-light – this is going to be a camera that will perform best at its base ISO – 800. You can’t just take it anywhere and shoot, I mean you can, but don’t expect this to be a 5D Mark III that can get relatively clean results all the way to 6400 ISO.

          You’re also not going to get super wide with this lens thanks to the mount – and there really aren’t any 11mm Canon/Nikon mount lenses that are faster than about f/2.8 – that’s also a problem for some situations.

          The battery issue will also get annoying, but I’m willing to work around it and take that as one of the few negatives among the many positives.

        • The camera will do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.
          It’s not a game change camera. It is a GAME OVER camera.
          The specs are up there with ALEXA.
          Only out of the box even ALEXA does not shoot RAW. Too Bad.

          ALEXA = 27.98 X 18.15mm
          BLACK MAGIC = 15.81 8.88mm

          ALEXA = 2880 X 1620
          BLACK MAGIC = 2432 X 1366

          Remember image(sensor) size does not = resolution…like in Film days.
          Pixels do.

  • I’m really excited to see this camera in use. I hope Joe Marine does a review on this once it comes out, I have decided to wait and review this one in the fall once my schedule clears up so I can spend some good quality time with the camera.

    • Hey Dave, Ryan and I are trying, things are a little crazy at Blackmagic so hopefully it can happen sooner rather than later.

      • I think Joe Marine needs to finish his D800/5D3 comparison first :-)

        • People still care about that? :) I think I’ve got two articles left. I’ll get them out before any other reviews – got a little busy with this whole website thing, and life, you know, that other thing that people do.

  • I’m cool with DSLR’s for now and will enjoy seeing the results of others experiences with the new Black Magic camera. Besides, I am in no huge rush for 2K, and also really don’t know what kind of DOF a small sensor like that will provide. As a rule, I avoid first generation technology of this sort and let others do the R&D for me. I’ll be more than happy to take the plunge after they learn from the 1.0 version and move up to a sensor approaching APS-C size .

    What really excites me about using the camera technology is being able to monitor video in real time on a Thunderbolt equipped laptop with the included Da Vinci software. Popping out memory cards to check to verify video quality is too much of a hassle, so I end up putting most of the trust in my eyes and monitor. Anybody else who used DV Rack/ On Location with DV cameras and had to part with it when they moved on UP to HD will likely appreciate this as well.

  • john jeffreys on 07.20.12 @ 1:27PM

    No, we don’t want a fucking 2/3 sensor. God no. This is not 2003. Give us a super 35 camera with the same recording options and a removable battery for 5 grand and just get it over with.

    • Dan was pretty clear they would have done that if they could. If you remember back to 2009 or so, 2/3s was all the rage at the lower price ($3,000) point thanks to the RED Scarlet announcement.

      • john jeffreys on 07.20.12 @ 1:42PM

        I wasn’t really gear savvy in 2009. I was like, 17. I barely knew how to edit and shot everything on my school’s god awful hvx200, and I constantly questioned to myself as to why the picture looks so shitty compared to things I see in theaters. And then dslr’s happened.

        • Well the sensor is bigger than the ones equivalent to shoot The Wrestler, Black Swan, Walking Dead (tv series), Monsters ( gareth eadwards), etc etc, and they look beautiful. So I don’t think we are back in 2003, just a different format to shoot with and it will sell like hot cakes.

          • Just to clarify slightly, Monsters was shot on an EX3 with a Letus Ultimate adapter, so even though it was technically 3 1/2″ sensors, the depth of field characteristics were like that of a 5D Mark II, Mark III, or D800.

          • john jeffreys on 07.20.12 @ 5:00PM

            Yeah, but those films had relatively huge budgets and a full crew and a lot of professionalism going behind them. not to mention film transfers, pro editing and coloring, etc. 90% of the people that buy BMC’s are not going to make films of that caliber.

          • True, as a lot of people who buy 35mm sensor cameras can’t make their images look good. I’ve seen tons of Red footage and even film looking terrible. In the end of the day it’s all about how skilled you are. Don’t blame the sensor size. For any camera, the post processing plays a huge role in how your image will look in the end.

        • @John. I wouldn’t say the HVX200 is awful. I shoot on everything from RED to Varicam to DSLR to HVX200 and more…and in the right hands, with the right tools (proper lighting) any of these camera’s look fantastic and on the same note any can look awful in the wrong hands. And I agree with you a 35mm sensor would be great not so much for depth of field although that’s a plus, but because focal lengths aren’t what they really are on a crop…meaning if I have a set of lenses, I always have to add some near fisheyes to the kit for crop sensors so I can get my wide shots….I have to say I’m also a bit concerned about not having XLR connections on the BMD camera. Not because of sound quality reasons but rather because 1/4″ aren’t locking connectors and can become loose over time or accidentally unplugged. But hey it’s Davinci 9 software with a camera thrown in for an extra $2000, it’s a no brainer to buy it because it’s so affordable even if you only use it once in a while. It’s paid for in one job.

          • john jeffreys on 07.21.12 @ 3:48PM

            I like the price, thats true. But I’d rather drop 3k on finishing my cine modded leica r collection, and use them with my 5d kit

        • Am I the only one taking offense to the HVX200 being called “god awful”?

          • john jeffreys on 07.22.12 @ 8:27PM

            FIGHT ME BRO. i dont like clunky camcorders with a million buttons on them, fixed lenses and annoying zoom rockers, and microscopic sensors. well, actually i saw this indie film called dog sweat at la film fest and it looked really really good so during the QA I asked the director what he shot it with and he said hvx200 and i was kinda impressed. he might have used a 35mm adapter though.

          • anybody that calls the hvx200 a multi frame camera awful is in no mean smart. The hvx is the first 24p camera in a small price point that shoots like a varicam. It also has a 35mm adapter that can be purchased. I used it with my mark 3 and i love the frame rates for fighting scenes no dslr can compete to how fast of an action u can shoot with this. people even today use it as broll cameras on real films. Dslr transfer to film is beyond horrible. Hvx200 when transferred to film looks amazing. Have multiple frame rates you only find in expensive cameras and having ccds over crappy rolling shutter heat effected crap called cmos doesint make it shitty. Don’t down a camera when u have no idea what ur talking about. dslr can never get to a film transfer. The guy in the lab laughed at me when i told him to do it. I had several companies transfer and they all looked muddy and horrible no to mention ailiasing and morae lol and top dollar I spent to do it. I still use my mark 3 for night shots because it’s amazing in low light but thats about it. For you tube its great for film dslr are not in any way a goto camera. Now as for black magic. They could have creamed the completion if they came out with 60fps 12 fps and more even if they charged 5000 it would be a bargain. I don’t think it would be good for them to put in a full sensor. I love my af-100 because its a 4/3 and eliminates all aliasing and rolling shutter crap u see on a full sensor. I rather do without. I use the full sensor mark 3 for nights anyways so yes in a shoot i use 3 different cameras. I don’t like the red when i filmed on it it’s just not practical having batteries that last 20 min lol. I would give this a try and i believe this does wipe out dslrs which is a good thing. Perhaps now canon and nikon will up their game.

  • Super 35 for $25K ? Nope. I’d go Red 4K for a lot less than $25k.

    • I think you got confused here my friend. Super35 is sensor size, 4K is resolution in pixels. The 2 are totally *NOT* related.

      • so all red camera shot above 4k on super 35 sensor, i think you are the one who is confused my friend…lol

      • so all red cameras shot above 4k on super 35 sensor, i think you are the one who is confused my friend…lol

    • Red 4k I shot on it. To have it in a practical setup with cards and batteries and all the stuff would add up to 25k easily and over. The batteries shoot for 20 min. I would never buy that. Batteries are way expensive and everything is custom made so u need to buyt from them direct which is way to expensive.

  • I think this camera is perfect for new filmmakers. It has a more intensive workflow that will challenge users to develop skills in post processing and I think the smaller sensor a benefit as well. Wider depth of field just means you have to make smarter choices with art direction and cinematography, a large portion of cinematography is creating depth in a 2D frame. You can forget that sometimes with full frame. I think this camera can foster discipline, it won’t be as simple as point and shoot. So it won’t be for everybody. But if you’re able to make great images with it transitioning to higher grade cameras will be smooth.

  • I sniff misinformation here. He is being loud about how impossible the obvious next step for his company is, saying a S35 sensor alone would add $20K to the price of his device, which sounds rubbish to me. He is doing expectation management correctly, which is, focus the customers on the product you have to sell today rather than the one you will be bringing out…(who knows when, but perhaps next year).

  • I call bullshit on the framerate excuse..that its sensor heating thats the problem, the Nex 5N which is a microscopic camera by dslr standards can shoot 1080p 60p on an apsc sized sensor just fine..yes it does overheat but with a bigger body possibly a small heat sink the BMCC can definitely do it! They have are capable of data rates in 2.k real RAW in the first place..and they record on SSD.. Even in just a compressed prores format they should try it..

    • Heating is a real issue – have you ever shot continuously on a GoPro? That thing has no cooling mechanism besides some heat sinks and after a few minutes it gets very hot.

      And cameras like the 5d and 7d are also known to have heating problems. So does that Sony NEX 5N (Google it).

      So before you “call bullshit” maybe it would be beneficial if you did some research or gained some first hand experience.

      • Change your attitude John. You sound like a right dick.

        • Last comment I swear – you have two guys accusing a camera developer of lying and using words like “bullshit” – is that an acceptable attitude to have?

          • This from a guy that routinely uses curse words to express his feelings; sounds like you just re-purposed what I said to you last time.

            Way to troll.

        • I think John’s attitude is just fine, unless you can’t stand people who disagree with you. Also: my T2i overheats like hell. And it gets even hotter when I up the bitrate with Magic Lantern, so I have no problem believing the “overheat” excuse.

          • I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. But I have issues with sentences phrased as if I’m in the schoolyard.

            “So before you “call bullshit” maybe it would be beneficial if you did some research or gained some first hand experience.”

            “I really can’t wait to see your company release a camera with all the specs you want.”

            I would have been able to take you more seriously if you left things like that out.

            Just a suggestion, be a little more mature and leave the childish remarks out ;-)

  • I think, I speak for a lot of pros when I say I will buy your camera when you do 2 things.

    1. Removable battery and or use Canon or Nikon battery like we all have. Inside does not cut it with 3rd party $500+ solutions with bulk, cables, etc… no thanks – we want small like Canon 5D mark 3 or Nikon without a Ninja. I’d rather go Nikon with Ninja right now.

    2. Sensor – I will be interested when it drops from 2.3X crop factor to 1.5X or less. I need a wide angle and until then, it is still Nikon with Ninja ready to break a cable on run and gun. No Thanks.

    FYI – I’m still waiting for something to replace my Sony EX-1… but smaller. In the meantime I have bought a GH2 for $1k (its better auto focus, exposure, and accurate sunsets rock) and a few Go Pros for my new youtube channels as I wait for a pro solution to come out. I want one small package that works. I love my GH2 except for transcoding it to pro-rez.

    I hope BlackMagic can deliver what Red promised and failed to with Scarlett. I want a Super 16mm, with wide angles, Pro Rez codec on a SSD card. So do a lot of us long form documentary run and gun shooters like me. Thanks.

    • John Brawley on 07.21.12 @ 8:59PM

      You do realise that the GH2 has the same size sensor right ? And the crop factor for SUPER 35 on this camera is 1.6… ??


      • John, Love your work…
        GH2 has a slightly oversized M4/3 sensor with about a 1.8 crop factor. AF100 is 2.0 crop factor. I do agree people are making way too big of a deal out of it. I’ve had people with 7D (1.6 crop) tell me they could never shoot with something so cropped as a GH2 (1.8 crop).

        I’m looking forward to this camera (wish I had the cash) and what impresses me most is that the workflow has been though out and built into the camera rather than as an afterthought.

  • Any word on this “late July” debut? Was hoping to use BMCC on a few August shoots and just a little curious about shipping status.

    • It’s going to be a long roll-out. If you didn’t pre-order when the camera was first announced I don’t expect you’ll see one for a couple months. The cameras will most likely start getting into people’s hands in August in greater numbers.

      • I’m going to sell mine for $4k and people are going to buy it. It’s going to be awesome.

  • shaun wilson on 07.22.12 @ 2:43AM

    Interesting news, its certainly a great year to come when such options are now so much cheaper than ever a year ago. I couldnt’ post on the cinema shooting post because its closed and but just wanted to say on that regards that Im really disappointed in some of the comments going on over there, people have just died or been traumatised, and I personally know one of them, so a bit of respect and restraint please without the need to go on about gun control (or not) issues. Back to this post – what would really be an interesting feature from BMD is if we had a line of cameras that looked at a 16mm (about to be released camera – ish?) , 35mm and 70mm cameras which hovered around their film-based ancestors. If BMD could introduce a camera that would mimic 2-4 perf that would be an added bonus for me. Just sayin…

    • 2.2:1 AR 65mm or 2.35:1 35mm TechniScope?… Now that would make interesting cameras. Although, to keep prices down I think it’s hard to get these wonky sensor-sizes even if the actual square-millimeters probably isn’t that different from the standard 16:9 or 3:2 or 4:3 sensors we (they) could buy over the shelf.

  • Hello, thanks for all the info, got one question, the tech specs on the BMCC web site specify video output 4:2:2…..can this be bypassed? or that is it? Just curious, and learning. Thank you

  • I actually feel sick reading all people’s dishing the camera for “crop factor”, frame rates, etc — the things that they don’t get for $3k. Bragging about your lenses doesn’t make you appear even slightly better as a shooter. Crop factor is strictly a still photography term. Even though it’s true that the camera is designed to fit still lenses, saying that you want a smaller crop factor automatically stamp yourself as novices.

    Why on earth would people complain about a camera that they don’t even own? I mean, really? That’s exactly like getting upset about your neighbor’s wife cheating on her husband. wtf? People are insatiable by nature, maybe some day when a rich major camera company, like RED, or Arri, or Aaton, decided that they’d give their cameras away for free, with sensors the size of a football field that resolve gazillions lines and microscopic depth of field, would people stop whining and actually start making films. Give me a break.

  • Jacques E. Bouchard on 07.26.12 @ 3:28PM

    DSLR is not an option for us. We need something that does at least 4:2:2 and 50mbps. Our clients will NOT take DSLR footage, regardless of how much it’s been manipulated.

    This camera saves us the hassle of buying an overrated fs100/700 plus recorder, or going with the c300, f3, etc.

  • Hi, is craizy to make a good camera whith a bed chip. Optic have to be adequate to sensor size. For a good camera, need full frame sensor, better like super 35 mm; is to small. D7 is a camera realy bed like 5D, because sensor is smaler. I have 5 D and I dont want to change it. Roman

  • Super 35 for $25K ? Nope. but if its under $15k is ok

  • This camera seems like it would do exceptionally well in a controlled environment. Say like, interviews and what not. I’m just getting into filmmaking more seriously and am trying to build a small business so obviously price is unfortunately a harsh reality to me right now as I am operating with as little overhead as possible. Thus the features of the Black Magic camera are attractive given the cost of the product. I’m not an early adaptor and want to see professional reactions to the camera as it arrives. But it’s definitely something I would consider if the first batch is well received.

  • I have in my possession a Biackmagic cinema camera. Its sensor is 15.6 mm x 8.8 mm. Since
    the sensor is smaller than those of some other cameras. Will this small-sized sensor affect
    the picture quality ? Could you please explain.

    • It won’t affect picture quality, it will, however, affect your lens choices. If you go back through our archives by clicking on the Blackmagic tag at the top of the post, you’ll find everything you ever needed to know about this camera and how it compares to other compares at a similar price range.

  • Pierre Samuel Rioux on 07.28.12 @ 4:53PM

    I really like the blackmagic design… for a bigger chip ? not sure
    To be honest to keep a price low if you could get a chip corresponding to the
    super 16mm film they will have a lot of great lens in the future for sell how cover super 16mm
    including great zoom already in PL mount.
    I think it’s a great camera for Indy but also for documentary…
    We missing friendly camera for documentary in the market.
    Maybe a base could be made where you could have the sound connection, a bigger battery, ready to accepting 15mm rods for Matt box how came with and ready for a follow focus if you need one. This base should be near a 1 inch hight and made a way it’s also a quick release.
    I think what nice with this camera concept you not need to ad a bunch of tools to made it usable and blackmagic should stay on this track.


  • This camera seems very promising for a lot of people. I wonder, if for those people, who would want to push this machine to higher frame rates, if an external recorder / processor could be made that would ride along side the BMCC which would allow for that kind of processing. Might be interesting to see if Black Magic would make something like that that would link up maybe with the thunderbolt port and sync with the camera’s current codec and allow for the processing necessary to shoot at 120fps for example.

    That might be an interesting segway into a higher level BMCC with those options built right in. Of course it’s all speculative as to whether they’ll continue in the camera making business, however I have a feeling this unit will do quite well and spur their continued foray into the cinema camera market at the lower and mid level price points.

  • Pierre Samuel Rioux on 07.29.12 @ 11:12PM

    Blackmagic should look what GOPRO do… got a niche and develop it and stay on track.
    Blackmagic already find a niche with this camera regarding filmmaker INDY and documentary filmmaker.
    It’s already 2 niche
    We could not asking to a camera to do every thing!
    The camera size is perfect not to big and not to small for big finger. I am not a fan of touching screen control…
    But i hate tiny control on the new dsrl.
    And the camera have a discrete look it’s important for a filmmaker how do cinema verity style documentaries.
    I will like a front where you just need to unscrew a plate to change the lens mount for any thing you want , i use Arri PL lens mount, the Russian Oct 19 , and the Nikon lens mount.


    Just happens to have limited video modes that suit the competition.

    I appreciate the secrecy Dan talks about. I’ve thought of using the Sony sensor, but doubted they would let me knowingly, but have a better sensor in mind. You probably are better off getting one of those newer versions of the cheap NEX 5′s and hacking it to do 1080p60 raw, or 4k. The Nikon J1 is another, that is supposed to have a sensir that can do 4k, I think from the company with easy off the shelf sensirs, Aptina.

    On how to get 50p (60p is just a fashion) full frame. Rework the compression to something simpler, to reduce heating, record uncompressed. In the old diy d cinema camera days guys looked at simple frame to frame comparisons as a simpler modest form of interframe compression etc. My own ideas looked at the ramping between pixels as light changes, to estimate information between bayer points. If it can be done with low processing overhead you might be able to slip the ssd data rate down enough without too much heat.