Blackmagic Cinema Camera Tests
With the price decrease on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC), new functions, firmware upgrades and the anticipated delivery of the Pocket Cam, I thought it would be perfect timing to run more of the tests that I did for Need for Speed.
“Skin Tones and Fill Ratio”
This is one of my favorite tests because it shows you and the director how the camera will handle underexposure on the fill side of your actor or actress’ face. We have our model and we will go down in fill ratio levels a 1/2 of a stop at a time. Quickly you can see what level that you might like, but is that level right for your scene or your story?
“The WHY with Fill Ratio”
Creating the emotion, the mood and the tone of a scene that will ultimately transpose onto the actors’ faces is very important. Finding that fill ratio that brings about a HAPPY emotion, or a TENSE emotion, or one that is a FEARFUL emotion is critical. Your level of light on the down side, fill side of his or her face is important to help with both storytelling and delivering the emotions that the director wants to convey.
The level that you like might be way too bright for the director or much too dark. The reason for these tests is so that you can establish a visual language with your director. Once you have agreed on this, you know exactly the way to proceed with the lighting plans.
“Sweet Skin Tones”
This camera delivers some very nice skin tones. I was impressed. I loved the look of the ProRes as well. We set up this test just using available light that was coming through a garage door to key our model. No extra lighting was used, other than turning on the house fluorescents in the background. I wanted to see how it would handle this type of shooting, how dark the interior would feel, as well as how the skin tones would resolve. I was pleasantly surprised with how they looked. I was also impressed with the detail in the BG. The background was four stops down and I overexposed her 1/3 of a stop so that she had creamy skin tones.
One of the selling points of this camera is its 12BIT color space and its 13 stops of latitude. So many times, you cannot balance the inside with the outside easily. You have to bring your level up on the interior or bring your level down outside by using big sheets of ND on the windows or gel. I did this test to show you that the natural light falling on our model was perfect with the latitude of the camera. I could hold the hot sidewalk, the sky and the hot school building in the background. With a DSLR, you would have had to punch up the light on your model. It would have never held that. I also loved the way the skin looked in this little test.
“Trying All of the ISOs to Find the Sweet Spot”
The BMCC doesn’t have as many ISOs as most cameras, but I wanted to take you through all the ones that they do have and you can immediately see where the sweet spot is. We started at 200 ISO. We left the color grading the same and just went up with ISO ratings. What I noticed immediately was that at 200, it was not bad but you had more contrast, for sure. With that contrast, it did not give you color saturation. At 400 ISO, the color started to come in, but at 800 ISO, it seemed to have the most range, the most color, and the most pleasing image. When we went to 1600 ISO, you can see how the image got thin and lost its color. All of this can be brought back in post, but I was just curious to test how the camera reacted when you changed its ISOs.
“Bring on the Night”
Now we take those ISO ratings again and see how a night exterior environment works. I thought the camera looked very good at night. You can see the available light looks contrasty in the BG at 400 ISO. That low ISO is not bringing the available light to life. Notice the building on the left side, how the white wall’s fill level increases as the ISO is brought up. To me, that street looked like a 1600 ISO street. What do I mean by this? The way I used to go about lighting night exteriors was to put big lights on condors high above the ground to create back light, add many units in the background, up light buildings in the background, etc. I had to light because I knew the film stock’s ISO would not see what my eye was seeing. With the new digital cameras, I place the camera down on the street and start moving the ISO up on the camera until the background comes to life. Then I see which areas are too hot. I have a bucket truck from the local power company go along and turn the lights off. I will bring up areas that are too dark or need some color contrast. This is why I felt that it was a 1600 ISO street. I hope that makes sense.
Now that we have gone through the tests, let’s dig into the latest updates from Blackmagic because there are very exciting upgrades and new cameras in the pipeline.
The new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is now shipping and there is a software update for it posted, which has a lot of new features. You can now focus by pushing the focus button when using an active MFT lens. This makes it very easy to focus accurately. The focus peaking feature is still there and you enable it by double pressing the focus button. The focus zoom feature is enabled by double pressing the OK button.
“Cool New Functions”
There will be an update for the 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera soon. The update will also add these features, plus new de-bayer processing that will improve the camera’s sharpness when shooting non RAW files. I really loved how the ProRes looked and its level of softness.
“Making It Affordable”
Blackmagic has worked very hard over the last year to be able to build the Blackmagic Cinema Camera at a lower cost so they can widen the range of access to include more filmmakers. This is a bold move and I love the idea behind it. Whether you are just starting out or you are an industry professional, this price point is pretty awesome. The new price is US $1,995 for the EF and MFT models. Think about the power of this. You can purchase the camera to tell your stories and have some extra cash for glass, cool rigs, etc.
“Many Other Offerings and Geeking Out with Tech”
HyperDeck Software 3.8
Blackmagic has an exciting new version of software for the HyperDeck SSD recorders. This new update adds 6G-SDI support on the output for HyperDeck Studio Pro and adds on screen menus to both HyperDeck Studio models where you can set formats and other features. They have also added a new ethernet remote control support.
This is really easy to use and you connect HyperDeck to your network, set the IP address of the HyperDeck in the menu and then Telnet into the HyperDeck to get control. If you type play, the HyperDeck will play and if you type stop, then HyperDeck will stop. You can get clip lists and all kinds of control functions. There are more details in the instruction manual on the protocol.
This update is free of charge and on the Blackmagic website now.
ATEM Switcher Software 4.1.1
Blackmagic has a new software update for the ATEM switchers and it’s a big update with lots of new features. It includes a new save and restore that allows you to save the state of the switcher into an XML file, including all your media pool, into a folder of images. You can load that XML file back into the switcher to restore it fully with all settings and media back online.
You can even save parts of the switcher, such as a single keyer or even SuperSource and use them like Macros. If you save the switcher, you also have the choice to load parts of the switcher, or the whole switcher. You can keep saving to keep rolling backups and each XML file is like a time-based snapshot of your switcher state throughout the whole job. The media pool will keep adding any changed images to the media folder so you will get all media that’s used in the job and can restore back to any point in time. It’s very powerful.
They have also opened up some of the power of the new ATEM Production Studio 4K model that includes HDMI and 6G-SDI that operates in SD, HD and Ultra HD resolutions. This update now adds new 1080p progressive video formats including 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50 and 59.94fps. This really opens up the number of devices you can plug in.
This update fixes a bug in the ATEM Production Studio 4K that stopped some devices using RGB HDMI, such as Playstation, Xbox, computers and GoPro cameras, from working with the switcher HDMI inputs.
This software update is available now from their website for download.
DaVinci Resolve 9.1.5
Blackmagic has a small software update for DaVinci Resolve 9 that adds improved compatibility with Avid Media Composer 7.0 round trip, supports reel names in Final Cut Pro X XML, adds support for Avid EuControl Software Package Version 3.0, improves handling of multi-track Quicktime audio files and adds improved Cinema DNG file format support.
This update is also available for download.
Desktop Video 9.7.7
This new software update now adds support for the 4K DCI modes and adds improved compatibility for HDMI on the UltraStudio 4K and the DeckLink 4K Extreme models. BM has also improved support for Avid Media Composer for the UltraStudio Mini Recorder and DeckLink Mini Recorder models.
Also available for download.
“Giving Back: A Guiding Resource for Filmmakers”
Grant Petty from Blackmagic Design has created a very cool website called SpliceCommunity.com.
Over the last few years, he has spoken to people at shows and seminars, and one thing that really struck him was how hard it was to be the best at editing, color correction, design and effects in this industry.
This is one very tough industry, but it’s so incredibly exciting! Grant frequently spends hours in post-production at a post facility, sometimes until 2 a.m., talking to editors who have just come out of a 15 hour session. You might know that feeling!
He spent these hours listening to editors, effects artists and colorists talking about the jobs they just completed and how it went. He wanted to share these stories with everyone and Splice Community was born.
It has a new community page where people talk about their stories, as well as post their projects and images online. It’s not about Blackmagic. Grant wants to share these stories about their work and how they got started in the industry.
Grant certainly gets around and I feel this website will be a very useful resource to all of you. If you are interested in reading these stories, please head to www.splicecommunity.com
Additional Blackmagic Cinema Resources from the Hurlblog:
Turning the Blackmagic Cinema Camera into a Movie Making Machine
Blackmagic Camera Post Workflow
Equipment List for BMCC Tests:
Blackmagic Cinema Camera 2.5k
Canon L Series 24mm-70mm zoom
Tiffen WWND Filters
Spectra IV-A Light Meter
Spectra Spot Meter
Music by: The Music Bed
ISO Night – Chillin by Zero Bedroom Apartment
Available Light, ISO Day – Let Us Face The Evening Skies With Childlike Eyes by Aural Method
Fill Ratio – Forward Back by Dexter Britain
Edited on Macbook Pro – Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Model for Available Light Tests: Kyra Hurlbut
Shot at: Revolution Cinema Rentals, San Fernando, CA
It’s funny, there has been endless blogs, forums, and discussions about this camera, but you are able to sum up basically everything you need to know in one post. Thanks very much for this. I have been shooting with the camera for the past 5 months and although it has some quirks it has some incredible potential. I like the idea that people have no excuses now and that it comes down to creativeness, skill and talent.
Mark, absolutely. Thank you for the kind words, it means a lot to know that my posts are informative and help and inspire.
Thanks for this post Shane, very informative.
N.K.Osborne, you are very welcome
Great article as usual Shane. Good timing as I’m in the process of replacing my lovely 5dmk2. Have a question though: which mount and which lenses do you recommand using with Black magic cinema camera? Canon? Nikon with adapter? Zeiss? Or any other..
Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge.
Francis Rene, I am using the Canon mount for myself, I haven’t had time to use the 4/3 version with any glass.
I love your blog.. and i loved this article.. You provide some quality materials for us to study. I would wish if you could talk about this camera’s limitations and its quirks and how would one deal and overcome with them.
Abobakr, that sounds like a great post. I will think about that
I’m thinking to buy a Blackmagic Cinema camera, I have been impressing with the quality.
What the BMCC is more suitable for ? commercials, films, corporate videos, etc…comparing with DSLR like 5d Mark III.
The workflow sounds pretty heavy in raw and require much more post production than a regular dslr, I could not fit a BMCC in a DSLR budget.
It’s will be like work with r3d files or maybe a little more work adding a few steps in post production.
Matheus Oliveira, I think it would work on all of those things. I would shoot in ProRes to save on Post costs. It is beautiful
Great article, Shane. It is always such a pleasure to read about your thorough and reliable camera tests. We probably will include a BMCC in our cinematographic arsenal soon. Thanks again! – Christian
Christian @ Danish Video Productions, you are very welcome, and thank you for the kind words. I think that is a wise choice, now that they have an anti-aliasing filter for BMCC it has made this camera more powerful.
Hi Shane, long time fan and appreciate your insight. For the price of my fs700 I could’ve gotten all three (Pocket, 2.5k and the 4k). Lol, while my fs700 serves me well and is a capable tool for my needs (at the moment) imho the Fs700 just misses not having at least 10-bit 422 with the new upgrade. The external recording options for the fs700 seem expensive and cumbersome especially when compared to the BM lineup. Low light is quite good and slo mo adds value however I’m finding latitude and a smaller form factor may be the most important feature for me these days. So image wise, in your opinion how does the 2.5k camera stack up with the canon 1Dc? Not having used either the 1dc or cinema camera, I’ll use the fs700 as a reference Both very different cameras indeed, however considering the quality of imaging each camera produces from your experience can you give us a quick opinion or comparison having worked with both camersa? Thanks
Anthony, This is a user preference question on color space. I compare all of these cameras to film stock. The BMCC is an amazing camera and with the new anti-aliasing filter it has really made the camera more powerful. Getting rid of the moire factor. The BMCC looks like Fuji film, the 1DC looks more like Kodak. Both cameras have the quirks of a DSLR.
I am relatively new to photography and I am confused a little about the lighting ratios. In the Fill Test video, I didn’t understand what it means by Fill 2, Fill 2 1/2, Fill 3, etc… I can see as the fill numbers go up, the left side of her face is getting darker, but I thought lighting ratios were 1:1, 2:1, 4:1, with the key light over fill light. So when it says Fill 4, I am confused. Thank you.
Kevin, these numbers are stops on your light meter. -2 stops under, -2.5 stops under, etc.
Shane,. Thanks so much for this article and your passion for all things video and black magic :-)
Can you point us to blogs argumenting for/against this 2.5k solution versus the 5dIII or d800 video solution?.. Besides pocket size,.. and somewhat on prices,… is this really the way to go? I’m itchin to come on board but need to gather my arguments in favor of the Black Magic solution. Thanks.
shawn, from Lausanne/Switzerland
please upload the video’s in atleast 1080p so that we can actually see the comparison
Manish- There is a link at the bottom of the post to view the videos on Vimeo at 1080p.
Amazing Review uncle Shane, As we all know BM has released the 4k version of its BMC, and the reviews i’m getting so far are scaring the hell out of me. I tried to look out for ur review on the camera but didn’t find one… And the reasons I look out for ur posts is the fact that u are very practical and practicable…
Sir, I want to purchase the BMC 4K, but before I do that, i’ll want to hear my mentors side of the story… You are the only dslr king I know…So sir, Should I go for it against the “cons” people publish?
thanks a lot and God bless
Shelika Emmanuel Jnr
One of your Blacks Sons in Africa.
Shelika Emmanuel jar, Thank you for your kind words and support. HA HA I love it. I will get my hands on that camera in May. I asked them to send me one before I started Fathers and Daughters but the timing did not work out. I will give you a great write up. Thanks
I recently worked on a movie where the shooter used the BM 2.5 he was very pleased with the out come in fact preferred it to the Red. My latest shooter wants to use the pocket using nikon glass. Will the quality commprimised
Is there anyway you could post up specifically your night time ISO 800 and ISO 1600 shots from this as DNG sequences?
I want to possibly rent BMCC 2.5 EF mount camera package for short film, it all takes place at night with available light for the most part so I’d be really great to see how it grades at those ISOs
thanks if you can, and np if you can’t, good info here!
Great article. Can you tell me if the Black Magic Cinema Camera shoots in interlaced or progressive fashion? Just curious to know. Still learning all that it can do. Thank you!!
It shoots progressive.