First Hands on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera – Test Diary

A few days ago, Blackmagic contacted me, and asked, if I would like to give their new Cinema Camera a test ride.
Of course I want. This here will be a diary of my findings and opinions.
So if you are curious in that camera, stop by frequently and read the latest updates.

DAY 1. – THE EAGLE HAS LANDED

The friendly UPS guy just dropped this on my doorstep.

Unfortunately I still have to edit this commercial, so I don’t have much time to play with the BMC today.
But during a little render pause, I slapped an Nikon adapter and a 35mm Samjang on it, and gave it a first glance.
What really stroked me, when I looked at that few seconds I shot, was the DOF.

Having the sensor size in mind, I was prepared for much deeper DOF, like 16mm film.
But when you come from Super 35 and not from a FF-sensor, the difference is much less, than I thought.
Even at f2.8 or f4, it’s still very nice, and not any videoish.

FOR THE RECORD:
This is my first and last unboxing video ever …. I mean it, really.
I did it just because I had a ton of requests bombing my mailbox.

Have fun with it guys.

DAY 2 – Breaking out the big guns

As you might know, I have a nice set of vintage (late 1960s) Zeiss primes.
I think they complement the BMCC very well, if you are out for an organic look.

Lowlight anyone?

Here is a quick and dirty low light test between two thunderstorms.

800 ISO on a Tokina 12-24 f4 at 12mm (hence the muddy edges).

If you want to play with it, here is the DNG frame:http://www.eoshd.com/comments/topic/1196-frank-glencairn-blackmagic-low-light-test/

DAY 3

Bunch of DNGs to play with.
Download here: http://www.filedropper.com/dng

Day 4

Prepping for a lowlight (candles, oil lamps and skintone) shootout between BMC and FS100.
And yeah, I know this is cruel, but I guess a lot of you guys want to know how the BMC holds up against the official “Queen of the Night”

BMCC vs FS100 Lowlight Shootout

Sorry for the shaky footage at the FS100 part, but it started raining and I just grabbed the Fs100 and shot the rest hand held in a rush.
I used a Samyang 35mm f1.4 at f2.8 and a Heliopan IR/UV filter.

Lighting was the oil lamp on the table, a oil lamp about 8 ft away on the wall and a garden torch in the background.

Changing the ISO on raw, doesn’t make any difference, it`s just metadata (that`s the reason I just used 800 ISO), but makes a difference while ProRes recording.

Of course I could have gone way higher with the ISO on the FS100, but why compare ISO 16000 to ISO 800?
Regarding the speed of the camera, the FS100 wins hands down because of way higher usable ISO. It’s the queen of the night, period.
But the BMC gets a way nicer image out of 800 ISO, than the FS100.

The grading was done pretty rudimentary. If I had used masks and secondary grading, I could have get even more out of it.
But this is just to give you guys an idea, what to expect.

Here we go:

Edit: just saw it looks awful on Youtube. I make the file downloadable and also try Vimeo.

Vimeo version sould be online any minute: http://vimeo.com/48407841

I recommend to download the original file there

And here are some of the original frames, when you want to play with that:
http://www.filedropper.com/voodoo

Split window comparison.

As you can see, the BMC holds the highlight of the oil lamp much better, than the FS100.
Whereby the Sony can see the dark blue sky. Skintones a bit nicer on the BMC though.

DAY 5 Country Fair

Played with a 12-24 f4 Tokina and a 50mm 1.2 Nikon today.
I really like the “richness” of the color, I can get out of the BMCC.
Grading was a breeze.
But I found, that handholding this camera is not for me.
A lot of the material I shot today, is pretty shaky.
It really needs some sort of tripod, slider, cinebag, crane or at least a well balanced shoulder rig IMHO.

DAY 6 – Are you listening? Audio and the BMCC

Since I had a ton of requests regarding audio.

Q: Can I just plug in my mic?
A: Yup, but you dont get stelar audio that way. You need at least a powered mic like the Rode NTG2.

Q: Can I just plug in my NTG2 powered mic?
A: Yup, but having a external field mixer or at least a low noise pre amp like the JuicedLink RA333 Riggy Assist or Micro, would give you a much better signal.

Q Since the BMCC has no VU meters (yet), how do I see what my levels are?
A: You need a outboard monitor anyway, so get one, that has build in VU meters. Even if BM updates the camera with VU meters, they are still on the build in monitor, where they are hard to see under certain lighting conditions.

Q: do I want an external recorder.
A: External recorders do work, but why go through all that extra time and trouble of syncing everything in your NLE, when the BMCC records a superb signal?
In fact it records a better signal (48kHz at 24bit uncompressed) than most, more expensive cameras (typical 44.1kHz at 16bit). All you need is a low noise field mixer or pre-amp.

DAY 8 – A new rig and more audio.

When I came home from shooting, two – eagerly awaited – packages arrived.

The Bebob  Titanum cage and the JuicedLink Riggy.
Both play very well with the BMC and I will post separate articles about them soon.  So stay tuned.

ATTENTION:

there is some new updated and very important information regarding audio available now, make sure to check this article http://frankglencairn.wordpress.com/2012/11/13/bmc-and-audio-juice-up-your-blackmagic-cinema-camera/ before you made any decicions regarding audio.

DAY 9 – Bavaria Rain (Blackmagic Remake)

Made a remake of “Bavarian Rain” – my first test with the FS100 (https://vimeo.com/25007209), but this time with the Black Magic Camera. Sorry for the shaky motion, I wanted to go lightweight and had total sub par tripod with me and it was pretty windy.

Glass was my vintage Vivitar Series 1 zoom 35-85mm 2.8. This is from the first batch, that was still made by Kino Precision.
Recorded in raw – transcoded to CineformRaw – dropped into Premiere Timeline and a quick grade with Colorista.

Make sure you download the original file from my Vimeo channel.

Heads up – regarding SSD drives

During some steadicam tests yesterday, I run into dropped frames the first time.
Since I was watching the steadycam monitor, and not the BMC monitor, that shows dropping frames by a blinking “rec” icon, I found out, when I loaded the material into Resolve.
Usually on your SSD is a folder for every take, that contains a wave file and a all the DNGs .
When you load those into Resolve, you don’t see the folders, but the material appears as single clips in the Resolve browser.

What I saw (I shot two takes) was the usual clip icon and – lo and behold – a folder full of DNGs.

WTF?

Though I was able to import those, but they came in as single frames and super short clips with some images totally missing aka dropped frames.

The second take I took was just fine.
So I looked into the SSD, which is a Kingston 240GB SSDnow 200 V+ – I shot most of my BMC material on this drive and it never gave any trouble.
After reading a bit into the nature of the SSD beasts, I formated the drive and it was fine after that.

Long story short: Just dumping and deleting files only works for a while – you need to format it now and than.
To be safe, you may want to format the SSD every time (or maybe every other time) after dumping your footy.
Actually that’s the same, what most guys do with SD cards. A little extra step, that can save your butt.

…to be continued.

Frank

Online resources for the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera:
www.BMCuser.com
www.blackmagicuser.net

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56 thoughts on “First Hands on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera – Test Diary

  1. Frank,

    I use your FS100 profiles on our team’s rentals. I love them. You brought more out of that camera than I thought possible. Was renting C300s but your FS100 profiles made a more affordable solution work. You have our gratitude forever.

    I would be most appreciative if you did post processing profiles for both compressed and RAW. I am sure that they will similarly open up the BMCC. You can always make a great camera sing, dance and spill forth golden nuggets.

  2. Aaaa where are the samples??? Anyway shoot more log prores!! People make horrible grades with the DNG’s for whatever reason..

    • LOL, touche`

      Since it was raining cats and dogs, I didn’t get much shooting done, but found some interesting stuff regarding exposure. I just have to doublecheck and refine the material, before I post it.

  3. Great! Thanks a lot for the upload, Frank.
    I’m a little concerned about the artifacts in some of the highlights like the red lights under the arc. Is this because of the structure of the light source itself (but why is it also in the halo?) or is it the lens (I’m not sure how this is supposed to happen) or even the codec (which shouldn’t be because of its rawness).
    Strangely enough it looks like some good old 4:2:0 compression artifact to me. Mysterious…

  4. The rig is by Tilta in the moment, but I have a dedicated Bebob rig coming.
    Power source is a V-Mount brick on a adapter plate, that provides several different voltages, to power the whole rig from it.

    • Trying the Bebob out, or replacing the Tilta? I am considering the Tilta, so wondering if you find it a bad match with the BMCC? If so, what?

      Thanks!

      • The Tilta is for my FS100, so I need a second rig for the BMC . Don’t think Tilta and BMC are a bad match per se, but because of the connectors are on the left side of the camera, you can’t use Tiltas shoulder pad, without having the plugs and cables poke into your ears.

  5. Pingback: How Far Can You Push the Blackmagic Cinema Camera in Low-Light? - NoFilmSchool

  6. Hey Frank, When you finally do release some footage, I would love to see some ProRes please. I’m hoping it will answer some questions. Thanks!

  7. I remember the first time we tested our RED MX (3 years ago).
    Almost the same test with candles in a perfect dark room.
    Very impressed with the results :)
    Frank thanks for whetting my appetite ;)

  8. Pingback: Filmen im Regen: Kameratest Black Magic und Sony «

  9. Lots of noise in the blackmagic footage. And it looks a little bit underexposed for me. Fs100 wins but thats what i expected.

    • This is sarcasm yes? They’re not even close, but the other way. Noise in the blacks? You do know we take that out of footage from every camera currently made shooting over 800 ASA/ISSO? Including 35mm film? That I spend a huge amount of my professional life putting grain back in to match footage from EPICS & Alexas?
      What matters is sharpness and latitude. BMDCC wins that hands down. I’m with Frank – that’s breathtaking, considering that’s a cheap but decent lens and he’s only had the camera for a day.
      Re the PRORES guy above – why do you need to know how far you can push the PRORES? It’s a compressed format even at 4444. Never as far as you want is your answer.

      • Honestly, if I ever get to shoot on one of these I don’t think I would shoot raw. It’s a nice option but the storage requirements and workflow make it kind of a pain. Even though ProRes is compressed, it’s still going to look twice a nice as the nicest AVC because of the data throughput of this camera. From what I’ve been hearing the ProRes is actually quite flexible as well as long as you shoot in “Film” mode. I want to put an actual BMCC ProRes file through the grading process to see how badly or well is holds up compared to AVC and then on the other end Raw.

  10. Pingback: Sony’s FS100 vs. Blackmagic’s Cinema Camera: a Low-Light Showdown - NoFilmSchool

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  12. What did you use for an SDI – HDMI converter when using a monitor? judging from your loathing and participation in the unboxing video you seam like you might have a practical solution. Portable solution as well?

    • I have TVLogic monitor that takes both HDMI and SDI(G3), so no conversion needed. If you looking for a solution, check out the Blackmagic mini battery converters.

  13. Pingback: Blackmagic Cinema Camera vs Sony FS100 in Low Light – who wins? | HDSLR pinterest news

  14. Thank you Frank for putting time and effort into posting these samples. The hours spent doing this shouldn’t be underestimated.

    I wondered what the method was for setting exposure? Did you take an independent reading with a meter, set the stop on the lens and then adjust the iris with the buttons on the back of the camera? Only reason I ask is I have a set of Canon FD’s with EOS rear adaptors and I am wondering how this is going to work with my pre-ordered camera when it turns up.

    Would really appreciate your thoughts on this. And thanks again.

    • Setting exposure on a camera was never easier. Set your zebras to 100 and expose so, that they just disrepair – done. You can do that ether manually, with the buttons on the back, dial it in traditionally if your lens has an aperture ring or just hit the “iris” button on the upper left side of the monitor (if you have a lens, that talks to the camera).

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  16. really want to see som comparisons of the same stuff shot on raw and directly on proress (and DNx pref) – skintones i daylight, how different are they etc

  17. Hi Frank, did you use Flektogon lenses? Worth it? If I buy this camera, I’m looking to get a somewhat affordable set of lenses.

    • Regarding my previous comment: the article to which I linked describes how to create a dng profile (not ICC). This might be even better because the profile really is baked into the dng file. Sorry for the confusion.

  18. Pingback: First Hands on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera – Test Diary »

      • REALLY? THERE IS SLR MAGIC ANAMORPHICS??????? EXCUSE MY RUDE CAPS BUT I JUST JIZZED AT THE THOUGHT OF SLR MAGIC ANAMORPHICS, I AM OFF TO GOOGLE ASAP….SLR magic ANA + BLACKmagic = ME THE HAPPIEST PERSON ON EARTH, DAMN! IM JIZZING AGAIN!!!

  19. Pingback: Audio on the BMCC | bmcc

  20. Hi Frank! Nice work! What do you think about of the dynamic range of BMDC, how it is wider in highlights than the Sony S700? After tests BMDC are you still planning on buying FS700? :)

  21. Nice work Frank, looking forward to some audio/dialogue recording tests done with the BMC.

    50 is too low you want to aim for peaks just below 0db (100) without comp/limiting.

    Thats what I would test, eg: 100, 90, 80, 70, 60 using the mixer to 0db peak levels. See which one is best. The closer to 100 on the BMC the better for utilising all 24bits.

    Hope that helps.
    Paul Abrahams
    Recording Digital since 2002

    • Sorry on a rethink, the BMC should be at 100 unless the signal coming in is too hot. Send a signal in at -12db average vol so the peaks should stay under 0 (100) the A/D converter will catch any overs. Thats how its done in the studio. I was mentioning trying lower levels as a last resort.

      Cheers Frank I know you’re a busy man. Many thanks.

  22. Pingback: » First Hands on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera – Test Diary « Frank Glencairn »

  23. It’s really a great and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  24. How are you finding the 12-24 Tokina? Is the aperture control fully working and have you experienced and flange issues (as some have with the 11-16)?

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