Oct 19, 2014

My thoughts on the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera - From a videographers perspective

For a few weeks now I have owned and used the BMPCC/Pocket Cinema Camera for a variety of different types of videos including but not limited to: Music Video, 2 wedding videos, a Promo video, Yoga Class videos and a TV Commercial.

An example of how to make the tiny BMPCC a slightly less tiny BMPCC.

While I was initially overwhelmed by the cameras size, image quality, video file size and flat image (more on this in a sec) I am happy to say that my investment is one I consider the best I've made in a while.

This camera is a workhorse, warts and all. The image quality is amazing and holds up well... even in the current days of 4K. My choice to buy a Full HD Cinema camera instead of investing in a 4K camera like the GH4 came down to my views on 4K still in its infancy (the quality is great though!) and very little in the way of showing that 4K quality outside of a cinema. I don't shoot for the cinema screen, I shoot for the web.

Behind The Scenes - "A Couple More Miles" Music Video shoot.

When I first started using the camera I was shooting in the "Video" colour profile... basically giving me a pre-colour corrected image straight out of the camera (similar to what I'd usually get from my Panasonic GH2 and G6) that looked great. I could then tweak contrast and colour more as I pleased. But after a while I began experimenting with the "Film" profile... which gives me a very desaturated and "Flat" image straight out of the camera. Those well versed in the video world will know what this means, so I won't go into detail describing it. You can look at the images below:

Flat image - Straight out of the camera
Final grade - Utilizing a mix of "Film Convert" and "Magic Bullet Looks". View final video here.

All of a sudden my images were opened up to some serious manipulation. I've dabbled with grading quite a bit in the past, but never got anything close to the images I get now. I still have a LOT to learn about grading an image though.

The BMPCC is an odd choice of camera for a wedding videographer. Many prefer the offerings from Canon (5D Mk2-Mk3) for ease of use. I've been using my Panasonic mirrorless cameras now for two years in wedding environments and they have served me well. Now the BMPCC has thrown a spanner in the works, giving me even better video quality than I could reach previously... but complicating my workflow by adding the extra need to colour grade my image (and match that to those I get from my Panasonic cameras). As a videographers tool, I have to say the BMPCC isn't truly designed for the task (the hint is in the name, particularly the "Cinema" part) but the trick is preparing yourself with research and a little common knowledge in order to "Whip" the camera into the tool you need it to be.

Tony & Della - Ungraded Still

Tony & Della - Graded Still. Final video here.

For promotional video purposes this camera is hands-down the best camera you can get for the money. You will be able to shoot images perfectly capable of web distribution as well as community TV/broadcast. Maybe not at BBC level, but definitely smaller local TV stations.

Reviewing a take - 'Couple More Miles' Video Shoot
I recently used the camera to begin shooting a music video that a local musician wishes to air on a national cable music video channel. This is where the camera proves it is able to produce what it says it's capable of: Cinematic images. Of course, this doesn't just come down to the camera... it comes down to the operator. I'm not a cinematographer by any stretch, but in my opinion this tool has become an extension of myself and my skills.

A Couple More Miles - Ungraded Still
A Couple More Miles - Graded Still
A Couple More Miles - Ungraded Still
A Couple More Miles - Graded Still

To sum it up... this is probably the best camera I've owned... yet. Despite its shortcomings, such as crop factor (which do bother me, but I work around it) and form factor (it's so tiny!)... it packs some serious punch. My only real gripe comes down to how power hungry it can be... but the battery life is a well documented flaw that other reviewers have harped on. There are workarounds, such as my Sony Battery work around... that combat this issue.

I'm looking forward to using this camera for many productions in the future. I would love to see how well it works in a feature film environment!

 Till next time folks!

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