Some initial thoughts on The Black Magic Cinema Camera:


This thing is going to sell like hotcakes. If you already own primes, it's sort of a no-brainer (assuming it delivers). For me, I think I still want a camera with an integrated/controllable zoom. Interchangeable lenses, yes; but I want to have the body and lens talk to each other. A lot of these cameras coming out lately (including the Sony F3, until the recent zoom for it came out) are in this we-do-the-imager and you-do-the-lenses...and the-camera-may-not-talk-to-the-lens deal. Which can be fine if you really are mostly shooting "cine style". For corporate, I gotta have a zoom that works with it. Be interested to see if Sony says anything about a zoom for the FS700.

This is the way stuff has been going in the big-sensor, DSLR-killer market -- toward separate cameras and lenses, intended for "film-style" shooting.  Which usually means you're going to hang a bunch of expensive crap on it to make it do what a full-on pro camcorder does.  That was one of the things that was popular about the Sony EX3, that you could use better lenses.  I was glad the lens they put on the EX1 was as good as it is.  It's really a decent all-rounder, especially if you can work around its limitations.

That footage from the BMCC makes me wonder if it will have the ability to set picture profiles as on Sonys. That footage had a pretty soft, ungraded look - although he was apparently trying to see mostly the dynamic range of the thing. DaVinci Resolve will work with either legacy FCP or X - you export XML from FCP and correct in Resolve, then come back.  They just made that possible in FCPX - it was one of the things it couldn't do before.  You have to have (I believe) a Blackmagic thunderbolt-capable box to make FCPX and Resolve work together.

That's a VERY attractive aspect of the Blackmagic Camera - that it comes with Resolve AND the Scopes.  You'll probably need a Blackmagic thunderbolt box as well.  It's a very Jobs-like deal - they are making an awesome piece of elegant hardware that will drive sales of their other products.  (I'm 3/4 the way through the Steve Jobs bio - it's an amazing story).  An integrated bunch of hardware and software all by the same company (well - except for the NLE).

Sony vs. Blackmagic

I mis-wrote when I said the BMCC is future-4k -- it's the Sony FS-700 that will have that capability.  The BM is a 2.5k sensor.

Phillip Bloom reviews the Sony:


Well really kinda apples and oranges here, they're both nice but different.  One thing that seems to get lost in the Blackmagic deal is that despite being a (future) 4k-capable imager, the chip is WAY smaller than the Sony.  BOTH need lenses and other expensive add-ons.  On the plus side of the BM vs. Sony is the built-in SSD recorder, includes Resolve AND Ultrascopes (each worth about a grand) though you pretty much need a Thunderbolt-capable computer to go with it.  I would say the Sony is a more "traditional" camera (in a good way) from the functionality point of view.  Plus it does awesome slo-mo.  I would guess that it will generally make better images than the BM, due to the imager - but in order to be apple-to-apples there, the Sony requires an outboard recorder like the Atomos Samurai, etc.

What I mean by that is that the BM has an onboard hard drive recorder that can potentially record in any format - and on the high end natively records 12 bit RAW files.  The Sony's internal recorder is NXCAM AVCHD compressed files.  As with my EX1, which records XDCAM EX at 35mbps - you have to go out the SDI spigot to get a 4:2:2 uncompressed signal, and to record that properly you need an external recorder.  The Samurai records ProRes in three flavors, I typically use the middle ProRes422 at 150mbps.

So if you wanted to truly compare the outputs of the BM and 700 apples-to-apples, you would need to record the Sony to a high res external recorder.  (Or set the BM to record compressed) So - another point for the BM.  $3k INCLUDING internal RAW recording capability AND full Resolve AND Ultra Scopes.  That would be a deal at $5 or $6K.  The Sony is $8k without lens (or external recorder, or Resolve or scopes).

This is not to say that the Sony's internal AVCHD files would not be fine for most stuff.  A drive in my Samurai locked up on a recent shoot, and so all I had was the XDCAM on the cards in the camera as backup.  Bummed me out, but the clients can't tell.  And I sure was glad I had the backup rather than having to re-shoot a half day.

So it's a lot to sort out.  I'm having this issue with a lot of items these days - not just what do they do, but what don't they do - and what's the best for my particular needs?

FCPX - From the Trenches

I understand why people who made their living day in/out with FCP were up in arms - FCPX was missing fundamental features for many of those people.  BUT, it is yet another Jobs game-changer that is going to take many people a while to catch up with.  In its current form it's more than usable by a lot of people, and when the folks who make peripherals for it catch up with the code-writing, it will work for almost everybody.  

One thing that's still not quite there is external monitoring - Matrox recently released a beta driver for their monitor boxes (like the MXO Mini I have) which caused a lot of excitement, only to find it was barely beta.  Nowhere near functional.  But I think they were trying to be first, and then use that awareness and customer feedback to (hopefully) get a functional driver going.  Don't know when that will be.

The other issue many have had with it is that it's a different editing paradigm - which requires relearning fundamental stuff.  Just when you'd figured out how you like to work with the old FCP!  But it really is incredibly fast.  When you work on it for a while and the switch back to cutting in Legacy, it seems so old-fashioned and fussy.  WAY too many clicks and fine movements required in Legacy vs. X to accomplish a given task.  I still have a ways to go to internalize the FCPX way of editing, but it's what I'm going with because I think it's fundamentally better in ways that matter to me.  If I was cutting TV shows for broadcast for a living, it currently wouldn't work for me.  But I don't, so…

I do actually have to decide whether to use 7 or X for the next thing I'm shooting.  It's going to DVD, so it will have to be properly monitored on an NTSC display.  I've got that sorted with 7 and Color (if needed) which actually isn't very easy or elegant.  But unless Matrox gets a functional driver out in the next month, I'm not sure if I'll use X for this one.  On the other hand, I would rather invest the time in getting that much further with learning FCPX.  The color correction with inside/outside mattes is quite powerful, it has beautiful scopes, and it now has an awesome keyer built in.  I mean, I cut a job on FCPX the week it came out, and the clients loved it.  It was for computers and web, so the color didn't have to conform to broadcast or NTSC standards - it just had to look good on computers.

UPDATE: (2 months later)

I’m still learning - using it is pretty much the only way (other than tutorials) to get a handle on how it works.  It's just completely different.  From muscle memory, you keep trying to do stuff like you have for years, and it doesn't work that way.  It's WAY easier, VERY powerful and MUCH faster.  But you have to unlearn a lot of commands as well as the whole way of thinking about how an NLE edit is constructed and structured.  

Just today I was searching for a way to "lock" the audio "track" (there's that "old thinking" again) on a concrete industrial piece I'm doing (a voiceover bed that I'm editing the images to). You don’t do that any more.  It can be frustrating because doing stuff you've always done causes weird stuff to happen that is often not what you wanted.  Pisses you off.  But today I suddenly jumped up a level in my grasp of the paradigm.  Suddenly several things which had been frustrating me became forehead-smacking, oh-my-gawd-this-is-awesome AND so much easier than I thought!  Changing the timing and arrangement of clips, in and out points, etc. is SO fast and easy, ONCE you start to "get it".  But here I am, a year later, just starting to get it.  You can do a huge range of things by holding down a modifier key while dragging stuff around. Stuff that took LOTS more clicking around and changes of mode in 7.

I think the other thing that seemed like a betrayal with FCPX was that with FCStudio, you had this whole suite of stuff that worked together (like Adobe CS), and it seemed as if that was being taken away.  But I don't think that's really the case.  They're moving toward it being integrated in one program rather than having to round-trip between multiple apps.  It's a ways from there yet, but FCPX has a lot more built-in capability in terms of keying, titling, EFX, etc. than FCP7.  And did I mention it's REALLY FAST and CHEAP?

Film stock emulation

A look at film stock emulation software


Kinda cool.  Hard to really say how much practical use it would be.  As some point out in the comments, the Wow effect they get is by showing you a log-type flat image which they then color correct and put grain on.  It's not like the original RED footage would ever be shown to anyone without color correction of some sort applied.

Also it's apparently supposed to be best on RAW footage.  I downloaded the FCPX demo (for use on MOV files), and it's an OK plugin, but it's not the first or only one out there.  Not really useful for the kind of stuff I'm doing at the moment.

One cool idea is from Cine Grain - www.cinegrain.com - they’ll sell you a hard drive with actual scanned film grains and distressed and light-leaked stock. Kinda like running your digital audio through an analog chain to “warm” it up.

Mac Pro 2

Remember "the old days" when companies used to just put a product on the market?

I'm getting tired of this teaser stuff.  To be fair, Apple has never played this game until now - but what with the Reds and Blackmagics of the world creating future buzz about products that may or may not ship in a year or so - what is a mega corp to do? The kool-aid is wearing off for a lot of folks, but I'm willing to believe until proven otherwise.

I'm breathlessly awaiting the announcement that Tim Cook made last year promising a new Mac Pro (or at least something "really great" to replace it).  Should be at the WWDC next month.  Some thought sooner.

Meanwhile my 2011 MacBook Pro is working just fine as a desktop.  Not ideal, and not really heavy iron, but not bad.  Mostly is just lacking I/O that you would get with a tower and cards.  I wouldn't buy one now though - wait and see if Apple does something amazing and Steve-like, or if those days are truly over.

It's sort of like with FCPX - it's pretty darn cool, but it's still kinda buggy on occasion, and the initial fast pace of upgrades seems to have slowed.  I assume they're tweaking for the MacPro and Mavericks introductions.

It looks pretty much like what people were saying - that it would be incrementally faster than the current Mac Pro.  Which, though it's sort of surprising considering the modernity of the device, is not as big of a deal for me (and others stuck using laptops and iMacs) as the dual graphics cards will be.