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August 16, 2012

A History and Complete Overview of Blackmagic and the Cinema Camera with John Brawley

The much-anticipated Blackmagic Cinema Camera is just weeks away from finally being released after an impressive NAB showing. John Brawley, a Director of Photography from Australia who has been posting video samples from the camera and has also frequented our comments section to answer questions, sits down with Chris Zwar from ProVideo Coalition. The topics range from the history of his work, to his philosophy about shooting, to the history of Blackmagic as a company, to a complete overview of the Cinema Camera. The entire conversation runs a little over an hour, but the sheer amount of material covered will likely answer any questions you have about the camera.

If you're watching the video and wondering about the audio, this is what Chris had to say:

I have to apologise again for the poor audio, and can only suggest that you shouldn’t send a compositor to do a sound recordist’s job, but perhaps the annoying hum is a reminder that this isn’t a professional production, just a casual chat amongst friends- and we’ve invited you to join us. If you’d like to get in touch with me and offer tips on the correct way to plug in a microphone, or you’re interested to know if I’m better at compositing than I am at sound recording, head over to my website and look around.

Recapping everything he just said would be a little redundant, but it is absolutely worth it to listen to the entire conversation. One point that he makes that I probably haven't reiterated enough is just how solid the Cinema Camera feels. For anyone who might think this looks like a toy, the actual device couldn't be further from that description. It's actually quite a bit heavier than any DSLR, and feels far sturdier. While not everything is going to be perfect about a first generation camera, Blackmagic definitely got a lot of things right and is entering the market with a camera that does not really have any competitors at the moment in terms of price, performance, and flexibility. This camera was always designed to be an accompanying camera (not a do everything camera), and while it's likely going to be a B camera on bigger productions, there's no question it's going to be the A camera on plenty of films.

If you're interested, Chris also has an accompanying article to go along with these videos.

Link: Blackmagic’s camera - The dark art of digital cinematography - Provideo Coalition

[via planet5D]

Your Comment

36 Comments

ZZZZzzzzZZZzzzzzz

Insert obligatory comment about small sensor and space usage for RAW data, ergonomics and lens mounts.

ZZZzZZzzzZZzzZzzz

August 16, 2012

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Tom

Well summed up.

August 16, 2012

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Ha, ha...

August 18, 2012

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steve

"...is just weeks away from finally being released..." I thought they were supposed to start shipping this week, is there any new information I'm not aware of?
P.S. I haven't seen the videos yet

August 16, 2012

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Marcus

Resellers should be getting it by the third week in August. This is what I had to say about that in this post at the end of July: http://nofilmschool.com/2012/07/pre-ordered-blackmagic-cinema-camera-com...

"While this is disappointing for some people who were the first to pre-order, it’s looking like you will be receiving your camera the last week in August to the first week in September, depending on how the particular reseller handles the order. There is no word on how many cameras will be going out in the first batch, but from what we’ve heard it seems like numbers will be low in the initial shipment, and then will roll-out through the fall with the rest of the pre-orders. If you haven’t already pre-ordered, I don’t expect the camera to be available to buy until well into the fall — but it would be great if I was wrong."

August 16, 2012

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

Thanks Joe.

August 16, 2012

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Marcus

August 16, 2012

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Andy

Interesting, that seems to suggest resellers may not get it until the last week in August then, though that isn't too far from from what I was saying anyway - it's going to be a slow build-up of camera bodies being released.

August 16, 2012

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

Sigh. I go through phases of wanting and not wanting this camera. I just saw "The Pleasure of Being Robbed", a 16mm indie film, and now I'm infatuated with the 16mm aesthetic and the BMCC can do that fairly well because of its similarly sized sensor. And its dynamic range and codecs and stuff and PRICE are all godly. But then again, I'll have a limited lens selection and am kinda "stuck" into the sensor size, and all my films will look the same, unless I rent or get other cameras.

August 16, 2012

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john jeffreys

Well, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of dealing with footage that has been recorded in a codec that was originally designed only for delivery, not for acquisition. Whether you build it up or build it down, you can still record all of the same formats without needing anything else.

Honestly, there will be people modding this camera and putting other mounts on it. It's not going to be easy, but it's definitely going to happen - so that's another possible consideration.

August 16, 2012

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

I guess I'm gonna sit on the sidelines and watch the camera and the whole scene/community around it develop. Also, I don't want to get one and then a year later see them release a super35 version for 7 grand or something.

August 16, 2012

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john jeffreys

Bingo. That would SUCK.

August 16, 2012

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marklondon

There was a post where they talk about how much more that would have cost (probably $25K). A Super 35mm sensor camera with the same features as the current version will not be that cheap, it just can't be.

August 16, 2012

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

Well, thats with todays prices and supplier environment and stuff. Tech moves pretty fast, and with the demand for large sensors these days, Im sure they will find some kind of manufacturing breakthrough and be able to mass produce high end super 35 sensors for cheap. Its only logical.

August 16, 2012

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john jeffreys

I think part of the issue is that performance wise the off-the-shelf Super 35mm sensors just aren't quite there yet for filmmaking (in terms of specs), and Blackmagic has already stated many times they could never develop their own sensor (at least at this point). So I would bet good money there will not be a $7,000 Super 35mm camera from Blackmagic with the RAW, DNxHD, and ProRes in the next year.

August 16, 2012

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

As I mentioned in your post about that Joe, this is a company that surprised literally everyone at NAB with this device. They strike me as a company "doing what Steve did" down to the unremovable internal battery inside a milled aluminum chassis. Steve Jobs also thrived on surprise, kept absolute wraps on developments till he was ready to announce to great fanfare. Steve also famously said "The only use for tablets is surfing the web when you're on the toilet." He then introduced the iPad a year later, which was in intense development when he said that, and now his company largely lives off it.

BMD saying "S35 sensors for this are impossible! Impossible!" is a wink to those clued in and likely purposeful disinformation intended to focus people on buying this camera in the meantime. A ton of companies have shipped S35/APS-C sensors for years and managed to survive. If they said instead "the S35 sensor is in the early stages of testing but we don't see it arriving for another year. Please buy what we have now instead" their sales would suffer. All they need is a sensor and the readout attached to it...they are already handling 2.5K just fine as it is regarding heat etc and that mount and chassis is big enough for FF. Of course they may plan to go to 4K when they get a suitable sensor instead, and that's going to be very painful for RED's margins.

August 16, 2012

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Peter

It's really not hard to find the sensors that exist off-the-shelf. Sensor designers aren't secretive about what they make - if they were - how would anyone know they exist? They're only secretive when it involves a larger company working through them to design a sensor - like RED and Arri have both done.

They aren't saying it's impossible, they are saying it's going to be expensive to do what they did with the Cinema Camera, and with what's out there right now, that's absolutely the case. You can go ahead and quote me on that in a year, if I'm wrong, and they do release a Super 35mm camera under $10,000 with RAW, ProRes, and DNxHD and at least 13 stops of dynamic range at 800 ISO, I'll absolutely eat my words. It's just not going to happen, plain and simple, unless they design their own sensor, and honestly, I don't see that happening either, since R&D is massively expensive and time-consuming.

If they did make that Super 35mm camera in the next year, and they use an off-the-shelf sensor, it's definitely not going to be 12-bit and have 13 stops (at least on paper). There just isn't currently anything out there for a reasonable price that ticks off all of the boxes the current Cinema Camera does - and for them to release an inferior but higher priced camera just doesn't make any sense to me.

August 16, 2012

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

Mr. Brawley gives the wink and nod 17:00 into part 3 as to the fact he's sure you'll see them release the larger sensor version (and possibly other mount options) "once this camera proves to be a success." Which should be a couple months from now one hopes.

Unfortunately, he also confirms that rolling shutter is as much a problem on this small sensor as it is on the 5D and GH2, and claims that is one of the major cost factors in a sensor, musing that the C300's high price may be largely due to its reduced rolling shutter.

He seems quite confident of their ship date because they do their own manufacturing and in greater lots that other cinema camera makers. The camera has a fan but it is fairly low noise. He likes holding the camera by itself though it weighs some 3 pounds. The 90 minute internal battery recharges while the unit is externally powered without interrupting operation. The aluminum chassis has built-in mount points top and bottom (1/4-20 I think?) so the need for cages might not be so great. He expects custom battery solutions to arrive shortly.

By the way I read text very fast and dislike having to sit through videos especially ones with drawn out introductions and worst of all ones where they try to force you to eat dreary vegetables for half an hour before getting to the meat of the matter. Part 3 and 4 of this cover the camera, though only after a minute of bleating about how you shouldn't skip the earlier parts (as if the presenter knows how much time the viewer should have to devote to this). I will applaud how-to/gear videographers who a) front-load the interesting parts rather than try to vainly work over a captive audience b) give synopsis in text c) post a text table of contents with time offsets to allow skipping d) have the entire presentation transcribed in searchable text. I am very appreciative of your taking the time to share, but please save your gradually unfolding narrative skills for your dramas.

August 16, 2012

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Peter

I mean, just as people learn how to read fast, figuring out where the information you personally want to know appears in the video is also a skill. While the video is playing in Vimeo, you can skip ahead - which is the only way I could ever get this job done because I would have to let every video load completely. I mean I probably should have said that parts 1 and 2 were mostly about John and the company, but I like to watch that sort of thing.

I know he's very close to them - he knew them before they were Blackmagic, but I'll bet a lot of money we see an interchangeable version of this camera before we see a new version with a new sensor. If it took them close to 3 years of development for this one, they would already have to be working on that bigger sensor version, and at the moment there just isn't anything available to purchase sensor-wise that would give better performance than the current sensor. There is a possibility they could try to design their own or partner with one of the big companies, similar to the way Nikon has been using a lot of Sony sensors, but I don't think it's going to happen in the next year unless they want to release a camera with worse performance.

August 17, 2012

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

"The pleasure of being robbed" is a very good one and also the last Safdie Brothers film, "Daddy Longlegs" it a must see... It's plenty of feature shot on 16mm and they're great and made with a small budget, good actors, good story... so with BMCC we can achieve that look for just 3000 bucks, we have the right tool, then a good projects is worthy much more then a camera.
Here's the first list of 16mm films I googled: http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=896
Btw sorry if I'm going off topic!

August 16, 2012

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Just ordered mine today =)

What interest me the most with this camera is the dynamic range and color grading capabilities. More and more, movie's 'look' isn't made so much on set, but through post production.

Obviously this camera ( or any camera) gives you 35-40% of the end result image. The rest is up to the DP (lighting) and content.

August 16, 2012

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TrevorR

5D3!! ;) Im content haha

August 16, 2012

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Omar A.

That was some great information. It will be interesting to see things play out in the coming weeks. Looking forward to seeing the footage in the wild.

August 16, 2012

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DanielJ

The only thing I don't like is, just like Canon, they take preorders without showing you what exactly this camera can do in multiple situations. How is the low light?
They need to take it in to a parking lot at night, lit only with the available lighting. Go to a motel at night, and cruise around with the camera in available light only. Then compare it to a canon 7D/5D.
My only guess is, they don't want to turn anybody off.

August 16, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

My guess is that the low light is "ok." If I remember correctly, JB suggested the DR leaned more towards highlights than shadows. But only time will really tell. From the early test footage JB showed, I personally thought the low light had a pretty good range.

August 16, 2012

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TrevorR

Thanks!

August 17, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

John just posted this on his twitter a little bit ago:
https://twitter.com/brawlster/status/236448329200984065/photo/1/large

It's not exactly perfect (taken from his cell phone to a monitor) but I think that shows how awesome this camera's DR is, especially if you look back towards the buildings. =)

August 17, 2012

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TrevorR

Yep, not quite night in that photo, but I'd really love to see that footage.

August 17, 2012

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

The camera's native resolution is 800, and if you look at the 'pieces' footage on John's blog, there's hardly any noise at 800, so 1600 with a decent Tstop will be fine.

August 16, 2012

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Brett

Yes, at ISO 800 it was almost clean, sou you probably can push the footage up to 1600 in post with not much noise.
Well, this is a RAW camera so noise is quite different from what you get compared to the highly compressed H.264 material. It will be most certainly easy to clean the footage without loosing quality when needed

My 2 cent based on my experience working with RED footage...

And let's be honest, as john stated this is another tool at your disposal. If you need to shoot in barely no light, use the FS100 or MKII/III then match things in post, even Hollywood does that frequently...

August 16, 2012

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Alex Mand

Of course I'm interested in this camera, but regarding things feeling like "toys," none of the Canon lenses designed for dlsrs feel solid to me. Motion picture has heavier duty requirements than that of stills. It bothers me that I can turn a focus or zoom ring quickly and see the image shift side to side in the viewfinder.

I just wish this was bit bigger, maybe a bit more expensive, but with a PL mount.

I don't really need a camera body to fit in my shirt pocket.

August 16, 2012

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Tw

Why on earth are you wishing this particular camera was more expensive? You have the FS700 and a few other cameras out there that cost more if that's what turns you on!

August 17, 2012

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Lorenzo S.

Very informative interview. Thank you Chris for taking the time to ask all the questions we all had. I like a few more here am interested in the camera's performance in real low light situations.

August 17, 2012

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Lorenzo S.

I wonder how this will play with a 35mm adapter.

August 19, 2012

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Disregard this. Wrong article/website. Too many tabs open.

August 19, 2012

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