I’m going to go through different ways to color your BMCC footage. I’m going to start with the easiest ways and work my way up. Some of these will use 3rd party plugins and others will use stock tools in your NLE.
Stage 1: Film Convert
Stage 2: Stock PrPro and AE Tools (AE can handle RAW Cinema DNG for simple RAW workflows)
Stage 3: Magic Bullet and Colorista II
Stage 4: Speed Grade
Stage 5: Resolve (This will include RAW workflows)
Today I want to show you the easiest way to get great looking footage from your BMCC in post. Film Convert http://www.filmconvert.com/
With Film Convert it is really simple. You tell the plugin what type of camera you used. In our case, BMCC FILM. Then you pick your film stock to give your footage your look. Then you can choose a film grain, you can choose both amount and size ranging from 8mm to full frame 35mm. You can also adjust exposure and color temperature. There have been recent updates that now include a 3 way color corrector. This has been the fastest way to get your BMCC footage looking normal that I have seen to date.
Check our the frames below. Film Convert is also great for any number of other cameras including DSLRs, RED, and Alexa.
Shooting RAW is so hot today in video. Everyone seems to be looking to shoot RAW. The promise is better looking stuff, expanded dynamic range and more flexibility in post. But is this a broken promise. Is the cumbersome workflow, the extra time needed, and the additional data storage requirements worth it.
When I shoot on the BMCC- it’s ProRes 95% of the time. My basic believe is try to get everything as best you can in camera and minimize post production. When I looking for some extra punch – like in establishing shots – then I pull out the big guns and go RAW.
Here’s my suggestion: Before you do a RAW project always test out your workflows. Cameras like the Canon 5Dmk3 now have RAW video features via Magic Lantern. On short films perhaps a little RAW wont kill you but could you handle a feature film that shoots 6:1?
Here is the best RAW workflow for Canon DSLRs that I have found: http://www.cinema5d.com/news/?p=17898
“Yes, the source for the still above is a 1080p 14bit RAW shot with the 5D mark III!!! And here’s a test video showing you how that looks in motion with an article elaborating the work with the camera: LINK. If you haven’t seen it you should check it out.
The developers working on the Magic Lantern hack for the Canon 5D mark III have enabled continuous 14bit RAW recording (!!!). We tested it and it works better every day. The results are totally breathtaking and revolutionary. The hack is still in Alpha stage, but don’t be afraid, here’s a guide that shows you exactly how you can do it too!
If you’re not a computer scientist it’s not easy to get the Magic Lantern hack and 14bit RAW module working that is constantly being updated in the Magic Lantern forums.
After struggling for a day we managed to pull it off and have improved the process ever since so here’s our complete dummies guide to squeeze the RAW bits out of a Canon EOS 5D mark III.
NOTE: Here’s what WE did and what worked for us. There’s no guarantee this will work for you, in fact you will void your warranty for the camera and it might be dead afterwards (although we haven’t heard about any camera going dead yet). Note that we take no responsibility for what happens when you follow our guide. Do it at your own risk and research on your own if you want to make sure.
Getting the firmware and RAW module onto the camera:
1. Get a 5D mark III with a fully charged battery. If you buy a mark III, please get it
___HERE. We did it on a Mac with a Transcend card reader, a 16GB SD card and one of
___the fast Komputerbay CF cards (fast read/write required. You get 25 minutes of 1080p
___on a 128GB card).
Note that there’ve been numerous people who didn’t achieve the same resolution with their 128GB Komputerbay CF cards. There seem to be inconsistencies in different batches. Apparently the Komputerbay 64GB are consistently faster to achieve the 1080p at 25fps. Europeans can get the cards here: LINK
If your Komputerbay card is too slow you should send it back and get a replacement. If money is no issue you can save the trouble by getting one of the Lexars which have the same internals with better quality control, but cost almost 4 times as much: LINK
The Hoodman Steel is also said to be a very fast 1000x card.
2. If you’re on Canon 5D mark III firmware 1.2.1 (latest) downgrade it to the
___compatible 1.1.3. Firmware. Links:
___OSX: LINK (thanks to user Kobus)
3. Format the SD card (up to 16GB) in camera. Make sure the dial is always on “M” (manual mode)
4. Get the whole Magic Lantern package –> download the “Magic Lantern August 6…” file.
___ (link updated September 2nd) (posted in the Magic Lantern forum)
5. From the Magic Lantern package copy the 5D3-113-bootflag.fir file to the root folder
___of the SD card.
6. Place the SD card in your camera, switch it on and go to the firmware update in the
___camera menu. Do the update which will “turn” your camera’s bootflag. Whatever that
7. The camera now loads weird overlays, wait until it’s finished. Switch the camera off.
8. Get the SD card back in the Computer. DELETE 5D3-113-bootflag.fir file from the SD!
9. Copy the autoexec.bin and “ML” folder onto the SD card.
10. Download Macboot and the Mountain Lion fix (if you’re on a Mountain Lion Machine)
___(for Windows see here: LINK).
11. Open only the “.command” file (for Mountain Lion) and insert your password in the
___Terminal window that pops up.
12. The Macboot app should open. Select “DSLR Bootable” and press “prepare card”.
___It should now display a “success” note.
13. Click “Eject Card”.
14. The SD card goes back into the 5D mark III together with the Komputerbay CF card.
15. Switch camera on.
16. Now press the “trash button” on the camera to activate Magic Lantern. The Magic
___Lantern menu should load.
16B. If it didn’t work try step 5 again. And make sure mode dial is on “M” and your
___camera is set to movie recording (red camera symbol on back of your 5D).
17. Go to “M” Symbol in the Magic Lantern menu (on the far right).
18. Select “Load Modules”. Now you should see “raw_rec ok” with a green dot next to it.
19. Go to the menu with the camera symbol.
20. Select the “RAW video” tab. And then press the “Q” button to access it.
21. Set your width and height to be “1920×1080″ for HD recording.
22. Exit the menu by pressing the “trash button” again. Set your desired framerate in the
___Canon menu. (25p also works now!)
23. To record go about as usual, press the “start/stop” button.
24. You will see the camera capturing (or dropping) frames…
Note: If you’re dropping many frames you might have the wrong card selected in Canon’s folder menu or your card might be too slow. Lower the resolution to fix.
Note 2: To record larger files than 4GB format your CF card in the “exFAT” file system. Ask Google if you don’t know how to do it.
Release notes for the latest release on May 19th:
– You can now preview your files from within the camera RAW menu (awesome!).
Workflow to end up with usable Quicktime ProRes 422 (HQ) files:
1. The camera produces .RAW files which need to be converted to something usable first.
___This can be done with an app they wrote called raw2dng.
___OSX app: download HERE, info HERE (Updated June 19th 2013)
___If you’re on Windows get the .exe here: LINK
2. Open the raw2dng app and drop your .RAW files into the app, one after another.
3. The app creates new folders with a sequence of .dng files in them.
4. The .dng files that come out of this are raw files you can open in several programs. We
___found it can only be opened with Adobe programs which is unfortunate as this makes
___the workflow even more complicated. It does not work in DaVinci Resolve (yet).
Note: There’s currently a filesize limit of 2GB on the Mac App. There’s a workaround here: LINK
[Update May 21st]: The filesize issue has been resolved in version 0.5
Update: Faster workflow in Photoshop here: LINK
After Effects workflow:
1. We had to put the files for each shot into separate folders.
2. In AfterEffects the .dng files can be converted to any format you like. We chose to
___convert to ProRes 422 (HQ).
8. We imported the files into an empty project by selecting only the first file of each
9. The RAW dialogue pops up. At this point you can color correct with the Adobe
___RAW tool, but we wanted to do a final grading later.
___So we just corrected the wrongly set “tint” value from +77 down to 0.
10. The file imports, but is interpreted as 30fps. To change that for the next shots we
___changed the default framerate in the AfterEffects preferences menu to “24″.
11. Right clicked the imported file and clicked “set proxy” to “movie”.
12. On the Render Dialogue that now pops up we set Render Settings to “Best Settings”
___and created a new Output Module for Quicktime ProRes 422 (HQ).
13. The rendering took forever and After Effects crashed numerous times.
___We really don’t like that application for this kind of workflow, sorry Adobe.
___Here’s a better workflow we found, the downside is it’s converted to 8bit: LINK
The workflow is constantly being improved. At this time it is still a bit difficult to get these .RAW files to convert to something useful. When all the tools are here this will be amazing, groundbraking, revolutionary. Why? Because the images the 5D produces are wonderful, clean, strong in lowlight and come from a large sensor. Things you don’t get in any other RAW camera at this pricepoint.”
It’s great that the community is going out and finding ways around certain cameras’ limitations but in the end RAW is hard. The idea of a clean HDMI out for ProRes recording excites me but I don’t like dealing with external recorders; that’s a whole different problem.
Here is an example from a shoot I was recently one with a RED ONE MX, a Black Magic 2.5k Cinema Camera, and a 5dmk2. Weird mix I know. I was brought in last minute as a camera operator and they called me for my experience with the BMCC. The crew was inexperience and they would often take an average of 45 seconds to properly slate. Image the data wasted just on the AC getting the slate in. Once we were slated they would hold the roll constantly throughout whatever we were doing. The RED ONE was the “A” camera and the BMCC was the “B” camera. The RED ONE was using 16GB CF cards (no RED Drives). We had some big talent on set (I’m not allowed to give names since the production is still shooting). The RED camera was constantly rolling out the card. The actors were getting annoyed that they couldn’t finish a scene. On the BMCC I talked the production out of shooting RAW, I warned them about the data quantities and the workflow; I shot ProRes. The BMCC never rolled out and it never killed a battery. Power isn’t the point of this talk but the RED was using 2 V mount batteries every 45 minutes. I used one Gold mount all day.
This production clearly did not know what they were getting into with RAW. The amount of data they went through on the RED was insane and it is partially because they didn’t understand it and they didn’t have the discipline to use it sparingly.
The BMCC having ProRes is a godsend for the INDY filmmaker. ProRes is a robust format with a high data rate that is well beyond broadcast standards. It is also very easy to work with in NLE systems. Just because you can afford a RAW camera on the front end doesn’t mean you can handle it on the back end.
On the BMCC (2.5k) you can have 2 hours of RAW per TB. That’s a lot of data. In ProRes your footage time goes up by a factor of SIX!!! Everyone thinks digital is cheap because you don’t need to buy stock but they are wrong, you have to buy hard drives and you have to back those hard drives up. On cameras like the RED and Alexa, RAW files sizes can change depending on resolution, frame rate, and desired compression. For this demo I have just used the BMCC’s data rates which are not adjustable at this time.
Let’s say you have a 2 hour movie that has a shooting ratio of 6:1. You have a 2 hour movie with 12 hours of total footage. In RAW that’s 6TB!!! In ProRes that’s 1TB!!! Big difference when your high speed drives can cost $100/TB. Also can you afford drives that can work parallel and not daisy chain? That’s a whole other topic, but the average INDY filmmaker cannot.
Here is a cool video that goes into RAW information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFbpC2t_WSA
The lesson is:
-RAW is very powerful but with great power comes expensive computers (You thought I was going to quote spiderman for a second, come on admit it). When choosing a workflow always test it out before shooting.
-Know what you are getting into. If you believe RAW is right for you then do it! If you don’t have the time or post production to handle RAW, then ProRes is what you need.
-Be conscious of where your money is going. Don’t blow your whole budget on a camera. I’ve seen guys spend the money to shoot on the RED One and then they only edit the Proxy files because they don’t have access to a facility to grade the R3D images properly.
-Know your pipeline. Digital cinema is wonderful but instead of upfront costs like FILM, there are back end costs. It is your job to know them.
This was a commercial I shot on the BMCC for CreditKarma.com. This commercial was a last minute add on and it was really quick to shoot. Since we were going into active stores one condition is we could not set up lights (we could use bounce cards).
In the paint store there is a ton of natural light and with careful positioning we were able to get a nice soft glow coming in.
If you look at the coffee shop there is a ton of gradation in the color tones; you have the red wall, the brown counter, the accountant’s mustard ish coat, and the skin tones. I think the camera rendered these very nicely and they are lit with a big frosted window. It saved me from setting up a huge HMI soft box.
Towards the end check of the range from shadows to highlights in the plant store. The shot of them walking from cam left to right at about 13 seconds was perhaps one of my favorite in this spot. Above there there is a huge screen canopy covered in plants, it basically acted like a 2-stop net with a cookie on it. Who needs a grip truck with this kind of luck right?
The last shot of the accountant at 24 seconds is a great close up. Look at the detail in the coat. Check out the plant information behind him. That window behind his head is 3-4 stops over exposed but it rolls off nicely. All he has is a tiny bit of bounce on his face. That’s it.
Now just because your camera has great DR doesn’t mean you don’t need to light. The trick is to find ways to use your surrounding to your advantage. In my case my placement of the actors allowed me to use frosted windows as soft boxes and canopies as nets/silks. The dynamic range of the camera gives me more flexibility than a DSLR allowing me to push the boundaries of what is possible and what can I expose for.
So the BMCC is designed like the average toaster but instead of bread it takes SSD drives. It’s a little weird to rig up. The camera ports are in a weird place, the camera needs a power solution, and the touch screen is hard to see in bright light.
You have to solve all of these issues and then the camera is ready to go.
In this video I used Anton Bauer 90 Dionic Batteries and they work great. They powered the camera most of the day and they are heavy enough to act as a counter balance. I also grab the batteries the way I would grab a film mag in normal operation. The internal battery on the BMCC doesn’t bug me, it really just allows the camera to be hot swappable. People often leave a Red Volt in the handle of the Scarlet or Epic, it’s really the same thing; that Red Volt would only last 25 minutes of actually shooting time. Atleast the BMCC internal battery can go well over an hour.
2. SDI—Mointors and EVFs
If you come from the world of DSLR I’d wager most of your stuff is HDMI. That’s ok. There are several converter boxes that can convert SDI to HDMI. This is the one in the video. http://www.borrowlenses.com/product/Atomos_Connect_Converter_S2H__SDI_to_HDMI Personally investing in SDI gear isn’t a bad investment. In the video above you’ll notice there are cables everywhere. I’d much rather not have to convert the the signal. Saves me chords and I don’t have to power and extra adapter. Right now there are two big players in SDI EVFs, Alphatron and Cineroid. Both have pros and cons. I lean towards the Alphatron because it can do SDI to HDMI conversion. Your EVF could be SDI but then you could send HDMI signal to your average monitor. Again read the specs and rent these items first before buying. I’m more SDI EVFs will be hitting the market soon.
With an EVF and monitor you both give yourself better view options but you also have more ports out via the loupe on your EVF to send signal to video village or a second monitor for your AC.
In this video Tyler, my AC has come up with some clever ways to mount 15mm rails to the camera. There are also sorts of cages coming out with great features. Viewfactor makes a really good cage, wooden camera has some cool add ons, and Lanparte has full kits that seem to address many common problems. Always test before you buy and make sure that your tools address your needs. The BMCC by default has plenty of mounting points. At first when you rig it up you might be scratching your head for an hour, but once you start experimenting I bet you’ll find a configuration that works for you.
More information about the sci fi film, “Hero Punk” (shot on one of the first ten BMCCs in the country) check out http://www.heropunk.com/
I’ve been getting some email about the wonderful new software patch from Magic Lantern that allows your DSLR to shoot RAW video.
-“Why should we use a BMCC when our DSLRs can now shoot RAW?”
-“Once you get all the parts for the BMCC it becomes way too expensive.”
The BMCC is a breakthrough camera at its price point doing things that only cameras costing 10x more could do. Does Magic Lantern steal the BMCC’s thunder? Can you take this Canon Raw and work on a commercial shoot with a client breathing down your neck and a tight deadline approaching? Let’s chat about it.
Let me break this up by points:
The BMCC like any camera requires plenty of accessories. It does needs SDDs which are coming down in price all the time, it needs SDI monitors which tend to be more expensive but more industry standard (hdmi is awful and DSLR shoots cannot deny this), and you need a battery solution which can also be expensive. All these extra add ons are all standard parts. If you buy and SDI monitor what’s stopping you from using it on a RED, Alexa, or EX1/EX3 shoot in the future? Anton Bauer batteries work great on a BMCC but you could also put them on any other camera (I’m sure a 5dmk3 would run for a week on a 90 Dionic A/B battery). There are no proprietary parts involved. You could take most of these ‘extra’ parts and repurpose them in any number of ways including putting them on a DSLR rig.
2) RAW recording
Ever since the DSLRs hit in 2009 we’ve done nothing but put bandaids on them to get them to try and work as video cameras. Magic Lantern is an amazing tool that adds some much need features to a non video camera. If Canon were smart they’d buy up ML and put some of that functionality into the DSLRs but if they did that, they would devalue the C300 line of cameras and at the end of the day they want to you buy those and not a 5dmk3. $14k vs sub $3k. Canon is done investing in DSLR video so the only way around it is to reprogram the camera.
I have been using ML for over a year now and the ML Raw addition was a huge surprise. For DSLR shooting MAGIC LANTERN IS A MUST! Every build of ML that I have used to try and shoot raw on a Canon DSLR has ended after about 90 seconds. Even with the fastest memory cards I can provide the camera drops frames. It is neat that you can have 2k raw on a DSLR but it is no good to me if the camera drops frames. Also, RAW isn’t the end all be all. Everyone is RAW crazy these days but no one gets how data and time intensive it is. On the BMCC it’s 5MB per frame which means on a 1TB drive you’d get about 2 hours of RAW. That’s a lot of data. I shoot 95% of everything on the BMCC in ProRes because RAW is overkill and 99% of the time I nail my exposure so I don’t need the extra data from RAW. Also RAW workflows can be very cumbersome and to make a Canon Raw workflow better, you’d need daVinci Resolve (there is a free version to download and the BMCC comes with a full working copy worth $1,000) to wrap up your Raw files; unless you want to go clip by clip into photoshop or after effects; personally that’s time I could be spending editing.
ProRes HQ is an amazing format that is both practical and robust. I know the 5dmk3 has a clean HDMI out but in order to use the RAW you have to go back a firmware update thereby giving you one or the other (as of Aug 2013). You can buy an external recorder but that’s going to cost a pretty penny and it’s going to run on…you guessed it…SSD drives.
4) Weight class and cost:
-The BMCC was designed to be a motion picture camera
-The DSLRs (Digital Single Len Reflex) were designed to take wonderful stills and video is a toss in
The BMCC does not belong in the same weight class as a DSLR. It can record 2.5k Raw and ProRes HQ onto an SSD drives without external recorders or software hacks. If have a good SSD you will never drop frames because it was designed to work in this manner. Perhaps once you kit out a BMCC you’d spent $6k (depending what you put on it) but a RED brain costs over $7k http://www.red.com/store/products/scarlet-x-brain-only and an Arri Alexa (which shoots 2k) can cost almost $80k http://www.abelcine.com/store/Classic-ARRI-ALEXA-Starter-Kit/
2.5k resolution stems from the idea of padding your frame. The RED one started this by shooting 4.5k instead of 4k so you could make tweaks. The difference from 1080p to 2k is marginal from a numbers standpoint so they wanted to make the image a little bigger. No one delivers in 2.5k, no one delivers in 6k but the RED dragon still shoots it. Downsampling tends to be the norm and a 6k image scaled down to 1080p, while excessive, tends to looks better than an image acquired in 1080p.
Resolution is a funny topic because RED keeps turning it up while companies like Arri (Alexa) are just going for better color science. Different features matter to different people.
Dynamic range is huge! The DSLRs in video mode shoots h.264, this is a finishing format and no camera should shoot this 8bit 4-2-0 color space. I don’t hate 8bit, I’ve done plenty of DSLR shooting but I also know often there are times when I get to post and I get frustrated that there isn’t enough data in my files to do in-depth post production. The BMCC in ProRes HQ is 10bit 4-2-2. In Canon Raw a still images have 13 stops of latitude, same as the BMCC RAW but the BMCC can maintain it’s DR in ProRes. The Canon with ML can either go full blast with RAW or H.264 where the BMCC has two solid formats that both adhere to a high quality standard.
Perhaps the costs compared to a DSLR can be similar however, the DSLR doesn’t belong in the same weight class. The BMCC is more like a baby Alexa and if you compare the prices on real cinema cameras, the BMCC pound or pound is hard to beat. Once the pocket camera comes out I think DSLRs are in trouble. $1,000 for 1080p Raw and ProRes with 13 stops of DR onto SD cards with HDMI, that’s hard to beat.
ML RAW is a breakthrough. I fear the hardware limitations wont allow it to ever make it a fully formed RAW cinema camera. I found that the BMCC is the best tool for my job when shooting TV commercials like the one above. I need SDI connections to send to video village, I need SSDs and ProRes HQ so I can pass them off to editorial to start cutting right away, even with the touch screen I like punching in my meta data to make post production easier.
What type of stuff are all of you shooting with the Canon/Magic Lantern combo? I’d love to see it samples of any work out there.
The fact for me is my clients are asking for the BlackMagic look. No one so far has seen the stuff coming from Magic Lantern and likes it and that’s their choice. They, the clients, love the look of the BMCC and are really happy with it. They are getting a big budget look at a low cost. I’m shooting to build a business: So, quality and money – seems like a winner for now.
*On my next shoot I’m on I’ll bring a Canon Raw camera and shoot side by side with a BMCC. I’ll do a write up on the production and I’ll have some nice images to show off.
YES YOU CAN!
Check out the shot at :18 seconds into this video. It’s a 3 shot using a Rokinon 85mm lens.
Below are some frame grabs. The first is the 3 shot from the demo above. This frame grab has the actual grade on it. This was shot at about F8 at 400asa. I had an ND1.2 (4 stops) with IR cut on the lens. By backing the camera up I was able to use a longer lens and get the look I want. Many big Hollywood directors often don’t shoot on anything wider than a 70mm. In Star Trek into Darkness JJ has a 3 shot on the bridge of the Enterprise that used a 270mm lens! That’s insane! Also in a studio where walls collapse you can do that.
The next frame grab is a CU of a girl in a car. That was also using the 85mm Rokinon with the same filters as before. I wanted to compress the space a bit and have the car fall off. I’m not shooting wide open, lenses do not function their best wide open. I was shooting this car shoot at a F5.6; it was later in the day and the car Int was a bit darker.
The last shot with the man and the ray gun (this is science fiction) was shot with a Rokinon 24mm lens. This shot was rated at 800asa and was shot at a F4. Notice the fall off of the gun to the face. During the take I pulled focus from the face to the gun and back to the face to give the director options in editing. The trick here is separating a subject from the foreground and background. That ray gun is very close to my lens and that proximity allows it to fall off while I keep the face looking sharp.
I’ve had people ask me, “What about the pocket camera? It only has a super 16mm sensor?” I have not gotten to take a BM pocket camera on a shoot yet, but I have shot a lot of s16mm film and I can promise you DOF is possible; it’s not even hard. I’ve included some s16mm film stills below. They have a greenish grade on them. I think film being the gold standard allows us to innovate digital to get the same quality and easy of work like film. Camera Aaton XTR Prod with Zeiss Super Speeds on Kodak 7219.
Here is the word on this. People often to these crop factor calculations to see how there lens is going to behave but what they don’t realize is the only thing they are getting is a field of view calculation. This 85mm Rokinon on the BMCC may have the field of view of a 170mm lens but it still has the optical qualities of an 85mm. I could take a 5dmk3 and walk it in and get the exact same shot with the same DOF. The only difference if field of view. That’s why you can have DOF on small sensor cameras. So do you want shallow DOF in your film? Then slap a long lens on and back the camera up. Simple and elegant. I honestly thing the full frame 5dmk3 has made people go shallow DOF crazy. Most major studio films are shot around a F5.6. I hope people will star to explore deep DOF and I’ll cover that in a future post.
Enough said. I look forward to getting my hands on one to test.
Like many of you out there, I’ve done my fair share of shooting with DSLRs. Not by choice, but by producer’s choice. Since the 5dmk2 hit the scene in 2009 video production has been turned on its head. Producers now have this false idea that this ‘magic’ camera looks ‘like film’, it doesn’t need lights, and it’s dirt cheap.
These are false.
People often joke with me, “how do you get the film look?” I just joke right back, “shoot film.” Film looks like film and video looks like video. Even with great plug ins like Film Convert, you image still looks digital. Digital isn’t bad. It’s can be an aesthetic choice. If a 5mk2 or mk3 was ‘like film’ I wouldn’t need twice as much grip and electric equipment to make a shot look decent. “DSLRs are really good in low light.” There is a difference between an ‘exposure’ and a ‘beautiful image.’ Sure you can get a picture on the screen but are you going to win an ASC award? Probably not.
Another reason DSLRs are so popular is cost. I’ve been on shoots for national commercials where some bean-counter decided to cut the camera budget. I’m shooting national commercials on DSLRs! Something seems wrong with that.
DSLRs are the budget camera of choice but what may seem cheap up front can cost more later down the line. I find I need way more lighting to make a DSLR look good because of its limited dynamic range. Another problem is post production, this has gotten better over the years, but the image will always look a little soft next to its more expensive counterparts.
DSLRs shoot in H.264 which is a horrible format to edit; it’s a finishing format. We are also working in an 8bit color space which means you get 256 shades of red, green, and blue, which combined gets you 16,777,216 colors. Which sounds like a lot, but it’s not. With 10-bit color you get 1,024 shades of RGB, giving you over a billion different colors. 12-bit is 4,096 shades of RGB and over 68 billion colors!
This is where the BlackMagic Cinema Camera comes in. The BMCC has 13 stops of dynamic range whereas the Canon 7D has about 7 usable stops and it’s really easy to blow out your highlights. The BMCC shoots 10bit ProRes 422HQ or 12bit Raw and as you can see from the color rendition numbers above, that’s a lot of colors.
So the BMCC is offering data rates that an Arri Alexa and Red camera can offer. So it’s got to be expensive right? Wrong! The BMCC is $2000 for 2.5k 12bit Raw! So you’re telling me I can have the performance of an Alexa but at the cost of less than a 5dmk3? That’s amazing!
I was taken with the camera like so many others and I anxiously awaited its release. After sometime the BMCC was hear and I decided to bring it out on a CreditKarma.com national commercial.
The image blew my mind and did not break the bank. The client even noticed a different and they aren’t even camera people. I knew we were onto something.
This western spot above was a great way to break the camera in and it was a ton of fun to shoot. This was the Canon mount of the camera. We used Rokinon and Zeiss lenses. It was shot in ProRes.
I think what gets me excited about this spot is the use of hard light. We had open faced Arri 1k lights up top blasting down. We even put 1/2 CTO on the tungsten lights to warm them up even more. The dynamic range came in handy, especially considering how cowboy hat can block light. If you think about a hat, it shades a face from light, normally on a lesser camera I would find the face going dark or the top of the hat going over exposed but not with the BMCC. With 13 stops it was easy to get an image from both the top and bottom of the hat. This is a big reason why westerns (even today) are still shot on film. You need to be able to handle HUGE contrast within a frame.
DSLRs personally have made me scared of hard light. I often find myself putting a full diffusion over any lights I have to try to bring down the local contrast. When I shoot film, RED, Alexa, or BMCC I’m not scared of it. Hard light is a great tool to tell a story and paint a picture. For this western spot we wanted just enough grit to make it feel like the wild west.
Is the camera quirky? Sure it is. It looks like a toaster! But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. It needs a few accessories to make it work perfectly but for the few problems it has they pale in comparison to the fixes I’ve had to do on DSLRs and the image quality is immeasurably better.
Will Red users come down to play with the BMCC? Maybe not. But DSLR shooters will now have the opportunity to see what advantages there are in having a camera with great DR and more robust media files. I’m sure the first thing they’ll say is, “where has this been all my life?”
*I’ll be bringing you more on set tips and tricks for how to rig the camera soon.
*I also had a crazy idea to do a shoot out between a BMCC, a 5dmk3, a Red Epic, and 35mm film. If your interested to see this let me know. I find people are too scared to include film in shoot out tests. Film is the gold standard for a reason.
One River Media has a great side by side with the BMCC and 5Dmk3
Many people dismiss a camera’s low light performance if it can’t shoot at 12,000asa. 12,000? The thought of a film speed that fast is insane! The fastest motion picture film stock I’ve ever shot was kodak 5219 (native 500asa) rated at 1,000asa. More often than not that is more than fine for motion picture work. The new BlackMagic Cinema Camera may not be the lowlight monster in the same way that the Canon 5D mkIII and the Canon C300 are but it does have a nice clean image even when pushed a bit.
The BlackMagic Cinema Camera is rated at 800asa (same as the Arri Alexa). What does this mean? It means that the sensor performs best at this sensitivity setting. If you rated it lower, say 400asa (the BMCC goes down to 200asa) then you will get less information in your highlight range while improving shadow detail compared to shooting at 800asa. You are over exposing the sensor by 1 stop. Same is true in the other direction. If you rate it at 1600 you are underexposing the sensor by 1 stop and there for your highlight detail will be improved but your shadows will darken.
In ProRes you can push these around a bit. If you are shooting RAW, 800asa is it. If you overexpose on the sensor to the point of no return I don’t care how good you think you are at grading, you cannot recover lost highlight detail. Once it’s gone it’s gone.
Enough with the tech stuff and onto the video. This was a low light demo shot in downtown Palo Alto, CA. The camera was rated at 1,600asa and was shooting ProRes HQ (this is 10bit). I used a Voigtländer 17.5mm (f0.95) and a Zeiss 25mm (f2) on the MFT 2.5k version. Everyone freaks out when I tell them that Voigtländer is a f 0.95, this is a great feature to have and it will give you really shallow DOF but remember, shooting wide open on any lens will result in a slightly softer image. Most of this test was shot between an F2.8 and a F4. All 100% natural light.
*Forgive me for using ISO and ASA interchangeably; I like to think of it like ‘Aunt’ Sarah and ‘Ant’ Sarah.