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On “King Tut”, our director, David Von Ancken wanted me to come up with a small camera that we could rig in dynamic, (ie: hazardous) places during the action sequences for his upcoming, epic mini-series. I started by testing the GoPro NOVO system, that I found fussy, underpowered and too complicated for the kind of run and gun shooting that 2nd Units are known for. The resolution was sub–par and was further compromised by nagging back focus issues. I then turned to the line of Black Magic cameras and settled on the nifty “Pocket Cinema Camera”. With a “super16” size chip, I knew that if exposed properly in their version of “log”, we could color correct each shot to intercut with our Alexa footage. In seeing our dailies from this camera, I have little doubt that these action shots will fly by seamlessly, but probably not unnoticed.
In the old film days, we would use WW II era Bell & Howell “Eyemo’s” - with small lenses, crammed into steel crash housings and let chance take its course for dangerous stunt situations. This was a very heavy rig and rarely would we use this system for anything other than explosions and violent crashes. But now, we can strap a small, lightweight, powerful, inexpensive camera to stunt guys, horses, swords, chariots - go into intensive hand to hand fights with the camera in hand held mode, etc., etc. – you name it and we did it. Since this camera is so small and has two ¼ 20 threaded receivers its easy and very fast to rig. Remarkably, even when hard mounted to our rough riding chariots, the camera recorded glitch free.
To be able to set the shutter angle was crucial too - we shot most of the action sequences at a 45 degree shutter. This camera allows for this adjustment.
Except for power and record, there are no buttons or wheels – so the operating menus are accessed via a rather dim, non tilt, LED screen on the back of the camera. You can’t preset or save any settings – and this really matters when in a time sensitive shooting situation. Consequently, you need to reset focus and exposure after reviewing takes or powering down - battery life is limited. Because of the strength of the camera’s image making potential, we got used to these shortcomings, and hope that Black Magic will make the efficiency adjustments needed to consider this camera as an everyday, all around production friendly system.
Some would say, why not just use a DSLR system instead. Because the size, weight, cost and image compression are unavoidable negatives compared to the Pocket Cinema camera. Also, I’m really excited about the emerging 4/3 lens market and in fact I just retired my Canon G-12 and bought a LUMIX GX 7 for my production stills and video.
Would I shoot regular production footage with the BMPCC? No – but I’m going to have at least one on the camera truck from now on, for broadcast quality, special shots - of all kinds. This is where camera technology is headed – congratulations Black Magic!
Check out the shots we did with this camera next spring on Spike TV’s “King Tut”.Return To Musings