I haven't had a chance to publish a new blog for a while since I spent the last month moving to Los Angeles. But today at NAB, Blackmagic Design dropped two new bombs on the filmmaking community that warranted an immediate contribution.
For those of you who don't know yet. The two new cameras that came out were the ones Blackmagic Pocket Cinema camera and the Blackmagic production camera 4K. Neither of these two new cameras is intended to replace the current Blackmagic Digital Cinema Camera, but to round off its lineup – presumably in the hope of satisfying a wider population after making some decisions that they made with the original version regarding the sensor Size and assembly. I currently own the original EF model and am very happy with it. It's far from perfect, and like any camera I own, I'm working on the limitations, but the results are really remarkable. I can only assume that these new cameras will have the same DNA and that they will continue to blind indie filmmakers around the world.
The technical data for both cameras are available at www.blackmagicdesign.com. In short, the Pocket Camera shoots a maximum resolution of 1080p from an S16mm sensor to SD cards and uses an MFT mount. The 4K production camera shoots at 4K resolution from a super 35 mm sensor on SSDs and has an EF mount (PL will be available in the future). Both cameras can currently record ProRes, but in future firmware updates it will be possible to record a new compressed version of Cinema DNG. This is a great relief for those of us who want to keep the file size small without losing the flexibility of an unformatted workflow.
What I love about Blackmagic is that they cause industry disruption. They create (or in some cases create new) tools that are of extremely high quality but also very affordable. They did this with DaVinci Resolve, Teranex and most recently with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. But from their entire product range, I would speculate that the pocket camera will be the most disruptive of their cameras and probably from one of their product periods. The big reasons are affordability and quality. Currently, most ultra-low-budget productions tend to shoot on DSLRs, which may soon be a thing of the past for many shooters. Although no pictures of the Pocket Camera have been published, it blows almost every DSLR out of the water due to the technical data alone. And the camera is under $ 1,000. Based on these two factors, there is no doubt that Blackmagic will sell these things as if they were go-professionals, and we will soon see them fly off the shelf (if they can even put them on the shelf). Just like the original Blackmagic Cinema Camera, there will be a HUGE market for these small cameras, and in skilled hands they will be able to dramatically improve results for no-budget productions and bring them much closer in appearance and feel to budgeted films. This has a direct impact on the DSLR manufacturers who serve the video market.
Sure, there will always be shooters who need a 5D or a GH3 – in most cases because they also shoot still images. However, if you're talking strictly about the true indie filmmaker, why should you spend thousands more on a 5D MKIII if you can buy one, use the rest of your camera budget for beautiful MFT glass, and get far superior results with a few dollars remaining . For many, it's a no-brainer. Again, there will always be those who need a DSLR, but I have no doubt that this camera will put a massive strain on this market, as is the case with other prosumer camcorders that are used for indie productions. This camera really has so much to offer, in such a small package. That in itself is one of the biggest advantages. For guerrilla filmmakers or documentary filmmakers, the ability to hold raw 1080p images in their pockets is extremely powerful. And in the upper area, I have no doubt that we will see this regularly in Hollywood productions as a crash cam or C cam to hide in a small space.
Now let's talk about the 4K production camera. Another absolutely amazing piece of technology. It's essentially the same design / build as the original EF camera, but with a Super35mm sensor and the ability to shoot 4K. The fact that you can get a camera like this for under $ 4,000 is astounding. But although it has a lead over the original cinema camera in some ways, it has taken a step back in other ways. It has 1 aperture less dynamic range and a lower base ISO, which means it is less sensitive in low light conditions. These are by no means deal breakers, but related to how this camera will change the market – I see no other impact on things than the original camera. I think it will essentially appeal to the same market, and depending on your needs, some buyers may still opt for the 2.5K version. For productions with a larger budget, the biggest advantage of this camera (the price) is not necessarily a selling point. The rental price for a camera is so small a fraction of the total production budget that shooting with an Alexa or Blackmagic doesn't usually make a big difference in the overall picture of things. Ultimately, I believe that this camera will target the same population as the current 2.5K model. That doesn't mean that in many ways it can be a better camera for many scenarios (especially if you want the S35mm look), just that I don't think the industry impact will be as big as the pocket camera.
For me personally, I have already pre-ordered both new cameras, but I can cancel my order for the 4K model very well. My current BMCC works wonderfully and in a way I still suspect that it is better suited to the type of film look I'm looking for. 4K is absolutely the future, but mostly when I shoot 4K RED, I get footage that looks overly sharp and feels more like video again. Until I see a few shots of the new 4K Blackmagic camera, I'm not sure if I want to commit to it. I'm sure it will have its place, but I'm not sure if this fits my purposes as well as the current model. It is possible that, according to what I currently know, it is best suited for episodic / live TV or documentary work. After all, Alexa shoots only 2.7K in RAW mode and we all know how nice it looks. Dissolution is certainly not everything. Conversely, it may be a necessary step over the current model, but at this point – if it isn't broken, why fix it? I think I just like the 13 levels of DR and 800 Basic ISO too much to take a step back. We'll see – it takes me a few days to digest!
Regardless of who does what, it is certain that this will disrupt the industry. How can Canon get away with asking $ 15,000 or more for a C300 that only takes 8 bits while you can get a raw image from a pocket camera for $ 995? Of course, these are for different markets, but there is still one point to make. Customers enjoying the form factor of a traditional video camera will surely wonder why they have to pay an additional $ 14,000 for XLR inputs and built-in NDs.
I'm shocked that Canon, Sony, Panasonic, and the rest of the major camera manufacturers haven't found anything that could compete with the Blackmagic camera this year, but on the other hand, this would likely take the rest of their product lines off course. I'm looking forward to the wave effect this is causing, and I'm sure NAB 2014 will be just as exciting.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!