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12 Things to Think About Before Committing to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera for Your Film

04.4.13 @ 8:00AM Tags : , , , ,


When news of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera dropped, I got that warm, giddy feeling. Everything I need in a camera and nothing I don’t! A few months of research later, I decided: this will be the camera I will shoot my feature film with. The quality of images this camera produces is superb. I love the dynamic range, the sharpness, the texture, and the richness in the blacks. I feel closer to shooting on film than I ever have. However, when it comes to peace of mind on set, it can leave a lot to be desired. There’s plenty of praises to sing, but I want to talk about some of the issues I’ve had with it, hidden expenses, and quirks to be aware of that are pertinent to the independent filmmaker. Click through for a list I’ve compiled after shooting two indie features with it, along with some comments from Dan May, the president of Blackmagic Design.

While my directorial debut, Menthol, is still in the early editing stages, here is a teaser from the feature I shot with Josh Beck directing, called Ever. Many of these shots are ungraded, but this gives you a sense of what we were able to do with the camera on a very low budget:

Without further ado, the list:

1. Dropped Frames / SSDs


Currently BMD’s suggested list of SSDs is proving to be a bit of a minefield. Shooting my film with Crucial M4 512s — in which it was my goal to incorporate a lot of long takes — dropped frames were a drag. They happen randomly and frequently, even in ProRes. The only upside to this is that you know when it’s happening; the camera’s REC display blinks when a drop frame is detected. To minimize dropped frames, it’s recommended to format your SSDs (HFS+) after each use, which can only be done when docked to your computer. In terms of SSDs, the general consensus is to go for the Sandisk Extreme 480GB, though they are not immune to dropped frames either.

It seems that the severity of the dropped frame can vary as well, sometimes the image skips, and other times it’s barely noticeable and it just sends your audio out of sync. The end of the world? Certainly not, but annoying enough for me to urge you to choose your SSD media wisely, and check in with the community about various manufacturers’ SSD performance before buying. Here’s an example of audio drift from a dropped frame (NSFW audio):

The SSD bay itself is also very delicate and I don’t think it will hold up to long-term rugged professional use. I recommend extreme delicacy when slotting SSDs in and out of the camera. Also be aware that there is no clip management inside the camera, this means no deleting clips in-camera. From Dan:

Different SSD manufacturers do things different in terms of media, they actually have their own compression built in to save space. The Crucials were really one of the big “gotchas” that we experienced, as we tested them a lot and they were working great and then a new firmware came along and it was like, okay, these don’t work anymore.

The hidden cost? If you buy the correct media the first time around, you’ll be okay.

2. Touchscreen

I’ve shot with 4 different Blackmagic cameras so far, and each LCD screen seems to have its different quirks, dead pixels being the constant, so potentially expect to see some. However, the real problem with the BMC screen is that it’s completely unusable in daylight or in any situation where light is hitting the screen, and the included sun shade is not a solution by any means. A 5″ monitor hood like the Hoodman HRT5 is a must at the very minimum if you can’t afford an SDI EVF like the Alphatron or an HDMI to SDI converter. In regards to cheap SDI converters like this one, beware — it won’t always successfully carry your signal.

In the current firmware (1.2) the ‘Video’ display mode (REC 709) only works on the camera’s LCD, so when  using an external monitor your only option is to view the ‘Log’ signal. Also on external monitors, Zebras and Peaking functions disappear while recording. The touchscreen menu is also the only place to access the camera’s options and cannot be sent out via SDI.

The hidden cost? Expect to purchase a sunshade at the very least, and unless you own an external monitor already, one of those too. Or you can DIY something, like I did in a pinch with my camera bag’s velcro dividers and the almighty gaff tape: 

3. Data Rates

I’ll be the first to admit it: I can’t afford to shoot RAW for anything long-form like a feature. On my film, we shot for 20 days and my ProRes footage totaling ~5TB, or ~60 hours, multiplied x3 for redundancy (it’s all about redundancy); that’s ~15TB of data, and all we had room in the budget for. The RAW data rates otherwise are just too intense. This is championed as a narrative camera, but it seems unaffordable to shoot a feature film in RAW at the sub-$100k level. I suspect a lot of indie filmmakers will make great use of the ProRes and rarely utilize RAW.

4. Internal Audio

No internal audio metering (yet). Seems like a basic camera feature, but is nowhere to be found. No phantom power. While on paper the audio preamps in the camera are of good quality, they still aren’t working as intended. She’s quirky: if the camera feels like the signal is going to overload, then it switches itself from MIC to LINE which, when using a PreAmp like the JuicedLink riggy, which can cause lost audio. Balanced TRS inputs instead of XLR is a minor headache, although if you’re from the DSLR world you’ll be used to this. Dual-system sound can’t be beat, and until Blackmagic sorts out their internal audio issues, I wouldn’t feed anything to the camera other than a scratch track. More from Dan:

There’s one or two audio things that we’re trying to work on, but I can’t definitely say that we have an answer for that yet. I don’t think that there are VU meters coming soon. We’re working on fixes for the camera, and we’re working on getting to NAB, and there’s a bunch of stuff post-NAB, but to say that VU meters are coming soon wouldn’t be accurate. We understand why people want VU meters on the touchscreen itself, but there are ways around it, such as using an external monitor.

More info on the BMCC’s audio quirks from JuicedLink.

5. 24 vs 23.976

Final Cut Pro 7 editors: be careful! This camera has the option of shooting in true 24fps. Not 24p (23.976/23.98) but true 24. Final Cut Pro has some quirks when it comes to editing on a true integer sequence such as 24fps, the biggest issue being audio drift. You’ll notice if you bring in your 48.000khz audio that it will drift. The solution for this in small applications is to speed up or slow down your audio by .01% (so either by changing your audio clip speed to 99.90% or 100.10%, depending on which version of the problem you’re compensating for). Premiere doesn’t have this problem, and is another reason I’m happy I made the switch. I shot some stuff on true 24 on accident, assuming it was 23.98 — my mistake, yes, but a headache nonetheless. So just make sure to shoot on 23.98 unless you really mean true 24. As to why it’s there, it’s for shooting alongside film:

We were trying to find a the cross between the DSLR and the film world, so we just wanted to cover as many bases as possible.

6. Infinity Focus / Iris Control

Reports of issues with infinity focus on various lenses is cause for concern as well. I planned to shoot a majority of my film on the Tokina 11-16, a popular choice for covering the wide lengths on the Blackmagic’s intense crop factor. After reading people having problems with infinity focus on the EF version of the lens, I decided to rent the Nikon version and use a G adapter with manual iris control, as the F-mount version doesn’t seem to have the problem. Blackmagic has addressed this issue and is fixing cameras that show this problem.

In terms of iris control, a lot of lenses (even EF) simply aren’t supported. I’ve always championed the use of manual lenses — I personally need to be able to control exposure with something physical, with my hands. With this camera, you just don’t know if you’ll be able to control aperture with your lens until you try it.

There is no official list of lenses that we certify, obviously there are user reports and a lot of internal discussion about what works and what doesn’t. I don’t want to comment if there’s going to be an official list because I don’t think we’ve decided at this time.

The hidden cost? Depending on what lenses you use, it might not be a problem. Look for user generated lists on what works and what doesn’t.

7. Crop Factor

While it’s worth mentioning that the crop factor is workable and shouldn’t be a huge detractor for many, it’s pretty different from what I’m used to in S35. In general I don’t like what it does to my focal lengths, and I’ve found myself using zoom lenses more to compensate for this. The general rule of thumb is obvious: it’s harder on the wide end and easier on the telephoto end.

The hidden cost? At roughly 2.3x (from full frame, 1.6 from S35) it’s an awkward crop factor, which means it might require additional lenses, depending on what lenses you currently own and what focal lengths you need to cover.

8. Moire

Those from the DSLR world will be used to this, as the moire from the BMCC’s sensor can be just as bad. Perhaps Mosaic Engineering or another company will design some kind of VAF (Video Aliasing Filter) for the camera, but nothing has hit the market yet. Is it a huge problem? Not if you’re used to it and know how to look for it, but definitely worth knowing about. Will BMD develop anything to solve this? Don’t hold out for it:

There’s so many great third-party manufacturers out there it’s hard to see us spending a lot of time and energy doing that kind of stuff, unless there’s a huge gap. We’re a $3,000 camera, and what we deliver is a whole lot of camera. The only time we make an accessory is when a third party really falls down on the job, then we will go out and make it.

9. Power

One of my favorite things about the camera is actually the ~1.5 hours you get out of the internal battery. It’s very useful if you need to be covert when ‘stealing’ locations. You can strip it down, pop it off your rig and it makes it easy to get shots on a public bus or a supermarket. This is something that DSLR users will find familiar in terms of form factor. However, be aware that you absolutely need an external battery system for normal all-day shooting, like a V-Mount or Gold-Mount (Anton Bauer) system. They aren’t cheap, and as always, you get what you pay for. The hidden cost? Expect to pay around $500 at the very minimum for a working V-mount system. Many professional battery systems, like the IDX Indura can take an even larger bite out of your wallet. I’m glad using this camera pushed me to start working with an external battery system though — I won’t ever go back.

Also, be aware that the barrel size on the power connector is 2.5mm, slightly larger than the standard 2.1mm power pins that you find on your DSLR. You’ll need something like this D-Tap cable to provide power to your camera.

10. Sunspot

Pointing the camera in the direction of the sun causes a photosite overload — it transforms bright sources, like the sun, into a large black dot. For most situations, it’s not a problem, but in the case where you have a client who needs “beautiful sunflares, blah blah blah” it’s going to cause you problems. All CMOS sensors are capable of overloading like this, as did the RED ONE in an early firmware. DaVinci Resolve’s ‘recover highlight’ function should fix this for those who need to in post. (Note: this doesn’t seem to be present on all units.)

This is going to be addressed in the future firmware update that is in the works, which will definitely be post-NAB.

11. Framerates

No frame rates above 30fps. No brainer, no big deal. This is a narrative camera, but just be aware of it. It’s amazing the surprise I hear when I tell people this. So if you plan on doing a re-make of Paranoid Park, you’ll have to pick a different camera. A lot of clients ask for slow motion, so if your primary accounts are music videos or short / experimental films, it could be a drawback.

12. Auto Sleep Mode / Camera Death

I had one camera die on me in the middle of shooting. While scrubbing through playback, the camera shut off and wouldn’t turn back on. Blackmagic support replaced the camera for me, but our production had to rent one for 5 days while it was being shipped, and it was a miracle that I even knew someone with a camera body to rent at the time. I’m now basically PTSD when looking at playback, I always think it’s gonna kill the camera, and try to avoid playback in-camera as a general rule. Very stressful. BMD’s support team diagnosed the problem as a glitch with its auto-sleep mode, that apparently activates when the batteries are low, and they said it must’ve gotten stuck in this mode. However, I was fully charged when it happened, so it’s still a mystery to us — and mysteries are scary.

I have never heard of that before. I had a really early beta camera that had a weird experience kind of in that area — the battery died, won’t revive — but that was in March of last year. The thing should be well grounded, it shouldn’t get electrical shocks, but that sounds like a freak accident, I have not heard of a camera just falling asleep with full batteries.

So the mystery remains, but is to be expected with a company blazing a new path, and the Blackmagic Support team are very helpful and responsive to your needs. More from Dan May about their journey making the camera:

Certainly we are not the first person to go out and say we’re just going to make a camera out of another guy’s system? It’s a complicated process, the fact that we were able to actually get the camera out the door in a reasonable amount of time, granted we had lots of challenges, but a lot of the problems that you mentioned, some of them have been addressed by firmware updates or will be addressed by firmware updates, or have workarounds out there that are reasonable.

The hard part is: how much time do we want to spend developing the ‘silver bullet’ product, and can that be an affordable product that people will buy? If we kept the camera a secret for another 2 years and put all these features in it, all of a sudden it’s a $10,000 camera and it’s 2 years late. That is part of the process of being a manufacturer, it’s just about trying to develop the best product as possible and get it into the hands of as many people as possible.

When asked about this year’s NAB:

Unless we invent time travel I don’t think we can top the shock and awe of last year, but I think it’ll be another great NAB, so look out for it, it should be pretty exciting.

Remember, any camera is just a tool, and you should be aware of what the tool is providing for you that you really need. Do you need a RAW workflow? Do you need the dynamic range? Above all, shoot with what works for you. A lot about filmmaking is learning the tools so we can forget them. By now it’s a cliché, but it’s true. To be able to transcend the tools is so important, because when you’re shooting, you want to be solving creative problems, not technical ones.

So if you have a 7D/5D and are looking for an upgrade to the BMCC, keep in mind that the camera presents a whole new set of quirks. Blackmagic Design has never made a camera before, and it comes with all the bumps and bruises you could expect from a bleeding edge piece of technology. Most importantly, it should not be looked at as a simple upgrade from a DSLR. It’s a camera that delivers features at its price-point that is defying what the market offered even 6 months ago, but it’s not for everyone, and you can’t just jump in without a lot of consideration.

Sometimes you just can’t know something until you’ve spent some time with it and learned how to optimize it for your use. Now that I know a lot more about how to handle it by keeping this list in mind, I feel more comfortable going out and shooting with it. As with any camera system: test, test, and test some more!

Special thanks to Dan May of Blackmagic Design for speaking with me on these points.

How many of you are planning on shooting films with this camera? Do any other BMCC users out there have anything to add or amend to my list? Share in the comments below.

Links:

Related Posts

  1. Blackmagic Releases Cinema Camera Firmware 1.2, Includes Aperture Display, exFAT, and More
  2. MFT or EF Blackmagic Cinema Camera? Philip Bloom Weighs in and Reviews the Micro 4/3 BMCC
  3. Philip Bloom's Full Video Review of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera

COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • When the article refers to Final Cut, they don’t say what version. Is he (like a lot of people) using FCP7? Is this audio drift bug present in FCPX?

    The people want to know…

    • Nygel bissel on 04.4.13 @ 2:45PM

      I don’t know

    • audiodrift is deffo present in FCP7. if you are serious about editing you do not use FCPX. at least not the current version.

      • Thanks for catching that, I’m speaking to Final Cut Pro 7, which I will amend above. I have no experience with FCPX but I would assume it wouldn’t be an issue there.

      • Look, I’m not going to get into a debate over whether or not FCPX is good or not, esp since it would be way off topic. I presume you’ve checked out the latest version (10.08) for yourself and made your decision. I respect that. But I think your statement is presenting that opinion as fact and I also think it’s incorrect.

        I use both FCPX and Premiere CS6 in a professional environment. Last shoot I did we shot on C300 and C500 with Zeiss CP2s and cut it on FCPX…

      • Patrick your a nut! There are many “serious editors” that use FCPX. Quit being a hater!

      • Oh, yet another ignorant editor who complains about something they have never used.

      • FCP X does blow junks. That is not far from the truth. Premiere or Avid is the way to go unless Apple gets it together.

        • I respect opinions (informed opinions). What Partick said was that no serious editor uses FCPX, which is just falsehood presented as if it were a fact. I know people who make their money creating video and use it. I use it whenever I have a multicam shoot because it’s the simplest and fastest in that scenario. I use PPro when it is the simplest and fastest in a given scenario.

          I think someone who’s serious about editing uses that criteria above all others: whatever is simplest and fastest.

          • FCP X is good for simple jobs if you don’t have to roundtrip into other programs or formats. It’s prosumer friendly and geared towards that. It is not however a professional level program for mutli-editor projects, tv productions, or film workflows. In many ways its a huge step back from FCP 7. I’ve been an FCP editor for 8 years so I’m definitely not a hater just spewing venom.

            Apple’s priority now is Iphone and Ipads. The other NLEs are better developed, faster, and more capable.

        • Funny thing that all people who say stuff like that have – if at all – tried FCPX for an hour or two and then given up because it wasn’t just the same like the other programs.

          It is actually pretty complex and has a lot of capabilities that you don’t immediately see when you don’t know it well.I have not yet myself learned to edit with it, but a friend of mine does and what he showed me looked pretty good.
          I do a lot of tv type editing that usually needs to be done rather quickly and I think FCPX is perfect for doing that. A lot of things can be done quicker in FCPX that you had to manually build in FCP 7 or other editing programs.

          • I know this is getting off topic but FCX is insanely fast once you get the hang of it. I use FC7 and Premiere at times when the situation calls for it but the majority of editing I do for Commercial peaces and narrative work is all done in X. I hated on it till I actually used it and now I’m even faster than I was on 7.

            On topic I am really interested in a followup article to see if any of these issues were addressed with the new cameras. I’m developing an indie film to shoot in the fall and would love to use one of the Blackmagic cameras for at least some of it. I’d love to shoot the whole thing on the Production Camera but not sure the film (my pockets) have the money for it and all the other things needed.

      • Peter Kelly on 04.4.13 @ 6:33PM

        what a stupid thing to say

      • “If you are serious about editing…” well that depends on what you are editiing. I know some people who are actually pretty happy with FCPX right now, but they are not editing short films but more tv/presentational video type stuff.

      • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 04.7.13 @ 9:50AM

        The current version has suffered an amazing evolution and it´s on par with FCP 7

      • Sorry but that is a Dumb statement – FCX 10.8 is a great editing platform – I held off for a long time but now I would never go back it is fantastic.

  • As an owner and operator (since last October, lots of time spent with the EF mount and now have MFT Blackmagic, using it) the first (Dropped Frames) and number eight (moire) are the only things on the list that I would deem more important than the rest.

    The moire/aliasing is bothersome, there are only a few tricks to subdue it but they aren’t perfect. Mosaic Engineering is supposed to create something soon, I’ll definitely be at the front of the line for it as it’s truly the only discrepancy I have with the camera.

    And, the SSD dropped frames, I am hoping Blackmagic puts the 240GB Sandisk on the official list as it is — so far, the only SSD that’s reported one single dropped frame out of the entirety of its users (myself included, I’ve got three and about to get three more between my camera(s)). This is part of the price you pay for non-proprietary recording media, but lucking out with Sandisk 240Gbs makes up for it.

    The rest of the points are either situation specific (Never had any of the EF cameras die on me, ever, and I’ve pulled down a good 8 to 10TB of data to date), but I do acknowledge that some people have had some troubles. Manufacturing/growing pains.

    I’ve long-since concluded that while the concept excites a lot of people, even some that refuse to admit it, the actual camera will remain a niche product. MFT mount with a Hot Rod Cameras PL Mount will definitely be spotted on a lot of productions large and small, and a lot of no-budgeteers will use it, just nowhere near the amount of users that will stick with 5Ds, F3s, etc. because the camera is very very quirky, too quirky for the majority.

  • sounds like a pain in the ass.

    • And what camera that produces comparable quality isn’t?

    • john jeffreys on 04.4.13 @ 3:27PM

      Are you expecting filmmaking to be easy?

      • Peter Kelly on 04.4.13 @ 6:35PM

        i’m expecting my camera not to die during playback, or show a big black spot in my screen. This does sound like a nightmare!

        • Peter Kelly on 04.4.13 @ 6:37PM

          oh, and i also expect it to not drop frames whenever it feels like it.

          Can you imagine what people would be saying on here if this article was about a Canon camera?

        • That’s what I thought when I read about the sun becoming a black spot: my GoPro can do it without the black spot, so the BMCC should be able to do it, right?

        • I have experienced the sunspot issue on a 5d mark ii before. It isn’t at all difficult to correct in post because the center of the sun is (obviously) going to clip anyway. I simply had to motion track the spot and then cover it with a white patch. Like this article mentions, it is a common issue with many CMOS sensors.

        • Why would you want to shoot into the sun anyway, except for some experimental or artsy footage that nobody will ever see anyway.
          I come from a film background and even back in the day with slow film stock you wouldn’t shoot into the sun wide open…there is no reason for it.
          And if shooting into the sun is a limitation, oh well….guess i wont be shooting into the sun.

  • Carl Weston on 04.4.13 @ 5:07PM

    Waiting for the second generation of this camera before I consider it seriously.

  • I concur with Micah. I’ve had most of the same issues with the Black Magic. Although thankfully not the Auto sleep mode camera death. I wrote a blog post with my experiences with the camera here: http://jayshaffervideo.com/operating-the-black-magic-cinema-camera/
    I only wish I had the M43 version so that I could share vintage lenses between the BMCC and the GH2.

  • I’ve been shooting with my EF version for a about a month now. The biggest headache by far is the extreme processing power and storage required for shooting raw. I’m currently getting ready to shoot a feature with it in May and I’m really torn between shooting raw and ProRes. I really wish the ProRes could have the option of shooting at 2.5k. That would make the decision much easier. Maybe this can be something added to the firmware update. We can only hope.

  • I really couldn’t live with this camera and its limitations! I’m glad the Sony FS100 came out before this which is what I use, otherwise I would have gone for it on price and perceived quality alone. After using the FS100 on a professional level short film recently it performed brilliantly with zero shortcomings! Just because something’s been called ‘cinema’ camera it doesn’t mean it’s the best camera out there for the job!

  • Dropped frames? Now that is a deal breaker for me. BMs intentions are good and the image quality is excellent but I’m going to wait a year for version 2 or until all the bugs are ironed out.

    • Frank Glencairn on 04.6.13 @ 8:59AM

      Dropped frames are a SSD problem, not a firmware/camera problem.
      I shot a ton on my BMCs since last August and never had a dropped frame, using Sandisk 240s.
      I know a guy that had a lot of dropped frames though. He was to lazy to format the card after dumping the material. May have something to do with that – I don’t know, I always reformat.

      • When an SSD has been written full, the write speed drops because the controller can’t write to filled cells immediately, it needs to empty them first (physically empty them, not just say “these are empty”)

        After formatting, emptying cells is usually done by the TRIM command in Windows or Linux, I don’t know how the BMCC handles it. The SSD controller needs to be told what cells escatly are considered empty so he can actually empty them physically to be able to write to them again.

        By the way don’t fall for the speed promises with all SSDs using a SandForce controller. They all say “write speed 500MB/s” but that is only true for 100% compressible data. The SSD controller compresses data so he has to write less and therefore get blazing fast write speeds. The problem is with non-compressible data (like video data mostly is, because it has already been compressed) the read and write speeds on these drives drop to whatever the NAND flash is capable of.
        On SandForce drives with cheaper asynchronous NAND flash, that write speed may drop to 100 MB/s or even below when you write non compressible data.

        SSDs that DON’T use the Sandforce controller (and therefore no compression on the data) are amongst some others Samsung, Crucial and Plextor. These drives can hold the read and write speeds they promise for all kind of data, compressible or not.

  • It’s the first version of the first camera ever designed by this company. Consider the price; of course it’s got problems. What’s amazing to me is that so many people paid for this camera before ever using it outside the trade show.

    And some of them are still waiting to receive what they’ll discover is a camera for students.

    • Kenneth Merrill on 04.4.13 @ 8:46PM

      I am not a fan of this camera by any means. But for $3K, you can’t expect more than “a camera for students.” Right now the only “cheap” camera that can stand up to what people usually perceive as “professional quality” (aka what they would see in a megaplex) is the Red Scarlet, which is $15K minimum. And that camera has its own problems.

  • Simon Brown on 04.4.13 @ 8:51PM

    I am a TVC director of over 20 years. We always shot 35mm or 16mm if budgets were tight. Then we tried the Varicam, the P2, 5D, Red, Red Epic, Allexa. Then we bought a BM about two months ago and have just shot our first TVC. I was very nervous – committing myself to using the camera with whatever things might happen. We did a lot of tests to reassure ourselves as much as possible. I have just now walked out of the colour grade and I want to say THIS CAMERA LOOKS LIKE 35mm. It is so filmic. We had no dropped frames (Sandisc 480). No black spots. We have a V lock camera and the new Cineroid EVF. There have been some silly little things like the ‘Video look’ (the more graded look on the camera’s monitor) won’t export thru SDI to the other monitors. No sound levels is annoying but not a deal breaker. We went thru the RAW/Pro Res discussion but after tests and a lot of grading – the difference is so slight that the heavy load of data is not worth it. We concluded if you had some keying shots, or heavy, heavy contrast shots – you could whack off on RAW. Mix and match. The crop worried me but we shot on a 14mm prime and it seemed wide enough. The dynamic range was amazing. The colours (especially skin tones) gorgeous. It pisses all over the Canon H264 codec. With the right lenses (and the full kit – rails, follow focus, matte box, EVF, extra batteries etc) – it is brilliant. We will definitely be shooting our next feature on it. Light it well. Under expose it a couple of stops. Keep the highlights right on peak. Shoot Pro Res. Re format the cards regularly. Genius. Well done BM. Thank you.

    • Good to know. I was really wondering about the difference between ProRes and RAW beside the resolution.

    • Thanks for the insight.

    • Is that Slimey Mark Brown? If it isn’t I apologise, but that tone sounded familiar. :-) if it is, Kia Ora.

    • I love my BMCC, and while some of these points are a problem for some readers, it’s unlikely they’d all be an issue for anyone.

      1. Dropped frames: That SSD is not on the approved list. [http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/au/support/detail/faqs?sid=27541&pid=27542&os=win] Many others are.

      2. Touchscreen: Bummer about the touch screens you’ve seen. Mine’s fine.

      3. Data rates: Yes, shoot ProRes HQ. But a Canon DSLR + intermediate ProRes (standard) codec total to about the same data rate as the BMCC’s ProRes HQ. (You wouldn’t need 3x copies of the intermediates though.) Hard drives are cheap, though, about $200 for 3TB. Bargain.

      4. Audio: Dual system is a good idea if you can’t be sure audio won’t peak. Hopefully they fix this soon.

      5. Frame rate issue: I shoot 25fps, but a complaint that a long-discontinued NLE has issues if you use incorrect settings is a minor problem, surely? (PS. FCP X rocks, don’t write it off.)

      6. The flange distance issue only seems to be an issue with a few lenses (and seems to be largely the 11-16 Tokina’s production variability) but they have changed the newer models going out to avoid this problem. Re iris, all my EF lenses work, my M42 adapters work, and only a few lenses are non-functional. A list: http://forum.blackmagicdesign.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=4651&sid=69ad682e6369a458d970d4222b4793ee

      7. Crop factor differential from S35 is about 1.4x (2.3÷1.6) so it’s not so bad, but from 5D it would be a shock. I bought a 17-50 f/2.8 and a 30mm f/1.4 to get wider and faster, and there are wider options available.

      8. Moire: better than a DSLR, and no stair-stepping. Usually avoidable but not always.

      9. Power: I use a Globalmediapro v-mount battery/charger and cable system that together run about $250:
      http://www.globalmediapro.com/dp/A2ENC5/Globalmediapro-Li95S-Lithium-ion-Battery-95WH-Globalmediapro-SC1-1-channel-Mini-Charger-TRY-OUT-KIT/
      http://www.globalmediapro.com/dp/A2HHX9/Globalmediapro-XB2-25-P-D-Tap-to-DC-Power-Cable/

      10. Sunspots, as you say, not a huge deal. I’ve seen it once.

      11. Framerates, as you say, not necessarily a huge deal. A shame it can’t go higher in short bursts, though.

      12. Instadeath: Scary! Haven’t had anything like that happen to me though.

      The image is fantastic, though. It’s absolutely worth it to me, and everything has compromises. DSLRs overheat and don’t look anywhere near as good. Anything which can compete with the BMCC image costs at least 5x as much. If your camera budget is under $5K, look no further.

      If you want any more detail (and clearly, I’m biased!) then read my review here: http://www.macprovideo.com/hub/review-2/review-blackmagic-cinema-camera

      • If your camera budget is under 5k, look no further? I respectfully disagree. I like our BM for studio visuals, but as a practical production tool, it has limitations. This is a camera that won’t even allow xlr inputs, let alone supply phantom power without a third party workaround. Its ergonomics demand a Frankenstein rig for fieldwork. It’s a bear to work with, to say the least. Yes the image trumps dslr crap, but so does my Sony FS rig. As always, what works for you is all about the specific nature of your work. We’re not all aspiring filmakers. Some of us are just churning out the best product we can under ever-growing demands on our time and our gear. This camera is a good piece of kit, but for 5k you can find all kinds of options.

    • I think you meant to say overexpose two stops.. Under will give you serious noise in the blacks.

    • Simon Brown on 04.15.13 @ 2:58AM

      Have to say can’t understand Blackmagic’s business strategy of releasing a Super 35mm version before they’ve even met the back orders of the first BM and especially the MFT version. Strange. But I’ll still get one – when it arrives… next January….

  • Austin Mace on 04.4.13 @ 9:38PM

    Nice post!

  • Film genius on 04.5.13 @ 6:22AM

    I just learned how to hack my BMCC so it doesn’t drop any frames and shoots at 60fps.

  • Re: “…the general consensus is to go for the Sandisk Extreme 480GB”. The SanDisk SSD is not the fastest SSD for this camera as it has a slower write ability than say a Samsung 840 Pro. SandForce-based controllers are not as fast as the MDX controller.
    http://images.techhive.com/images/article/2012/12/ssd_performance_chart_v2-100018447-orig.png

    SanDisk Extreme 480GB SSD = Read 540 MB/s, Write 460 MB/s.
    Samsung 840 Pro 512GB SSD = Read 540 MB/s, Write 540 MB/s.

    I also agree with the other comments… FCPX is not a serious editor. Compared to the iPhone and iPad, it seems to be an unglamorous side product for Apple. As Apple’s stock has lost nearly half of its value since Sep. 2012, and continues in bumpy decline, I see the development future of FCPX at reasonable risk.

    • Go for an SSD on the approved list. The advertised top speed is not the sustained speed on a drive as it fills up, which is what you need and what has been tested for.

      FCP X is a fine NLE. Try it out before believing the herd opinion. Stock price is hardly relevant to Apple (they’ve said as much) and the standard stockmarket rules don’t really apply to one of the largest companies in the world. They’re not going broke any time soon. Avid and Adobe are much smaller companies if you’re worried about that.

      • As I said above: SSDs with SandForce controllers can only write 100% compressible data as fast as they are advertising (that is why all Sandforce drives are advertised with the same blazing fast speeds).

        In the real world, especially with video data that is almost always pre-compressed (BMCCs RAW is probably also compressed, they’d be stupid not to use lossless compression on it) the speed falls to what the NAND flash cells are able to write, and that varies a lot for different SandForce drives. The better more expensive ones are not that bad with non-compressible data, but the cheaper ones with asynchronous NAND flash can be pretty slow…

  • I like simple – this camera sounds like way too much trouble -

  • Sounds like BM should provide for a best practices guide. A lot of these “notes” seem more like things that could be solved or avoided by simply understanding the equipment better, particularly the dropped frames issue.

  • “Also on external monitors, Zebras and Peaking functions disappear while recording.”

    Simply not true. There is a menu option that allows you to choose what gets passed on through your SDI out.

    Not to get on your case, but like many other points your article mentions, simply knowing the camera well eliminates most of these “issues.” Choosing 24fps when you want 23.976fps? How can you possibly call this a camera issue?

  • Make that 14 things to think about… Damn 4K @ $4k? Pocket camera with 13 stops at $1k? I think this changes everything…

  • HI, we’ve been using it for a month or so. Haven’t noticed any dropped frames on Intel SSDs 240gb.

    Audio drift in Final Cut 7 is probably caused by a mismatch between your timeline settings and the ‘easy setup’ you have chosen. The fix is to start a new project, adjust the ‘easy setup’ to what you’re actually be editing in, and reimport your footage. It is a stupid tick, but is present with other kinds of footage as well. It’s a FCP problem, not a blackmagic cinema camera issue.

    In terms of using the camera to record audio, just don’t. We use the camera audio only as a backup and we record everything dual system, meaning, recording the sound separately and syncing it with the video afterwards. If you do this, you likely won’t have any problems with drift that you can’t easily fix.

    Sunspots / flares – If you’re seeing this in your rendered video, but not in the timeline, the fix is to reduce the white levels a bit so they fall at 100 percent or under. When you grade footage it’s possible to push it into super white which can cause glitchy artifacts. I had this issue and fixed it by simply clamping the whites down.

  • That’s a really useful article. I wasn’t intending to get the BMCC, but I certainly have my eyes on the Pocket CIne camera: but as primarily a one-person crew, doing a lot of documentary work, although the small size interests me, audio is a big concern. So I’d be using my Tascam Dr100MkII, so now I’m up to two items to keep track of. Ideally, of course, I’d have one of those Canon cinema cameras but they’re beyond my modest budget. I think you are right to caution us about using Raw, because it is initially very attractive, but the storage and post production time must be factored in. The camera I’m waiting for, which I think will be worth the wait, is the D16 from Joe and Elle at Digital Bolex. Not too small–it has XLR inputs; it can take a variety of lenses in different mounts; it shoots a version of raw, cinema DNG; it is definitely suitable for the type of one or two person crew I use.

  • Micah, thanks for your review!
    Please, what would you suggest for a small company thinking about the BMCC 4K ?
    Do you think/know if some the BMCC problems will be solved?
    What extra gear would we really need?
    Thank you
    Ricardo

  • Hello, thank you for this blog, I was wondering If anyone had any knowledge about the 4k Black Magic Production Camera, it just came out this month? Half way reading through this article I realised that the author was describing the Cinema Camera. Anyone have any reviews on the Production Camera and its downfalls/competitor cameras?thanks

  • If you have ever cut super long films, like 2 hours the only program you can use would be a Avid Media Composer. It’s rock solid as long as the apple is built to handle it. I do AE then do final edit in Avid. Its a great combo plus when you learn the Avid you can work as an editor and make a good living. FCP or Primier both good programs but on major films it is 100 percent Avid. The camera looks like fun, only 2 grand!

  • I think that fan noise needs to be one of the consideration. I bought the BMCC MFT camera to upgrade my Panasonic AF100s. I never grew to love the AF100s 8-bit video image, but they were *silent* in my recording studio. The BMCC imagery is fantastic, but the noise makes them unusable (in recording sessions) except when far away from microphones.

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