Using BlackMagic Pocket Camera / What You Need & What it Cost
Hello and welcome my friends. In this article I am going to cover everything you need to know before purchasing or using BlackMagic Pocket Camera. Before we are going to get into the details, I want to give you a little bit of my background with the camera. I was an early adapter of original Cinema Camera aka BMCC, and after about a year sold it, when the pocket camera was released. I have been very impressed with the camera since the beginning. Lack of certain “tools” that were missing, was never an issue to me. The majority of users where complaining about short battery life etc, which in my opinion is great, considering you get “free” on board battery that lasts about 30-40 minutes. I think its a great perk, rather than a complain. How many other cameras on the market out there come with batteries at all ?….Anyways, image from the Cinema Camera was stunning, dynamic range was absolutely amazing to me (coming from DSLR shooter), and 2.5k resolution was more than enough, it’s still is actually. Reason why I sold my bigger camera was because of it’s size, and because most of my shooting I do alone, it was a little bit too much to carry. The ergonomics of the camera is a little bit weird, it’s a square! Cage and extra stuff quickly added weight and price. I decided to cut it loose and switch to younger brother, since on the paper, specs of both cameras were almost identical 2.5k vs 1080p. So I finally sold my camera, and bought little BMPCC. So here is what you need to know about it !
Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is an amazing movie making machine. For the price of less than a $1000 dollars ! You get full RAW and PRORES options, 13 stops of dynamic range, and up to 30 frames a second continues recording. You won’t find any camera out there on the market TODAY ! That will beat this camera even couple years after it’s release ! Pocket cam aka BMPCC is a very light camera, ergonomic design is way better than the cinema camera, so it’s size and weight. A battery that comes with the camera, which you can switch by the way, lasts about 30-40 minutes on the full charge, which is amazing in my opinion, since its relatively cheap to get a couple extra. Camera uses Micro Four Thirds Crops, which is a crop sensor factor. Pros of this, that there is tons of old lenses out there, Con’s it’s a crop factor. If you are planning on using modern lens on this camera you probably going to have to buy Metabones adapter which cost some money ! Now let’s start breaking things down !
What you Need and Why
Metabones aka “Adapter”
Blackmagic Pocket is a crop sensor camera. Meaning that you will get crazy zoom using many modern lenses. To minimize the zoom and be able to use modern lenses with this camera you going to need to buy a Metabones adapter, there are many adapters available for the camera, but Metabones will give you the absolute best quality! And it won’t sacrifice any image quality compared to any other cheaper options! You can find out prices and by going to their website over here. Many of you are probably going to be looking at Canon and Nikon options for its most popular format among photographers and filmmakers and many lenses available. Metabones will decrease the crop on the lens and will give you about 1 extra stop of light which is absolutely fantastic ! Down side is the price, it costs from $500-$700 dollars depending on the mount. It’s probably one of the most essential purchases for the pocket camera you are going to need.
Battery’s ! and possible lot’s of them ! Depending on your style and what you are purchasing a camera for, you are going to need to have a lot of batteries. I am writing this from the point of filmmaker, so I am going to speak from my experience. Having a little battery inside the camera is great, and in many cases I was out and about just with the couple of batteries if I needed to film something being very sneaky. However, for a serious production those little batteries won’t do the justice. You are going to need to have some serious juice ! I personally used a lot of many third party unknown brand knock offs, as well as professional Switronix and Anton Bauer batteries. In my experience always go for the legit trusted brand. I had cheap batteries dying on me, or just refusing to work at all. If you serious about what you do, get good stuff ! And by the way, I always use good brand stuff, but also do experiment with third party brands, just to see what is out there. Vmount and Gold Mount are industry standard. You probably should invest your money in them. I have been using mainly Switronix batteries and very happy with them. One big Gold Mount battery, powers my entire BMPCC rig for about 3-6 hours. A couple of those batteries should be easily good for one day of shooting !
Cage Cage and Cage ! You are going to need one ! Pocket Camera design doesn’t allow anything really to be mounted on camera, so the only way to put extra things on it, you trust me, you are going to need it, is by purchasing a 3rd party cage. There are tons of options out there on the market. What you need cage you may ask. Few things ! First of all camera is plastic, and it’s nice to protect the investment, second, you can attach handles to it, 15mm rods for matte box, and pretty much all kinds of different configurations.
Handle, not extremely important as above, but pretty much must have ! Remember, I am giving you ideas from the filmmaker’s point of view. When using the camera with cinema configurations, things get heavy pretty quickly, you are gonna need handle to lift the camera off your shoulders and in general to carry around. I use my Woodem Camera handle all the times ! It may sound like a small thing, but trust me, it makes life much easier !
Shoulder rig, is very important ! The design of the camera despite it small size is still very uncomfortable. As much as I have experience with the camera, it’s nearly impossible getting a good working shot without shaking the camera all over the place ! Rolling shutter is pretty severe in this camera, so shaking it while filming, can make some people feel pretty dizzy. I personally made my own shoulder rig based on my style of filming. COOLLCD.COM has ton’s of different options for assembling your own rig. Make sure ! To avoid adding extra weight as you probably may hear some filmmakers talking about having a rig that has some weight for stability. As I don’t deny the fact that indeed it helps, your camera is going to weight a lot by the time you are going to put it all together ! So don’t purposely add extra things to make it weigh more ! Average rig, going to include: camera, lens, battery, rods, handle, cage, tripod plate, matte box, follow focus etc….It’s all adds up very quickly !
Quick Release Plate
Quick Release Plate, not an “emergency” essential, but once you are going to start adding things to your camera you going to feel the weight. Digging with screws attaching your camera to your tripod is terrible, especially is you doing it in the extreme environment like the beach or the desert. There are many options out there, I personally been using Kessler Plate that has holes for 15mm rods, very good plate.
Tripod, I guess this one is no brainier, make sure you get a fluid head tripod and by that I mean real fluid head, not a $100 knock off. The difference is huge, and if you serious about what you do, you going to need tripod with this camera.
A must have ! The external monitor is needed, because it is almost impossible to judge the shot based on LCD screen.
Memory aka SD cards
Memory cards are must have for blackmagic pocket camera, you are going to need to buy special memory cards. Regular cheap sd card won’t work properly. I recommend SanDisk SD cards Extreme 90mbs. Work with PRORES and RAW without problem. You must have at least 64gb SD card for proper work. It will give you about one hour of recording in PRORES and about 19 minutes of RAW per 64gb card.
Computer and Software
Now let’s cover some numbers over here. If you are planning on using BMPCC you going to need to have a decent computer for comfortable work, I recommend using desktop with at least 16gb of ram, intel i5 or i7, and dedicated graphic card with at least 4gb of memory. Nvidia is a perfect choice since many editing and color grading packages, relying on CUDA cores. Fast hard drivers are preferred, if you can use RAID in your computer, it will definitely speed up the process. Computer specs I listed are far more advance than the minimum recommended, but ! and it’s very important, if you are planning on serious work, you will immediately find that computer resources are going to be draining very quickly. You always want to edit and color grade footage in real time, couple frames a second won’t make you happy in the long run. Blackmagic Design offers Davinci Resolve for free on their website with limited abilities, which actually for many users won’t be an issue at all ! So you can download pretty much fully functional software for free ! No demo or beta, no 30 days trial, but a fully working system without any watermarks ! It’s one of the best color grading software in the world and used in many Hollywood blockbusters.
SUMMARY for equipment
Metabones Adapter $500-$700
Batteries $30-$250 per battery
Shoulder Rig $300-$1500
Quick Release Plate $100-$200
Memory Cards $40 per 64gb card
Computer, assuming you don’t have one $1000-$4000, Davinci Resolve is free, Proper Color Grading Monitor $1500-$5000
Listed above are some basic prices of the stuff you are going to need in order for camera to be “film” ready. The good thing is, many of the equipment can be used for other cameras, so it’s a good investment. As you can see the MSRP price of BMPCC is cheap, but in order to make it fully functional there are many more thousands of dollars needed. Do you really need all this stuff you may ask ? My answer is NO. You can get amazing shots just by purchasing couple cheap batteries and one SD card for $40 dollars. If you have MFT “Micro 4/3” lenses already available, you can mount them straight to the camera and ready to shoot.
PROS and CONS of the camera
Amazing Quality for the price
Small and lightweight
Shoots Prores and RAW internally
Film Look “Super 16”
Terrible on board mic, completely unusable
Production quality appears to be inconsistent, as many people noticed some image quality difference between different units
Bad design, not comfortable for handheld
LCD screen is absolutely unusable, especially during the day
Mini HDMI, prone to be broken, very fragile
Rolling shutter, no good for VFX work
Now let’s give it a real world placement. BMPCC is an amazing camera, no doubt, it has a lot of perks for it’s cheap price. Comparing quality of this camera, believe it or not It’s better than RED EPIC ! It may not shoot 4k, but low light performance and dynamic range, are actually way better ! and RED cost tons of money ! Is BMPCC would be a great feature film camera ?! My answer is no, to get the maximum quality out of the camera it needs a lot of light ! To be absolutely honest with you, you actually need to overexpose the shot, right before clipping to get maximum quality, which for many, including myself it is not the perfect way of working. Native ISO of the camera is 800, so be prepared to slap an ND filter “Neutral Density” on this camera, and make sure it’s not a variable one, because you going to get a lot of weird dark orbs in your image, and they are going to be unusable ! BMPCC is a great camera for Indie and Commercial Work. You can get absolutely stunning images from this camera, that can be compared side by side to the industry standard camera ARRI ALEXA ! Believe me BMPCC is that good ! The main downside of this camera, is that you going to need to learn how to work with it. Despite many negative things, I still think that as of October 30th 2016, this is still one of the best cameras available worldwide for it’s price and quality.
Some Examples Shot with BMCC and BMPCC
Check out my Article on Using LUTS
I Included couple of Frames from BMPCC so you can play with colors and see for yourself. You Can Download them HERE