My latest purchase: The Blackmagic Production Camera 4K

I know you want a video review but it's not going to happen, don't be such a baby.

I wanted to share some thoughts on the beloved (by some) Blackmagic Production Camera 4K. I was considering buying a new camera for a long time now and for a number of reasons I decided to go for this one.

I know it's been 3 years since it's been released, but I haven't seen any other company so far (July 2016) producing a cinema camera like this. I'm going to try to cover the important features and issues of the BMPC. For the technical stuff just visit Blackmagic's website, I'm not going to cover the details here. Here we go.

Basic info

The BMPC has a high bit rate image which produces really large files and detailed image for post production. Also, it shoots RAW, with which, to be honest, I don't have much experience yet. I prefer the ProRes codecs now which are really convenient and high quality as well. To make the most of this camera you have to shoot in "Film mode" which is a really flat image that needs colour grading in post. 

This is not an ordinary "pick up and start shooting" type camera.

If you just want some good HD, or 4K video for YouTube or home videos, there are other easier cameras out there.

You need a lot of other equipment as well, to be able to start shooting, like:

  • microphone. The internal microphone it's just there because it would be weird if it wasn't. It's kinda useless. There are two quarter inch ports to plug the external mic. I myself have a ZOOM H6 recorder, so I'm probably going to be recording on that. However, it's nice to know that if I don't have much time, I can just plug the mic in a port and be done with it.
  • lens, obviously. This is a trick part. Most of the reviews out there use some really expensive cine prime lenses that cost as much as 3 BMPC's. Now, if you have this kind of lenses, you probably won't have to read this post.
    The lens I already had was a vintage 50mm Pentax lens which worked great for my previous HD camcorder. NOT FOR 4K. It was as sharp as a butter knife. Terrible. So I went and bought the cheapest cine lens out there: a Samyang (or Rokinon depending where you're located). If you have Canon lenses then good for you! Keep using them ;-)
  • External battery. There are a lot of people complaining about the internal battery. of the BMPC. This battery it's not for main use. It's a backup. Also, no camera from ARRI, RED, Canon or Sony have internal batteries. It's a really nice feature of the BMPC because you buy some extra batteries and if some runs out, you plug in the other one, without having to stop filming. I bought a V-mount plate and a heavy duty battery to deal with this issue.
  • A camera rig. This camera is meant to be put on some rail system. There you can keep the microphone, the battery, possible follow focus etc. I already had a rig for my previous camcorder and with a little bit of tweaking it's now perfect for the BMPC. I would assume most of the DSLR rigs would do. Check the BMPC's dimensions. 
  • An SSD Drive. The BMPC records in SSD's, which is perfect cause they are cheaper than anything else out there (price/GB). They are also very convenient because you can just connect with a USB-SATA to your computer and not having to import any media. Just edit on the SSD. However, be careful at the data rates. There are SSD's that don't support high data rates for RAW. Here's Blackmagic's suggestions.
  • A good computer. Make sure your computer can handle the videos of the BMPC. I use an iMac 5K 4GHz with 32GB and 4GB VRAM and everything runs smoothly. I guess 16 GB of RAM is ok as well.

Construction 

I love it. It's made of solid metal and nice high quality rubber and plastic. The buttons are really simple and easily pressed. The touch screen is REALLY responsive, nevertheless don't expect an iPhone feeling, although it's better that most smartphones out there. Just so you know, it's heavier that it seems on the review videos. I only though it was going to be a bit heavier that a DSLR. Nope. It's noticeably heavier.

The BMPC with the Samyang 35mm T1.5

The BMPC with the Samyang 35mm T1.5

Handiness 

As you probably know it's the smallest cinema camera out there so far (July 2016). It just takes me 2 minutes to assemble the rig to start shooting. The monitor is perfect for indoor shooting and it's possible to shoot outdoors with it, but far from ideal. You might want to invest in an EVF. I haven't gotten one yet so I cannot suggest any.

Image quality

The image quality is amazing. With the right lenses, as I stated before, you can get perfect 4K or HD video. The dynamic range is really nice and has a lot of room to experiment in post. I heard that the Pocket Cinema Camera and the Cinema Camera have one stop more of dynamic range, but I haven't experimented with them. I wanted to go 4K so neither of those cameras suited me. And the fact that it has a GLOBAL SHUTTER (!) made it the ideal camera for me at the moment.

NO MORE ROLLING SHUTTER!

It made a lot of difference shooting with a high dynamic range camera. I have the Sony NEX-VG20 which is really nice but the BMPC is just on another level.

Low light 

Let's come to the subject that bothers a lot of people on the internet: The low light capabilities of the BMPC. The ISO's are three. 200, 400 and 800. Quite limited right? So when I read about "bad low light capabilities" I just though that it just doesn't support higher ISO's. Unfortunately that's not the issue at all and very few people seem to adress it.

When I first tested the camera it seemed awful. Yes, awful. I got visible vertical FPN even at ISO400 in the shadows areas. The ISO800 was almost useless. And all that, having the latest firmware update, which supposedly fixed the issue (although I think it was much worse before). 

The reason was that I was testing the camera inside my apartment with poor lighting conditions. I also sent some images at the Blackmagic support to ask them what's going on. They replied that the camera seems to be fine and that I have to expose properly.

So I did, but I still got vertical FPN in the shadows.

I was really disappointed. I didn't expect a high-end camera like the BMPC to behave like that. 

What changed my mind was that after some colour grading (I lowered the shadows) I saw that the FPN almost disappeared in ISO200 and 400, but it was still visible (in ISO800 it was still terrible).  

But...

Then I tried the noise reduction in DaVinci Resolve, which comes with the BMPC. 

I was blown away by it. Just by tweaking the temporal noise reduction a bit, there was no more noise. It almost completely cleared the image. In the video ISO400 seems worse that 800, due to some mistake in the grading. Even ISO800 looks great with noise reduction.

You can also check the video with the results. I suggest downloading the original file to watch the video without the online compression. 

The verdict

I loved the camera. I know I went through a stage when I thought of returning it, but now I'm more than content. What I do now is do the whole grading in Final Cut Pro X, using the plugin Color Finale and then use DaVinci Resolve to reduce the noise I get and give a smoother feeling to the video.

I know that with the same money you can get the Sony A7s II which also shoots 4K, or a DSLR. The thing is that the BMPC is a totally different level of camera.

  • The RAW capability
  • Internal ProRes HQ
  • 12-bit image depth for RAW
  • 10-bit for ProRes
  • SSD recording 

Of course, as you might know, the BMPC is good for controlled situations. It takes a lot of effort shooting in Film mode and grading afterwards. 

Here's a sample video (No noise reduction on this one). 

I'll upload more videos as I get to know the camera.

Cheers ;-)

Why I love Film Editing

Film editing is a lot like preparing a tasty meal. There is a process behind it, from the moment that you buy your raw materials at the store, to the moment that you bring your luscious meal to completion. Same goes for film editing; you take your raw footage and cook your way through to an exuberant film. 

Getting material 

Vectors from freepik.com


Vectors from freepik.com

Buying food is not everyone's favourite pastime—at least not mine. Having to go to the store, get a basket for the items in your recipe, carry it around, check the quality of the products, and constantly thinking if you forgot anything is not the most enjoyable step of your preparation. 

But, you have to do it.

Filming feels like that to me. Just replace "store" with "random location" and "basket" with "camera" (plus a whole lot of equipment) and you're there. 

But, you have to do it. 

Putting it all together

Vectors from freepik.com


Vectors from freepik.com

Got back from the store and drooling over the perfect picture of your finished meal? It’s now time to put everything together. Like cooking, editing ties together your raw materials into one bundle of joy—both the meal and the film are your babies, so care for them as such. Editing is what makes a film, a film.

A scene with cuts, balanced colour, music, or silence in the background. Each frame being a bite of an extraordinary meal, that moves through your mouth, creating an intense feeling of completion... (pun intended). 

Think of the last movie you saw. Are you doing it?

Well, chances are that most of the film's atmosphere was created in post-production (editing); mixing long shots with close-up's; holding a shot on a silent actor's face to show emotion; the contrast and the colour of the image. Almost everything is done in post-production. 

The film now gives you this warm juicy feeling it’s supposed to. See where I’m going with this?

It wouldn't be fair, however, to underestimate the filming process. Once you get bad footage, it's usually really hard (or impossible) to fix it in post. 

Imagine cooking with shit raw materials. It doesn't work, does it?

 

Filming Nordita's "Hawking Radiation" Conference

So, I had been assigned by Nordita to film the Hawking Radiation Conference from Aug 24-29. Stephen Hawking himself was going to be there, along with other successful physicists.

I didn't manage to be a black hole expert during my studies. However, I tried to focus on both the lectures and capturing the event. I lost track pretty quickly.

Apparently, Hawking proposed a new way for information to be stored in the event horizon of a black hole, so it's not lost permanently inside it (Information Paradox). Others disagreed, seeing no problem with lost information.

Whether or not some new black hole theory arises soon, I'm obligated to say that I felt my hair standing on end when I was listening some of the discussions taking place. 

Stephen Hawking and Gerard 't Hooft discussing on the information paradox

-I'm afraid I don't understand my results.
-I don't know if it's important or not.
-Do you have any suggestions?
-Why do you think this happens?
    -I don't know..
    -I don't know..
    -I don't know..

These words came up again and again.
HOW FUCKING AMAZING IS THAT? 

Footage from the conference coming soon.