The Blackmagic Cinema Camera was the wild card that struck everyone by surprise last year. Blackmagic Design did the same thing this year when they introduced the 4k version of the BMCC and a pocket version. This company at the very least deserves respect and even if the camera isn’t for everyone there is a reason the Indie community is wishing Blackmagic success. I finally got my hands on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and I find myself in an interesting time warp. The BMCC is what I’ll call a digital film camera.
Packing roughly 13 stops of dynamic range the BMCC produces a lovely image. I’m aware that this term is tosses around too often, but the BMCC seems to generate a cinematic image out of the camera. It simply feels like cinema. I tried to push the camera by overexposing the image and seeing if the raw capabilities of the BMCC can bring back the detail. The results were staggering!
The highlight recovery is truly amazing. It feels good to be able to hold onto highlights after dealing with DSLRs for so long. One of the issues I was expecting to give me a hard time was the crop factor. The BMCC’s crop factor is interesting, but I didn’t run into many problems. Although I can see it becoming an issue when shooting in a small apartment.
The BMCC is basically a box. Everything on the actual camera is straightforward. The problem is when one decides to go handheld. A rig is absolutely necessary to operate this camera in a handheld scenario. Looks can be deceiving because the camera is pretty heavy as well. I actually welcome the weight because it can help make things more steadie. However, due to the square shape your hands can’t really comfortably grip the camera. Once you put the camera on a rig everything feels much better.
I’m not an Apple fan, but one thing that company gets right is making things powerful but simple. Blackmagic Design seems to have taken a page out of Apple’s playbook. The menu on the BMCC is tremendously simple. You have a few tabs such as camera, audio, and recording options. The touch screen adds to the simplicity allowing you to flow through the menus at a fast pace. In the live view you can double tap the screen to digitally zoom in to check focus. Multi-finger press introduces the metadata option. This allows you to slate clips and make notes. Absolutely fantastic! The menu system is nothing short of genius, but one issue is the highly reflective screen that makes it hard to see on a bright sunny day.
The Digital Film Camera:
I called the Blackmagic Cinema Camera a digital film camera a few paragraphs back and I feel like I have to explain what I mean. If you have shot film like I have you know their are certain aspects of it that leaves little to no room for error. The BMCC brings some of these factors to the digital age. The controversial part of this is deciding if this is a good thing or a bad thing. For every positive there is a negative. The BMCC doesn’t allow you to format the ssd drive in camera nor can you delete clips. This reminds me of film. When shooting film you can’t go back and erase what you have shot. This can truly be a negative factor since it doesn’t leave room for error. However, their is a positive factor as well. Many film gurus spout that film is the better medium because it makes filmmakers more discipline due to the inability to make too many mistakes. The BMCC introduces this to the digital age by not allowing you to format in camera or delete clips. Therefore, you have to make sure you’re ready before running the camera.
Storage is another area that makes the BMCC seem like a digital film camera. Film costs and it always hurts when you waste film. The BMCC eats up data space and can quickly become a massive storage hog. This makes one very cautious about shooting unnecessary footage. The BMCC acts like a film camera with a faster processing system. One can simply bring a laptop to set and dump footage as you got, then reformat. However, this can take some time to finish so the idea of being disciplined in what and how you shoot isn’t negated.
The raw workflow of the BMCC I undergo is importing the Cinema DNG files into After Effects then exporting them to a editing friendly format after applying the color correction. I then jump into Adobe Premiere to edit the footage. I would love to see a compressed raw format be introduced into the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. However, for now the workflow isn’t too bad.
The Blackmagic Cinema Camera is a camera that produces an amazing image at an affordable price. The dynamic range, recording formats (raw, ProRes, & DNxHD), and simplistic operations makes this camera incredibly attractive. Unfortunately the ergonomics makes the camera less than ideal for handheld shooting. However, using a rig is a simple solution. The BMCC is a digital film camera in my opinion that may frustrate those who never shot on film. One thing is for sure, the BMCC has a lovely image.