Hands up – On reflection I was wrong about Blackmagic – Plus the camera press needs to grow a pair of balls PART 2

Blackmagic Cinema Camera ReWo cage

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I am certainly not bigger than a camera company, or more important than Blackmagic and I think people may have seen the hysterics as a bit silly. I apologise for that and will be covering the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K on EOSHD. I accept that yes, possibly I have shot myself in the foot, having said that, EOSHD is bigger than one person too and a real community. That’s worth defending.

You come here to find out about new cameras, to get information and to figure out which one deserves your hard earned.

I do feel this is at stake at the moment, and to explain why here is none other than our favourite Communist – GH2 hacker Vitaily Kiselev. To paraphrase what he said:

By putting camera reviewers into packs (hand-picked VIP groups) a company is able to get any PR result they want, but it isn’t the objective result that society needs. People in the camera review industry know that a positive PR result is the expectation. They know that if they do not deliver that expected result or write things that are far from expected – they are out of the pack.

The Pocket Cinema Camera 4K is a camera which should sell itself without all that hype around it. The Blackmagic situation for me was a perfect storm, which led me to writing that previous article about not buying the camera. It was a bit silly of me, but I maintain there is truth to be learnt from every mistake.

Blackmagic have explained to me that they want pros in the industry to have the first demo units for the Pocket Cinema 4K camera, rather than a filmmaker with a blog. Their aim is to have well shot footage out there before the camera is ready to ship, then the reviews can start. The problem is I think these “expert pros” have shot really disappointing footage. It doesn’t tell me anything about their capabilities as artists or the capabilities of the camera.

It’s clear that this is a very tightly controlled launch and those at the Manchester event weren’t allowed to really review it or shoot with it.

But Blackmagic are just doing their best with a strategy that they think will work to sell this camera.

Some of you have been reading EOSHD since the Panasonic GH1 and (hacked!) GH2 days. Maybe you have stuck around for so long because of the way I try and write this camera blog. Much as I respect them, I am not too close to the camera companies, so I am able to cover a hacked GH2 or a 5D Mark III with Magic Lantern, or say a 1.8x crop on a full frame camera is the true SHIT it is. Some may have followed my artistic journey and footage as well, if you have, you may remember my cinematic adventure beginning in Tapei with the GH1 before moving to Berlin and shooting for 7 years various work – cinematography pieces and music videos especially. When I arrived in Berlin on this new career path just 7 years ago, I had a choice. Do I dive head first into the commercial film industry and put my business hat on, attract clients and shoot ads? Or do I concentrate on the blog and shoot my own cinematography, learning as much as I could about the professional film industry along the way? To old-time EOSHD followers it’s clear what choice I made and some people make fun of it, to be quite honest. To the people at Cinema5D, I am an amateur, underserving of his place in the professional video world, no matter how much talent as a cinematographer, it’s the pay cheques that matter. I have never agreed with this, and never will.

So you come here for a reason and I want to carry on, as you want to see a full frame Panasonic review, or a Pocket Cinema Camera 4K article, but I am finding it hard to be quite honest. I don’t “fit in” to this new tightly controlled PR world where the first reviews and sample footage are all rubbish to be quite frank. On the internet it seems very important to be “first” and to hell with the quality of the footage or the article.

You’re seeking the facts, but you’re also seeking approval trusted peer-to-peer to go a certain way, with a Panasonic, or a Sony, or a Canon. Camera companies and PR agencies know this full well. Above all, it’s the pictures that are important. Videos and pictures sell cameras. I am a customer just as we all are. When I saw those sparks of fire against a cinematic shallow DOF roll off to the ocean in the first GH1 sample videos by Philip Bloom, I knew it was the camera for my art and the tool for my job. Pictures sell, and that’s why you see wall-to-wall Canon paid supermodels in Hawaii on DPReview right at this moment. Some, or even many of you, may not care that this content is the work of a PR agency rather than an actual filmmaker and you may even like large breasted supermodels. But believe me when I say, this is the beginning of the end for internet camera coverage.

This content has no credibility. The more of it there is, the less ability it has to inspire me about buying a camera. When it is all wall-to-wall window-dressing with no substance or critical eye, all hype-laden advertising online, nobody will be inspired to look at it. Nobody will even be inspired to create it (it’s boring making it, believe me) but it will keep coming and coming. Nobody will be inspired enough to buy a camera at this rate – let alone able to research a camera properly.

Everyone has a different measure of success and failure, and I accept that to some readers, the number of camera company logos and sponsors you have on your videos and the camera companies you are friends with counts as success. I don’t see this as a mark of successful camera or tech journalism at all.

With the Blackmagic situation from my last post, these things are never about one lack of invite or one perceived slight. They are about smaller things, gradually adding up. It started with the Canon EOS R launch, where we saw a new levels of invasive of PR in an effort to sugar-coat camera journalism.

As usual, individual “content providers” were selected for special treatment, based on how willing they are to push for a relationship with marketing people. That’s how the material you are researching online about cameras is being shaped and written in vast swathes in 2018 (and not just in the camera world – in PC hardware, gaming, tech, smartphones, everything you buy).

Rather than selecting people on how good they are at making in-depth reviews (and how honest), personal relationships speak louder. Social media subscriber numbers matter even more and unlike Google Analytics they’re public. Any camera marketing department even with limited resources can see who SEEMINGLY has the largest and most relevant audience for a hands-on review. It doesn’t seem to matter to camera companies that some high social-media subscriber numbers are absolutely meaningless (because you can buy packages of fake users off the shelf in their thousands for very little money). People don’t tend to realise that there are even more fake users than fake news on the internet.

The elaborate Hawaiian EOSD R launch, with a free camera to take home, has the desired impact (no matter how many times reviewers deny it), otherwise companies wouldn’t spend the doe. It’s what turns Caleb Pike, to name just one example, into a “Not perfect, but WOW what a great camera” kind of guy, rather than the objective person he should be, the kind of guy who says “1.8x crop is shit and inexcusable”, like me.

This chips away at the respect I have for me peers, who in reality are mostly pretty decent, hard-working people. It weakens my relationship to my colleagues, and quite frankly makes me feel a bit lonely when I write. It also makes me quite angry, because it’s a disservice to you as a filmmaker and camera-buyer, as well as me as the same.

There’s also that overwhelming feeling of rivals climbing above my site in some kind of VIP lane, completely undeservedly. It is simply not how the internet was designed to work.

Sorry to be crude about it, but it’s true.

So you add all this up, then we come to the Blackmagic launch.

The Pocket Cinema Camera event, on my doorstep in Manchester, England, had a special place reserved my blood-sucking nemesis Cinema5D at it who were paid to fly in from their Transylvanian hideout. I could have paid £3 for a train ticket and walked in. Which following deserved a Pocket 4K article more? You, the original Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera supporters, or the Cinema5D / C300 crowd? You, who came to EOSHD during the good old GH2 days, who witnessed along with me, the very first Blackmagic footage and were part of the very first batch of pre-orders? You deserved on merit to be at that event with me, at least a thousand times more than the suits over at Cinema5D. In the months since NAB, 800,000 people have visited EOSHD and if only 10% of them decided the Pocket 4K was for them based on a PROPER review, Blackmagic would have sold 80,000 units. It is the massive GH5 user base Blackmagic should be targeting over just C300 users. EOSHD has never really been about EOS DSLR video, it’s been about the Panasonic GH series. The satisfaction of putting relevant reviews out there on time has been denied. Helping people to an important purchase that furthers their filmmaking is a great feeling for me and I have been denied that too.

Blackmagic Cinema Camera - anamorphic rig

What next?

I’ve had criticism from some of my own followers about the last article – thankfully not the majority but more than I expected, including the insensitive response on my forum from John Brawley, which is enough to make me disillusioned and demotivated to the point of closing EOSHD down. My audience is the reason I write and shoot. I want to share my art and not just do it for myself. Who wants to work so hard on a video, put it out there and then ‘poof’ *nothing*? The good thing is, the filmmakers who really get what EOSHD has always been about are out there too. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate every single one and the messages of support from you in the last few days mean so much more than the negative snipes from others.

EOSHD has attracted new users and it’s fair share of abusive trolls, who haven’t been here for the whole ride and I can’t expect everyone to have an understanding of what this blog is all about. Some think I am a TEAM! This has always been a personal blog about my cinematography and technical knowledge and helping people further theirs. I’ve not spent a penny on advertising or social media. The combined EOSHD social media following of 50,000 followers + 28,000 on the forum are all organic, real people and I am very grateful for how things have gone over the past 7 years of EOSHD.

I feel the future of EOSHD is not in the least bit in jeopardy if I stop being a member of the camera company “in-crowd”, but the dilemma is that I need to put footage and reviews out there as early as possible. It’s no good that all my rival sites do it first and then a few months later I just repeat what is said elsewhere. I also want to maintain a technical relationship with the camera manufacturers in order to meet the engineers, marketing people and product managers. I can pass on YOUR feedback as well as my own, and I very much enjoy doing that. I am honoured to have that relationship with Sony and especially Panasonic, able to see pre-production models like I did with the GH4, GH5 and GH5S.

The real problem is bigger than just the dilemmas I have with my blog and PR. I think the very future of responsible tech journalism is at stake. A large number of camera users seem to be fine with how things are. That’s a worry for me. Either unawares of what’s happening with all this marketing interference, too wrapped up in the brands and cameras to care, or just too consumerist to notice any abnormalities in a society where consumerism is so normalised. As a result, our objectivity is being replaced by bias, brand fanaticism and hyper-capitalism, there’s a feeling of never being satisfied with what we have and always chasing.

I have decided to try and work it out with Blackmagic in the UK and they have already phoned me for a chat. I think this was very good of them. I’ll try and find a way (eventually) to get you that in-depth review and a host of articles over a period of multiple months shooting with the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

I want to end on a positive note, at last!!?

Cameras are fun.

Just plain old good fun.

And I will carry on being outspoken about every one of them.

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