The MFT Blackmagic Cinema Camera. Is it a good choice for low-budget digital cinema filmmakers?

The MFT Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Update 2017:  You can still find this camera on ebay and Amazon. It is no longer sold at B&H Photo.

Is it a good choice for low-budget filmmakers doing a digital cinema (DCP format) production?

The SSD BMDFILM Prores/Raw recording mode of the BMMC is great for DCPs. But if you need to film in low-light or in slow motion (high frame rate) there are better alternatives. Like renting the Arria Alexa SXT.  Or using the Panasonic GH5 or the Sony A7S II.

-You get the full version of Resolve
The Resolve USB dongle gives you a lifetime license to Resolve.

-It records 13 stops of light in the BMDFILM RAW (Compressed CinemaDNG) format.

-It has a cinematic 25P/24P 180 degree shutter mode.

-It has framing lines for 2.39:1 and 1.85:1 cinema aspect ratios.

-It can record in 2.5 K. You can crop and scale the footage to DCI 2K or DCI 4K to make 2K or 4K DCPs:

-No super35 cinema sensor.
A Super 35 sensor has a 1,4 crop factor compared to a full sensor. It is the standard sensor size used on cinema cameras.

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera sensor has a 2.3 crop factor compared to a full sensor. You can compare the Field of View (FOV) at the FOV comparisor.

The MFT version can use a Blackmagic cinema camera Metabones speedbooster to achieve the FOV of a super 35 mm sensor. Or use a MFT speedboster to achieve almost the FOV of Super 35.

-It lacks the P3 3d luts that comes with Arri Alexa.

-It lacks Pro audio XLR connections with phantom power.
You can use an external audio recorder.

The BMCC compared to other cameras

Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera

-A Super 16 sensor has a 3x crop factor compared to a full sensor and a 2.1 crop factor compared to a super 35 mm sensor.
-You can use Metabones Speed Boosters to reduce the crop factor to 1.75x (Super35)
-This camera can use the active Panasonic MFT lenses.
-A 14 mm lens has the same FOV as a 48 mm lens on a full sensor and 30 mm on a super 35 sensor
-With a m43 adapter you can use some super 16 mm lenses.
-The Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera is limited to HD resolution so you need to upscale and crop to reach 2K resolutions.
-Records lossless compressed CinemaDNG raw and Prores 422 on SDXC cards like the SanDisk Extreme PRO UHS-I/U3 SDXC 512GB Memory Card
-Lots of rigs like the Redrock Micro retroFlex Rig Bundle

The Panasonic GH5
Link: B&H Photo

-400 Mbps 4:2:2 10-bit All-Intra video internal recording
-Anamorphic mode

The Sony A7S II
Link: Sony

-Slog 3 capture in 8 bit XAVC-S.
-Good low-light capture
-Internal UHD capture
-Full frame
-Super 35 mm mode
-120 FPS 1080 mode
-Big sensor

The GH5 and Sony A7s II cameras compared to the BMCC:
-both have native Pro Audio add ons with phantom power.
-are both better in low light, especially the Sony A7S II.
-both have higher frame rates for slow motion.
-have a bigger sensors, especially the A7s II. The GH4/5 has a 4/3 mode that can be used with 2x anamorphics.

Other digital cine cameras:

Canon C300 MKII
Link: Canon
-Good in low light
-XLR inputs
-Canon LOG 2 Gamma

link: Sony
-4K (4096 x 2160) internal recording
-BT.2020 Wide Color Gamut
-Electronic ND

Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 4.6K Digital Cinema Camera

Link: Blackmagic
-4608 x 2592 Video up to 60p

More Expensive/Rentals

-High frame rate

Arri Alexa SXT Studio
Link: Arri
-P3 3D LUT
-Rotating Mirror Shutter
-records in DCI 4K
-records in UHD
-WCG (Wide Color Gamut) is rec2020 compatible

Panasonic Varicam 35
Link: Panasonic
-DCI 4K prores 4444
-Variable Frame Rate 1 to 120 fps in 4K

Sony F55
Link: Sony
-Global Shutter

The DCP format (Digital Cinema Package) and the BMCC compared

DCP Resolutions
-DCPs uses these standard resolutions:
2K Flat 1.85: 1 1998×1080
2K Scope 2.39:1 2048×858
4K Flat 1.85: 3996 x 2160
4K Scope 2.39: 4096 x 1716
-Getting the resolution correct is important.
-Flat and Scope are the standard presets in all cinemas.
-1.78:1 (16/9) and 2.35:1 films can get image artifacts (trapezoid shape) in the cinema because the standard side masking presets are made for 1.85 and 2.39.
-Scope films are projected wider than Flat films in a common height cinema.
-A 4K DCP is compatible with 2K and 4K projectors.
-Full container (C) 2048×1080/4096×2160 is not used by Hollywood feature films. Films made with these resolutions will probably be projected in Flat with cropping on the sides at most cinemas.

DCP frame rates
-Interop DCPs uses these frame rates: 24, 48
-Digital cinema equipment with updated software support SMPTE DCPs and can play these 2K frame rates: 24, 25, 30, 48, 50, 60, 4K frame rates: 24, 25, 30
-In Europe where many productions are 25 FPS = 25 SMPTE DCPs are common.

BMCC frame rates
The BMCC can record in 23,98, 24, 25, 29,97 and 30 FPS.

DCP = 12 bit 2.6 gamma
-DCPs uses 12 bit 2.6 gamma encoding and preserve more dynamic range and shadow detail than 2.2 gamma 8 bit web videos.

BMCC = 12 bit Log
The BMCC can record cinemaDNG in 12 bit log 2.5 K 16/9 raw video,
12 bit LOG gives you more information in the important darker areas than in the brighter areas of the picture. This is similar to digital cinema DCPs that use 12 bit 2.6 gamma encoding which also gives you more range in the important darker regions of the picture.

DCP P3 color space
-DCPs can use the P3 color space with more saturated primary colors, but you can also use ordinary SRGB/rec.709.

The Arri Alexa camera got a documented wide gamut and pre-made 3D LUTs to convert C-Log Prores or RAW footage to Rec. 709, P3 DCI, P3 D65.

The BMCC only comes with a rec709 3D LUT. 

DCP: 250 mbit jpeg2000 compression
-24 FPS DCPs uses 250 mbit jpeg2000 encoding which preserves a lot of detail and can keep more film grain/noise than 10 mbit web videos.
-It will also keep high ISO noise, fake film grain or added noise.
-Film grain is difficult to do with low bit rate h264 web videos because of compression artifacts.
-Software like filmconvert can simulate film grain.

The “Hollywood” Cinema look and the BMCC
-It is usually the films that have the best story and artistic vision that win short film festival awards/get noticed, not the ones that are technically best.
-Having a good looking film can help. Having a look that is different than others can help.
-If you live in a city that have a cinema that screen 35 mm print or DCPs correctly, watch a lot of films at that cinema.

Hollywood look: Anamorphics
-Hollywood films are often shot with the Arri Alexa SXT cameras that can use 2X anamorphic film optics in 6:5 sensor mode mode.

Hollywood look: Fast cine prime lenses with shallow depth of field.
-Hollywood films often use fast cine prime lenses near open aperture to get shallow depth of field and bokeh.
-You need to use ND filters to get a shallow depth of field on a sunny day.
-With adapters the BMCC can use Super 35 mm film optics like the Cooke and other cine prime lenses that have a “Hollywood” look.

Hollywood look: Warmer white
-Hollywood films seldom use clipped/blown whites if that is not what they intend to use.
-100 percent white is almost never used.
-White is usually warmer than video monitor white (D65), it is closer to traditional film projection (around D60).

Hollywood look: 180 degree shutter
-Hollywood films almost always use a 180 degree shutter. Films with 360 degree shutter have a lot of motion blur.

Hollywood look:Conclusion
A film made with a cheap camera and cheap lenses using ND filter, 180 degree shutter, shallow depth of view and grain/noise can look more like a Hollywood film than a film with made with an expensive camera that has a “made for TV” look.

More info:

Equipment needed to use the Blackmagic Digital Cinema Camera

SSD drive

You need a supported SSD drive for RAW capture.
Blackmagic Support: Supported SSD drives

SanDisk Extreme PRO480 GB (supported)
B&H Photo Link


Cine lenses
-are built for manual focusing with follow focus systems
-zoom lenses often lack “breathing” when focusing
-Prime lenses often come in matched sets

SLR Magic 25mm T0.95 HyperPrime Cine III Lens and Anamorphot-40 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter Kit (MFT)
B&H Photo Link

Tokina Cinema 11-16mm T3.0 with Micro Four Thirds Mount
B&H Photo link

Focusing with just about any still photo zoom lens will create a breathing effect that is simply an optical design characteristic. There is no adjustment for this flaw within the lens. It’s part of the optical-mechanical design and is taken into consideration during the development of a lens. Breathing is a bad thing in cinema because it really pulls the audience out of the scene. It changes the field of view of the lens and appears as though the lens is zooming in and out during even a small focus pull. This is why cinema lenses are designed not to breath and add substantially to the cost in order to do so.

Duclos: Why Cinema Lenses Cost So Much

Used lenses
KEH and ebay sells used lenses like the Zeiss Contax lenses
Link to contax lenses at keh

If you build a set of Voigtlander Nokton, Zeiss Contax, Leica R, Nikon Ais or Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, you can do the Duclos Cine-mod on them.

For USD 250 each you get:
-80mm front with cap,
-focus gear
-de-clicked, damped aperture movement. Or USD 60 for just the declicked aperture.

5) What lenses work best with the Cine-Mod?
The lenses that benefit from the Cine-Mod the most would be Zeiss ZF.2 lenses and Leica R series lenses. Other lenses such as the older Nikon Ais series and Zeiss Contax lenses can also be used along with the Cine-Mod for cinema with great success.


Extra equipment

ND filters
For shallow depth of field in daylight.

Arri recommends ND Filters with a far-red cut off filter on digital cameras:

While traditional ND filters work great for film, for digital cameras we recommend the use of ND filters that have a built-in far-red cut-off. Such filters are available from a number of manufacturers, often called “ND filters with an IR-cut off”. A single filter that combines an ND and a far-red cut off generally yields better results and fewer reflections than a traditional ND filter stacked on top of a separate IR cut off filter.

ND filters and matte boxes:
Bright Tangerine Misfit Atom Clamp-On Matte Box with Anti Reflective Tilt Bracket and 15mm LWS Rod Clamp
B&H Photo link

Tiffen 4 x 4″ Full Spectrum IRND 2.1 Filter (glass)
B&H Photo link

The microphone on the BMCC picks up the noise from the fan on the camera.
The Audio inputs on the BMCC:
-can be switched between line-in and microphone levels.
-does not have a knob for controlling input levels.
-does not have phantom power.

Professional shotgun microphones
Sennheiser MKH416
B&H Photo link

Field Mixer
Sound Devices 633 6-Input Compact Field Mixer and 10-Track Digital Recorder
B&H Photo link

SmallHD 702
B&H Photo link
-3d lut support which is useful when recording in BMDFILM.

Electronic Viewfinder
Zacuto Gratical HD Micro OLED EVF 
Viewfinder with 3d lut support
B&H Photo link

Summary of BMMC features
-Internal monitor with focus peaking, histogram, audio levels, framing lines.
-Records compressed cinemaDNG 12 bit log 2.5 K 16/9 (2400—1350) raw video to SSD.
-Records 1920×1080 Prores/Dnxhd with film (log) or video dynamic range.
-1920×1080 HD-SDI 422 10 bit out.
-Records 23,98, 24, 25, 29,97 or 30 FPS.
-200, 400, 800, 1600 ASA settings. 800 is the camera native ASA.
-3200K, 4500K, 5000K, 5600K, 6500K, 7500K color temperature settings.
-180 degree shutter. It also has a 172.8 degree shutter for using 24P in countries with 50 hz power to avoid flicker from indoor lighting. It has 360 degree shutter for low light. It also has: 45, 90, 108, 144, 216, 270 and 324 degree shutter modes.
-Time lapse mode
-Built-in microphone and two audio inputs.
-Includes the full version of Resolve

With the BMMC Camera firmware 2.1 you can use the 2.39:1 and 1.85:1 framing lines when shooting.

Useful links:
Use this Angle of view/Field of view comparator to compare the field of view (FOV) on different sensors (16×9 recording area) and find what kind of lens you need.

Film grain and stock emulator software compatible with Blackmagic Cinema Camera footage

3D LUTs with film looks that can be used with Blackmagic Cinema Camera footage
Looklabs: Speedlooks

Contax Zeiss Survival Guide
Nick Morrison forum post

What is Angle of view/Field of view?

What is depth of field?

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