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Blackmagic Cinema Camera In The Field

Essentials to getting the best out of the camera

By Brian Hallett | August 29, 2013

When I shoot with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera... I am on the move.  In the car.  Out of the car.  One minute I am walking up the Korean War Veteran's Bridge over Nashville to get a sunset shot and the next I'm hoofing it down riverside to shoot an Anchor stand-up.  If it doesn't fit in my back pack or in my two hands... it gets left behind.

Needless to say, my backpack is full, heavy, and my favorite companion.  Many times I'll use the side straps to carry electrical cords or a reflector.  And, the times I carry my Anton Bauer Battery I make a compromise and pull something out to make room. Thankfully I have my Pathfinder to haul the rest of my gear, and I have the luxury of knowing what I'm shooting in advance.  This allows me to adjust the equipment to what will work best each shoot.


These are essentials... My don't leave home without it equipment for the BMCC.


Tokina 11-16mm, Canon 50mm, Canon 85mm, and a Canon 28mm.  It's not much but it gets the job done, and it forces me to think clearly about the composition before I set up my slider.  When I have more of a documentary style shoot I add my Canon 18-135mm.  It's not the best on the BMCC, and I'll likely purchase the Sigma 18-35 to replace it soon.  The best way to shoot with a prime on the BMCC is to hand-hold the camera, find your shot, and then build up your slider.  The Tokina 11-16 is a decent wide lense for most situations.  If you want the film-look or shallow depth of field with the BMCC then you'll need a lens that opens up to a F/2.0.  The longer the lens the more you can stop down, but I typically find myself shooting on the 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm around F/2.0 to F/4.0. 


Tiffen IRND 1.5, 1.8, 2.1, Tiffen Vari-ND, Sunpack Polarizer, Formatt Reverse ND Grad 0.9, Schneider ND Grad 0.9.  The IRND is essential for the BMCC if you're shooting 2.5K.  Otherwise you'll end up with muddy blacks.  And, in my next post I'll go through my filters workflow I use and why.  This way you can see an IR filtered shot and a non-IR filtered shot.  I have one more thing to add for filters... when shooting 1080 watch out for the green hue the IRND can add to the 1080.  It isn't necessarily essential to use an IR filter when shooting ProRes or DNxHD, however it is very easy to color correct the slight green cast from the IRND out considering how great the 10 bit ProRes and DNxHD files from the BMCC handle color correction.  


Blackmagic Cinema Camera, and Canon 60D.  I like to have a back-up camera with me at all times.  Plus, the 60D does time-lapses better than the BMCC, otherwise the BMCC is my aboslute go to camera.


SmallHD DP4 EVF, and a BMD SDI - HDMI converter.  Not shown is an Anton Bauer battery which powers the converter and charges the BMCC.  The SmallHD DP4 is a great monitor for the BMCC because it has great color, great contrast, and enough resolution to help nail focus pulls. The SDI-HMDI converter was an extra we had at the station and works well.  If I had a choice though, I'd go with Blackmagic's battery converter.  It gives you the ability to discontent from a heavy battery for a couple hours if you want.  


Press Pass (life saver), Batteries, Cords, Edelkrone Follow Focus, Media, Grip Stick, Camera log, A short level (easier to balance a slider), Mic cords, Audio cords. Lens pen, Camera interverlometer, and Lens cleaning kit.

Totally unpacked backpack


A Cinevate Atlas 10 Slider, a light stand, and my Miller DS-10 tripod.

I also carry microphones, a cinevate quick release plate, rods, and a camera battery which are not shown.  I consider this barebones.  Enough to allow me to shoot, monitor, and be pleased with the results from the BMCC.  Could I add more?   Absolutely, and then I have to carry it.  You see, I don't have an assistant, but at times I have a reporter or anchor.  Then they get to help out.


What's the point of having all your essential gear in a bag?  So you can quickly go out and shoot.  In the industry I work we move quickly.  This is not always the case for me, but it happens enough to teach me to travel light.  I'll be the first to say planning, producing, and compiling a shot list before I head out the door is my prefered way to work.  I get way better results, but that doesn't mean this kit can't work for me when i'm looking to capture a moment.  It just takes forethought. Thankfully, I don't have to shoot three news packages a day so I get to focus on the thirty second or fifteen second sequence I need for my spot.  I have the luxury of taking all day and waiting to capture the moments I need... if I want. 


The best part about having a bag set-up like this one?  You're ready for the higher productions as well.  In the spot below I had a team of three supporting me: a steadicam operator, an audio operator, and a focus puller.  Most of what we needed was in that bag with the exception of very specific gear like a larger monitor for the focus puller, stingers, and the steadicam operators equipment.  I even had a place to slip the actor releases and keep my hands free (the computer sleeve works well for all contracts and releases).  Of course, this was a moment when the internal battery of the BMCC helped the camera fly on the rig without adding more weight.

For me, the reason I use the BMCC is to be able to step into both worlds: production and news promotions.  I like the ability to shoot either 1080 or 2.5K.  I've heard all the reasons about this camera being a cinema camera, but it's a camera.  If you know your camera well you can put it in situations where it will succeed.  There's a reason you do camera tests, and there's a reason why I carry this gear... to help the BMCC capture great visuals.

Most of this gear I had with my DSLR and its repurpose has worked out well for my needs as a news promotion producer/photographer.  Without a doubt Blackmagic Design has made a camera meant to be the next step for DSLR shooters and if you're shooting on a DSLR you'll find most of your gear will work well on the BMCC.  Will I add to the gear or replace pieces of it?  Absolutely.  One addition will be a decent documentary zoom which I know will make my life much easier.



Why the backpack and not a messenger bag?  It fits a lot more gear, and makes better sense for the BMCC.   If I was running and gunning then a messenger bag makes more sense, but I have more production style shoots.  So the more I carry the more prepared I am for anything.  That's what it means to be a professional.  That being said... I am fallible.  I am not the best photographer or camera operator, but I get it done. 

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BetaEcho: | August, 31, 2013

I have a nearly identical setup. Love my SmallHD DP4 whether with my full system or just mounted directly off the top of the camera. The EVF is a most have. Oh and of course the BMDCC. Cheers!

Brian Hallett: | September, 03, 2013

It’s definitely a must have!  Plus, it’s a pleasure having the resolution to pull focus easier.

5Ahead Films: | September, 04, 2013

Can you explain to me why you must use IRND when shooting in RAW and not in Prores?  I have the BMCC and I feel like even shooting with high quality ND filters can soften the image a little bit so I try not to use them unless I have to. You are the first person I’ve heard say anything about this.

Brian Hallett: | September, 04, 2013

When shooting raw and using more than 1.2 ND then IRND is my suggestion.  Without IR on higher ND the image can lean a bit muddy. 

In my tests, IRND is less necessary when shooting ProRes or DNxHD.  It adds a bit of a green hue to the image.  It could have something to do with baked in white balance settings or how the footage is processed by the camera.

I haven’t noticed much softening of the image from ND filters.  I try not to stack filters because that can cause a bit of softness.

In my next post, I will show what I am talking about.  Until then here are a couple of resources from people smarter than me.

Here is an AbelCine Tech video showing the need for IR filtration for various cameras.  The BMCC is included in this test.

Also, Shane Hurlbut posted an IRND test on one of his BMCC tests.  You may find it here:

Brian Hallett: | September, 04, 2013

I hope that helps.  Otherwise, I’ll try to get the IR post out quickly

lmprods: | September, 05, 2013

You don’t mention a matte box.  How are you using grads without one?

Brian Hallett: | September, 06, 2013

I use a Lee Filter Holder.  It’s a 77mm screw on adapter that can hold a 4 x 4, 4 x 5.65, and 4 x 6 filter.  I believe it’s mostly used for still photography.  It is much easier to put on and pull than a matte box, but it means I have to get creative in flagging flares.  I stepped up my lenses to fit the 77mm adapter too.  And, I can carry it with me at all times.

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