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No Rig? No Problem. Handheld Footage with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera

10.20.12 @ 8:01AM Tags : , , ,

We’ve discussed the ergonomics of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera on numerous occasions, and there are plenty of people who refuse to believe the camera in its current form is capable of any sort of decent handheld without a serious rig. I’m of the persuasion that pretty much any camera has a specific way that it can be held to maximize stability and get great footage without a rig, though there are certain shooting instances where a rig will make your life easier. But what if you can’t afford one, or you need to shoot in a very confined space or without calling attention to yourself — is the Cinema Camera up to the task? John Brawley thinks so, and he shot quite a bit of handheld behind-the-scenes footage on a recent TV show he DP’ed called Puberty Blues. Click through for his thoughts and some of the footage.

This is some of what John said about the footage:

Several shots in this are actual shots as used in the series. Mostly shot with the 15-85 EF-S canon EF and the Leica 35mm F2 and 50mm R mount lenses. The shot’s of the girl on the bed, Ashleigh Cummings, and the couple nearly kissing are both directly taken from scenes where I shot with the camera on set. There is still the occasional pink highlight which is now addressed with V1.1 firmware. This was all shot ProRes Film and had a simple single node grade done in Resolve. This is a good example of what to expect when shooting handheld with a BMCC. The camera had no rig at all and I was just handholding a straight body. I spent a single day shooting this and a day editing it together.


I try to avoid rigs in my own shooting if I can help it when I’m trying to go light and simple, and at NAB this year I was using a 7D without a rig at all, even though I shot a decent amount of footage over the course of the show. It certainly depends on what the situation is, too, because if you need a follow focus, there’s not much you can do about avoiding a rig. Can you see a little bit of rolling shutter in the footage above? Yes, absolutely, but I think if you’re smart about the way you’re shooting, and you have as many points of contact to the camera as possible, you will end up with much smoother footage. It’s also interesting that this was an early pre-production version of the camera, and it did not yet have image stabilization, which would have made these clips even better.

On another note, there is a reason I chose the still image above, and that’s because it shows how beautifully this camera renders skin tones. I feel like I’ve said this a thousand times now, but there isn’t a camera in this price range that has such naturalistic color rendition right out of the camera with minimal tweaking. There are always tradeoffs when it comes to a lower price, however, and the camera does have a bit of rolling shutter and moire — but as John has shown, if you’re careful about what you’re doing, you can avoid both of them.

What do you guys think? For those of you getting the BMCC, are you planning on getting a rig, or will you attempt to handhold without one?

Link: Handheld with a BMCC – Behind the scenes with Puberty Blues — John Brawley

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  • Any DSLR-Shooter these days might already have a rig that can easily take a BMCC.
    Maybe even every FS100 user.

    It’s a question what kind of people you target with this question, yet I think the most people already have everything they need. I’m a DSLR-Shooter for more then two years and I don’t think about getting some expansive Cage-Rig-thingy like from ARRI or Chrosziel, I’ll just use what I have already.

    And why should it work any worse? :)

    • And actually I’m a bit ashamed of my Gravatar. Please ignore that, it ruins my soundness :O

    • Just curious, what rig are you shooting with? I’ve been handholding DSLRs and renting/borrowing stabilizers for too long. In the market for well priced rig, but having a tough time deciding which is the best fit.

  • I’ve shot half a dozen projects with the BMCC and no rig, just handheld. Initially I found it harder but as soon as IS support was released it was not a problem at all with a good stabilised lens like the canon 17-55 f2.8 IS. The latest project I shot was almost all filmed with this lens and the stability and easy of shooting light and quick with the camera was fantastic. Rigs have their place but the joy of the size of this camera means that you can have it with you all the time, which is far more liberating as a film maker.

    • I almost exclusively shoot without a rig. I agree its totally liberating especially when shooting with DSLR. Its just one less thing to have to deal with. I dont have the same options with a rig as I do handheld. They are overrated in my opinion unless you need a follow focus… matty

  • I’m amazed at the quality of the footage from the BMCC. Wow…

  • Drop dead gorgeous quality. Love it.

  • I don’t get that people would get a 3000 dollar camera but can’t afford a rig, there are many dirt cheap and ok-ish options from china nowadays, which, might not be the best but will certainly do the job better than holding in especially if you are shooting hours in a row.

    • I’m a new filmmaker with exactly 3k to spend… do I get the BMCC or a GH3, or D600 and spend 2k on a camera and 1k on a rig, or buy the 3k camera with the clearly better picture. I really can’t not buy the BMCC. Artists are poor, we appreciate this stuff.

      Just because you have 3k for a camera and 3k for a rig, doesn’t mean most people do.

      • Who says you need 3K or even 1K for a rig? If you don’t want a Chinese/Indian ebay knock-off, there’s also brands like Jag35 or Gini who offer decent professional rigs for less than 500 USD now.
        I mean, saying you bought a BMCC but you can’t afford a rig is like saying you bought a Porsche but you can’t afford a new set of tires. Then why did you buy the Porsche and not something more affordable?

  • And this was before BMD added IS to the 1.1 build? Cool!

  • Ive owned rigs, i dont like them. I want to pistol grip the bmcc. One of the best things about dslr is how compact they. During the french new wave filmmakers started shooting 16mm, and started shooting on location because the cameras were compact. Now people have compact cameras and want to make them look huge to impress clients. Bunch of wannabe hollywood idiots

    • Amen!

    • Gotta agree with Carlos. When I got into DSLR shooting, I wanted a rig to attach all the peripheral devices, but then the camera got so large that it defeated the purpose of light, compact, mobile, and discrete. It really is about how you use the camera. If there’s concern about the size of the camera to impress clients, then maybe the quality of the work isn’t impressing them enough to make them not care about the camera size.

      • I would partially disagree. If you are getting paid money then having professional looking equipment is necessary. There is no reason an ignorant client thinks that the camera you are using (say a 5D mkIII) is a 1100D.

        However, I don’t think the actual rods for a rig need to be crazy expensive. It’s manly the practical things you strap onto it that make it looks flash, monitor, follow focus and matte box. All have a practical use, so putting them on a camera doesn’t mean you are only trying to look good, you are trying to get a better quality image.

        • I was shooting a commercial for a client with a T2i. The owner was taking pictures of the shoot with a 5d mark II….I was a little embarrassed but at the end of the day I knew I was delivering a great commercial well worth what they paid for…..

          It does matter what the client thinks…but at the end of the day you shouldn’t carry more rig than what you need….

    • Soosan Khanoom on 10.20.12 @ 6:41PM

      They’re not idiots. Apearance is equally important nowadays, unfortunately.

    • John Brawley on 10.20.12 @ 9:05PM

      I’ve got an Aaton wooden grip on my BMCC now and it’s SWEET.

      jb

    • I totally agree.

      I personally know few well-paid DP’s who are on a business for over 15 years and made so many full-budget feature movies shot on Kodak. They all agree that the main benefit of DSLR is it low-weight and compact design. Just check how Matthew Libatique was using Canon 7D on “Black Swan”.

      If you have a well-paid job from serious client, why you can’t just rent RED/Alexa?

    • Daniel Mimura on 10.27.12 @ 8:37PM

      I completely disagree. All that stuff on a rig is to make the image look good—not to make your on set appearance look good or “professional” or whatever. I can’t stand shaky crappy handheld. This is not to say I don’t like handheld. Handheld with a phone or a d-SLR looks like crap. A rig makes it weigh correctly—the mass is what controls a lot of the shakes. Most of this clip’s hand held work is that jittery shaky look. I’m not talking about the jitteriness you get from using lenses in the more telephoto range, or from rolling shutter (rolling shutter just makes jittery handheld work just look even worse), but b/c the camera doesn’t have enough mass, and that mass isn’t supported by a monopod (aka, your shoulder) and is just floating around mid-air with your arm muscles.

      I hate what passes as good handheld work. It looks totally different than 16mm and 35mm and ENG (shoulder mounted) camera work. There are a few good shots, but a lot of this is crap. That image (color, latitude) sure looks good though…

  • Oddly enough, again I’m somewhat disenchanted by the footage I’m seeing. Mainly the strange compression looking blocks. I’m not sure if that’s Vimeo or the way color is being interpolated low light, but the low light stuff looks quite poor imho.

  • That range is looking pretty sweet

  • Honestly, this footage looks amazing to me, I just bought the Red Scarlet, but I’m still thinking about getting this baby as a B camera.

  • Could anyone answer me please. Why BMCC footage looks so much more cine style, than Red footage? My Skarlet is on it’s way to Russia but I’m still thinking was it a right choice to buy one ore wasn’t.

    BMCC pictures looks greenish but they are soft as hell even with great contrast. Like in big one Alexa. And Red footage looks much more digital in my opinion.

    • They say all sensors have different colorimetry, and companies will tweak them to how they see fit. From the get go, it seems that Blackmagic has what appears to be a better grasp on colorimetry and cinematic colour reproduction than RED does.

      • So can I deal with it with just grading. Does colorimetry include contrast aspects or just colors?

        I’ve spent a tonn of time to trying mach 5D footage to film in Davinci. It should be much easier with Red but with BMCC it’s seems all this type of grading simply done before me :-)

        • You are totally right — much of this grading is done before you.
          It’s all about camera algorithms — you already know how different they can be (just compare Canon/Nikon/Panasonic digital cameras and photos they produce).
          It seems that BMCC and Alexa have much more pleasant colorimetry than RED.

  • Its well made and well graded footages like this that makes me want to run out and grab a bmcc asap. It loooks soooo hollywood!! Skin tone, drool. And tgis was all shot without IS huh. Ive alwys thought a rig was unnescessary…but there are just too many bullshit talkers on the internet. For steady and panning shots you can always just use a monopod..for movement simple stabilizers. The size works.

    • No rig? Blasphemy! How will indie DP’s make themselves look cool on set? Hipster glasses just aren’t enough, you know…

      • ha!:D On the same note..I LOVE the images out of the FS100 but absolutely HATE its cubic form factor. I wish everyday that it looks more like a reactangular flat block ala dslr/bmcc. Please Sony, release an update of the FS100 that looks like a blown up RX1 or A99! I cant believe they only made 1 product out of that fantastic sensor…its too awesome just to throwaway at such a young age.

    • But what if you need to add a mic preamp, and a good mic, maybe a radio receiver, or an evf. And maybe a battery pack for these for a full day’s work? Not unreasonable.

      • John Brawley on 10.21.12 @ 5:24PM

        Of course you can add those items.

        I guess I just wanted to show you don’t have to have a rig to shoot handheld with this camera. Sure a rig can be useful, maybe make your shots more stable and give you more mounting points. It’s just that many say you can’t use this camera UNLESS you have a rig. I beg to differ.

        jb

      • Exactly, there are times that absolutely call for a rig, but there are also times where smaller is better.
        I’d love to see someone on set of a TV show with a naked 60D on a monopod getting “panning shots”.
        Sorry I don’t mean to patronize, ok, maybe a little. But seriously, it’s not about picking camps here, it’s about recognizing what a shoot demands.

  • JkMorganChase on 10.20.12 @ 9:13PM

    Ok so im a little confused, still learning new technical aspects about this camera everyday, but my question is this. The DP said he shot this in PRORES, but i dont understand why would you shoot PRORES instead of RAW 2.5K and then downsample to another format. I just dont understand, because in my opinion unless you shoot raw, it would be better to just use a DSLR and grab uncompressed footage with recorder then have it output as prores.

    Does the prores or compressed footage on this camera look better than that of a DSLR or what? Just wondering because we have a small production company and it is either two of these babies or 5 new gh3 that can do 70 all-i which is not raw but at same time “it is what it is”

    • “Does the prores or compressed footage on this camera look better than that of a DSLR or what?” Yes, it looks much better. ProRes is a serious codec, much more robust than those found on most DSLRs. And good luck getting clean outputs on most DSLRs if you want to record to an external recorder (why not just spend that $ on a BMCC then?). Not to mention the better dynamic range etc. of the BMCC.

      Uncompressed RAW is not always practical, especially on a behind-the-scenes video that’s going to be distributed on the web.

      • JkMorganChase on 10.21.12 @ 3:14AM

        Ryan appreciate it all true and good points, did a lil more research and found out that this is 10 bit pro res HQ and HQ is at about 220MBPS, not bad and again the cost of a external and extras compared to 3k for this camera, BMCC is not looking bad at all .

  • I think you need a better understanding of DSLR video specs. Review the 5D mk3 vs BMCC please – http://vimeo.com/groups/blackmagic/videos/49875510

    • JkMorganChase on 10.21.12 @ 3:18AM

      Ranger, appreciate it good stuff and great video, making the decision to get this camera alot easier, i guess the next serious question would be about what is the greatest nikon mount to choose for using old nikon AI-S manual lens.

      AI-S NIKON lens and zeiss modified still lens combined with this camera will make dreams come true, again only problem would be finding the best adapter mount

  • He must have filmed this with a 3mm lens, or he was across the street. That 2.something crop factor is brutal!

    Looks amazing. Full frame and they can have all my money. All of it.

    • The so called ‘crop factor’ is less than that of a super 16mm camera, and a lot of great films have been shot in that format.

      • 16mm was the cheap, amateur alternative of it’s day in the 1920′s. 1.6 is our generation’s burden. I’m ensuring a bright, 35mm censored future for my kids, man.

        Full frame. All my money. Take it.

        • I hadn’t realized it was a super16. Please, forgive.

          • John Brawley on 10.21.12 @ 5:22PM

            the BMCC sensor is actually BIGGER than super 16 and smaller than Super 35.

            Super 35, the dominant motion picture format itself has a crop factor of 1.6x odd over 135 / fullframe.

            jb

    • I have to laugh about this ongoing complaint over the crop factor. Where do you people do most of your shooting…inside closets?

      • I shot half of a film in a 22′ camper trailer, so yeah, pretty much.

        • I am not concerned about the sensor size in terms of looks. I shoot a lot of 2/3″ on broadcast cameras (which is a tad smaller than 16mm film) and I like it a lot for documentary shooting. However the BMCC has a sensor which is bigger than 16mm or 2/3″, so you cannot use all the lenses for these formats. Then it is considerably smaller than APS-C or 4/3 which makes all the wide angle lenses a lot less wide angle.
          In effect there are almost no unseable wide angle lenses for the BMCC.

          • Daniel Mimura on 10.27.12 @ 9:02PM

            A tokina 11-16, if I’m correct in remembering that the crop from BMCC to super-35 is 1.6 (same as apc-s to full frame), that lens (for well under a grand will give you 17.6mm (in super-35 terms). If that’s not wide enough, I don’t know what is.

  • marsupial_264 on 10.21.12 @ 8:55PM

    Mr. Brawley did a good job on handheld and focusing, maybe used a smaller aperture. Handheld in general can get a bit shaky, make heads spin. Mr. Brawley shows he’s fairly steady, especially the last clip. Certainly a skill worth having.

    I don’t have such skill with my DSLR even with OIS. I prefer stealthy mobility, and the smallest minimalist rig I contrived that produces acceptably steady footage is the Zacuto Target Shooter, Z-Finder Pro, and Rode VideoMic Pro. It all seems to work, and the rig feels like it’s just a walk in the park. I think with BMCC’s 5″ screen, magnification might not be required. Overall, very good imagery in the video, but I don’t follow all the tech details too closely. It’s a good behind-the-scenes piece.

  • Patrick_DOD on 10.22.12 @ 4:39AM

    Why has nobody talked about aliasing and moiring, they just slightly mention it at the end. everything else is great. This is the thing that will mess up your shots. I would like to see video footage of how bad it is. Because I’m thinking about shooting a feature on one of these and aliasing is the biggest problem out there which everyone seems to jump over. I don’t want to be thinking about how to compensate for these things i’d rather concentrate on perforamances. Does anyone know how bad it is?

  • BMCC is cool, but John Brawley is the coolest guy ever :)
    This video is beyond awesome! It’s the most impressive demonstration of this camera and I saw most, if not all of the currently available videos shot with the BMCC.
    I expect to have enough money in about 20 days, so when I saw this video I actually wrote to my local reseller to get more info. Unfortunately they aren’t accepting orders yet. BHphotovideo do accept orders, but they are back-orders, so I’m not sure if I should simply wait for my local reseller to offer them. I guess it doesn’t make much difference, I bet the local reseller will get them at the same time when BH deals with its backorders. Oh, it was easier to wait before I had the money! I just want to get one as soon as possible. :)

  • Beginner question: Will the new 4/3 mount have a different crop factor because the flange distance is different?

  • I did find a lot of the instability in this footage rather distracting. I see why you might need to shoot without a rig in small spaces or to remain unnoticed. I use a small 6″ handle ($9.99) which screws into the bottom of my GH2, which makes shooting handheld far more successful. Of course, if it’s really windy, it’s not much use, as I’m a lightweight and need a rig to stabilize ME. But for any footage I’ve shot handheld and which turns out shaky I use Premiere Pro CS6′s Warp Stabiliser in post, which does an awesome job.

  • im not spending a penny on any bodies until this comes out. well except for gopro3…
    but blackmagic needs to improve the screen on that thing, hopefully there will be some viewfinder options, but w/ touch screen that makes things more complicated.
    maybe upgrade program to electronic mft mounts, improved screen, and more?
    ok too many tangents…

  • I bought a BMCC a few weeks back. The image is great, but at ISO 800 and 1600 I had quite a few blue and red ‘hot’ pixels. Got it replaced, same again (though barely noticeable this time) And this time had lines across dark areas of the footage at ISO800 and 1600 (no artifical lighting).
    Love the camera, its faultless in good light but it seems they are littered with what would kindly be called quirks. Also only having 4/5 steps in WB isnt great for the Prores stuff. Still, for £1.5k I’m willing to overlook these.

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