Blackmagic's revealing of their new cameras at NAB has been met with great excitement from many filmmakers. However, there has been some concern among the Blackmagic community that the company is "no longer supporting the Blackmagic Cinema Camera or Pocket Cinema Camera." Kristian Lam of the Blackmagic Design technical support team has addressed this in a post on the BM forums, in which he describes the background information about the development and why firmware updates are taking longer than expected.
Blackmagic has been around for almost 30 years, but it wasn't until 2012 that they entered into the digital camera market, revealing the Blackmagic Cinema Camera at NAB. Since then we've seen other products, like the Production Camera 4K and Pocket Cinema Camera, be developed and shipped to customers. However, there have been concerns that with the inclusion of new cameras, the URSA and Studio Camera, the firmware updates needed for the preexisting Blackmagic cameras will fall by the wayside. Lam addresses these concerns:
The original 2.5K camera had fundamental architectural differences in firmware compared to the other cameras which doubled the effort when trying to do any bug fixes or add new features to the cameras. As such, we knew we had to re-architect the firmware so as to bring it up to speed with the current cameras. This is not simple and taking longer than we thought. However, we are close now, close enough that beta versions have been seeded to some users for the past few months.
Lam goes on to list the new features that will be included in the update to the 2.5K camera and Pocket Cinema Camera (solutions for the audio level metering and histogram display issues are also in the works):
- New debayering for shooting directly to ProRes or DNxHD on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF and MFT
- Improved MFT lens support on the Pocket Cinema Camera
- Compressed RAW support on the Production Camera 4K
- Autofocus support for EF lenses on Blackmagic Cinema Camera EF and Production Camera 4K
He also talks about several major issues, including the infamous Black Sun effect, and describes Blackmagic's approach to resolving them. The formatting of media, as well as the Time Remaining indicator are both issues that will be addressed, possibly in the next update. However, about media formatting, Lam says:
Yes, we want to do this. A large part of the work has been completed so I don't believe this will be a big effort to implement. However, it is very unlikely that we will support deleting of clips directly in camera due to the risk of media fragmentation.
Now, the Black Sun issue. According to Lam, there is a way to potentially correct this with additional circuitry, though that may result in unwanted artifacts. The Pocket Cinema Camera's sensor contained this additional circuitry, however the sensor in their first camera, the 2.5K, does not. Lam says that correcting it isn't "an on/off switch," but explains another way that Blackmagic could take to take to correct it.
Another method of overcoming the black sun effect is via image processing after the image has been acquired and passed on from the sensor. This is basically running an algorithm to try and detect what looks like the black sun and just clipping the black areas. Again, this could result in false positives and if you have a pattern in the image that is similar to the black sun, it could mistakenly be "corrected" as well. As you can see, this is a tricky situation. We are not ignoring it, but working to see what is the best way to address this.
It remains to be seen just how this will all play out, but our own Joe Marine has interviewed Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty about these concerns. So, be sure to check back for a more in-depth look into this issue.