Blackmagic Cinema Camera Tests
- August 7, 2013
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
With the price decrease on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC), new functions, firmware upgrades and the anticipated delivery of the Pocket Cam, I thought it would be perfect timing to run more of the tests that I did for Need for Speed.
“Skin Tones and Fill Ratio”
This is one of my favorite tests because it shows you and the director how the camera will handle underexposure on the fill side of your actor or actress’ face. We have our model and we will go down in fill ratio levels a 1/2 of a stop at a time. Quickly you can see what level that you might like, but is that level right for your scene or your story?
“The WHY with Fill Ratio”
Creating the emotion, the mood and the tone of a scene that will ultimately transpose onto the actors’ faces is very important. Finding that fill ratio that brings about a HAPPY emotion, or a TENSE emotion, or one that is a FEARFUL emotion is critical. Your level of light on the down side, fill side of his or her face is important to help with both storytelling and delivering the emotions that the director wants to convey.
The level that you like might be way too bright for the director or much too dark. The reason for these tests is so that you can establish a visual language with your director. Once you have agreed on this, you know exactly the way to proceed with the lighting plans.
“Sweet Skin Tones”
This camera delivers some very nice skin tones. I was impressed. I loved the look of the ProRes as well. We set up this test just using available light that was coming through a garage door to key our model. No extra lighting was used, other than turning on the house fluorescents in the background. I wanted to see how it would handle this type of shooting, how dark the interior would feel, as well as how the skin tones would resolve. I was pleasantly surprised with how they looked. I was also impressed with the detail in the BG. The background was four stops down and I overexposed her 1/3 of a stop so that she had creamy skin tones.
One of the selling points of this camera is its 12BIT color space and its 13 stops of latitude. So many times, you cannot balance the inside with the outside easily. You have to bring your level up on the interior or bring your level down outside by using big sheets of ND on the windows or gel. I did this test to show you that the natural light falling on our model was perfect with the latitude of the camera. I could hold the hot sidewalk, the sky and the hot school building in the background. With a DSLR, you would have had to punch up the light on your model. It would have never held that. I also loved the way the skin looked in this little test.
“Trying All of the ISOs to Find the Sweet Spot”
The BMCC doesn’t have as many ISOs as most cameras, but I wanted to take you through all the ones that they do have and you can immediately see where the sweet spot is. We started at 200 ISO. We left the color grading the same and just went up with ISO ratings. What I noticed immediately was that at 200, it was not bad but you had more contrast, for sure. With that contrast, it did not give you color saturation. At 400 ISO, the color started to come in, but at 800 ISO, it seemed to have the most range, the most color, and the most pleasing image. When we went to 1600 ISO, you can see how the image got thin and lost its color. All of this can be brought back in post, but I was just curious to test how the camera reacted when you changed its ISOs.
“Bring on the Night”
Now we take those ISO ratings again and see how a night exterior environment works. I thought the camera looked very good at night. You can see the available light looks contrasty in the BG at 400 ISO. That low ISO is not bringing the available light to life. Notice the building on the left side, how the white wall’s fill level increases as the ISO is brought up. To me, that street looked like a 1600 ISO street. What do I mean by this? The way I used to go about lighting night exteriors was to put big lights on condors high above the ground to create back light, add many units in the background, up light buildings in the background, etc. I had to light because I knew the film stock’s ISO would not see what my eye was seeing. With the new digital cameras, I place the camera down on the street and start moving the ISO up on the camera until the background comes to life. Then I see which areas are too hot. I have a bucket truck from the local power company go along and turn the lights off. I will bring up areas that are too dark or need some color contrast. This is why I felt that it was a 1600 ISO street. I hope that makes sense.
Now that we have gone through the tests, let’s dig into the latest updates from Blackmagic because there are very exciting upgrades and new cameras in the pipeline.
The new Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is now shipping and there is a software update for it posted, which has a lot of new features. You can now focus by pushing the focus button when using an active MFT lens. This makes it very easy to focus accurately. The focus peaking feature is still there and you enable it by double pressing the focus button. The focus zoom feature is enabled by double pressing the OK button.
“Cool New Functions”
There will be an update for the 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera soon. The update will also add these features, plus new de-bayer processing that will improve the camera’s sharpness when shooting non RAW files. I really loved how the ProRes looked and its level of softness.
“Making It Affordable”
Blackmagic has worked very hard over the last year to be able to build the Blackmagic Cinema Camera at a lower cost so they can widen the range of access to include more filmmakers. This is a bold move and I love the idea behind it. Whether you are just starting out or you are an industry professional, this price point is pretty awesome. The new price is US $1,995 for the EF and MFT models. Think about the power of this. You can purchase the camera to tell your stories and have some extra cash for glass, cool rigs, etc.
“Many Other Offerings and Geeking Out with Tech”
HyperDeck Software 3.8
Blackmagic has an exciting new version of software for the HyperDeck SSD recorders. This new update adds 6G-SDI support on the output for HyperDeck Studio Pro and adds on screen menus to both HyperDeck Studio models where you can set formats and other features. They have also added a new ethernet remote control support.
This is really easy to use and you connect HyperDeck to your network, set the IP address of the HyperDeck in the menu and then Telnet into the HyperDeck to get control. If you type play, the HyperDeck will play and if you type stop, then HyperDeck will stop. You can get clip lists and all kinds of control functions. There are more details in the instruction manual on the protocol.
This update is free of charge and on the Blackmagic website now.
ATEM Switcher Software 4.1.1
Blackmagic has a new software update for the ATEM switchers and it’s a big update with lots of new features. It includes a new save and restore that allows you to save the state of the switcher into an XML file, including all your media pool, into a folder of images. You can load that XML file back into the switcher to restore it fully with all settings and media back online.
You can even save parts of the switcher, such as a single keyer or even SuperSource and use them like Macros. If you save the switcher, you also have the choice to load parts of the switcher, or the whole switcher. You can keep saving to keep rolling backups and each XML file is like a time-based snapshot of your switcher state throughout the whole job. The media pool will keep adding any changed images to the media folder so you will get all media that’s used in the job and can restore back to any point in time. It’s very powerful.
They have also opened up some of the power of the new ATEM Production Studio 4K model that includes HDMI and 6G-SDI that operates in SD, HD and Ultra HD resolutions. This update now adds new 1080p progressive video formats including 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 50 and 59.94fps. This really opens up the number of devices you can plug in.
This update fixes a bug in the ATEM Production Studio 4K that stopped some devices using RGB HDMI, such as Playstation, Xbox, computers and GoPro cameras, from working with the switcher HDMI inputs.
This software update is available now from their website for download.
DaVinci Resolve 9.1.5
Blackmagic has a small software update for DaVinci Resolve 9 that adds improved compatibility with Avid Media Composer 7.0 round trip, supports reel names in Final Cut Pro X XML, adds support for Avid EuControl Software Package Version 3.0, improves handling of multi-track Quicktime audio files and adds improved Cinema DNG file format support.
This update is also available for download.
Desktop Video 9.7.7
This new software update now adds support for the 4K DCI modes and adds improved compatibility for HDMI on the UltraStudio 4K and the DeckLink 4K Extreme models. BM has also improved support for Avid Media Composer for the UltraStudio Mini Recorder and DeckLink Mini Recorder models.
Also available for download.
“Giving Back: A Guiding Resource for Filmmakers”
Grant Petty from Blackmagic Design has created a very cool website called SpliceCommunity.com.
Over the last few years, he has spoken to people at shows and seminars, and one thing that really struck him was how hard it was to be the best at editing, color correction, design and effects in this industry.
This is one very tough industry, but it’s so incredibly exciting! Grant frequently spends hours in post-production at a post facility, sometimes until 2 a.m., talking to editors who have just come out of a 15 hour session. You might know that feeling!
He spent these hours listening to editors, effects artists and colorists talking about the jobs they just completed and how it went. He wanted to share these stories with everyone and Splice Community was born.
It has a new community page where people talk about their stories, as well as post their projects and images online. It’s not about Blackmagic. Grant wants to share these stories about their work and how they got started in the industry.
Grant certainly gets around and I feel this website will be a very useful resource to all of you. If you are interested in reading these stories, please head to www.splicecommunity.com
Additional Blackmagic Cinema Resources from the Hurlblog:
Equipment List for BMCC Tests:
Music by: The Music Bed
ISO Night – Chillin by Zero Bedroom Apartment
Available Light, ISO Day – Let Us Face The Evening Skies With Childlike Eyes by Aural Method
Fill Ratio – Forward Back by Dexter Britain
Model for Available Light Tests: Kyra Hurlbut
Shot at: Revolution Cinema Rentals, San Fernando, CA