LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison

COW Library : Blackmagic Cinema Camera : Marco Solorio : The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison
CreativeCOW presents The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison -- Blackmagic Cinema Camera Editorial

OneRiver Media
Walnut Creek California USA All rights reserved.

We knew people would do the beauty shots once they got their hands on the new Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera; we didn't want to go that route. Instead, I wanted to test the hell out of it in an extreme environment and learn what it could really do. But, to each their own. I have no regrets and cherish the knowledge I now posses using the camera in the manner we did.

As they say, you only live life if you take chances. We uploaded our short video, "Texting is Gefährlich" to Vimeo, knowing it would probably be the first Cinema Camera video out there, scrutinized by everyone on the planet. Honestly, this is a scary, and daunting idea, especially when our production was focused on really pushing the new Blackmagic Cinema Camera and testing its range. To be a critic is easy, to be a pioneer is frightening.

Our hope is to show how far we tested and pushed the Blackmagic Cinema Camera under severe circumstances. We opted to not do a golden-hour beauty video, or a glossy grade, but to really push the camera under exterior, low-key lighting, among other scenarios.

Quite honestly, we're pleased with results, as any other scenario (DSLR or standard video camera), would have fallen apart, due to blown out highlights and crushed blacks. The amount of image data we were able to pull from these shots was astounding.

In so doing, we opted to perform a fairly straight and neutral grade with high contrast, something close to what the camera produced, post debayer and de-log profile. This meant no lavish grades that took away from the root of the original picture.

We even wanted to keep rolling shutter and vibration in there. Mounting the camera on the Porsche with its stiff suspension proved well, and obviously not a typical solution. I almost didn't want to include that footage, but felt that the audience would want to see ALL shots in their extreme variants. Again, rolling the dice and taking chances.

Could we have created a glossy, lush video under highly controlled environments? Absolutely. But instead, I rolled the dice, took a huge chance, stuck my neck out in front of the world, and uploaded a video that instead shows how far we were able to really push the camera. A glossy video doesn't always show how well a camera is pushed at its extremes. But then again, gloss is what people usually like, so our next production may be just that as those are fun to produce as well!

Special thanks again to the cast and crew for being a part of this on the weekend and through the late night! As mentioned on Vimeo, this entire production was done in less than a day, from script, to casting, to crew call, to shooting... it couldn't have been done without everyone on board.

Okay, let's watch the video, then we'll discuss aspects of some of the shots in detail.

At a recent SF Cutters event at the Adobe building in San Francisco, I presented our recent video, along with frame grabs I pulled from the video to show how well the Blackmagic Cinema Camera performs in extreme conditions when really pushed. I figured, why not show these images to the rest of the world with the explanations I gave at the event? So here we go!

You can click on each image to expand a larger version of it.


For this jib shot, we start low, shooting directly into the Porsche's headlight. Did you miss that? One more time; we shot DIRECTLY into the Porsche's headlight! But the fun doesn't stop there! As we move the jib shot up, the camera reveals our female lead, along with the car's interior, with full rendering. As we continue the jib shot up to resolve the vertical move, the lightbar on the truck turns on, AGAIN, shooting the camera DIRECTLY into the lights. This is where it gets even more interesting. See the interior of the truck and our male lead in the driver's seat? When we were framing this shot up with our naked eye, we literally could NOT see the interior of the truck (with the lightbar on) and almost didn't even have the talent sit in the truck. It wasn't until we started the camera and viewed the shot on the screen that we soon realized what we were seeing in camera was actually MORE VISIBLE than what we were able to see with the naked eye. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is. There's no way, shape or form that any non-RAW or non-film camera could capture this kind of dynamic range. Note that we did NOT perform any kind of exposure ramping, either in-camera, on the lens, or in post-production. In other words, this sequence is from a single shot from one exposure setting. This is HUGE. Shot with Canon 24mm f/1.4L II.


I love this shot. It might be my favorite shot of the video. Sure she looks sexy and all, but that's not why I love it. First, look at the render detail in the steering wheel, dashboard, and gauge cluster; it's totally silky smooth. Contrast that low key with her skin tones, again, very smooth and rich. I love the texture and sharpness in her hair as well. Now look at all the fine stitching in the seat and E-brake; crisp and sharp. The superb detail and lack of aliasing and moire is incredibly refreshing. Even the LCD screen in the center console isn't blown out; all highlight detail is maintained, while all the shadow detail in the surrounding portion of the image holds up wonderfully. I love my 5D and 7D, but it can't hold a candlestick to this latitude, sharpness, contrast, and overall fidelity. Shot with Sigma 8-16mm at about 13mm if I recall.


This shot still blows me away every time. I just can't over how much sheer dynamic range is in this. In the first frame (left), our Polizei officer has nice dynamic range. Note this was a quick Hollywood rigged shot where I had my 1st AC simply hold a small hand-held light through the sunroof, which is what's casting our main light source onto our male lead. Now in the second frame (right), the strobe light blinks on. This is a real police strobe light, not an LED prop, but a strobe light that emits a huge amount of bursting light. The Cinema Camera is able to manage the intensity of this light, while continuing to render the rest of the image with no problems at all. You can actually see the red light's clear texture and molding! Any other regular camera would completely blow out and clip. Likewise, everything around the light is maintaining its own integrity without harsh bleed. Shadow and highlight detail maintained throughout. Love this latitude. Shot with Sigma 8-16mm at 8mm, wide open.


I like this shot because it shows a controlled DOF (depth-of-field), where our female lead is clearly in focus, but the male lead's Polizei patch is slightly defocused; enough to know what it is, but blurred enough to layer the shot and create separation. I'm still loving the texture and smoothness of the seats and fine detail in the stitching. Shot with Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, wide open.


Here we get tighter into our female lead. I wanted to have at least one "5D-esque narrow DOF" shot in the video. Focal plane is on her eyes, where everything else is pretty much defocused. I like that the top of her hair is sharp, and the bottom of it is blurred out, including her neck and necklace. I really like the defocus on the windshield (bottom-left of frame). Shot with Canon 50mm f/1.2L, wide open.


When I first opened this shot up in post, I had an, "oh crap" moment. His right side of his face (frame left), was blown out and basically pure white. Had this been an HDSLR shot, this image data would not be recoverable. But because this was all shot in 12-bit RAW, I was able to pull back the highlights, bringing back the detail in his face. Had I tried that with an HDSLR clip, all it would've done was turn his white clipped face to gray. Because we did as Blackmagic Design instructed for RAW shooting and set the zebras to 100% clipping, I knew we'd be safe when we were shooting, as it did not clip on-screen. Another tip of the hat to 13 stops of dynamic range in 12-bit space. Lifesaver! I'm pretty sure we used the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II on this shot, but if not, it was the 50mm f/1.2L.


Another jib shot, and again, shooting INTO the lights. As the female lead crosses the lightbar, I like the rendering of the glow in her hair. I also like the shadow detail in the Polizei officer's uniform. And once again, the Porsche headlights are clean and distinguishable, and not blown out or overly glowy. Shot with the Sigma 8-16mm at the 14mm end if I recall.


I like this shot for a few reasons. I like the skin tones and the clarity in the area where her thumb meets the wrist; the highlights in the skin crevasses are nicely sharp and clear. My DSLRs can't capture this kind of detail at this level. And for good measure, some bokeh (circles of confusion) at the top-right of the frame. Shot with either the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II or Canon 35mm f/1.4L.


What's not to like about this image?!! Smooth and rich skin detail. Sharpness and clarity in the shoes. Noticeable DOF plane. All good stuff. One of the things I love about the images from this camera is how nice and sharp they are. I'd rather have that and soften it in post if I felt the need to "film look" it. For me, having a foundation of clarity, sharpness and latitude allows more creative freedom later in post. Alternatively, starting soft and sharpening after the fact is a bit trickier, especially if you need to perform an optical zoom in the edit. Start clean and sharp I always say. Shot with the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II.


I love how the blue dress just POPS in this shot. There is no chrominance/saturation clipping to be had at all! The Polizei hood is mucky because of dirt, not because of any form of compression artifacts. Shadow detail in his uniform is also very nice. And look at the white zones on the Porsche; silky smooth with absolutely no banding, clipping or macro blocking. Shot with the Sigma 8-16mm at about 12mm.

So with all that said, hopefully this clears up any standing confusion why we shot this video the way we did. Again, I didn't want to merely shoot lock-down shots of pretty daytime scenery, as that doesn't always test a camera to its extremes, even though it may show beautifully rendered images. Instead, I wanted to push the camera, see how well it operates in a real production environment with cast and crew, lens swaps, re-rigging, and so much more. My goal was to test dynamic range, sharpness, skin tones, DOF, wide-angle use, et al. In the end, we put our neck on the line and thought out of the box to produce a video that probably won't please some people that were expecting a glossy beauty video. But this video was for us, for our testing, and for our understanding as to how deep we could push this camera. I don't regret it, and would do it again! As I said earlier, what's living life if you don't take chances? We took the chance, and we are overjoyed with the results this camera provided for us.

Okay, if shooting a production level video with cast and crew wasn't enough, I now wanted to see exactly how well my Cinema Camera would compare to my tried and true HDSLR cameras, specifically, the latest Canon 5D Mk III. By literally mounting the 5D on top of the Cinema Camera, I was able to shoot a lot of comparison footage to see exactly how well each camera performed in the same exact shot. Although the video was a lot of work to produce, the results proved invaluable with a bunch of surprises between both cameras.

So what was tested? Quite a lot actually: dynamic range, sharpness, pushing levels, banding, artifacts, rolling shutter, chromakeying, wide/telephoto lengths, DOF (depth of field), low light, macro blocking, contrast, and more. But I'll let the video speak for itself and let you be the judge!

Well, I hope this helps cover some questions you've had about the Cinema Camera. I know everyone is extremely anxious to get theirs! But when you do, you'll have something very special in your hands. I applaud Blackmagic Design for making this camera... I truly believe it's the indie filmmaker's answer to a camera that's both affordable and very high quality.


Be sure to check out Marco's earlier coverage of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera for Creative COW. These were the web's most frequently read and referred articles from NAB 2012, and it won't take long for you to see why!

Above: Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media dissects Blackmagic Design's new Cinema Camera to see if it is in fact, the much-anticipated HDSLR-killer everyone's been waiting for over the years. But with a comparatively smaller sensor size and radical body design, does it fit the bill as the killer we all want? Click on the image to read the article.

Above: Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media takes another look into Blackmagic Design's new Cinema Camera to see how this camera further excels. With the camera sporting 13 stops of dynamic range through a 12-bit RAW data structure, there's one aspect of production where it truly might be able to hang with the "big boys." Click on the image to read the article.

Marco Solorio is a multi-award-winning creative media developer. He owns OneRiver Media (, a production and post-production facility located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Marco has been a longtime Creative COW leader and contributing editor since 2002. You can also find him online at Twitter, Facebook and through his blog.

Marco Solorio
OneRiver Media
Walnut Creek, CA, USA
©2012, Marco Solorio, OneRiver Media, Creative COW

Title image photo credit: ©2012, OneRiver Media. Photo by Paul Schaffner


Awesome camera!
by Lester Lauritzen
This camera is truly pushing the market. The amazing dynamic ranges of these cameras closing the gaps to film quality. Slap some film grain on them like Alien Grain and they'll look gorgeous.
Re: The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison
by Kevin Valan
final Q:
(7) can u give system specs so I know what to get to run Resolve or whatever u use for grading/NR?
Re: The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison
by Kevin Valan
Great review. Since u're a pro, ur advice'll weigh much more than all salesmen combined!

I'm considering 5d3 vs BMCC (& necessary workflow). Pls give ADVICE:

so no worries for (1) low light (5d3 comparable) or (2) wide angle lenses - always workarounds?

(1B) if u can pull nonvisible things like the truck interior out (without noise?), isn't this better than 5d3 with better in camera ISO? I need to shoot bands - will pan from spotlights on stage to dark audience - BMCC good for this?

(2B) would waiting for 4/3 mount BMCC give me better wide angle & cine lens options?
I hear faster wides will fit.

(3) can u eliminate/make noise acceptable in Resolve or AE? any other software u'd recommend?
does grading for exposure & noise (basic image quality) take long? (with 5d3 I'd get higher ISO out of camera without grading)

(4) use double system audio with boom? any workaround 4 no audio monitoring on BMCC?

(5) what did u use for follow focus? any other accessories u'd like to mention?
I heard with wide angle lens on BMCC my DOF would be greater than with 5d3

(6) do u rent/sell equipment/packages?

I need to shoot bands live - will pan from spotlights on stage to dark audience - & interview after with minimal lights (on cam only maybe). BMCC good for all this?

Re: The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison
by Jose Noriega
Marco Your presentation is impecable thanks for your efforts and hard work hope you receive our invitation to Mexico

Jose Maria Noriega
Producer & Director
@Jose Noriega
by Marco Solorio
Thank you so much, Jose. Would be nice to visit Mexico again!

Marco Solorio | CreativeCow Host | OneRiver Media | ORM Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Media Batch
Re: The Blackmagic Cinema Camera: In Production and Comparison
by Juan Salvo
Amazing work Marco! Thanks for sharing your insights. This great info!

Colorist | Online Editor | Post Super | VFX Artist | BD Author
@Juan Salvo
by Marco Solorio
As always, Juan, you're too kind, my friend! Thank you!

Marco Solorio | CreativeCow Host | OneRiver Media | ORM Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Media Batch

Related Articles / Tutorials:
DSLR Video
Is the New Blackmagic Cinema Camera the HDSLR Killer?

Is the New Blackmagic Cinema Camera the HDSLR Killer?

Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media dissects Blackmagic Design's new Cinema Camera to see if it is in fact, the much-anticipated HDSLR-killer everyone's been waiting for over the years. But with a comparatively smaller sensor size and radical body design, does it fit the bill as the killer we all want?

Review, Feature
Marco Solorio
Blackmagic Cinema Camera
Shooting Trent & Isabella: Blackmagic Firmware & Indie Film

Shooting Trent & Isabella: Blackmagic Firmware & Indie Film

Paul Del Vecchio is a filmmaker with an independent spirit. When he had the chance to beta test Blackmagic's new firmware on the Cinema Camera while serving as director of photography on the indie film "Trent & Isabella," he found that the new debayer process became a huge asset to getting the raw-like images he wanted without the price of storage and processing. Less time and money spent there means more focus on the film's visual style which ranges from spaghetti western to film noir.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Recent Articles / Tutorials:
Business & Marketing
Media after Millennials: A Teen’s Research on Viewing Habits

Media after Millennials: A Teen’s Research on Viewing Habits

As a fifteen year old high school sophomore, Helen Ludé has her priorities in order: varsity soccer, Snapchat and Instagram, and presenting research on Post-Millennial Media and Cinema Consumption Habits at SMPTE’s Future of Cinema Conference. Spurred on by a dinner conversation with her family (including her father, RealD’s Peter Ludé), Helen conducted a survey of her peers to uncover the viewing habits of her generation, otherwise known as Gen Z. You're going to be surprised by what she found, and deeply impressed (and a little intimidated) by this enterprising young woman.

Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
TV & Movie Appreciation
Star Wars: How Much Is Too Much?

Star Wars: How Much Is Too Much?

When Disney announced that they would be making a new Star Wars movie every year for at least 10 years I was both excited and a bit skeptical. In 2012 when Lucas sold his company to Disney for $4billion, he included his outlines of Episodes VII, VIII and IX. But Disney and Co. decided to discard these stories and start over, also discarding the extended universe of comics and books that millions of SW fans had grown to love. Adding JJ Abrams to the mix was icing on the cake for SW fans who have become critical of SW. But Lawrence Kasdan was the saving grace, who wrote a script for VII that the original actors could get behind. So, how much Star Wars is too much?

Review, Editorial, Feature
Mike Cohen
Art of the Edit
Editing Marvel's Black Panther: Debbie Berman ACE

Editing Marvel's Black Panther: Debbie Berman ACE

This is an epic tale spanning two decades, three countries, 12,000 miles -- and that's just the story of Debbie Berman, ACE, starting in reality TV and indie film in South Africa, making her way to Canada and then the US to edit Marvel's Spider-man: Homecoming and, most recently, Black Panther, already one of the most popular films of all time. In this exclusive interview with Creative COW Managing Editor Kylee Peña, Debbie talks about struggling toward US citizenship, a serendipitous meeting with an ambitious young director, helping to bring representation to the big screen and pride to her home country.

People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Westdoc Online interview with National Geographic Channel's VP of Development, Charlie Parsons

Westdoc Online interview with National Geographic Channel's VP of Development, Charlie Parsons

Charlie Parsons is Vice President of Development for the National Geographic Channel, responsible for developing new projects, discovering new talent and serving as one of the network’s main points of contact for the global production community. Since joining the Channel in 2010, Parsons has developed popular series “Doomsday Preppers”, “Inside Combat Rescue”, “Mars” and “One Strange Rock”, as well as the global natural history event “Earth Live”. He developed the Emmy Award winning Special “Space Dive”,as well as the Emmy Award winning feature doc “LA 92”. He also served as an Executive Producer on the network’s most watched program in history, the Emmy nominated three-hour movie event “Killing Jesus”, as well as the second and third most watched programs, “Killing Kennedy”??"also Emmy nominated for Outstanding Television Movie??"and “Killing Lincoln”, respectively.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Chuck Braverman
NAB Show
Avid, Adobe, Blackmagic: Talking With Titans at NAB 2018

Avid, Adobe, Blackmagic: Talking With Titans at NAB 2018

As much as each year's NAB Show is about what's completely new, it's about hearing what's new from the industry's most enduring companies. Creative COW Contributing Editor Hillary Lewis sat down with representatives from three of the biggest titan companies in production and post -- Avid's David Colantuoni, Adobe's Laura Williams Argilla, and Blackmagic Design's Dan May -- to discuss the thought process behind their releases, what people might overlook, and their outlooks on the future of the industry.

Hillary Lewis
Adobe After Effects
Fancy Title Animations In Adobe After Effects -- FAST!

Fancy Title Animations In Adobe After Effects -- FAST!

Follow along as VFX guru Tobias Gleissenberger shows you how how to quickly create professional-looking animated text elements using the free presets that are included with Adobe After Effects, customizing them to suit your needs. Tobias will also show you how to apply masks to your text layers to have them appear from behind other elements.

Tobias Gleissenberger
Get The Shot Without Getting Shot: Adventures in Stock Video

Get The Shot Without Getting Shot: Adventures in Stock Video

Rick Ray of DVArchive has traveled the world, lived in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand, played ragtime piano for money in Australian bars, and both been arrested in Ethiopa and recruited those same police to be in his videos the very next day. In his NAB Show presentation for Adobe Stock, Rick gets specific about how to make real money in stock video following your passion around the world, what kind of equipment to choose and avoid, and yes, some advice about talking your way out of trouble.

Cow News
NAB Show
Pure Mission: NAB 2018 Highlights for Video Creatives

Pure Mission: NAB 2018 Highlights for Video Creatives

Everyone who attended NAB this year was on a mission. A mission to create the best content, a mission to deliver content to the right audience, a mission to produce great films for device and theatre viewing. We'll start by discussing some of the best solutions for some of the creative people we know - shooters, production/post folks. And there was plenty of new products, new services, new features announced at the show to get a filmmakers motor running this year. And again SuperMeet was fun, insane and informative. Shoot it, produce it, store it. Then? Sell it. It's all good and getting better!

Andy Marken
© 2018 All Rights Reserved