Our first commercial shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. | iKraal

Our first commercial shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera.

NOTE: This isn’t supposed to be an in-depth camera review at all but rather a brief look at how we used the BMPC to shoot a commercial and how we found it.

At the end of 2013 the were asked to a shoot a little performance piece for client of ours.

It was a simple kitchen scene performance piece that would feature two characters and a bit of comedy. Rob Nicholls took the agencies initial concept and broke it down into a great story board and tight shot list. We’d have one day to shoot it and wanted to make sure we would have as much time as possible to focus on performance. We also knew that we had to shoot a number of variations of ingredients to bank for potential future work for the same client.
Our first commercial shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. 1
Camera Choice.
Budgets on these sort of jobs are not massive. In the past we would have shot something like this on the Canon 5DII but i’ve always been left a bit disappointed after shoving the weak codec through a final grade leaving the final picture a bit muddy. In my view 5D is most beautiful left as untouched as possible.


Cameras we own in house are the 5DII and a sony EX3 and i really didn’t want the heavy video feel of the EX and to be fair the 4:2:0 ex footage although more robust than canons also isn’t brilliant for post work.


I suppose i better own up here and say that at the time i had been following the progress of the pocket camera with great interest and was pretty hell bent on getting one. For us this was a great opportunity. Luckily one popped up at our local supplier that was available so we jumped at the opportunity.


After a bit of testing and round tripping the footage through resolve we decided to go for it on the commercial. The raw feature was added the week of our shoot and although i did test it i was much more comfortable sticking to the Prores HQ as we hand’t done any raw workflow before AND it had only just been release on the camera and i hadn’t seen any reviews.


Now i know the BMPC is not really designed or intended for this sort of work, the Cinema camera is far more suited to it but i really was convinced the Pocket Cam would be up to the task so we thought we’d give it a try.


Our first commercial shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. 2

I quite honestly i hadn’t appreciated the severity of the crop factor on these cameras when shooting on Canon or Nikon glass, it might sound stupid to say but i had never worked with a MFT camera. We did have two lens’s off a GH2 but i really hate the digital Iris and floating focus. For me a manual cinestyle focus ring and aperture ring is what i’m most happy with. The problem we had though was that the kitchen space was a bit limited in depth. With a 35mm Lens i was still going to be WAY to close for our wide shots, although it did mean that 50mm was ideal for the close up shots. So for the wide we settled on a Samyang VDSLR 14mm!!! Its a super wide lens on a full frame but actually manageable on the BMPC. I was concerned about lens distortion but after a check the director and i deemed it ok.


Our first commercial shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. 3

The BMPC eats batteries, and with the camera mounted on a tripod we’d never be able to change batteries without removing the entire camera every time. AC power as definitely an option but i like to be able to move the camera about quickly when needed so we came up with an alternate plan. By getting new jacks soldered to our Switronix battery pack for the canon (yes it uses the same power) we’d be able to have a flexible battery pack that could work on either camera. The Switronix also powers the Ruige external monitor which is handy. Even still, by mid afternoon i’d have to switch over to AC power as the switronix was out of juice (after a very respectable 7 hours or so almost non stop).


Coming of a low monitoring base of a Canon 5DII i can really say that its such an absolute pleasure to be able to monitor the final image in full HD. Its beautiful. I shot with the Ruige “on board” Rob the Director got a 17″ OLED broadcast monitor and the client go to sit in the lounge and watch it all on the 42″ LED TV. So easy. The little HDMI cable out the camera is a little fiddle at time but over all it was great. And also a big factor in choosing this over the MarkII.


Much like batteries the Pocket Camera eats cards. Prores HQ is great for post but a bit of a pain on a small set. We shot on 32 gig SD cards and even though we expected it and had done tests it really did fill up cards quickly. Not really a major issue although i guess it would been handy if you could just pop the cards out the side of the camera like on a 5D. Having to take the camera off the tripod to change cards is a real pain and resulted in mt dropping the matte box etc half way through as it was just too much hassle (and to be fair not really needed). My only suggestion is get a fast card reader. Our USB3 one on an old mac pro (no USB3) was very slow in copying.
Our first commercial shoot with the Blackmagic Pocket Camera. 4
Post Production.
The codec is great, it really is and this is where on this job at least the camera really came into its own. 220mb Prores HQ straight into FCP, edited, and then graded in Color was a real treat. The picture holds up really well and you can really push it around in post. As the camera doesn’t have a histogram i realised afterwards that there were some bad inconsistencies in exposure on my part, something i’m much more aware of now with this camera. Luckily Ken was able to get everything pretty well matched up in the grade a large degree thanks to the robust codec.


Colour wise the picture is very flat in Film mode on this camera. So much so that when we did an offline grade for client review in FCP we found that in may instances pushing the saturation even right up to the max in the three way colour corrector is sometimes not enough. Thankfully in colour its great and resolve even better.


For the price and the size i’m blown away by this camera. Sure, its has many short comings, but take a moment and just appreciate what Blackmagic have brought to the table. Prores HQ 220mb and now Raw in a camera that sells for just under $1000. If they can iron out the bugs in the recently launched Blackmagic Cinema 4k camera (white spots and banding being of the greatest concern) i’ll snap one up in a heart beat.