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Turning the Blackmagic Cinema Camera into a Movie Making Machine

You all know that I have been conducting many camera tests during prep on Need for Speed. I have been testing all of the different digital emulsions to see where they will fit into my toolbox. Blackmagic graciously supplied a camera for some of these tests. We pushed and pulled this baby to see when it would break as well as where it excelled.
 

“Just Shoot with the Baby”

My philosophy is to shoot first, then test. That sounds counter-intuitive, but putting the camera in real life shooting situations educates you on what you need to test. Go in not really knowing what the camera can do or what it can’t do. JUST SHOOT!!!!
 

“The Screen Test”

We arranged a screen test to shoot a scene with the camera. You will not hear any audio because it is restricted. We put it in conditions in which many DSLRs would falter. Late afternoon light, hot skies and all handheld on a shoulder rig.
 

BMCC tests - wide shot

BMCC tests - profile

BMCC tests - blonde

BMCC tests

 
I love that this camera fell into a nice color palette and delivered pretty good skin tones, as well as holding the sky. Some of it felt a little clippy in the over exposure, but again, I was going to eye and trying to figure it out. I would say that I exposed a little hot. Many people told me not to starve this camera of light, but I think I went a little too far. With that said, the image holds up for a $3K camera. We color graded the scene with Davinci Resolve, which is included when you purchase the camera.
 

Davinci Resolve Interface for Color Correction

Davinci Resolve Interface for Color Correction


 

“What is my Secret Sauce for the BMCC?”

On the internet, I quickly witnessed that the images looked incredibly sharp and had a very large depth of field. The camera’s sensor is a 4/3 chip, which matches super 16mm film pretty closely. I was immediately transported back to my music video days. I remembered all of those Super 16mm Zooms that I used along with my Zeiss prime set. I went on a search and found my go to Zooms that lensed Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, and the Rolling Stones, which were the Canon 8-64mm zoom, the Zeiss 10-1 and the Canon 11.5-138mm zoom. These babies vignetted a little but the glass looked creamy, which I did not see on the internet. It looked filmic. GOLD!!!!
 

Sensor comparison

Sensor comparison


Black Magic with Canon 8-64mm Zoom

Black Magic with Canon 8-64mm Zoom

Canon 8-64mm Zoom

Canon 8-64mm Zoom

Canon 11.5-138mm Zoom

Canon 11.5-138mm Zoom

 
The Screen Test was not shot with these zooms. The light bulb in my head had not gone off yet, but what I did do was to use my favorite old lenses to kind of do the same thing. The Kowas were pulled out of the closet and slapped on this baby, and the proof is in the pudding; they looked off the chain. They are 35mm lenses, so with this cropped 4/3 chip, your 50mm is like a 100mm. The widest lens I have in my Kowa kit is a 15mm and that would feel like a 30mm, so getting wide with this glass was a challenge. I think the test works well with them.
 

Kowa on the BMCC

BMCC tests

Blackmagic camera ready for testing

Blackmagic camera ready for testing

BMCC

 

“Give Me Shallow”

The other thing I knew I had to do was shoot around a 2.0 on all my day exteriors so that I could keep a shallow depth of field (DOF) and make it look more like the DOF you get with 35mm. If I was going to shoot my day exteriors in between a 2.8 or a 4, I would shoot at a 2.0 on the BMCC. If you want your stuff looking awesome, this will be absolutely essential. The quickest way to show your hand of cards with a 4/3 chip camera is to have endless DOF.

To address this, Letus and the Master Cinema Series has developed a cage system and a 35mm adapter ring that snaps onto the lens port. This will give you the perfect look and feel of 35mm and the creamy filmic quality I have been talking about, and it fits right into the MCS 2.0 rig system.

Blackmagic in the MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam configuration with Alphatron EVF

Blackmagic in the MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam configuration with Alphatron EVF

MCS ShoulderCam

The new Blackmagic Letus cage with 35mm adaptor

The new Blackmagic Letus cage with 35mm adaptor

The new Blackmagic Letus cage with 35mm adaptor

Letus 35 Ultimate lens adaptor

Letus 35 Ultimate lens adaptor

 

“Bring in the IR NDs”

We also noticed that you will need to use IR NDs with this camera above a ND 1.2. After the ND 1.2, the image got very brown in the blacks and felt very muddy. To keep this shallow DOF outside, you will need Tiffen IR NDs so that you can minimize this problem. Unfortunately, you cannot get rid of it with color correction. You can make it less, but it is baked in there.
 

Tiffen IR ND HV sets


 

“BIT Depth”

The camera seemed to have a good amount of BIT depth, but we felt with the flat RAW file, we needed to infuse a ton of color into the image to bring it to a normal looking image, which is cool, but it did not fall right in quickly. So plan on a little more color correction time. You won’t have to do as many power windows to fix all the blown out highlights and deep shadows because of this camera’s 13 stops of latitude, which is great.
 

Raw

Raw

Color Corrected

Color Corrected

 

“The Camera Needs a Cage and Weight”

The BMCC is a very light camera, very much like all the DSLRs. Please remember what I have said in the past — you will need to weight this baby appropriately. The MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam will get you all dialed in with the right weight and ergonomics to be able to shoot.
 

MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam

MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam

Director Scott Waugh and Shane Hurlbut, ASC using the MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam

Director Scott Waugh and Shane Hurlbut, ASC using the MCS 2.0 ShoulderCam

 
Because the camera’s output is only SDI, the MCS 2.0 EVF adapters have been made to accommodate the AlphaTron, which is SDI in and out. These EVFs are sweet with this system.
 

MCS 2.0 EVF adapter for the Alphatron

MCS 2.0 EVF adapter for the Alphatron

Alphatron EVF

Alphatron EVF

 
This is part one of a three part series on the BMCC. In the following weeks we will release more tests that show its latitude, light sensitivity at night, noise level, etc. Stay Tuned!!!!

 

Equipment used for this test:

Camera:
Blackmagic Cinema Camera with Panavision Mount

Lenses:
Kowa: 20, 25, 32, 50mm for Screen Test
Canon: 8-64mm Zoom for IR Test

Filters:
Tiffen WW IR ND and Tiffen WW ND

Battery:
Dionic 90 Anton Bauer

Monitors:
Small HD DP-6 Monitor

EVF:
Alphatron

Rigs:
MSC 2.0 ShoulderCam
MCS BMCC Cage

Support:
O’Connor 20-60 Head
O’Connor Standard and Baby Sticks

Editing Tool:
Adobe Premiere Pro CS6

Music:
Licensed through The Music Bed
Please Help Me. Band: A. M. Architect & Through the Eye: Les Enfants

Lighting:
Supplied by Paskal Lighting

Watch the videos on Vimeo in 1080p

Author: Shane

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78 Comments

  1. Brilliant coverage. Gives all us starters an idea of what is possible.

    Post a Reply
  2. at such a low cost would you say us low budgeters have a new hero?

    Post a Reply
    • Mike. Definitely, the ability to shoot raw and have Davinici Resolve at this price point is a powerful tool for filmmakers.

      Post a Reply
  3. Thank you Shane for your awesome blogs !!! Waiting on our camera right now. As far as I have done my research I think it’s pretty good competition for Red Scarlet.

    Post a Reply
    • Aram K. Thanks for the kind words and support.

      Post a Reply
  4. It looks so small in your hands. Was that an issue? Do you wish for a wider hand grip stance?

    Be well
    Laurence

    Post a Reply
    • Laurence Zankowski, once we caged that baby up in the MCS 2.0 shoulder cam it worked perfectly.

      Post a Reply
  5. Been waiting for this Shane. Thank you so much! This camera is simply amazing and I think its pros outweigh its cons. Can’t wait to see what you do on NFS.

    Post a Reply
    • N.K.Osborne, I agree, used in the right situations you will shine with this baby.

      Post a Reply
  6. Awesome that you’re doing this. Looking forward to more. BMCC seems like a winner already, despite its quirks & shortcomings.

    Post a Reply
    • Daniel Longworth, just like what we have had to do with DSLR’s you have to learn how to showcase the Pros and hide the cons. Thanks for your kind words

      Post a Reply
  7. Shane, very informative. I can see where you might have opened it up a bit too much as you say … and it looks like the last pair, the color corrected sample had a bit too much green?

    Thanks for the post — didn’t know you had a Stones video on your resume!

    Post a Reply
    • HDSLRnow, yep, I corrected it to have some cyan in the skin tones. We were testing for Need for Speed with this look. Thanks for your kind words

      Post a Reply
  8. Perfect timing. BMCC arrived yesterday. Thank you for sharing and for all your hard work.

    Post a Reply
    • Sid Levin, you are very welcome. Thanks for your support

      Post a Reply
  9. Shane, as always, thanks for all you share on this site. It would take years to cobble together the things you post for free!
    I have a quick question. I am a former news photog moving towards doing docs. My partner has a 5D MKII which is great for controlled situations, but harder to use while on the move. What do you recommend as a run and gun camera? Our doc will take us into nightclubs, in cars and on the road. I use a Sony EX-1 at the school I work at, and it looks okay, but not cinematic.
    I will be headed to NAB in April and I an trying to narrow down my prospective booth visits.

    Thanks again, this site has become my film school! Allen

    Post a Reply
    • Allen, I think your best doc camera is the C300 then chase with your 5D MK III. The C300 is very good in low light.

      Post a Reply
  10. I forgot to ask you ! Have you heard of new Chinese camera called KineRaw. It has super 35 mm sensor and they claim gives quality like Alexa. As far as specs goes its very similar to black magic camera !

    Post a Reply
    • Aram K, I saw it at NAB last year. Not convinced yet.

      Post a Reply
  11. Thanks Shane for BMCC review, I just got my BMCC this week as well. Just wondering what are you thoughts about the workflow in terms of from production to post production?

    Post a Reply
    • Mragendra Singh. The BMCC comes with Davinci Resolve which works great for coloring and creating dailies on set or in post. It all depends on the needs of the production, but resolve is very flexible to meet those needs. Thanks for the comment and support.

      Post a Reply
  12. Hi Shane,
    Nice test. Good to see your impressions about BMC. Will it cut well with C300 footage? I am planning to use it as a second body along with C300.

    What would be the minimum cost to get a BMC working for the entire day.

    Cheers,
    Sabyasachi

    Post a Reply
  13. Appreciate the info! Curious about using an IR filter on the end of each lens with regular Tiffen NDs in the matte box and how it would compare to the IR NDs? Is that a bad idea?

    Post a Reply
    • Clayton Arnall, basically what I found out that you should use a Straight Tiffen WW 1.2 ND, then if you need to go above that add .3 WWIRND, or .6WWIRND all the way up to your desired stop. Unfortunately you have to by pack the filters. I hope this helps.

      Post a Reply
      • Yes, awesome info indeed! I am curious about the IR filtration options as well. I have an Eclipse Variable ND and I do notice the muddy colors at stronger ND levels. Can I purchase some strength of IR to put in my 4×4 matte box to use in conjunction with my screw-on variable ND that I already own? Thanks

        Post a Reply
  14. Hi Shane,

    Thanks again for a great post. Could you say a little about the Alphatron EVF? How does it compare to the Zacuto EVF. I own the Zacuto but find it blows out highlights earlier than what is actually recorded, and the color is not accurate, at least with the 5D. Do you also use the Alphatron with the 5D?

    Thanks

    Post a Reply
    • k. wasley, Yes, we use the AlphaTron on all formats. C300, C500, 1DC, 5D, etc. It seems to have a cleaner image. I am still lighting off of the back LCD or a Small HD AC-7 OLED SDI with the C-Log preset.

      Post a Reply
  15. Hi Shane,

    Many thanks for this in-depth review. It shows that our EVF is a perfect match with the BMCC.
    Looking forward to part 2 and 3.
    Hope to see you at NAB for more exiting news on our EVF and more.

    Post a Reply
    • John Raadgeep, it worked beautifully. Love many of the functions of the EVF. Love to talk in depth about the use on Need for Speed. Have a great NAB, I will be shooting.

      Post a Reply
  16. what are the best

    micro 4/3 lenses

    for those who want to buy the camera in the micro 4/3 mount/version?

    Post a Reply
    • adam, I will do some research on that, I wanted to go with what was familiar to me and know it would deliver the desired filmic look. I think Leica R’s would be a great lens set for this camera as well as the old Nikon AI and AIS’s

      Post a Reply
  17. Hi Shane,

    Do you really think using a 35mm adaptor is the best idea with this camera? Won`t this reduce MTF too much?

    For shallow DOF I`m much more exited about the metabones speed booster, wich will not only improve the MTF of any len but also make then brighter and wider!

    Post a Reply
    • Rodrigo Prata, I showed it as an option. I prefer to keep the stop down around a 1.4-2.0 and use 35mm lenses as well as Leica R mounts.

      Post a Reply
  18. Hi Shane,
    Thanks for this great post. You say you ‘needed to infuse a ton of color correction’ with the raw footage. I’ve played with some of the ‘in the wild’ BMCC DNG’s and I’ve had the same experience. But since this camera shoots every individual frame as a (DNG) raw photo the frames can be treated as such. Professional photographers have been dealing for quite some time with raw and are familiar with the need for a camera specific profile to render colors correctly. Adobe offers a free DNG Profile Editor: http://tinyurl.com/by3unnw
    Adobe states that the profiles this software exports can be used with ‘any DNG-compatible raw conversion software’ (so that should include Davinci Resolve). I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks promising.
    Would it be possible to make some DNG files of your test-footage available for download?

    Post a Reply
    • Check out bmcuser.com for dng files

      Post a Reply
  19. Loving these posts! Looking forward to getting the camera in my hands so I can try out some of these techniques.

    Good tip on the IR ND filters.. that’s not something I would have figured out on my own, most likely.

    Post a Reply
    • I’m also happy, reading about the DOF, that I’ve spent my money on some super-fast, prime vintage lenses lately. I think vintage 50mm Nikkor f/1.4 & 85mm f/2 manual aperture primes would look great on the BMCC.

      Post a Reply
  20. i love this blog. All information is very useful. but..
    i really don get the point this time.
    I know blackmagic camera is cheap, raw and lightweight. But after all additional equipment (especially old school 35mm adapters- please don’t remind me these days:) ) what will be the advantage? only raw?.
    Then buy red scarlet or (sony F55)

    Post a Reply
    • ergin ozturk, thank you so much for your comment. People don’t have to roll out with all this shit to get an image, so 3000.00 bucks and Davinci Resolve is not so bad. The Scarlet is a great option as well. I am here to show you how I would roll out with this camera if I was asked. Simple RIGHT!!!!

      Post a Reply
  21. Great post! Really looking forward to NFS on the big screen. Which camera gets the job for the POV car collisions? Haha.

    Post a Reply
    • Iain Trimble. We will use the Canon 1DC as well as the C500 for slow mo collisions.

      Post a Reply
      • I remember reading you guys dropped a mark ii into the ocean, frying the cam but the memory card was fine. On NFS will you hook up an off board recorder in a protected location when you know the camera is going to be destroyed in a stunt?

        Post a Reply
  22. Love your informative posts as usual Shane. Thanks for sharing these tests. I love the potential of shooting raw cheaply and I’m waiting on the fence for this cam. I have to ask you if you had issues with the highlights, like the the black spot on the brightest point like the sun and the pinkish cast I see on some samples in the highlight areas as well, it seem to be similar in character to the ikonoskop issues.

    Post a Reply
    • Ted Ramasola. Thank you for the kind words and support. After testing the BMCC I found that it is hungry a stop of light, so rating it at 250 ISO instead of 400 ISO works well. Haven’t run into any of those highlight issues so far.

      Post a Reply
  23. Do you only need one IR filter? For example could I buy a single IR ND 0.3 to stack with normal ND’s or do I need every ND after ND 1.2 To be IR ND’s?

    Post a Reply
    • Mark Morris. I would buy an ND set up to 1.2, and then I would get a .3, .6, and .9 IR ND.

      Post a Reply
  24. Word of the day … Latitude (also your favorite word, Shane). If you could go back in time, with an arsenal of these bad boys … which music video would you use them on and why?

    All the best my friend,

    ‘J-dog

    Post a Reply
    • J-Dog. I wouldn’t, I had plenty latitude shooting on film back in the day. 13 Stops haha. Thanks for the comment and support.

      Post a Reply
  25. I want to know if the any of those zoom you mentioned, Canon 8-64 and 11.5-138 zoom work for the BMCC MFT? Also what adapter would you recommend? I am thinking about getting either of the lens but I want to know how bad are the vignettes? Thanks!

    Post a Reply
    • Johnny. Both of those lenses should work great with the MFT model. I used them with the EOS MOdel and added an adapter. Using that adapter I had vignetting at 12mm on the 8-64, and 20mm on the 11.5-138. The MFT would bring the lenses closer to the sensor and you will have less vignetting. Thanks for the comment and support.

      Post a Reply
  26. Any rolling shutter issues? This is what has stopped me buying this camera.

    Post a Reply
    • A1. Yes it does exhibit some rolling shutter with quick pans.

      Post a Reply
  27. Hi Shane:

    I was very excited at first when they first announced the BMCC and pre-ordered one. After that and because I didn´t get any news about the actual delivery (and work kept pouring in) I bought the C100 and 1DC to pair with my range of Canons (5DMKIII, 7D) and the GH3. Now I am at the point and due to the terrible delivery dates and because I also had plenty of time to think it over I wonder if it would still be worth getting the BMCC? What are your thoughts? Apart from RAW will it give me any other advantage?

    Thank you Shane and congratulatios on your work.

    Post a Reply
  28. Hi, Shane —

    Another blogger suggested that the BMCC might not have a strong enough OLPF. Have you tested it for moire patterns?

    Post a Reply
  29. hi shane

    when i open the dng file in the raw reader ,first of all it comes in a rec 709 color file.

    why will the rec 709 color come at first?

    thanx for your answer.

    greets from switzerland, josh

    Post a Reply
  30. hi shane, first thanks for comments.
    i will take the bmcc or 5D mark III. can u compare them please. meanwhile i am documantary director.and i want to learn another thing that, bmcc’s lens and sensor is different equality. what can you say that issue? what kind notebook must i use with DaVinci Raw.
    if you informate , i will be happy.
    sincerely yours

    Post a Reply
  31. Sorry if this was answered already, but did you use an EF or MFT?

    Post a Reply
  32. Amazing Review! Since the new Black Magic Cinema Camera 4K with EF mount and 35mm super sensor was announced. Do you think this same set-up would work for it? What kind of PL zoom lenses do you recommend?

    Post a Reply
  33. Great article Shane! & great blog & great rental house! I used a 5dmkii package with Leica r primes from you guys! Great results for our iamaiko video.

    When metabones focal length reducer comes out for micro four thirds, it’ll be awesome to try with this camera, no?

    Post a Reply
  34. Shot my first Live band over the weekend with the BMCC, I was stuck 20 feet from stage and used a Samyang 35mm locked off while I shot with a canon 60D and a Sigma 70-200 (2.8) on another borrowed tripod, trying to zoom and pull focus bare hand with a VF stuck to my face for an hour was an experience. Had both cameras at about f/3.5. Not sure how well the Canon footage will cut in with the BM but having a zoom at that range was really useful. Picked up a used Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 that will be superb on the BM. I got a few other EF-S lenses to off load in favour of more Zeiss. Teaching myself Davinci, will come back with a link to the final grade/edit if I’m not too embarrassed. lol

    Post a Reply
    • Paul Abrahams, that all sounds great. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Post a Reply
  35. gonna starting my new film with bmcc2.5k
    can i get more tricks res,
    shane!

    Post a Reply
  36. Hi. Im planning on buying the BMCC and i wanna ask what lenses you could recommend for me since I’m planning on using the camera just for school films and stuff. I dont need the complex stuff just the basic needs so I could produce a decent looking short film. Thanks!

    Post a Reply
  37. Hey Thanks for the information, I wanted to ask. I’m considering buying a Black Magic to shoot short films with, which would you say is the best lens for the Black Magic?

    Post a Reply
    • Joe, the BMCC is a weird bird of a camera with the 4/3 sensor size. I am waiting for the 4K BMCC which will have a Super 35mm sensor size, where we can use all the lenses that we are accustom to.

      Post a Reply
  38. Is the BMCC that your using 4K? Also what would you prefer to use BMCC over a film camera? Lets say a Panaflex Millennium XL? Just out of curiosity are you a anamorphic person?

    Post a Reply
    • Anthony, the BMCC has been the 2.5K camera, I would choose film over the BMCC. Would love to shoot anamorphic but have not.

      Post a Reply
  39. Hey Shane,

    Now that Need For Speed is out, would you mind putting up some more your BMCC footage from the camera test?

    Post a Reply
    • John, yes we can do that. Will work on it, thanks for the support

      Post a Reply
  40. Hello sir,

    I’d like to buy this camera, but one thing I need to confirm, is this camera HD or SD.

    and also please send the features about this item, it will be very helpful for me to buy this camera.

    Thank&Regards,
    Sportengr

    Post a Reply

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