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

94 Comments
  1. Amit Kharbanda 10 months ago

    Hi Shane, I would like to shoot one of my film on this camera because of budget restrain, mostly its an outdoor shoot in the hills of Himalayas and may be on the beaches of GOA in India, the sole purpose of the film is to release in the theater not on TV…do you recommend this camrea for this film.. your views are very valuable for me…and if yes which Black Magic camera I should go for…

    • Author
      Shane 7 months ago

      Yes, I think that camera would deliver amazing images.

  2. Elle 10 months ago

    So i know this is really late, but I was wondering, what else should i buy, besides the camera itself.
    should i buy lenses and filters as well? and whatever else i need? (newbie)

  3. Dante 7 months ago

    Hello Shane,

    I have a question regarding DaVinci Resolve. Currently my computer is a 2010 MBA with 4gb ram. I realize that it is not up to snuff to run Resolve. What I want to know is can I ingest prores 422 straight into FCPX? Although it would be great to run 12 bit, I feel as a film student it might be overkill.

    Best,
    Dante John Fekete

    • Author
      Shane 6 months ago

      Yes, ProRes 422 works natively with FCPX.

  4. Haily 2 months ago

    Hi Shane,

    Thank you so much for this helpful guide. I’ve been wondering what the advantage of the cage system is and now I know I’ll definitely need it. Now I know what basic equipment I need for shooting. !

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