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can i do better than Black magic pocket cinema camara for professional short

blackmagic BMPCC Budget Stude

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#1 Michael Okorodudu

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 05:56 PM

Hello,

 

Firstly, I would like to say that I hope this message meets you all well, and I can only thank you for taking time to view and respond to my question. I am a young aspiring Cinematographer who has a few queries before I make my first short so any feedback would be most appreciated.

 

I have a blackmagic pocket cinema camera which I bought on amazon for $730.00 dollars four months ago. I was no were near ready for the camera, but I simply could not miss out on the opportunity. I studied the camera as my aim was to make my first shoot roughly around September 2017. So I am aware for its price bracket it is a marvellous top of the range camera, as the images are very beautiful even before post. But my lack of judgment maybe overruling my rationale here, but I’m asking weather if there is a better camera between the $1000 - $2000 bracket. 

 

The few factors that worry me about the BMPCC

• Super 16 is too small of a sensor
• Audio is not up to standard
• Battery is poor
• Only after thousands of $ its final product is above average however resembles the work of an amateur DSLR project, very flat very common video.
• The wide dynamic range is lacking

 

Apologies if I am being too vague and incorrect, but I just do not want to waste any time so prefer blunt and brutal assessments of anything with this camera. I’m doing a writing degree so the technical side of film is all new to me, I do not go to film school, but I understand script and language and heart, and most importantly cinema. The story board and break down of scene enables me to have full confidence with my shoot, I just want the best tools available to me.

 

I understand you have to work with a camera as money does not by results, I just want to know if I should upgrade if I am looking to make a professional short.
Vittaro Storaro, Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergmarn & Terrance Malick are the men who’s work embodies my aspirations and their style of cinema is still stuff of dreams to me. I do not look for commercial prosperity, for me it is deeper than that. So when I say ‘amateur DSLR’ I do not mean to disregard, but only to find the best solution. I’m a student, but I do not need an Alexa, Blackmagic has always been interesting but the Ursa Mini 4.6k is way to expensive as a package, so I ask for your recommendation.

 In 2017 is there a low end Professional Camera that I can buy that will set me on my way to make great cinema, not film, cinema. Or am I better of sticking with what I have?

Secondly, Other than this platform (cineamtogrpahy.com) & no film school, I find myself lacking in expertise help and guides regarding lens camera work and general apparatus advice, I live in England so it does not help. But are there any other sources of information I should be looking at?                                                                              

as I have a mountain of books, but some online brief one to one discussions would be so useful and beneficial.

 

I once again apologies for the long winded message, and appreciate your help regarding my matter.

 

 

Warmest Regards

 

 

 

Michael Okorodudu


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#2 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 09:49 PM

Welcome to the forums Michael,

Well... simply put, the Pocket camera is the best camera for the money, there is truly nothing else like it out there. The "alternatives" are either A, LOT more money or B, don't have nearly the quality of the pocket and/or are a lot bigger, heavier and/or older. Now the other brands are slowly catching up, but nobody has anything near that price range. Most of the "alternatives" focus on full frame imagers and high resolution, so they cost a lot more. The new Panasonic GH5 is interesting, but it's again, a still camera that just happens to shoot video. The pocket camera is a video camera, it doesn't do stills what so ever.

As someone who likes to call themselves a "cinematographer" (even though I wear other hats quite a bit), the pocket camera is THE FIRST digital cinema camera I've ever owned and not the last. As a cinematographer, I also understand how to make a fully-manual camera work properly. I understand lighting, I understand color balance, I understand post production and finishing as well. So for me, the "manual" and fully controllable nature of the pocket camera, really rocks. I understand how that may be a problem for someone who isn't a cinematographer, or who is just starting out. It did take me a few months of playing with the pocket to understand it's sweet spot and capture some pretty decent images with it.

With that said, the camera does have a lot of small flaws. New batteries last one card... (40 minutes). The audio pre-amps are eh... so/so. The imager is small, meaning to get a more 'cinematic' look, you need to really use longer lenses. Really outside of those "issues", the camera is stellar. The other issues you describe are non-issues in my book. I've shot with Red, Alexa and Sony top of the line cinema cameras and they ALL have the same issues as the pocket camera. Heck, good luck getting Red to run more then a few minutes off the OEM batteries. Everyone modifies the crap out of their cinema cameras just to make them work for more then an hour.

For your education on the matter... here are a few videos I've produced to help educate... all shot on the pocket camera. One side note, all the audio was captured with the internal audio capturing system of the camera.

First up... my original breakdown of the camera made when it first hit the market.


Second... one of the many micro-doc's I've shot with the camera over the years. You can click on my Vimeo page to see more.


Finally... what the camera looks like with some great "classic" cinema glass and decent color correction.
https://www.dropbox....12-120.mov?dl=0
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#3 AJ Young

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 12:56 PM

Welcome, Michael.

 

The Pocket Camera is an excellent camera, but don't be fooled by the limitations of sensor size. Sensor size actually proves to be useful when a S16 or Micro4/3 sensor is paired with a "speed booster" aka a focal reducer. Furthermore, the depth of field on small sensor sizes makes it easier for a one-man-band DP to pull focus while operating.

 

Pixel quality is what you should look for in a camera, but resolution is becoming a factor now as more and more productions are beginning to adopt 4k as the "base resolution" for their projects. The infrastructure for streaming 4K isn't fully built yet, but consumers are already investing into 4K TV's and computers, so it's becoming apparent that an owner/operator DP needs to have a camera that at least shoots 4K.

 

There's a lot of unknowns currently about the GH5; it is still a DSLR and has usual draw backs from a stills camera, but Panasonic is definitely making the GH5 a video friendly camera with built in features like focus peaking, logarithmic profiles, etc. The most buzzed about news on the GH5 is it's ability to record 10bit 4:2:2 images internally at 4k; as of yet no DSLR can do that without any warranty-voiding modifications. (Side note: I don't think anyone knows what the actual internal codec will be, however; I believe H.265, which could still be a HIGHLY compressed image that could counter-act the bit depth)

 

Since you've stated your thirst for knowledge, I'll give a little explanation on bit depth. Simply put, bit depth determines the amount of information a pixel can have in regards to color and luminosity (brightness/darkness). The higher the bit depth, the more information is available on that specific color and brightness/darkness value for that specific pixel. The Pocket Camera records an excellent compressed RAW file 12-bit (a lot of color and brightness/darkness information) and great 10-bit ProRes files (compressed, but incredibly malleable images). What it lacks in resolution the camera makes up for in pixel quality because of bit depth. Bit depth is a tricky concept to grasp, but once you fully understand it (I'm talking the math behind it) then you'll be able to determine the pros/cons of which bit depth will work with a specific project. You can find more reading on bit depth here: http://www.cambridge...s/bit-depth.htm and https://photography.tutsplus.com/articles/bit-depth-explained-in-depth--photo-8514

 

So, why is bit depth so important? Most streaming only does 8bit compressed files, so why not just shoot in 8bit? Shooting a higher bit depth allows the DP and colorist more information to develop the look of the film and make any corrections in the color grade. Furthermore, visual effects, particularly rotoscoping and green screen work, is entirely dependent on the bit depth. A higher bit depth allows for better visual effects. What bit depth works for you depends on the project, but in general 10bit or higher is desired if you're intending to do more than a simple color grade.

 

That being said, countless great films have been shot on 8bit cameras and your artistry isn't limited to the quality of the pixels, but your understanding of the pixels limitations and how you can use the limitations to your advantage.

 

For books to read on cinematography, I highly recommend:

  • American Cinematographer Manual 10th or newer - Dry read, but the defacto book on cinematography from a technical stand point. You should have this with you often.
  • Matters of Light and Depth by Ross Lowell - Heads up, there's a lot of puns in this book. BUT, it's one of the best reads on the artistic uses of cinematography and photography.
  • Cinematography: Theory and Practice by Blain Brown - Pretty good book on the general aspects of cinematography
  • Motion Picture and Video Lighting by Blain Brown - Another good book by Brown. Some chapters repeat the above book, but the lighting is a great starting point
  • The Visual Story by Bruce Block - EXCELLENT book on composition for cinema. I frequently turn to this book as a cheat sheet during prep.
  • Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven Katz - Great book on coverage for scenes. (Coverage = shot list)
  • Cinematography for Directors by Jacqueline B. Frost - Good book on the director/DP relationship. The book is geared for directors, but you can apply the concepts both ways
  • Audition by Michael Shurtleff - I believe this is the most important book for any artist in the storytelling world. It's designed for an actor's audition (and some parts you can skip), but the overall 12 "guide posts" to an audition are actually an excellent blue-print for how a DP can artistically break down the narrative of a film. I highly recommend every read this book. Whether or not you agree with it entirely, I'm sure an individual could find some new insight.

Cinematography Database is also can excellent website for technical know-how and career advice; they're his YouTube channel is also excellent.

 

At the end of the day, your Pocket Camera will treat you well and you'll get some terrific images out of it. I would suggest keeping an eye on the GH5 during the year and wait on buying a new camera. The pros and cons of the GH5 won't fully be realized until at the earliest the end of 2017. For now, you'll be able to get professional images out of the Pocket Camera, just at a 1080p.


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#4 Sam Javor

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 08:10 AM

I should also mention, battery wise, you can get an adapter cables for Anton Bauer batteries and probably the other systems. The stock 20minute battery is kinda silly but stock batteries are always terrible.  A Hytron 140 will power a BMPCC for a very long time.


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#5 Michael Okorodudu

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 05:56 PM

Hello,

 

Thank you Tyler, I was confident about the camera but a few negative comments and podcasts gave me momentarily doubt which is why I had to ask. I will be viewing both of  those videos and appreciate you sharing them with me.

 

Hey AJ, I understand the hype around 4k but the storage for my mac will be too difficult even with an external hardrive. I have seen some of the speed-boosters on amazon and there roughly around $450 dollars so thats going to be a purchase for my BMPCC set up.

that little overview is really intriguing and something I will definitely be looking into. I think now days it is very easy to shoot something, post it and be happy with the outcome. However the science and technical intricacies that make such amazing shots is what Im striving to learn

 

Basic Photographic Materials and Processes by Nanette L. Salvaggio is a book I am looking to purchase which I believe covers the tone resolution, colour and scientific fundamentals so please suggest if there is a better book as Im willing to read that also! 

 

 

This gentlemen gives an overview of the GH5 so I will be watching and observing his first opinions as you like tyler mentioned the camera, but I am in no rush to purchase this immediately.

 

https://www.youtube....h?v=_hFMqr_uVAQ

 

Thank you Sam, I have an external battery charger which I will list below as I just want to know what other components I am missing.

 

I currently only have:

 

BMPCC body 

 

Sunwin Blackmagic DV Battery Power Supply Plate BMCC Battery Mount Battery Mount Plate Straight Plug for SONY BP-U60 BP-U30 Battery BMCC

 

SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB SDXC UHS-I/U3 Memory Card up to 95MB/s Read (SDSDXPA-128G-G46)

 

DSTE® Full Coded 14.4V 6900mAh BP-U60 BPU60 Li-ion Battery for Sony PMW-EX1 PMW-EX3

 

 

Considering Im a one man band, am I only missing the Speedbooster, Lenses

(im looking at the SIGMA ART 18-35MM), Shoulder Rig, Tripod, Viewfinder, Extra batteries, Mic & Audio equipt, bag cover & other accessories?

 

 

My second question guys is Im collating all the images I see and am interested in, and writing notes about the image, what I like about it & how this technique was created.

I really dont expect anyone to go through all of them, but Is there like a special course video book or manual I should obtain that explains how these shots are created as it seems like there all fundamentally like this before post production?

 

Im so unaware but would love to know what tools I would need to recreate and reference some of these shots for my stories. So I found out babybliss was a specific lense that creates that showed effect, for me a technique I would never of heard of without the help from these forums!

 

 

Thanks again guys it really is invaluable pointers your helping me with!

 

 

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#6 Michael Okorodudu

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 06:15 PM

Two more additional photos that I wished to understand how this is developed via lense and specific camera work

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#7 AJ Young

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Posted 12 January 2017 - 06:20 PM

I think you should write down specifically what you like about the images you're finding. Figuring out how a shot was done is great, but make sure to figure out why the cinematographer/photography chose to make the shot the way it is. Knowing why a shot needs to look a certain way will help you figure out how to shoot it much easier.

 

For how most cinema shots were created, if it's a major feature film, there will generally be articles (most likely from American Cinematographer) that detail the general practices for the film. The specifics for a shot may be tricky to hunt down, but sometimes they do exist. Also:

Organizing your saved stills is up to your organization tastes. The Mac OS allows for "keyword" tagging of files, so you could apply key words to the actual image file and search for those keywords (and thus the images) later when developing a look book.

 

The book you've mentioned by Salvaggio looks like a good choice, but it seems to be mostly focused on film and very little on digital. In fact, it was last updated in 2008 (according to Amazon), so the information on digital (which by the table of contents, is very little) will probably be slightly out of date. Of course, it's not a bad thing to have a thorough understanding of shooting on film, but it may not be a practical education because of the realities of today's cinematography. It's like learning how to program Basic for MSDOS in today's world. Not a bad thing, but also not entirely practical.

 

That being said, the book will still teach you a lot; the first few sections are independent of film/digital and are the foundations of your education.

 

I highly recommend picking up the American Cinematographer Manual, 10th edition or newer. It'll cover a lot of the technical aspects of cinematography, especially digital capture.


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#8 John E Clark

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 07:44 PM

I'm a fan of the BMPCC, and others have more detailed answers, but for the price, it is I think the greatest buy around for the Nolo Budget filmmaker.

 

Specific items.

 

1) I have seen my work on a large theater screen and was not embarrassed relative to other contributors to the fest, who used a variety of cameras that one finds at this level, such as the ubiquitous Canon series.

 

2) Audio... double system sound is the way to go for filmmaking. The 'all in one' cameras are compromises based on the need to have package that is run and gun situations. Audio is 'good enough for nightly news' or 'corporate interviews' where one wants minimal setup times.

 

3) I agree that the battery is a 'unfortunate' element... but there is a AC power adapter, and I have used my 'portable batter/starter/airpump' to power the camera on location when shooting was over a long period of time. (Powered the lights as well...)


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 13 January 2017 - 08:27 PM

Can you do better? Sure.

 

Is it a really nice little thing that is capable of results nobody can tell from Hollywood?

 

Well, you have to know what you're doing, but ain't it always the way.

 

Personally I think the price to performance ratio of the thing is ridiculously high and I have seen much good work done with them. And, in fact, so have a lot of people, they just didn't know.

 

P


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#10 Michael Rodin

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 12:57 PM

The book you've mentioned by Salvaggio looks like a good choice, but it seems to be mostly focused on film and very little on digital. In fact, it was last updated in 2008 (according to Amazon), so the information on digital (which by the table of contents, is very little) will probably be slightly out of date. Of course, it's not a bad thing to have a thorough understanding of shooting on film, but it may not be a practical education because of the realities of today's cinematography. It's like learning how to program Basic for MSDOS in today's world. Not a bad thing, but also not entirely practical.

The reality of today's cinematography is that film is a preferred medium, vastly superior to digital. Not because video technology is not mature - HD cameras appeared in '80s. It's the inherent qualities of color negative (subtractive color, nonlinear characteristic curve et cetera) which make for a better image.

There are people who yell that film is obsolete - most haven't ever shot on it. And many are plain afraid of film, because film doesn't like wannabes and amateurs - if you're on a soundstage with a film camera and you can't light - you're screwed. Even on EXT, if you don't know your s-t (firstly, exposure, which isn't rocket science), you're screwed again. There's nothing wrong or "obsolete" about film, film's simply for those who know how to shoot.

 

Shooting film teaches you a professional way of working, which is knowing your format in-and-out, being efficient and taking responsibility. You should at least once try to shoot something on color negative, it'll be more useful than a biggest sh-tload of digital camera training. Video cameras come and go, there's a new one every 9 months, but having a solid idea of exponometery and being able to light without a monitor will make you a better, faster, more reliable DP in future.

 

And your analogy is wrong - nobody cares for MSDOS because it's obviosly inferior to modern systems. Film isn't.

 

I'm not fanatically "for film" by the way, I'm for an quality (expressive) image, and it's not that Alexa sucks per se, it sucks compared to 5203.


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#11 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 02:59 PM

I'm gonna defend what AJ said... because he's right in a lot of ways. Digital cameras are actually harder to work with because they have far more limitations and electronic aids that need to be explained and understood before shooting. Digital cinema cameras require post production work, there is no if's and's or but's around that. Digital cinema cameras don't have light meters, they have all sorts of electronic aids that need to be learned.

So I do think picking up a book specifically for shooting digitally, especially with a camera like the pocket, which is very limited in many ways, is a smart idea.

Books that talk about film cameras, film density, film dynamic range, film color response and such, these don't have anything to do with digital. Plus, lighting technologies have changed substantially over the years, if you read a book about HMI's and 2k's, you're going to be frustrated with the expense of owning/renting those pieces of equipment vs practical incandescent solutions, which is what I've been using for years with digital.

The analogy between MS DOS and Windows isn't quite right... I'd say the analogy is more like my ol' Mac Pro Tower, which has 4 PCI slots, double processors, tuns of standard IO (firewire/USB/audio/optical) vs the new Mac Pro trash can, which has no PCI slots, which has ONE processor slot, which has limited I/O and you're stuck with whatever video cards it has. The old Mac Pro is film, it's versatile and it's upgradable thanks to different film stocks. The new Mac Pro trash can is digital... every camera has a look and that's it, you can't ever change it. Sure, in a lot of ways it's "better" then it's predecessor, but is it THAT much better? Not really...

More people would shoot film if the costs weren't so high. I have yet to meet a cinematographer who doesn't still think film is the best visual medium out there. Digital... will, they can count pixels and resolution all they want, but outside of being less expensive to shoot, the only technology benefit is low light capability.
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#12 Michael Rodin

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Posted 14 January 2017 - 05:35 PM

Yes, producing a good image is indeed more difficult on digital. On the other hand, getting an acceptable image is extremely simple. The entry level is very low, and video allows for lazy (cheap) filmmaking - quite a temptation for students and executives alike.

 

To know the limitations of the video camera you're currently using is necessary. But then it goes out of use, and you're left with a s-tload of redundant knowledge.

When I had to shoot a lot on Betacam SP ENG cameras, I learned the basics of video engineering. The generic things like using scopes proved useful. But camera-specific stuff (say, knee processing) is useless knowledge today. What camera (outside of news and OB) uses knee now? Even the ancient F900/3 I keep for non-profit projects shoots with "hyper-gamma" curves instead (which have a shoulder - like film, by the way).

 

A student would be better off spending time with lighting than wasting it fighting with a low-end camera which will get obsolete in a year and doesn't get used in the industry anyway (film does, however).

And learning to shoot film is mostly about practicing your lighting skills, getting to trust your eye instead of taking 50 spot meter readings of a scene; it's about training your visual memory as well. There aren't too much camera- or stock- specific things involved. I'll say an almost blasphemous thing: you can even leave out sensitometery at first, leave densities/gammas/gradients to the lab while you're making your first steps. Develop an eye for lighting and color contrasts - that's more important.

Learning the "old way", you are camera- and technology-agnostic. You can become a pro gaffer, lighting cameraman, narrative DP, whoever you may, not a "Camera X" shooter" who has to relearn his craft every time a new toy comes out.

 

That said, I understand the rationale under the idea of basically learning craft on a "bad" camera. You get to learn useful things (like using grippery to control problematic video highlights) along the way. I just think you learn a lot of useless stuff too.

 

In what way have practicals replaced HMIs? And why can't I shoot with practicals on, say, 5219?


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