Beautiful 4K Blackmagic Production Camera footage from James Miller


Be sure to check out the GH4’s new trick – internally recorded ‘1080p’ 4:4:4 with 10bit luma, at EOSHD here

One of the first to receive a Blackmagic Production Camera in the UK (hoping to get mine next week for a review, shipments allowing) is James Miller, Philip Bloom’s friend and frequent shooting partner. As this impressive footage shows even though the camera is designed for general production rather than cinema, I am not missing that BMCC dynamic range here. The footage looks wonderfully cinematic and the camera appears to be a powerhouse of image quality, given the right handling, good light and material.

This is the first good footage I’ve seen from the Production Camera. Some beautifully natural moments captured here, love the opening shot with the young couple and later the seagulls and focus roll off from the beach to the creamy horizon. Mainly shot with the Canon 70-200mm F2.8 according to James there’s also some Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 shots in there too. Let’s not discount the role of good optics with 4K. With the extra resolution it is more important than ever to put good glass in front of the sensor.

The Production Camera actually has a very marginally smaller sensor than Super 35mm (more like 1.6x crop to the FS100’s 1.5x crop for example, I believe) – but the sensor is much closer to the cinema standard than full frame (larger) and the 2.5K Blackmagic Cinema Camera (smaller at 2.3x). Unfortunately with that EF mount being allergic to PL adapters I will find it difficult to put my lucky Cookies on this camera!! Let’s see an E-mount one next, Blackmagic.

Coming next from James is a comparison with the Canon 1D C but the comparison I am waiting to see, indeed hope to do myself soon, is the one between this camera and the even more affordable Panasonic GH4. Aside from a few obvious differences – global shutter being a major pro of the Blackmagic but low light performance / ergonomics likely better on the GH4 – it will be interesting to see what the overall image quality at ISO 400 or 800 is like and what difference the 10bit ProRes 4:2:2 codec on the Blackmagic makes (at double the bitrate of the GH4). In terms of grading I’m expecting an advantage to Blackmagic but as we now know, for 1080p or 2K deliver the GH4’s 8bit 4:2:0 4K effectively becomes 1080p with 10bit luma and 4:4:4 colour sampling, so again it will be interesting to compare these cameras for 2K production not just 4K.

The main thing I love about the GH4 as a 4K cinema camera is the tourist camera stealth factor, which doesn’t attract as much attention, doesn’t need a big external battery or monitor and can even be used incognito  handheld due to the built in EVF. A great advantage for my type of non-narrative documentary work, where capturing a natural mood requires the camera to be invisible to the subject (as the below example shows – video cameras were not even allowed in the temple)


It appears that with enough light the BMPC 4K does have inky smooth blacks. Without enough light those shadows on the BMPC 4K are going to become very noisy with plenty of fixed pattern noise especially when you lift them. This is the one major drawback for my work, I think – because I shoot a lot with natural light. But how noticeable this will be when shown via Vimeo is very debatable, because of the massive downscaling from 4K to 1080p or even 720p. The internet is the medium of choice for current aspiring filmmakers – and 4K makes for great looking Vimeo material. The extra resolution when downsampled really does help to improve all aspects of the image, be it noise, colour or even aliasing.


Here’s what James had to say on his shoot –

“First test with the 4k Blackmagic Production Camera in Brighton. Thanks to Guy Thatcher & co ( for the use of the Camera, Lenses and lovely afternoon out. I do love Sunday shooting.

Shot using the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 & the Canon 70-200mm IS II.
Alphatron EVF, Tiffen Variable ND Filter.

Lightly graded with Film Convert.

Extremely bright today in the midday sun, Tiffen Variable ND Filter struggled to keep lenses above f2.8. I sometimes even nearly hit focus! Would have shot for longer with some varied scenes but battery solution did not last. But it was enjoyable to shoot with. Well as long as you want to use an EVF with waveforms etc. 4K ProRes HQ edited natively in Adobe Premiere Pro CC. Transcoded to HD, 1920×1080 ProRes HQ version available to download from Vimeo.

Audio track is – Richard Burton reads the beautiful ‘Wessex Heights’ by Thomas Hardy.

Part 2 shot comparison with the Canon 1DC coming soon.”