Saturday, 19 January 2013

The Black Magic Camera and its Accessories

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera:

So this post will be a little different from most of what you have read regarding the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC). Instead of focusing on the camera itself I intend to focus on some of the great accessories out there for BMCC that will help you unlock it's full potential. If you are familiar at all all with this camera you will quickly realize that for most people shooting with it they will need a few bit's and pieces to make it work in field. I will update this post as I as go with more accessories and tips as I find them. First lets look at some of the features this camera has:

Fast facts about the BMCC:

Operating Temprature: Blackmagic says not to run it below 0 degrees Celsius and no more than 45 degrees Celsius ambient temperature. That's 32 °F - 113 °F

Shooting Resolutions: 2.5K RAW at 2432 x 1366.
ProRes and DNxHD at 1920 x 1080

Frame Rates: 23.98p, 24p, 25p, 29.97p, 30p

Dynamic Range: 13 Stops when shooting in 12-bit RAW

BMCC Touch Screen: 5 inches in diameter and 800 x 480 resolution.

Supports metadata for your clips such as user data such as shot number, filenames, keywords, etc.

Audio Input: Two balanced 1/4 jack inputs.

Audio Output: One 3.5mm mini stereo jack for headphones.

Speaker: Built in mono speaker.

Battery: Lithium-ion rechargeable battery. 12v-30dc input for external power. Camera ships with a 12V AC adapter. Battery life is about 90 minutes. It takes about 2 hours to charge the battery.

Weight: 3.75 lbs or 1.7 kg

Dimensions of BMCC: 6.5 by 4.4 x 4.9 or 166.2mm by 113.51mm x 126.49mm

Media: One removable 2.5inch Solid State Drive. The media format it uses is Mac OS extended or exFAT format. It cane be formatted for any Mac or Windows PC.

Recording formats: Uncompressed - RAW 2.5K CinemaDNG. Compressed - Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD 10-bit YUV. (For Apple ProRes it is only ProRes HQ 422) You can either choose Film or Video Dynamic range for either compressed format. You should probably use the Film Dynamic range setting for best results in post. The video setting in PRO Res is just not up to the job.

Recording times: In RAW 2.5k you will get about 30 minutes of 24p video on a 256GB SSD.
Compressed HD formats in Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD expect to get more than 5 times the amount of 2.5k RAW.

Video Outputs: One 10-bit HD-SDI 4:2:2 with your choice of either Film or Video Dynamic rance for monitoring. For monitoring it is recommended to select the Video Dynamic range preset so you will be able to monitor what your footage will look like. The film monitoring option is quite flat with little saturation. To have a even better idea of what your footage will look like I suggest you use the
Ultra Scopes software that comes with the camera. More on that later.

SDI Audio: 4 channels in HD-SDI. SDI Audio sampling rate: 48 KHZ and 24 bit.

Lanc Control: 1x Lanc remote input for Rec start and stop. Also it will control Iris control and focus control depending on the lens. More lenses to be added with firmware updates.

Computer interface: Thunderbolt port for capture of RAW video and audio. The Thunderbolt port can also be used to tether to a computer to run Ultra Scopes. There is a USB 2.0 mini port for firmware updates.

Software included: DaVinci Resolve grading software which includes one Resolve USB dongle for MAC OS X and Windows. Blackmagic's Media Express software for video capture from camera's Thunderbolt port. Also included is Blackmagic's UltraScope software.

Warranty: 12 month Limited Manufacturer's warranty.

1. Ergonomics

After familiarizing myself with BMCC over the last couple of weeks one of the first things that came very clear is that this is not a handheld camera. Now some out there will disagree, including DOP John Brawley who has an interesting article about shooting handheld with the camera and how it's not the end of the world, I will let you be the judge: No Rig? No problem... His points are valid and I think for some situations it can work however for the majority of shooters including myself will need some sort of rig to help stabilize the camera to deal with the rolling shutter issue which is prominent on this camera. Now there are two approaches to this. The first is a shoulder support which I think is the optimal one for support while doing run & gun type shooting. Recently a number of great shoulder supports have come to light for the BMCC with even more on the way by the time this article is finished being written. The amount of accessories released for the BMCC has been fast and furious over the last few months. In this post we will discuss some of the best that I have seen so far:

Redrock Micro: Redrock has released a few different Rigs for the BMCC. Let's take a look at their  Ultra Field Cinema Rig for BMCC


There are few reasons I like this rig. The first is that includes counter weights. This is really import because the BMCC camera is a surprisingly very heavy camera. Coming in at 3.8 lbs body only it is quite hefty. Now add a lens to that, not to mention any other accessories (monitor/EVF, audio devices, etc) and you can start to see how this will really add up and before you know it, your rig will be coming in at over 5lbs easy. So of course you will need something to counter balance all of this weight and that is where the counter weights come into play. Redrock includes two weight plates with a poundage of your choosing. I would recommend 4lbs as a good place to start. This will counter balance the weight of the camera with a lens on it. It's also possible to counter balance the weight of the camera with a Anton Bauer battery or V mount battery as well. You still probably need at lease one weight plate to help balance it on your shoulder even with a V mount our Anton Bauer battery. (More on power options for the camera a little later in this blog).
This rig from Redrock also has lots of threads for your accessories around the cage portion of it, complete with a top handle for easy transport and the front handles to help to stabilize the camera.
You can add a follow focus to the rig as well, Redrock Micro gives you the option of a couple of different follow focuses with their Ultra Field Cinema Rig.

The next rig we will look at is from Zacuto The Stinger

It has much to offer anyone looking for a great shoulder rig for their BMCC. As with Redrock and Zacuto has expanded on their current line to adapt many of their familiar pieces to the camera. The rods and shoulder support are the same as with any Zacuto rig. The nice feature with Zacuto's rig is the adjustable handgrips. These are quite versitle and can be angled in a variety of different directions. Having a cheese plate on the back allows you to mount a variety of battery options. Included in this rig is Zacuto's BMCC top handle for easy carrying. Like with Redrock support you can add weights to the Stinger as well. Zacuto has a selection of weights in different poundage that you can add as needed.

The final shoulder support I will review be the SHAPE Shoulder Mount-Off Set:

Shape is a Canadian company that has come out with some great gear in the last few years. Shape's shoulder support is great because it is one of the few shoulder rigs that offers an offset that takes advantage of BMCC camera's display. which for most shooters is in a less than a ideal place. Shape's rig also offers many threads to add mounts for accessories and well build handles that are easily adjustable. Like Zacuto, Shape's products includes a lifetime warranty.

2. Monitoring options with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera:

As I mentioned in the above paragraph the BMCC's screen is not in the most ideal location for viewing. If you have to do any low angle or high angle shooting it's not going to work for you with out some sort of external monitor. Try to think of the screen as more of menu screen than actual monitor. Even with hood there is a lot glare and shooting outside with it is challenging. The camera is provided with a HD-SDI output via a BNC connector. There are lot's of great on camera monitors out there but when it comes to shooting shoulder mounted nothing beats a good EVF for glare reduction and focusing.
There many good EVFs on the market however I would like to recommend one in particular.
Cineroid has a great EVF with some really nice features. The EVF4RW retina display EVF has a resolution of a whopping 960 x 640 for a 3.5 inch screen.

 To give you an idea of how good this is,  Zacuto's EVF has a resolution of only 800 x 480. I have had the pleasure to use Cineroid's EVF and all I can say is WOW! The image off of it is stunning and focusing is a breeze. The peaking feature is very usable unlike some peaking on other monitors. This EVF is packed with great features including: Waveform, Vector Scope. False Color, Zebras, Crop Guide, Screen Flip, Monochrome as well as much more.  Check out their link for a complete breakdown of the specs:
 EVF4RW Retina Display This EVF is the perfect companion to the BMCC camera for shooting in the field or on set. You can pick one up at the Canadian Retailer Vistek at the link below:

Vistek Cineroid EVF4RW Retina Display EVF

Now not everyone is going to have an SDI monitor. In-fact most people coming from a DSLR background are probably only going to have an HDMI input monitor. With the BMCC only having HD-SDI for external monitoring you will need another work around. Luckily Blackmagic has already answered that
The Black Magic Battery Converter


 it will take your HD-SDI signal in turn into an HDMI signal on the fly with a built in battery that will allow for up to 2 hours of continuous use. They also have an adapter with the same features that will do the oppsite (HDMI to HD-SDI as well.

3. Audio

Blackmagic has chose an interesting choice for the audio inputs on this camera. Two 1/4 inch jack inputs are what we have to deal with for the audio. These are still balance inputs which is nice for those of us used to XLR quality audio inputs. Downside is the two 1/4 inch inputs do not provide any Phantom Power so any condenser mics you use will have to have their own power via a battery capsule.

Blackmagic is assuming that most people will record sound separately and they are right. Most people using this camera for narrative film making or any type of studio work will likely be recording sound separate from the camera.  However for those who want a reference audio signal for syncing in post or those simply who do not want to worry about syncing at all and record everything directly to the camera, they will have a work around to do adapting their current XLR mics to this camera. There are plenty of cheap XLR to 1/4 cables that are quite affordable and easy to find at any electronic store however this doesn't solve our Phantom Power issue. It also doesn't solve the fact that as of this post their are no audio levels on the BMCC camera's display, which is a huge is issue for proper monitoring. That being said JuicedLink has a great interface that solves all of these issues and sounds great! Check out this video below because it is very thorough in regards to all aspects of the BBMC's audio. The good and the bad. Please check it out because it is very insightful.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera audio test:

Here is a link to the JuicedLink Low-Noise preamplifier:
Juicedlink RA333

The above is a great solution but more and more I find my self wishing that they just included 3.5mm mini jack input instead. As I said before that shooting with the BMCC camera is very much like shooting with a DSLR. People have been shooting video with DSLR's long enough that they have a lot of the work arounds figured out an much of their gear will be adaptable to the BMCC, including their existing audio equipment.

4. Lenses

Now this is going to be a big section. Hands down though I think it is the most important because your choice of lenses for this camera is going to impact how you shoot with this camera and the BMCC will impact the choice of lenses you will have available to you.

As good as the sensor is on the camera. it has some limitations that will greatly impact your choice of lenses.

The Crop Factor: The BMCC camera has a rather unique frame size. It is smaller than a Four thirds sensor but larger than a Super 16mm frame. The crop factor on this camera is significant.

2.3 x  multiplication on all your lenses. compared with Micro Four Thirds (Panasonic GH2) sensor that is 2x and APS-C sensor size (Canon 7D) that is only 1.6x

You can quickly see how your choice of lenses for shooting wide is drastically reduced and you will have to look to ever wider glass to fit your subject matter in the image. Below is a few charts showing the sensor size on the BMCC compared to other sensors out there. I couldn't find one chart that explained everything so here are several.


A lot of people will simply suggest moving the camera back to fit more of the subject matter in the image. However this will not always be possible shooting in small spaces and also this will change your depth of field so this not always an option.

AbelCine has a great page on their site that will let you do a side by side comparison with any sensor to show you magnification difference at any focal length of lens. This is a great tool. Check out the link below.

AbelCine comparison page

There are two current lens mount options for the BMCC. The first is an EF mount for Canon lenses. It is important to note that this will also work with EFS lenses from Canon as well. This mount is an active mount which will give you control over the aperture of the lens. In the latest firmware update they now give you an aperture read-out on the camera. Something that was not included before. This really is helpful because it allows you see the aperture you are at currently using on your lens.

The second mount option is for Micro Four Thirds Lenses or (MFT) mount. This important not only for the fact you can use some nice glass from manufactures like Leica but more to the fact that you can really adapt any lens mount you want. For example with the MFT mount you can now add a PL mount to get access to all sorts of great cinema glass from companies like Cook, Schneider and Zeiss.

 As this blog goes on I will be updating it with lenses I think suit the camera well for different situations however I want to do more testing before I list any.

One thing I can mention is that this camera is not known for it's lowlight capabilities. There are many other cameras that will out preform it in low light light the Sony FS100 and Canon C300. That being said due to the ability to shoot in 12-bit RAW you can pull a lot more detail out of the dark than you can with a lot of other cameras as this clip below demonstrates by Frank Glencairn.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera vs FS100 Lowlight Shoot-Out from Frank Glencairn on Vimeo.

Here are some of other good examples of footage with some low light shots from Blackmagic's website.

I will be updating and editing this blog in the weeks ahead so please check back soon. I hope you were able to take some useful info from with this post and hopefully it answered some questions you had about the Blackmagic Cinema Camera and its accessories.

There are lots of different reviews regarding the Black Magic Camera. Here are two I highly recommend you check out from Philip Bloom Philip Bloom's BMCC review and Vincent Laforet. Vincent's BMCC review.


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  2. Very interesting blog. Thanks for sharing such an important information on camera accessories. It will help everyone who want to use cameras.

    camera accessories | camera support

  3. Thanks for these black magic cameras and the accessories, they were really helpful to me.