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Philippe Orlando

Is it worth the headaches?

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A while ago I made a 77' film using a Canon XH-A1.
Obviously I want to use something else today.

I've seen amazing footage out there of all the Black Magic Cinema Cameras, but I've also heard horror stories.

I've seen footage from the GH4 and recently a lot from the new Samsung NX1.
Yes, of course, these two are not shooting raw. I can really tell, even through the compressed files playing on Youtube and Vimeo, that the footage out of the BM cameras is more "film like" to a point. Nothing to do with resolution, probably with dynamic range and the possibility of better color correction.

Now, having said that,
I do notice the difference because I look for it and I have spent time comparing a lot of footage.
But I'm wondering if that extra difference really matter for an audience captivated by the story...or that should be captivated by the content!
Of course when you are watching footage of the ocean, women walking on beaches, nice cities, etc, with absolutely no story and plot, all you can do is pay attention to which footage is better, especially if you are actually watching it to compare two pieces of equipment.
But I don't know anybody entering a theater or watching a movie on Netflix who's going to bother about depth of field, saturation, and whether or not, because of dynamic range, the trees we can see out of the window are clear or a little fuzzy. No audience is really paying attention to that.

So, I'm wondering, considering that most of the time people watch docs for content and information and narratives for entertainment and plots, if we are not splitting hair when we worry too much about equipment.

In other words and to summarize what I want to say: Considering what the NX1 can produce with decent lenses, is it really worth it to go through the pain of using Black Magic Cams for audiences that can't really see any difference? Is what we want to show so boring and uninteresting that we are actually bothering about depth of field and an extra stop of dynamic range?
I'd be curious to know what most of you thinks
Thanks
Philippe

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

totally up to you, it is personal choice, it's what you like. i love to work with raw format and when i have to use any other codecs it sucks, but you don't have to shoot raw to make a masterpiece, what did they shot Star Wars with?  So if the story and actors are great, and everybody on the set know what they are doing, today you can shoot it with a cell phone camera,  but when it's audio for the film - you get the best you can afford.

 

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If the last time you filmed anything was with a Canon XH-A1 then I'd certainly go with a Sony A7s / Samsung NX1 / Panasonic GH4 over a Blackmagic Design camera, just so that you've got an easier learning curve. 

Then once you've made your film with that, you could do your next one with an URSA Mini (and by that point in the future, you could probably pick up a kit for a couple of grand or less!). 

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Maybe it's a question of potential. There are lots of alternatives but if you want max resolution/image quality your gonna have to put up with other difficulties to accommodate the requirements of the medium. If your happy being in the middle, and I know alot of guys who are, you don't have to put up with the hurdles. Think about how you actually make your money, if your not shooting actual Films, you don't need that cinematic image and for that Job where you do, you can hire the Camera you need easy enough.

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There is a *HUGE* amount of potential greatness from a NX1/GH4/A7s, especially if you're coming from a XH-A1 background from way back in the distant past. 

Most folks will just be scratching at the surface of the full potential of a NX1/GH4/A7s, and when filmmaking at an indy level is already got so many tough obstacles to tackle along the way.... why add in more which aren't essential??

Thus I suggest starting off with NX1/GH4/A7s, then in a year or three upgrade to a more expensive raw/ProRes shooting cinema camera. 

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It sounds very much as if you really like the look of the BM cameras & if that really is the case then go for it.

These cameras can produce some of the most beautiful images at their price point & I'd add that the ProRes files coming out of them are extraordinary - so if you don't want the hassle of dealing with RAW at first, then you won't be disappointed by any means.

As far as horror stories are concerned, well there are always going to be some no matter the camera & this is simply because no camera is perfect - they all have an achilles heal. You've also got to remember that not every camera operator is equal too - so you need to ask yourself how many horror stories are generated by the operator & not the camera?

I've never had a problem with my BMPCC & was shooting, on a paid job, 2 days after getting it (no pain, no hassle, no headaches) - the client kept raving about the image quality. Furthermore, BM are coming out with Firmware updates fast & furious - solving all the problems that people were complaining about.

Also, don't underestimate audiences - on the whole they are used to good looking, well shot footage & they will notice if you present them with bad quality stuff (this includes sound).

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I think most of the horror stories are reminants from when these cameras first came out. Most of the issues have been delt with via firmware upgrades and in many ways the cameras are very different now than they were when the first launched. Just be sure you are familiar with the cameras as they are now rather than as they were. For instance the BMCC now has lossless compressed raw, frame guides, in camera formating, improved audio but the black sun still remains. However that is being addressed with an auto fix in Resolve 12...

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There's very little you have to do these days to get great footage out of the Blackmagic cameras, the pocket in particular. This is what's helped me:

1. If you're alright with Prores for most things, buy big capacity Sandisk Extreme Plus cards, like 128 or 256 GB. If you want RAW, just bite the bullet and buy 2 128GB Extreme Plus cards. That's plenty for most applications, and allows you to offload one card while the other's in the camera.

 

2. Buy an external battery solution, not a bunch of spares. I like the one Mattias Burling uses. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkwJFgyrF6k

3. Use an external recorder or something that can send a strong line-level output into the camera, like an H1 or H4N.

4. Unless you have a specific project that requires more style, just use the color correction tools in Premiere. Drewnetwork has a great tutorial on how to crank out Prores clips in seconds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fufG4BHhx7Q

Hope that helps!

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I own a BMPCC and a GH2.  I rent other cameras for gigs... C100, C100 mk2 and most recently GH4.  All of the work I rent those for is corporate style paid gigs.  I have some strong opinions on the BMPCC.  It really is a love/dislike sort of relationship.  

When I began freelancing (after 12 years of being a media producer for corporations) I needed a camera.  I bought a Sony Nex5n. Soon after, I replaced it with a GH2.  (The overheating drove me mad on corporate gigs).  My next camera purchase was the BMPCC.  For months, it sat on the shelf - only getting used in one project.  That project was a short film which I was producing on my own time.  I didn't have to fit my shooting into a 2 - 4 hour window, like with many corporate clients.  And this is precisely why it sat on the shelf - It was a pain in the butt to use for corporate work.  1. The LCD screen isn't great.  2. The crop factor is crazy!  3. Battery life... not fun.

So now, it sits in my bag on every corporate gig still.  BUT!!! I have a couple short films in the works and I will certainly go for the BMPCC.  The image is LOVELY.  I purchased the speed-booster (just factor this into your cost - you want it.)  I also bought the Sigma 18-35 and a 50mm 1.8.  You may also want an EVF.  I bought a 5" LCD, but think I'll get an EVF at some point.  You also need shoulder rig at least...

The GH4 is really nice to use.  It sits in the hand really well.  The image is nice - but I really wish the image was more like a C100.  It's not as detailed to my eye and the color science isn't quite as nice.  But, it'll probably be my next camera purchase.  For the money - its really great and the ability to crop in on the 4k image is good to have.  BUT - I still would use the BMPCC for narrative work.  And I mean - every time!  (unless I needed a slow motion shot)

So basically - in my experience Blackmagic is for narrative work where you have time to set up shots.  The others (GH4 and similar) are for quicker turn around, run and gun, corporate work etc. Most corporate clients think DSLR footage looks just fine.  But, in storytelling - the feel of the image really can add to the overall piece.  And I would rather spend the time to have the image that I really love.

That's just my experience... hope it helps.

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Always feels a little odd when people compare a $1k camera (say the NX1) to $6k and up (the Ursa mini with viewfinder and power and media).

All my experience tells me - unless you can afford something that does it all - 

If you're shooting something where extreme dynamic range is needed (resorts/golf courses, high-end real estate interiors with huge window views to hold, or narrative work with lots of outdoor shots), get something that can do raw or red when needed to hold as much highlight and shadow detail as possible. If you don't have lights, get something that shoots clean at high ISOs. If you have some control over your scenes, an NX1 or D750 or whatever should do it.

I've done enough music videos and interviews outside where I would have needed big HMIs and generators to hold the sky detail; I'd have loved having something with a hope of hanging onto something up there. But those situations, the client didn't really care or we avoided the shots.

 

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