Last week Lens Pro To Go received their shipment of Black Magic Cinema Cameras and sent one out for me to check out. We’ve all heard and seen a lot about this camera and know it creates some amazing images, it’s also really hard to get your hands on one. I didn’t want to rehash the same details over and over but instead wanted to create a short video that will give you a quick “How-to” on the camera. The video goes over the pros/cons of the BMCC as well as some demo clips and color grading options. Check it out below (one CORRECTION, the internal battery only lasts 1.5 hours)-
When the camera arrived I was on the way to Hawaii for a quick 4 day trip and I wanted to pack light. I new I would be out on the road a lot, more or less run and gun style and didn’t want to take an external monitor, bad decision. I later learned when using the camera that the LCD screen was unusable because it was so reflective. I’m not sure why Black Magic made the screen reflective, but I literally could not see what I was shooting. My saving grace was the zebras and the focus assist. I was shooting in raw so I new in post I would have some leeway to fix my image if needed. I set the zebras at 100% and made sure in every shot that the highlights weren’t clipping. The focus assist also saved me as it was impossible to tell focus without it on. Although the focus assist makes the image look terrible on the LCD screen with all the noise/grain it adds, it does make it 1000% easier to tell focus. So I basically lived off those two features and kept my white balance at 5600.
I brought a few of my favorite pieces of support gear with me to test out with the BMCC. I had a Manfrotto carbon tripod and Kessler Stealth Dolly, Glidecam 4000HD (setup for my C300, the BMCC is heavy) and a Zacuto Target Shooter. I new half the time I would be walking around and handheld shooting, I used a mix of the Zacuto Target Shooter and Glidecam for those shots. I mostly used prime lenses during my shoot but also had a few wide zooms to help battle the small sensor and get some nice wide scenic shots – Canon 24L, 35L, 50L, 70-200L, Tokina 11-16, Sigma 8-16. I didn’t find the small sensor size to be too much of a limitation, I was able to get some nice wide shots with the Sigma and Tokina lenses. If it was dark out that would be been a different story as the sigma is f/4.5-f/5.6 and the Tonkia is f/2.8.
Filming with this camera is pretty simple, make sure highlights are below 100%, focus and press record. That was refreshing. Although the footage doesn’t look very good while you are filming, once you get it on the computer it’s beautiful. The color reproduction, dynamic range and motion rendition are awesome. The camera has a very cinematic 16mm feel, very organic and I love that. I think this camera is great for certain projects, but you want to make sure you know what you’re getting into before you shoot with it. If you’re a run and gun shooter, having to use a cage, monitor and external battery system will slow you down. Couple that with the storage needs and things will get very expensive quick. One of the biggest limitations to me is the amount of hard drive space needed. At around 7GB per min you will rack up 420GB for 1 hour of raw footage, once you backup that footage (3x) you’re looking at almost 1.5TB per hour. Shooting Prores will get you more footage per GB but then you will lose the raw advantages, even then the Prores footage looks great too.
Once I got the footage on the computer I brought everything into DaVinci Resolve. I’ve been a DiVinci Resolve user for over a year now, so I was right at home. I did have a hiccup at first as I didn’t have the new update (9.1) of Resolve so my raw files were showing up as rec 709 instead of raw. Once I did update Resolve everything looked perfect. I did an auto color on all the footage so that when I was editing the footage would have more contrast and I could see all the details. I exported to ProRes 422 proxy (32mbps) so I could edit without any lag. After the edit was locked I re-opened my Resolve project and relinked the raw DNG clips. This allowed me to do my color grade with the raw 12 bit files, and push them to the max. It’s really nice working in raw, you have so much room to push the exposure and colors to get the exact look you want. Below are some screen grabs from resolve. You can see a few different power windows that I used to boost colors and create a specific look. After my color grade was done I re-exported the project as ProRes 422 HQ, relinked in CS6 and it was a wrap!!
I look forward to using the BMCC again for another project, I just need to save up for a few more hard drives first
I also found this great article from No Film School – “12 things to think about before committing to the BMCC” A few other thoughts from a more experienced user.
Good luck with your filmmaking!!