planetMitch note: I would like to think planetMatt (Matt Battershell) for this excellent roundup of the current status of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera! We're all looking forward to more from planetMatt who will be focussing on this amazing camera for planet5D.
The internet masses have now heard and seen the latest footage from the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) – the little camera that is making big news. I have recapped the latest information into a consorted resource for you to enjoy while gathering pertinent details from John Brawley himself (some of which I have learned first hand by simply talking with him).
John is an award winning cinematographer who happens to be friends with the great guys from Blackmagic. He has used the prototype camera exclusively in personal tests as well as on real life productions. While shooting Puberty Blues, Brawley used a few C300's, the BMCC and Arri Alexa. I respect John's technical expertise from his own camera shootout tests pitting 16mm, 35mm, RED MX, Arri Alexa, Sony F3 and the Canon 1D MK IV together in a natural light test, seen here.
So when John Brawley refers to this Blackmagic Cinema Camera as a “baby Alexa” – I believe we should listen.
While not claiming to be a professional colorist, Brawley shows what can be done with the ProRes 422 file shot with a “film curve” in the BMCC's preferences (again, this is not even a RAW file). Skin tone is being rendered superbly and the detail in the hair is excellent. Bokeh is nice as well from the CP 85mm lens at T2.8. ISO is kept native at 800, noise is extremely low.
While changing ISO from a sensor's native setting can reduce or introduce more noise, it also shifts dynamic range either toward shadow retention or highlight retention while sometimes reducing dynamic range. This is why you should try to keep ISO the same within scenes. (A good article regarding how the Arri Alexa handles ISO/DR is here). Keeping the BMCC at its native 800 ISO, John Brawley exposed for highlight retention.
Below, you can see what an 18mm CP at around T8 can do. Notice, this is a wide shot! Now I know many people shared disdain (even from myself at first) regarding the ‘huge' crop factor of 2.4 compared to our trusty vista vision sensor on the 5dmkII. However, compared to industry standard 35mm cinematography, the crop factor of the BMCC is really only 1.6 (and is a larger sensor than 16mm film).
Also, the grade simply includes a push of saturation. No noise reduction, power masks, curves or sharpening was used. View this image in full size and look at the windows, the shadows and my favorite, the light bulbs. The color and highlight retention is amazing.
If you remember from the Zacuto Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout, in part one I noticed only a few cameras dealt well with the front left lamp stand, shade and light-bulb (the Arri Alexa and the Sony F65 winning it for me). Holding color and detail in the highlights are extremely important when it comes to rendering proper flesh tones, since skin has translucent properties and contains all types of subtle orange tones within it. If you compress color information or lose dynamic range, your talent starts to become ‘pasty', grey and muted. This should be the on the forefront of attention regarding image quality for cinematographers – not ISO sensitivity or noise.
And now for the Pool Shark video. Shot in ProRes 422, 1080P, 25 fps. Enjoy.
Below is John's latest video share, done for a client. This is shot in ProRes 422, 1080P, 25 fps as well but with no audio. Natural light with no bounce was used. Pay attention to the sky retention and the dynamic range in these high contrast, bright day shots. Again, this was also shot at native ISO 800 on CP lenses except for the two extra wide shots, done with the Canon 15-85 EF-S lens (a softer lens with more contrast and some chromatic aberration to my eyes). No noise reduction or intense grading was done.
It is confirmed that Blackmagic will not include an AA filter on the shipping model of this camera. Without an AA filter, the highest and sharpest resolution can be achieved, however moire and aliasing can be introduced with extremely fine details. Remember how upset many people were with the softness of the 5dmkIII in video mode? Right when Canon resolves detail without line skipping, they soften the image with a heavy handed AA filter. Some people even removed it. Many were frustrated.
Not having an AA filter allows the cinematographer more control to filter and diffuse the image to their liking. Below is a result of my pixel peeping by taking screenshots of the Vimeo video in HD. I then zoomed to 300% in Photoshop and took another screen shot (so as not to upres or physically manipulate pixels).
I have been criticized for even posting such images at 300%, but I saw the color moire even at 100%. Is this a deal breaker for me? Absolutely not. My BMCC is still on preorder. Unlike the shimmery rainbow effect of moire on the 5dmkII, the BMCC does not shimmer or animate with its moire. Also, it resolves far more detail than any 1080P Canon DSLR on the market and even exceeds the GH2 in my opinion based on what I have seen. (These are ProRes 1080P files, so using RAW at 2.5k would theoretically introduce even more fine detail).
So what caused an early skeptic opposed to small sensor cameras to set aside $2,995 on a pre-order for the BMCC? Simple: A camera with RAW and ProRes capability, shooting up to 2.5K resolution with 13 stops of dynamic range while retaining beautiful skin tones and color information in a manner similar to the Arri Alexa – a camera by far viewed as the leader in digital cinema.
When you add in features such as a full copy of Resolve 9 ($999) and UltraScopes over Thunderbolt ($595) and a free 240GB SSD from Safe Harbor ($200), I am buying a baby Alexa for $1,201 (including shipping and tax).
Friends, if that is not a good deal regarding the images and movies you have seen thus far, I do not know what is!
planetMitch note: you can pre-order the Blackmagic Cinema Camera (click that link) at B&H and planet5D will get a little small bonus!
(cover photo credit: snap from the video)